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Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
'Sometime in early March last year I received an email asking if we would be interested in exchanging homes to France in July. Unfortunately, my husband was attending college and his holidays were in June only so I was very doubtful that anything would come of this offer. But we decided that I should go ahead with the exchange with our three children. This was, by the way, our first time ever to do such a thing, but I was very positive about it.
I was over the hill with excitement because I hadn't had any real holidays in 5 years. Much time was spent organizing the trip with many hours on the Internet where I even managed to order the train tickets to travel from Paris to Pau near Nay. The day for our journey came and all were very excited. The only hitch had been that my husband now was still using our home, but lucky enough we deal with holiday cottages and had a two bedroom cottage free for that period and the other family agreed that they would stay there.
I was traveling with my children (Jessica 16, Deborah 15 and Andrew 6). There was a lot of excitement, because of not having traveled for a long time. We arrived in Paris, and continued by train, arriving finally after 5 ½ hours in Pau. Our exchange family had arranged for the husband's parents to pick us up from the station and take us to the new home where we were staying for more than two weeks. The couple was very friendly and tried to speak some English while I was struggling with my French which was buried somewhere because of not using it.
We got very well settled and Veronique, the lady from the exchange family, had wonderfully labeled the whole house and, on a dining table, a file was waiting full of "where to go and what to do brochures." We felt so really welcomed and each of the children had their own room. I stayed downstairs in the guest- room where there was a TV and, to the great pleasure of my kids, a play-station (therefore I could check who was watching what when).
We were very busy throughout our stay going to places and as far as Spain for a one day trip. We even managed to go for a rafting adventure. Sometimes we got lost on the way, but we always found our exchange home.
We had a wonderful time and my children made holiday scrap books which, whenever they want to remember their holidays, will give them the souvenirs of their unique holidays. After Nay we went back to Paris where we stayed another 5 days to get to know Paris better. This time we stayed in an apartment very near the Louvre, but it was rather expensive.
The whole exchange was a real experience for the whole family. We managed to at least meet Phillipe, Veronique's husband, who had to return earlier than the rest of the family. They also had a wonderful time doing all kinds of trips, the best being a safari to Tsavo East National Park which I had organized for them before they came. They came to see animals and swim in the beach and we went to see the Pyrenees and the castles. Looking back we had a wonderful time and both families really enjoyed themselves. We really felt encouraged to take holidays by exchanging homes and hope that we can arrange another one soon, but this time with my husband too.' - Dominique Kibui, Mombasa, HE18680
The photo is of Dominique and her children in Paris last summer.
Certified Home Exchange Clubs (CHEC) is a new concept for home exchange. CHEC is an independent professional organisation of home exchange clubs and individual home exchangers that was launched very recently.
All affiliated clubs and individual CHEC members are approved by an independent committee consisting of club owners, industry professionals and experienced home exchangers. A home exchange agency can only become a CHEC-certified agency by invitation and the promise to uphold CHEC's high ethical standards of behaviour for themselves and their members. I am very pleased that Home Base Holidays was amongst the first agencies invited to join CHECtravel.
The Internet has made it relatively easy to set up a new on-line home exchange service. This should be good news for home exchangers, providing more choice of exchange opportunities and increased awareness of the home exchange concept. The downside of this rapid development has been a bewildering and confusing proliferation of services including, unfortunately, some with very little business acumen who disappear without trace within a few months, many 'free' sites lacking basic background and contact information and, alarmingly, a few rogues who have tried to poach members from long established agencies.
For the reasons above, I welcome the initiative of the founders of CHECtravel in launching an umbrella organisation for the growing home exchange industry. This independent organisation will be invaluable as an unbiased source of information for new home exchangers, enabling each to choose the service(s) that will best suit their particular needs from amongst CHEC approved member agencies.
Do visit CHECtravel for more information. From the site:
Members of CHEC are home exchange clubs and individuals who:
The last issue of Home Swappers included an article on the problems of obtaining travel insurance once you are over 70 and/or have a pre-existing medical condition. Whatever your age or state of health, you never know when accidents may happen as evidenced by this report from Cathy from Auckland, New Zealand:
'Back from our wonderful month's exchange in British Columbia albeit three days before coming home I tore a hamstring - not even on the snowmobile but getting out of the shower and accidently doing the splits!! This did necessitate an upgrade to a fully reclining seat for me and for my helper - my husband, courtesy of travel insurance.
Now we are looking for an exchange in June - don't really mind where, whatever pops up.' Cathy's home is in Mission Bay:
Mission Bay is a 10 minute scenic drive along the waterfront from centre of Auckland City of Sails. Lovely safe beach across the road which is great for swimming, windsurfing, kayaking, kiteboarding if you are brave!
See full details, and more photos, of her attractive exchange offer (link below), and do contact Cathy without delay if you are interested in an exchange to New Zealand in June.
Note: One of the planned benefits of CHECtravel (see article above) is an exclusive home exchange travel insurance policy. As soon as full information is available on the terms of the policy, this will be published on our blog, and in the next issue of Home Swappers.
I recently came across a very good article about home exchange (although rather mis-titled), 'Why A Time Share Can Save You Money', on Travel-Reviews.org. Amongst the useful tips for first time home exchangers, this sentence caught my eye:
'Stocking the refrigerator is something you should discuss beforehand, because you may not buy foods they will like.'
We have always suggested to Home Base Holidays members that they clear out their fridges before an exchange but leave some basic fresh food supplies (bread, milk, butter, eggs, cheese, fruit, etc). Knowing their guests will likely be tired if they arrive after a long trip, and probably not inclined to spend time getting to grips with cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen straight away, many members either leave food for a very simple first meal or prepare a casserole that only needs to be re-heated. However, the author of this article has made a very good point. It would be such a shame if your hosts went to the trouble of making a shepherd's pie for your family's first meal only for it to go to waste as you had forgot to mention that you are all vegetarian!
And a comment from newsletter subscriber, Hobiej:
'Our last exchange partners were a lovely Spanish family - they left 2 dozen eggs in their frdge for our family which consists of 2 adults, 1 toddler and 1 baby. That's quite a lot of eggs to get through in a fortnight - the Spanish use more eggs than the British!! They also left some very weird fish noodly things that we gave a miss but lots of useful stuff like beer, yoghurt, fruit juice and some interesting & tasty local cheese (great names too - tetilla!! translates as titties). We usually leave pasta and a prepared sauce for a quick meal. Despite my best efforts, my husband has a nasty habit of drinking the beer I am trying to leave for our swap partners. A tip for new exchangers: if you are leaving a ready meal, leave very clear instructions somewhere like the kitchen table about what is ready for your guests. Don't expect them to hunt for the instructions and guess where everything is. Leave the correct saucepans etc to hand. Actually, if you had time, it might be nice to lay the table for them (we never have spare time for things like that but it would be a nice touch).'
In an article, Who Will be Sleeping in My Bed?, published in the Feb/Mar issue, I looked at ways that could help reassure children who may be a little apprehensive about having exchange guests using their rooms and belongings. This question was first raised by Catherine just before she joined Home Base Holidays (see Catherine's exchange offer in Toronto, HE20397). Sharon, an experienced home exchanger, comments:
'We recently successfully exchanged with several generations of the same family from Cape Town. The exchange was extremely positive partly due to both parties really wanting it to work. One very nice gesture from our exchange family was that each person left a note (and some sweets) on the pillow of our children's bed. The notes thanked them for allowing "grandma" to sleep in their bed and commented on the room. It make the person not so much a stranger and the little letters were really appreciated by the children.'
Sharon's home exchange offer in Chens sur Leman, Rhone Alpes, France:
'We have a large detached house (in photo) in a small village very near Geneva. It is 10 minutes walk to Lake Geneva and has views of the Jura mountains. It was recently renovated so is light, airy and ideal for family living. Geneva is 20 mins away by car. Major ski resorts (Morzine, Avoriaz, Flaine) within an hour's drive. Also convenient for visiting Annecy, Montreux, Evian and exploring the villages along Lake Geneva such as Yvoire'.
Too often, people wanting a home exchange presume that everybody who might be interested in their offer speaks their language fluently - even when they are looking for an exchange in a country where the language is not theirs. Of course, in the end, the potential exchangers have to find a common language to work out the details of the exchange but, at the outset, an offer will really draw attention if it is made in both languages involved. As well, when you are making offers to members of Home Base Holidays, they will stand out sharply if you can at least start them off with a sentence or two in the addressees' language. Bilingual members are fortunate in this respect, but, even if your translation is not perfect, the others will appreciate your efforts as they tussle to understand long descriptions or exchange offers in a language they are not at home with.
Here is an excellent example of an exchange offer in both English (the members live in Australia) and in French (they want to exchange their Sydney house for one in the South of France):
The house, built in 1914, is in a quiet street ten minutes walk from Cremorne shopping centre. It's mostly on one floor, with pleasant outlooks over the leafy neighbourhood as it falls away on the southwest side of the house towards the waters of Middle Harbour. Look at the full offer (HE7082) and inspect more photos.
Il arrive trop souvent que les gens cherchant à échanger leur maison supposent que tout le monde qui puisse s'intéresser à leur offre d'échange parle couramment leur langue à eux - même qu'ils cherchent un échange dans un pays où la langue n'est pas la leur. Bien sûr, en fin de compte, les échangeurs éventuels devront trouver une langue commune pour mettre au point l'échange mais, au départ, une offre d'échange s'attirera d'attention pour de bon si elle est rédigée dans les deux langues en question. Egalement, quand vous ferez des offres d'échange à des membres de Home Base Holidays, elles se distingueront nettement si vous pourrez au moins les entamer d'une ou deux phrases dans la langue des destinataires. Les membres bilingues sont privilégiés à cet égard, mais, même si votre traduction n'est pas parfaite, les autres seront conscients de vos efforts quand ils se démènent pour comprendre de longues descriptions ou des offres d'échange dans une langue dans laquelle ils ne sont pas à l'aise.
Voici un excellent exemple d'une offre d'échange de maison et en anglais (les membres habitent l'Australie) et en français (ils veulent échanger leur maison à Sydney pour une en France dans le Midi):
La maison, qui date de 1914, est située dans une rue calme, à dix minutes à pied des rues commerçantes de Cremorne. Essentiellement de plain-pied, elle offre sur son côté sud-ouest une vue agréable sur les quartiers verdoyants qui descendent en pente douce vers les eaux du Middle Harbour. Regardez l'offre complète (HE7082) et examinez encore des photos.
Comment from Cathy, Auckland, New Zealand, home exchange listing, HE12437:
'Great idea, and if one can't speak the language one can go to Google Language Tools and translate one's text into any language!
Excellente idée, et si on ne peut pas parler la langue, on peut aller à Google Outils linguistiques et traduire son texte dans n'importe quelle langue!'
Newsletter Contributions: We are always pleased to hear from members and subscribers and to receive contributions for the newsletter and weblog - short reports on your exchange experiences, tips you feel would be useful to those new to the idea of home swapping and any questions you have on home exchange. Please include 'home exchange' in the subject line when contacting us as messages with no subjects (or dubious sounding subject lines!) or unexpected attachments may end up in our spam folder and deleted unread.
Reading this on the Website? Use the newsletter subscribe link to add your email address and receive the newsletter regularly. If already on the list but not receiving your copy by email, there can be a number of causes:
Reminder to Members about Messaging System: A short alert message is sent to you by email to let you know whenever there is a new message for you in the Inbox in your member area. The subject line in the alert messages you receive by email is: New home exchange message for you from HExxxxx (the member's User ID). Alert messages are automatically sent from the site whenever a member leaves you a message. You then need to log on to your member area to read and respond to the message. Please respond to all messages promptly even if you can't consider an exchange offer.
Although you should receive alert messages without any problem, it's a good idea to skim through your spam folder before deleting messages as a very few alert messages, like other 'good' messages, may be filed there by mistake - ISPs' spam filtering systems aren't perfect! If your ISP or email programme enables it, add our email address, homeexchange 'at' btinternet 'dot' com (replacing the 'at' and 'dot'), to your 'safe senders' list to ensure you don't miss any alerts.
The site based messaging system is for your security - you decide when you are ready to provide another member with your email address and any other contact information.
Be Alert: The Home Base Holidays private member area is for one-to-one exchange offers between members only, not for any other purpose. Please let us know if you receive any other type of message via your member area. Never respond to unsolicited messages from unknown sources.
Further Information: Check the archives to read past issues of Home Swappers Newsletter. Also, don't forget to visit the Travel the Home Exchange Way weblog for regular information and updates plus special exchange requests. To receive notices by email whenever a new post is added (generally no more than three a week), add your email address to the box above 'Get email updates' in the left hand column of Travel the Home Exchange Way.
Copyright: All Home Swappers content is copyright and cannot be used in any form without written permission from Home Base Holidays. However, please feel free to forward the newsletter (in full) to friends and colleagues who may be interested in home exchange (use the Forward Email link below the newsletter).
Home Base Holidays, London, UK 1985-2008: 23rd year providing a home exchange service worldwide