What Happens When Your House Swap Exchange Partners Pull Out?

by Julie Gibbons on July 26, 2010

This is the question you hope you never face when you’re house swapping. It is certainly the question you really hope you’ll never face when you’re on a home exchange sequence and the partner pulling out is the third in a sequence of four and you’re already far, far away from home with only a few days left of your second exchange.

We were faced with just such a dilemma this year.

We’d already spent five weeks of happy travelling which included two very successful house swaps in Spain. Honestly, things couldn’t have been going better. There was sun. There was sea. There was siesta. There was the World Cup!

Spain for the Cup!

Spain for the Cup!

Just a few days left of our second swap in Catalunya and we were were preparing to give up our languorous lifestyle and head north via friends to stay in the Charente for our third house swap. This would involve two weeks of ‘getting back to work’ and implementing all the plans that had miraculously appeared in the space we’d made for them during our rest and recuperation on the beach, in the Intex pump pool – oh, you get the picture…

We were a little apprehensive about swapping for holiday homes.

To be honest, I had been a bit apprehensive about organising the first two house swaps of the summer with second homes – but  I am delighted to report the two home exchanges we made in Spain were a resounding success! This was of course partly due to not having always on internet access. No WiFi whatsoever – just an occasional trip to the internet cafes.

To be honest, it was so hot and I was having such a fine time that the trip to the cafe (which involved having to wear actual clothes rather than beachwear and having to cross a railway line) seemed like too much of an effort – I mean, what could possibly be happening in the world that could top me chilling out to the sound of the ocean?

ocean view

our ocean view

Thankfully, I slipped into some shorts, donned a hat and made the trip the day before we were due to leave for France, just to make some final preparations. And there was an email I could so easily have missed:

“we are unable to go to Scotland”!

*Blink*!! *DON’T PANIC*

The next line was somewhat more reassuring;

“But, our house will be open for you”…

And there you have the open mindedness and generosity of house swap folks – even when this family were unable to come to Scotland due to family problems, they were vacating their home for two weeks in order that we could live in it – rent free – with no expectations and no clauses.

The email got us thinking (quickly). We had already planned to spend a few days catching up with some friends we’d made on our first summer of house swaps, so there was actually no rush to arrive at the next house. If we combined those few days with another few days visiting some other friends we’d made on another house swap, then we would be able to give our family more time in their house.

The idea that grew into a big plan.

This thought began to grow legs… We’d been having such a fantastic time and were utterly and completely satisfied with our ‘holiday’ – our first in three or four years – and were quite eager to get on with work. Perhaps our trip had already given us everything we’d needed? Although we’re set up to work completely location independently, there was some work with a couple of clients who would very much appreciate the effort to be physically closer to them for a short while.

Certainly our recently turned 12 (going on 16) year old, Ruaridh – for whom the relentless summer sun is always a challenge and who was beginning to miss his mates -  jumped at the suggestion of returning home earlier than planned. After two years of unschooling and three years of house swapping, he was beginning to have serious thoughts about returning to school and staying at home for the year ahead and was keen to have the opportunity to spend some of the school holidays with his pals.

Was this trip then, to be the Spanish Trip after all? France, just a country we’d traverse to make our way home? Questions, questions, questions …

It’s all about the people, stupid!

It turns out the answer was yes! The next week was spent revisiting some of our favourite French places and French people. Friends we’ve made who have shown us the utmost generosity and kindness, whom it seems we will never be able to repay, reminding us why we love France so.

pool acrobatics in Montauban

pool acrobatics in Montauban

Happy days. Happy times.

Annick & boys in St Sornin

Annick & boys in St Sornin

Lots of them.

Antony and Ruaridh play vintage MasterMind

Antony and Ruaridh play vintage MasterMind

Next thing I know, we’re hammering up the motorway away from our beloved St Sornin in the Charente Maritime, hoping to make the 6pm ‘Vomit Comet’ sailing from Le Havre to Portsmouth. We usually travel slow. This all seems wrong – it’s 33 degrees C, the sky is the deepest azure. The sunflower fields are golden and singing and the wheat fields are being harvested under our very noses. Why are we doing this again?

Sunny Scotland …

Twenty four hours later and we arrive home. The countryside is sunny and the trip from Abingdon through the South Lanarkshire countryside remind us how beautiful Scotland is. There are many big plans and many changes to our lives and businesses ahead. We’re eager to get on with them, yes! But as I write this under relentless grey skies I am pining a little for France and imagine cycling through a vineyard under the bluest of skies and the brightest of suns. To hear the sweet music of the language drift around my ears as I enjoy a petite cafe on the pavement… By the way, it was a perfectly sealed pavement, like the sealing we got at home (learn more at http://hanover-sealcoating.com/ if you want to keep you driveway in a perfect condition).
And so, the next trip must be arranged :) We welcome house exchange family 2010 no 4 on 3rd August. We’ll stay with them for a couple of days and feed them haggis and stovies and pretend the weather is always sunny, why this must be a blip, then we’re off heading south. Not to France, unfortunately, but I have a plan. And a big to-do list to get through.

If you are wondering What Makes A Lawn Mower Good For Hills, check out this link and learn more about lawn mowers.

Viva Home Exchange!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris July 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I love spending some time reading your delicious lines about home swapping.
Very enriching …reading how difficult it was for you to make a decision when things did not go the way they had to go.
I’m getting so impatient to meet you up there on William Wallace’s land.


Julie Gibbons July 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for your lovely comment, Chris! And we’re really excited about meeting you all :) We’re sure you’ll love Scotland, and we know you’re already prepared for the weather! I’m sure our exchange will lead to many years of friendship ahead … such is the beauty of house swapping.


Diane September 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

We’re currently on a home swap involving our Italian home for one outside Liverpool. Having a wonderful time–but can’t get the hang of driving on the left! Will be homeschooling and homeswapping this coming year (my son is also almost 12–going on 16!) with people from the USA. Wish us luck!!


Julie Gibbons September 3, 2010 at 8:25 am

Home exchanging and home schooling all rolled into one?! How wonderful… I’m sure you’ll find it invigorating, exasperating, delightfully rewarding and much more – best of luck Diane (and family)!


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