Home Exchange and House Swaps

“I met a lot of people in Europe.  I even encountered myself.”  James Baldwin

Organikal travel involves a lot of house swapping and home exchanging, primarily in Europe. We started home swapping in 2008 and can’t stop. It’s addictive.

We used to dream of long, hot summers somewhere south, but we often had  difficulty finding the optimum mix of accommodation, location, facilities and price (read cheapness).

House swapping means it’s no longer a dream. And the good news is that anyone can do it. Yes, even you!

There’s been an enormous growth of home exchange resources on the internet over the last few years – not surprising when you think of the uncertainties of economic crises, volcanic ash, airline staff strikes and the like.

All you need to do to get yourself started is to investigate a few of the home swap communities to find the ones which fit you best. Here are some of the sites we’re registered with:

Home For Exchange
Guardian Home Exchange
1st Home Exchange

Just do a search and see which ones you come up with that best suit your location, property and circumstance. There’s plenty of specialist sites for teachers, for seniors and so on. There is definitely something to suit everyone.

Once you’ve selected your house swap site and registered your property you can actively search for swaps and or sit back and wait for offers to come in for your home.

Here’s a handy Home Exchange Getting Started Guide for Beginners, for some more top tips.

As for our holiday house swap  experiences, we’ve had a complete ball. So far, we’ve only had positive experiences and can’t recommend enough that you try it out at least once. We even got married during our fourth home exchange!

As well as having a blast, we’ve found that home exchange has enriched our life in so many different ways. Probably the first lesson we learned was that we can leave behind most of our worldly goods, and not miss them! Being a little on the obsessive compulsive side of the behaviour chart, I expected this might hit me the hardest, but in fact the experience has resulted in just the opposite – we’ve discovered that we really can live with a lot less stuff. It’s changed our views about ownership on a completely fundamental level. But we’re not saints. We’re not ready to give it all up yet…

Summer 2009 House Swap from Julie Gibbons on Vimeo.

The people we’ve met during our house swaps have been quite inspirational. They’ve been open minded and generous. Unique and yet so much alike. Foreign and familiar, all at the same time. They’ve helped us discover more about their country, and in turn we’ve learned more about our own – the good and the not-so-good.We’ve lived in their homes, slept in their beds, showered in their baths and baked in their kitchens. In some cases, we’ve even lived alongside them, accompanied them to school and shared with them our work. But you don’t have to become as intimate. It’s just how we like to do it.

Montauban Mayhem from Julie Gibbons on Vimeo.

Thirdly, but certainly not least, is creating space and time. Such a common goal of many, and house swapping has given it to us in some small, but significant ways. Like when we were travelling on our first series of home exchanges and Ruaridh, locked in the back of a car with nothing much else to do, discovered the joy of reading novels for pleasure. Or even more simply, how without the everyday household routines that take up so much of our time, there are many more hours left in the day to spend doing as we please.

Reggae Reggae Sauce from Julie Gibbons on Vimeo.

There’s loads of advantages to house swapping, not least is the money saving you’ll make on accommodation costs. For families, that’s often significant. One of the other main advantages is that we get to experience a genuine location. Not a destination designed for tourists (which we’ve discovered we’re rubbish at) but often a thriving community of real people living interesting lives. I also like to know that any money I do spend is not bypassing the locals. We’re no millionaires, so we’re not exactly splashing out anyway – but I’d hate to think I was lining the pockets of some fat cat travel boss with my meagre budget.

Running a location independent business allows us to work mostly from anywhere we like, as long as we can find access to the internet. Sometimes this can be a curse, and the promised ‘holiday’ never arises, but most often it affords us a wonderful opportunity to experience our journey each and every day, wherever we want, in the backdrop of our choosing. Work carried out on on sunny mornings and balmy evenings is often never as tiring as it is in the cold, rain and wind. So, house swapping for us is way more than a vacation. It’s a type of lifestyle. An Organikal lifestyle.

There’s a home exchange experience out there for you if you want it. Just don’t hold out too many expectations on what it will bring you. I would guess that even the other swappers we’ve had the privilege to meet along the way have experienced something quite different from us. One thing is for certain, there’ll be enrichment of some sort.

You can check out some great location independent resources here: http://locationindependent.com/

See us described as Digital Nomads in The Guardian here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/jan/09/nomads-working-travelling-world

Keep up to date with our house swap adventures here: http://www.organikal.com/category/home-exchange/

Share our house swap experience in pictures here: http://www.organikal.com/gallery/

Don’t forget to read: Home Exchange Getting Started Guide for Beginners

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