In 2012, when Karine, Bertrand and their four children returned from an eight-month world tour based entirely on home swaps, they were the exception to the rule.
Only four years later, in 2016, a new dynamic has taken root and propelled a wave of travelers on long-term home exchange adventures, often a family project and the fruit of thoughtful preparation and careful planning. Although hailing from countries as diverse as the UK, France, Spain, the US, Canada and Australia, these ambitious travelers share a hunger for discovery, great determination and an adventurous mindset. And they are no longer the exceptions.
“We are fit and energetic ‘early retirees’ in our mid 50s, having had many successful exchanges in Australia and overseas, including 11 in the USA during our year traveling around America. All these exchanges have been a lot of fun, and we are looking forward to arranging more into the future”, explained Roz and Steve, based in Queensland, Australia. Their 2017 travel plans include a European odyssey, starting with Greece, Paris and the Italian Amalfi Coast.
Why are home exchanges such a critical part of these projects? The ability to save money lies at the heart of the decision. But there’s much more to it than that.
“It all started when I wrote on my dreamline that I wanted to live in Europe,” said Cecile, who is based near San Francisco. “My husband and I had made a list of vacation spots and activities, and on there were Oktoberfest, European Winter/Christmas markets, Switzerland, and the Loire Valley. So, rather than taking multiple trips to Europe, it struck me that we should just live there, temporarily.” She is busily planning her European trip through home exchanges with her husband Christopher and their toddler Daclan.
Round-the-world and long-term home exchange travelers fit three basic profiles:
– Many are teachers, who often write blogs and apply their professional experience to road-based educational projects designed to open children’s minds about other cultures. Language immersion is also often an important motivation for extended stays. Madrid natives Pablo, Cristina and their two children have arranged a series of home exchanges over the course of two years in Queensland, Australia, and enrolled their children in local schools.
– Freelancers and “digital nomads” can work anywhere, provided they have an internet connection. This is the case of Anna and Chris, who have exchanged their little house in Westbourne, southern England, more than 20 times, making possible an around-the-world trip. Since the birth of their two children, these globetrotters prefer Europe, but can’t ignore the call of faraway lands.
– Active retirees are a very dynamic segment, accounting for 15% of the HomeExchange community. With a strong appetite for travel and plenty of time on their hands, but somewhat limited income, these Baby Boomers use HomeExchange for long-term multi-destination trips, often during the off-season to take advantage of cheaper air fares. One third of them exchange a second home, making non-simultaneous swaps possible. Brigitte and Alain, for example, returned to their home near Lake Geneva after traveling in the United States and the Pacific only through back-to-back home exchanges.
Will this trend last – will these extraordinary exchange journeys remain popular? “We have seen four times more long-term trip projects on our members’ profiles than in August 2015. A growing proportion of users who already completed several exchanges have become very knowledgeable about the home swap dynamics and benefits. Implementing adventurous travel projects becomes possible,” explains Jim Pickell, President of HomeExchange.