¡Estás En Tu Casa!:  The Joys of Home Exchange

Years ago, when I lived for a time in Latin America, my favourite Spanish phrase was “¡Estás en tu casa!  -- “My home is yours.”  Nowadays, given the convenience of the Internet and e-mail, my husband Maury (short for Maurice) and I have had a lot of fun making our home “yours,” and vice versa. 

  Home exchange—trading one’s house or apartment during a mutually timed vacation—is a great way to experience living in another country and to make new friends.  It’s an idea that’s catching on with more people every day, because people can easily list their home and “shop” for homes in desired locations on the Internet, then initiate and finalize home exchange arrangements via e-mail.

  Advantages of home exchange include eliminating most hotel and housing costs (typically people only exchange money if there are unusual damages, phone bills or the like), more space than the average hotel can provide, the ability to cook for yourself, and an opportunity to meet the neighbors.  Families often find it an easier way to travel with young children.   The “house sitters” can feed your pet or water your houseplants, as well.  My husband, Maury and I have arranged home exchanges of our condominium in the San Francisco Bay Area for trips to Europe over the last 3 years, first to Shoreham by the Sea, then Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and in 2001 to Hanover, Germany.  We’ve found it not only reduces costs but also makes our travel much easier and more enjoyable.

  Frequently, the first thing people ask me when I mention home exchange is “but what if these people tear up your home, or steal things.”  I emphasize to them, and to you, that the entire scheme is based on the honor system—and remember, your hosts must trust you to care for their home and possessions just as you must trust them.  While written agreements can be made, overall people find the experience positive and rewarding, and find their homes in good order upon return. 

  This year, Maury has a professor’s sabbatical, and we’re hoping for a New Zealand home exchange.  Perhaps Russell will allow me to share our experiences following our New Zealand stay.  Until then, ¡Estás En Tu Casa!

Best wishes Susan Penner