HomeExchanger Elena was one of the first few members to join the community in 2001 and hasn’t looked back since. Elena and her family frequently exchange homes every year for their vacations and now, 20 years later and with over 100 exchanges under their belts, they are still always looking for new places to discover and explore. Here is Elena’s story about how HomeExchange transformed her way of traveling and has now become a way of life.

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“When things are bad, it’s the best time to reinvent yourself.” —George Lopez

"Since the beginning of my young adult life, reinventing myself in difficult times has been my motto. For most of my adult life, HomeExchange has been my partner in this self discovery. How has a company, (well, more a way of life really) helped define who I am now and also who I will become tomorrow? How is that possible?"

Elena's background

"Having been born into a multicultural family, I found myself, at a very young age, on the roads of the wonderful discoveries of traveling. That was imprinted in me as THE meaning of life: no life without traveling. As a young adult, I had already travelled more than any of my friends, always going somewhere. For Europeans, it is easy to switch cultures after just a few hours on a train or a cheap flight."

Enjoying family vacation New York USA
Elena on a HomeExchange in New York, 2004

When life takes unexpected turns, you have to adapt...

"After a bad divorce, I had to reinvent myself once again and decided to go back to college and become the world traveler I wanted to be. I had decided to become a foreign language teacher: a profession that would allow me to travel the world with my child who was 9 years old at the time."

"I was managing a bed and breakfast, driving to college everyday (luckily only 30 minutes away) and taking care of my child. It was all going well until things suddenly got very complicated at the end of 2002 spring semester. The degree I had been working on for the past 2 years (going back to college as an adult after a law degree) required students to leave the country for a 6 month teaching training period in another country."

"Single parent at the time, how could I manage a 6 months abroad with a young child?"

"First, I had to choose London. It was 3 hours away from my house through the Channel Tunnel so the back and forth would be manageable. Due to the circumstances, I convinced the University to allow me to do a training of 3 months instead of 6 so my child would not be impacted during his school year. It would take a long summer instead."

Kid enjoying Statue of Liberty family vacation New York USA
New York, 2004

"Here we are, my son and I in London for a week end, trying to figure out where we would live for the next 3 months. I had already found a place for the training: the French Embassy in Kensington, London. I would follow a team of experienced teachers who were giving French lessons all over the city. Exciting. Except that London is famously known for its very high cost of living, and especially for housing. A huge wall right in front of me: how to finance 3 months rent in London. Impossible."

"Here I am, back at my house in France, alone, and desperately trying to work out how I could reinvent myself again to overcome this difficult time."

"I cannot remember the details of this but, at the time, I was already a tech person. I had a strong understanding of the Internet and was using it in my daily life. I am ashamed to say it now, but I was one of the first French Amazon customers!"

HomeExchange discovery

"So, here I am, online, and I read for the first time something about "HomeExchange" ….Wait… I have a home … and it is located in a town that attracts a vast majority of British tourists…. Bingo! This is what I will do! Free housing!"

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Family activities ice skating New York USA
Ice skating in New York, 2004

"It took me a few weeks to learn how the exchanges worked but I managed to find a 3 month home exchange with "professional HomeExchangers". The company was only created a few years before, but this British couple would spend the 2 summer months in their house in the suburbs of London but would spend the rest of the year as nomad HomeExchange travelers, jumping from one exchange to the other. It was miraculous and it changed my life forever. I wanted to become them."

"Over 20 years later, this is who we are: nomad HomeExchange travelers. We spend most of our year finding places to explore the world while exchanging homes. Over 100 exchanges later, I look back and remember our honeymoon in a traditional home on an Amsterdam canal, a family reunion on a houseboat in Paris, a house with private beach overlooking lobster fishermen and islands filled with seals in Maine, an upper east side over looking Central Park luxurious appartement in New York with my dad (who has now passed away), a Caribbean house with an open kitchen overlooking the sea, back to back exchanges all over my mom’s dream country : Italy…"

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Couple hiking Caribbean jungle vacation activities
Elena and Brent in the Caribbean, 2023

"I was also lucky. Brent, the American husband I had been dreaming of since childhood, embarked on this adventure with the same passion. Although he often has no idea where he is packing for, he is always eager to open that door, the famous moment when you discover that yet again, someone new has trusted you enough with the keys to their home, inviting you to discover their life. What an enchanting lifestyle we have. And all this would have not be possible without HomeExchange."

At the beginning of June, Elena and Brent, departed on a 3 month "HomeExchange" roadtrip around the United States. They stayed in a total of 20 home exchanges, traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again. If you would like to find out more, you can watch the Live Q&A session we had with Elena here and follow them on Instagram @worldfunners.