Michelle, a HomeExchange member from Italy, has done 17 exchanges and has hosted members from France, Italy and Spain in her home. She shares her initial worries and how she overcame them and grew to love home swapping.

What were some of your biggest fears when hosting another member?

I guess I was hesitant to leave out things that I considered valuable and I always got a bit nervous about having the house perfectly clean, like I would like it if I were the guest.

Also, I have a cat and I worried that she would wake our guests up too early or stay outside too long so that our guests had to take time to find her.

How did you overcome this fear?

About my 'valuable' things, I've learned that just like when I'm a guest, people appreciate a welcoming home and aren't interested in my personal items. To make it easy on everyone, I put some items in a locked closet, otherwise I leave worry-free.

Regarding cleanliness, I still fuss because I really appreciate staying in a home that is clutter-free and clean. I start preparing the house the week before my guests arrive so that I don't have to do it all at once.

And my cat doesn't seem to be a problem because my guests are aware that they will be sharing my home with Muffin and they have all been extremely kind and careful.

Tell us about a memorable experience with a guest.

The very first time I hosted, it was for a reciprocal exchange with a couple from France. I arrived at their home and they showed me around. Then, I gave them the keys to my house and a few tips for when they arrived. They were perfectly lovely, helping to make my first exchange very positive. When they came back, we hugged and were genuinely pleased to see each other again!

What do you like most about hosting other members?

It warms my heart to share my home when I am away because I feel like I am optimizing something that would otherwise stay empty!

I also love communicating before the exchanges, it makes it possible to get to know the guests before they arrive, making it so you feel like friends are coming to stay.

Finally, I live in a lovely town near Turin, Italy, and I am always happy to have others experience this city for themselves; it is a little-known gem!

How do you prepare your home for your Guests?

I have a binder with details on keys, locking up the house, using appliances, taking out the garbage, etc. I include maps to the local town and closest city, bus schedules, user manuals for appliances and my cat's emergency information.

I like to leave a local treat to welcome the guests, especially Kinder chocolate if children are staying. Lastly, if I will be out of town while the guests are in my home, I always leave the telephone number of a nearby friend they can contact should they have any questions and my number for contacting me via WhatsApp.

What tips and tricks would you give to others who are hosting Guests?

One tip I'd give a host is be sure to exchange WhatsApp numbers when in the planning stage because not everyone has access to the website while traveling.

I'd also suggest sharing lesser-known information about the area you live in. If you know your local vendors well, you might stop by and let them know you have guests so that if your guests go to their shop/restaurant, they can greet them more personally.

What did you realize after you hosted for the first time?

After my first exchange, I learned that guests appreciate a clutter-free environment where personal items are not everywhere and can potentially be broken. Also, my guests find it useful that I send them a brief video of me driving up to my house and parking my car. This allows them to see exactly how to get to my house and where to park.

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