83 countries and 100 home exchanges in almost 50 years: long-time HomeExchanger William has traveled more than most people could dream of. Using HomeExchange has made it possible for William to pursue his passion of traveling the world affordably and authentically.
"My dad died before he was able to retire, but he was always a big traveler and dreamed of seeing the world," William said. "So I retired at 59 with the goal to see one country for every year of my age."
With 83 countries on his list, William has surpassed his goal. When he first started home exchanging in the 1970s, he only exchanged once or twice a year, usually with his two sons. But now that he's retired and has a more flexible schedule, William home exchanges for several months at a time, one year even doing 14 exchanges in a row.
Most memorable home exchanges
The exchange that started it all was in San Francisco, back before HomeExchange was an online platform. Everything was done by mail, with members receiving a catalog of available homes and writing letters to each other to arrange exchanges. William recalls they even sent their house keys to each other in the mail before a stay. On a Hawaii exchange, his hosts left their car for him at the airport with the keys in the car. "Communication was totally different than today," William said.
But as HomeExchange evolved, so did William's exchanges. He recalled one of the most memorable— four exchanges in a row in Bali with three friends in an "unbelievable house."
"They had a staff of five people— maids, gardeners, a driver, a cook," he said. "The house was fabulous and overlooked the rice terraces."
Another memorable exchange was in Ethiopia— "the only home in Ethiopia on the whole site" at the time— William said. They stayed in a couple's casita, and the couple invited them to their home for all their meals and showed them around the country.
Budget-friendly travel with HomeExchange
All these memories and experiences are written down, as William plans to write a book about his years of travel and home exchanging. "I've written down everything we've done, even some of the mishaps," he said. The book will include tips on saving money and traveling safely. Saving money has been a huge benefit of HomeExchange over the years.
"Without HomeExchange, travel would be way above what we could afford," he said. It's all the little things that add up: transportation from the airport, car rental, food, bikes. But HomeExchangers don't deal with those added travel costs.
"We've stayed in homes with big gardens, fresh vegetables, and eggs from their chickens," William said. "It's amazing how much you can save on the little things, like being able to cook for yourself. If you're in a hotel, you're going out all the time."
William recalls an 11-week trip to 11 countries, where he spent less than $11,000, including a week-long cruise, airfare, food, souvenirs, and transportation. He went to Iceland, Holland, Amsterdam, London, and Italy, among other European destinations. "We were staying at really nice, multi-bedroom homes," he said. "All but one had a car that we could use."
Lifelong friendships from home exchanging
Even more than the savings, William said he home exchanges for the authentic travel experiences it gives him. "Not only are you saving money, but you meet people and become friends with them," he said. His hosts (and their friends and family) have showed him around their home towns, cooked for him, driven him to the airport, and gone out of their way to make sure he has a wonderful travel experience every time.
"It seems like in every exchange, there's always been a story," he said.
William is also a long-time HomeExchange host, mostly in one of his homes in Mexico. He has hosted people from New Zealand, South Africa, and beyond. Many people are cautious to home exchange because they worry about their house, insurance, and safety, but William said he quickly got past those fears. "If somebody's in your home and you're in their home, you trust each other," he said.
Try HomeExchange for yourself to discover a world of possibilities for affordable, authentic travel. It's free to sign up and search for a home, and you'll be backed by all our guarantees when you arrange an exchange.