Taking a year-long travel sabbatical to travel is a dream for many people. But Brynn and her family made it their reality this year by safely, flexibly traveling with HomeExchange.
Brynn has been a HomeExchange member for two years, and has found that “it just makes the world feel a little smaller.” With her husband and two sons, the Washington state resident has opened her home to numerous people, extending warm welcomes to fellow travelers.
They’ve spent six months in Baja California and have stayed in exchanges in throughout Mexico, in Colorado, and in their home state of Washington. They’re even planning a trip to Nicaragua this summer!
Lifelong friendships with HomeExchange
Brynn has more fond memories of HomeExchangers she has hosted than she can count, and the friendships far outlast the vacations. She recalls hosting an Australian family who, several months after their stay, let her know their daughter was attending college nearby and was feeling homesick.
“The mom messaged me and asked me to help cheer her daughter up,” Brynn recounts. So Brynn packed up her sons and a bunch of cookies and spent the afternoon with her, even attending her college basketball game that evening. “It was my boys’ first basketball game,” she recounts. “They were so excited to know the star player!”
This attitude of sharing and generosity has enabled the family to have unforgettable travel experiences and now 15 exchanges. The cost savings are a wonderful benefit of HomeExchange, but not the primary one for Brynn.
“It’s the additional layer of having relationships with people locally who will look out for you,” she shared. The flexibility of HomeExchange and relationships formed are the primary reasons home swapping is this family's preferred way to travel.
Hosting on HomeExchange
Brynn is a seasoned HomeExchange host— the first year she was a member, she didn’t travel anywhere, she just hosted people and received GuestPoints! In fact, through HomeExchange she met a couple from the Netherlands traveling to her area. While she wasn’t able to accommodate them in her home, she welcomed them for dinner. “We became friends, and when we traveled the next summer they came and met us in Paris,” she said. “So before we ever spent the night anywhere, we already had friends from HomeExchange.”
One thing that makes hosting easier for Brynn is to have guests pay for a house cleaner when they stay at her place, or to pay for a cleaner when she stays in someone else’s home. This makes the vacation more relaxing, because “when someone returns to their own home, it’s exactly the way they’re used to it and cleaned to their specifications,” she said.
Her philosophy with hosting others? “Try to say yes if you can,” Brynn said. “Approach it with the opinion that people are probably as respectful as you are.”
This open attitude to home swapping has allowed Brynn and her family to have unforgettable adventures and meet lovely locals along the way. She has found the HomeExchange community incredibly welcoming and friendly— even if they aren’t able to host, they find ways to help and share tips on traveling to their area. “It’s a very positive group of helpful people,” Brynn said.
Can 'normal people' do this?
Brynn recalls when she first learned of HomeExchange through a friend who has a “ridiculously large castle vacation home.” Her first question was— “can normal people do this?”
But as HomeExchangers quickly learn, HomeExchanging is for everyone, whether they own a castle, cottage, chalet, or cabin. Everyone’s home has charm and character, and with strong communication, you can help others see the beauty of your hometown.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
HomeExchanges don’t have to be perfect to be unforgettable experiences, Brynn has learned. Travel during COVID-19 has caused lots of plans to change and the family’s pace and style of travel is much different— they take more road trips now, for example. But home swapping with 8- and -10-year-old boys is “way better than a hotel” since the kids have their own bedrooms and everyone can have their own space.
To people who are on the fence about traveling with HomeExchange, Brynn suggests starting with a local swap rather than international travel. “If you are feeling concerned, try making the stakes a little smaller,” she recommended. “Find people who want to exchange locally for weekend getaways.”
Once travelers dip their toe into the world of HomeExchanging, they quickly learn that “everything doesn’t have to be perfect,” Brynn said.
“There are clean sheets on the bed, and the dishes are done,” she said. “But you don’t have to wait for someone’s remodel to finish or the furniture to arrive. Don’t let those things stop you from doing now what you might not get to do later.”