Sydney, London, Hong Kong, Bali… does this sound like a dream itinerary? For long-time HomeExchange member Sondra “Sunny” Landin, these are just a few of the places she has visited during two decades of home exchanging.
Sunny, now age 90, began house swapping 20 years ago. As a concert pianist and record producer, she had already spent her life traveling the world. “When I retired, I still had the footloose and fancy free bug in me,” she explained. She decided home exchanging would be an affordable, authentic way to continue seeing the world in her retirement.
“I’ve had only good experiences, ranging from fine to fabulous,” Sunny said. “And even the fine ones were more than expected. It’s been an easy and wonderful thing.”
A particular exchange that stands out to Sunny is her trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she met her host since their travels overlapped by a few days. The apartment was beautiful, overlooking the Atlantic, but more life-changing for Sunny was their fast friendship. “We hit it off immediately,” she said. The women now call each other sisters and have “the most wonderful friendship.”
Sunny has traveled to her Brazilian friend's home to spend Christmas, Carnival, and on getaways with her girlfriends. In turn, her host has visited Sunny’s New York City apartment when she needs an escape. She even came to Sunny’s 90th birthday celebration in New Mexico.
Sunny’s one-bedroom New York City apartment is “not what you’d call huge or ultra luxurious,” she admits, but it has taken her to the most unbelievable, beautiful places. She’s also hosted people from around the world in her charming, bright apartment. “It’s always my wish to meet new people,” she said.
After more than 16 exchanges, Sunny has plenty of stories to tell. Like the time she traveled to Prague and stayed in a renovated castle that is used for movie shoots and weddings. The friends she made in Prague ended up buying a townhouse in Brooklyn after visiting Sunny there and falling in love with the city!
In a Bali home exchange, Sunny experienced the “very exotic” indoor/outdoor living of Bali and was treated to a full-service staff for cleaning, cooking, and driving. While she was in Sydney, her guests staying in New York got married in the city and accidentally left their wedding tuxedo in Sunny’s apartment.
In the French Riviera, Sunny stayed in a convent- “completely outside of anything I had experienced before,” but with welcoming people and hearty meals. She recalls her trip to Victoria, British Columbia, where the home exchange had telescopes on the terraces and stunning views of downtown Victoria and the cruise ships.
And in Melbourne, Sunny and her friend got locked out of their apartment exchange. The neighbors invited them into their home while they waited for a key, but by the time the key arrived, everyone was “busy partying and eating bowls of shrimp” with their new, unlikely friends.
Now that she’s a nonagenarian, Sunny says she's “retiring” from HomeExchange. She still plans to visit friends and family around the world, but traveling isn’t as easy now. For those just starting out home swapping, she has some advice:
“Go for it, and see what you like,” Sunny said. “Know that the people who are interested are more than likely to be respectful of your home. If your gut feeling says yes, this is right, do it.”