HomeExchange Trocmaison : the 10 year itch.
HomeExchange was founded by Ed Kushins, after a long personal experience of home exchanging which he calls his « 23 year old start up ». The idea of exchanging homes was meant to save money, to live like a local and to create connections. It worked beyond expectations. The co-founder, William Heinzer, a former TV producer in Switzerland, jokes about the fact that you can exchange really your whole life, but maybe not your wife, while a French exchanger asks me how should we call ourselves « exchangers ? swapers ? swingers ? » while we are enjoying a delicious strawberry smoothie before the great Calfornian wines that Ed Kushins brought with him. I also have a talk with new comers to the site, Catherine Martini and her husband, a charming couple living in the surbubs of Paris, who talked about their incredible exchange in Cape Cod and in Florida. The former air hostess used to luxurious hotel rooms is now mother of three boys, and a gourmet creative designer, http://www.catherinemartini.fr, creating very nice artsy painting connected with pastry. Yummy. Home exchangers are definitely different people.
The system of exchanging your home first became very popular among teachers ; they had time, were eager to discover the world, but did not necessarily have the money to fullfill their dreams. They still account for 1/5 of the 60,000 members of this exclusive club. But if you look at the Home Exchange website's incredible houses, you will soon realize that not everybody is a teacher.
Ed Kushins was certainly a visionary when collaborative economy was not fashionable. There was no Uber, no Airbnb at the time. The world is changing fast and HomeExchange/ Trocmaison has to find its way to survive. In a very competitive world where you can rent your place and rent someone else's place so easily, making anyone an entrepreneur, the home exchange site decided to keep the family spirit. They are looking to find new ways to exchange without money, modernize the website, but as the new president, Jim Pickell said : « technology is not meant to replace humane connexions". Home exchange intends to grow by using the talents of people inside the home exchange community. All are welcome !
Nomad's land : getting out of your comfort zone
I always had itchy feet. My mother always says the first word I pronunced was « doror » , meaning « dehors », « outside » . Since then I haven't changed, exploring the world, has remained my main concern. I failed becoming a air hostess ( too clumsy), but became a journalist, then I explored the human mind becoming a TV writer.
When I heard of Home Exchange and Trocmaison ten years ago, I immediately liked the idea : being a recently divorced mother with double kids (6 year old twins) and No (less) income, the home exchange was a wonderful opportunity to keep traveling, keep dreaming, when you are not supposed to have the means to do it and spend your holidays at your mother's.
My first experience was incredible in many ways. I exchanged my Parisian flat against a gorgeous Mansion, in Fort Lauderdale. My exchanger was a furniture designer for children.
We flew to Florida and found ourselves in a huge house where no detail had been left to hapzard and every thing was luxurious. From the golden taps, to poster beds ; it looked like a Versace house. Outside the house, we of course enjoyed a swimming pool overlooking the intercoastal. There was an incredibly sophisticated doll house, where children could stand in.
We had a great stay when I decided to visit the Florida Keys ; I asked the owner what she thought for some tropical storms had been announced by the weather forecast. No big deal, she said, but first : could we please put the deckchair inside ? But one hour later she called me, alarmed, and recommended to drive 300 miles West, and then up North, when the hurricane changed direction to Lousiana ; A big storm with power cut.That was Katrina, the big hurricane ! My daughter asked why hurricane are called after women's name ? My son – a former feminist said that men behaved badly and women were taking a revenge... We headed for Orlando.
Luckily we also had exchanged car and for the first time of my life I drove the van while the children watched a movie « superman » twice with the video system... We stayed in Orlando (visited SeaWorld and Disney for the second time, nothing the children complained about) and when we came back, with no power, and a few smelly defrozen squids, trees down.
It was a very dramatic and a very exciting time. An unforgettable holidays.
Home exchanging is something you start out of economic reasons and for the sake of the adventure, then it widens your horizons : so many good places to visit, the planet becomes your universe. Living in someone's home not only enables you to live like a local, get the best tips, but to inhale someone else's culture, meet their friends. That is so different.
I have done some 12 exchanges, rented my flat a few times to Americans and Australians and most of the time kept contacts. I remember this incredible family from Sidney, two lawyers, who travelled for a whole year with their children, teaching them by themselves.
In France, we also had a few repeated exchanges with two great families near Tours and in Corrèze region,The Morels and the Wolffs, who even invited us in their secondary homes when no exchange was possible. The home exchange went as far as exchanging pets very often. Mr Wolff, who happens to be a vet near Pompadour, even cut our cat's nails and advised about cat food and we kept their lovely blind dog.
Home exchanging is based on mutual trust. And it is a virtuous circle, if you trust someone you empower him or her to give their best.
While getting out of your comfort zone, and having people sleeping in your sheets, you make this huge step towards aliens, real people. Call it life !