Blog Series: Share Your Home Exchange Story

kangaroosAfter all is said and done, it’s the home exchange experiences you actually have that determine whether exchanging homes enriches your life or brings you problems.

We can tell you that our own experiences have enriched our lives immeasurably and we have heard the same thing from many other people, but it is perhaps the individual stories of home exchanges that best convey what the experience is like.

For that reason, we invite home exchangers to share their stories here in a blog series of occasional stories from other exchangers.  To participate in this series, simply click here to send us an email with your story.  To kick it off, we’ll start this series with one of our own stories.

When you submit your story we’ll publish a blog entry with your story and information about you in the format we’re using today.   Please include the information about yourself and an optional photo in your email to us.

 

A Home Exchange Story:  An Exchange Down Under

thumbnailsamandjudyBy Sam and Judy Robbins

Sam and Judy Robbins are long-time home exchangers who have done over 70 home exchanges in the past twenty years.  They are members of both homeexchange.com (#36942) and homelink.org (US19883).

We had already done a fair number of home exchanges prior to our first trip to Australia in 2003.  We hadn’t really been thinking about traveling to Australia but we received an inquiry from an Australian couple while we were on an exchange in Hawaii.  In considering such a trip we looked at issues like the cost of air travel, the problems we might have in coping with the extreme changes in time zones, and what we would be able to do and see.

We found out about consolidators who can offer cheaper airfares than you can otherwise obtain and got in touch with a person who specialized in arranging around-the-world travel.  At the time, we found out we could get an around the world ticket that would allow us to visit several countries on our own schedule as long as the travel was completed within a year.  The cost at that time was less than $1500 each.   It’s more expensive now but we see that now you can purchase such a trip from USD $2424 to USD $3345, depending on your travel dates, availability and taxes.  That was the price obtained by using the travel planner on www.airtreks.com for a trip we designed to start in NYC and continue in the following sequence:  New York – Los Angeles – Auckland – Sydney – Singapore – Paris – London -New York.  In Australia we used inexpensive  in-country flights to travel from Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane to Cairns and back to Brisbane.

Knowing that we could arrange air travel in places around the world we decided that if we were going to Australia, we’d want to see several cities there and in New Zealand, and also have intermediate stops on our way there and back.  We left DC and stayed a day in Los Angeles, then spent a week in Tahiti.  The week in Tahiti was not an exchange, but an inexpensive beachfront hut on the nearby island of Moorea.  We also spent a week in the Cook Islands which was also not an exchange but very inexpensive. Good places to look for inexpensive rentals when home exchanges are not available are www.vrbo.com and www.tripadvisor.com.

After the Cook Islands we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, an air gateway to the area.  We had arranged our first exchange in Lake Taupo on the north island and booked a room for one or two nights in Auckland, Wellington and Christ Church, just to be able to visit those cities while we were so close.  Then we were off to our first exchange in Australia, in Sydney.

When we started making inquiries for an exchange in Sydney, we heard back from a couple who told us they were not able to do an exchange at the time we were planning to be there, but that they would be happy to host us at their apartment if we were unable to find an exchange.  They would, as they put it, “throw a few more shrimp on the barbie”.  It was not hard to find an exchange, but we were charmed by this response and told them we had an exchange and that we would love to meet them while we were in Sydney.   They asked us about our flight information.  After we gave it to them, they told us they would pick us up at the airport.   We thanked them and told them that we didn’t want to put them to that trouble, but they insisted and in the end we were very grateful they did.

Bryan picked us up at the airport and first took us to their apartment, where dinner was waiting.  We had a great visit and then Bryan took us to our exchange home.  Over the course of our stay in Sydney, Bryan and Trina showed us the city and we had dinner together in our exchange home and at several restaurants.  When we left, Bryan took us to the airport.  We had had the good fortune to meet an utterly charming couple, who we would end up seeing again in Washington when they came for a few days while on an exchange in Manhattan, in France, when they visited us in an exchange home near Paris where they also had an exchange, and again inSydney, when we returned in 2008 for a second trip to Australia.

From Sydney, we went to Melbourne for an exchange.  Being in each city for two weeks gave us enough time to get to know the different personalities of these two different great cities and to fall completely in love with the Australians.  The standard of living in Australia is very high, the people are very optimistic and positive and they have a great sense of humor.  If you haven’t considered visiting Australia, you may want to give it some thought.

Our next stop after Melbourne was Noosa Heads, which is a resort area.  It has a wonderful beach on the ocean, and a river which was parkland beside it filled with walkways and restaurants, a place where you can enjoy swimming, fishing and various types of boating.  There is a great national park along the ocean with hiking trails overlooking the water and where you can look up in the trees and see koalas.  We like it so much we went back to Noosa on our second trip.

While we were in Australia, we went up to Cairns, which is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.  We splurged for a few days in a forested resort and took a four-day cruise on the reef.  On that trip a small boat took snorkelers to reef ribbon #5, where you can see amazing coral, giant clams and amazing fish on the reef and a few meters away look at a huge drop off and see very large fish swimming around.  Our little boat with its small group of snorkelers bobbing around in the middle of the ocean was an amazing experience.

After we left Australia, we flew to London, where we had a two-week exchange.  It was fabulous of course but we had done so much traveling that we were anxious to leave when it was time to go so that we could finally see our family and friends again.

In the years since we left we have maintained a connection with several friends we made during the trip.  We have been able to spend time with two of the couples on both trips to Australia and with them and others  in Washington.    These trips have broadened our horizons and made indelible impressions on us and our perceptions of our world.