Help! It’s My First Time…
We’re sitting around the kitchen table, as you do, problem solving. I have had at least four coffees and three brownies and will either waddle home or fly, depending on whether the caffeine wins out or the chocolate.
But it’s all going to be worth every last sip and every last crumb, because a virgin exchanger, teetering on the edge of panic, has been calmed down and EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.
Should she be steaming the curtains and ironing all the sheets? How many wardrobes does a couple need for a four week stay?
It’s not the exchanging that’s worrying her at this stage. She has had the skype tour, got to know her host couple, discovered they have lots in common and is consequently feeling pleasantly excited about living in their house. It’s her house that is giving her sleepless nights.
What will they expect? Should she be steaming the curtains and ironing all the sheets? How many wardrobes does a couple need for a four week stay?
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’ve all agonized about how our precious, comfy, but individual home will appear to others. Will they learn to love its little ways? Or will they find the porch sofa a bit sun-bleached and worn out instead of cozy and worn in?
It’s moments like this when I say STOP! Take a deep breath and put yourself into the shoes of your exchangers. Are they looking for perfection? No, they are not. Are they looking for comfort and charm? Yes they are. Do you want to present your home in its best possible light? Yes you do.
So let’s apply a few rules. Have a look at these pictures. Which looks better? The sunroom with the magazines strewn about, or the one with the plumped up cushions and sunshine flooding in? It’s the same room; it just looks better without the clutter.
What about this entrance hall? It’s quite nice and practical looking, but doesn’t it look a whole lot better without the stuff strewn about? Of course it does. None of these pictures are taken by a professional photographer. I took them with my little digital set on ‘idiot’s automatic’. It’s all about trying a little harder to make our homes look their best. You know how you brush your hair and put on a dab of lipstick before you go out. (Well, not you, sir but I guess you have your own routine). It’s still you, but a better version than the one who slips out to the supermarket in the anorak with the missing zip and a pair of slippers.
Getting your home ready for your first exchange is a leap of faith. Over the next few weeks let’s have a go at it together and see what we come up with. I have stories to tell, anecdotes that have become family classics and I am sure you have too. Let’s share them and then put together our definitive list of 10 top essentials for a successful home exchange. I know what I think is important, but what about you? Tell me, give me your ideas and let’s pool them for the common good.
It’s going to be fun.
About the author
Sandra has been a freelance broadcaster, journalist and writer all her working life. She has reported on TV for Thames Television, London, presented on radio for the British Broadcasting Corporation and has written for The Sunday Times, You Magazine, Punch, Times 2, She Magazine and High Life where she became commissioning editor. Later she became editor of Business Life and created the highly successful sister magazine to High Life for British Airways Club World and Frequent Flyers. She became an enthusiastic home exchanger after writing an article about it for the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian when she interviewed Ed Kushins, the founder of Homeexchange.com. Since then she has traveled to Rome, Sicily, California, Melbourne, Perth, Morocco and Venice, writing about her adventures not only for various glossy magazines, but for HomeExchange.com. Sandra has been married to Jafar Ramini for 40 years and has three adult children and four grandchildren.