Audrey, Fabien and their three kids, aka Family Globe Exchange, are exchanging their home in the French town of Yzernay and embarking on a trip of a lifetime: a year-long, round-the-world family tour with 12 home exchanges along the way.
With us are three young globetrotters: Hugo, nine years old; Raphaël, eight; and Camille, six. They’re bundles of nerves and excitement. They envision this round-the-world tour as a great explorer might: They want to discover new countries, play with children, learn about different cultures, see new landscapes, take part in new activities, learn new languages and eat different foods.
For us, Audrey and Fabien, both 35 years old, it’s an anything’s-possible adventure. To put together an undertaking like this and then live it is a crazy opportunity. But we’re hardly lacking when it comes to crazy!
We have really wanted to discover the world as a fivesome – spend time together, live through it all as a family and take the time to live. Experiencing it all with our children is also a way of handing them keys to the world, an opportunity for them to make sense of different cultures and religions, and develop a sense of tolerance and respect for other others, for humanity and the planet.
To accomplish this, we planned a round-the-world trip through home exchanges. It’s an approach that perfectly suits our expectations and our values. It brought to our journey the benefit of meeting people and making new contacts, and of preparing everything with the advice of local inhabitants.
What are we doing about school? We decided to “roadschool” the children. We are allowed to organize something like this as a family and we are under no obligation to follow a specific program to the letter (and we say this as teachers!). However, we must be both sensitive to and aware of the common core as defined by our national education service. We are also required to alert the administration that we are taking our children out of school.
A round-the-world trip is all well and good, but it has to be organized. Rest assured that it isn’t all that complicated, even if it does require a drop of organization, a pinch of patience and some time.
Before addressing the technical, material and financial organizational specifics of our journey, we took time to research our “future homes.” Looking into home exchanges might seem like a bizarre, or at least unexpected, way to have begun our project, but for us it was a necessary point of departure.
Unlike our past exchanges, where we made targeted exchange inquiries as a function of a variety of criteria (country, location, number of rooms, car availability etc.), this time we sent out group emails. Yes, OK, it was less personal and lost a bit of charm, but it was a real time saver. This process also meant we learned about members and their homes right during our discussions with them, which, I must confess, was quite exciting. It was like opening a Christmas present that we had ordered without quite knowing what it would be like.
The biggest challenge has been to manage the tons of information shared by each of our HomeExchange partners. For that, I assembled everything in a yellow notebook. Now we just need to stay in regular contact so that we won’t be forgotten and can count on an exchange planned for many months from now.
As I’ve said: time and patience! But that’s not all that’s needed to set up multiple exchanges. Also required is the ability to accommodate exchange partners in your home. That’s where the house-guest calendar becomes your best friend, but also a real puzzle.
A whole slew of organizational questions then arose. What would we do about keys while we were gone? On a previous exchange we’d done in Denmark, our hosts used a device that allowed us to pick up the key right there. We entered a code and, like magic, out popped the key. We bought and installed one as soon as we got home, so that we wouldn’t have to ask outside people to meet our exchange partners each time. This way, they get a set of house and car keys right on arrival. When it’s time to go, they put the keys back in the device and everything’s set for the next go-around.
For housekeeping and cleaning after each departure, Stéphanie is our special house fairy. She will stop by to leave welcome gifts (wine and local specialties) and refill the refrigerator according to a list I’ve made. She will make beds and just check that everything is in order. We also gave all of our exchange partners the option of a paid housecleaning service (they all chose it), so Stéphanie will take care of everything after they leave. During our absence, a building and garden maintenance service will look after the house’s exteriors.
Check out other extraordinary exchanges with Home Exchange!
We are Family Globe Exchange: Audrey and Fabien, both 35 years old and teachers, and our three children, Hugo (9), Raphaël (8) and Camille (6). We have decided to live our dream: travel around the world as a family. HomeExchange made it possible for us to make this dream come true, because our journey is all (or nearly all) through home exchanges. Follow our adventure on the TrocMaison blog (in French) and on our blog (in French).