Explore the Origins of Home Exchange Around the World

Before the Internet, one of the most popular ways to learn about the world was to find a pen pal in some faraway country and to write a letter to them. Weeks later, a reply showed up in our mailbox — a thin, pale blue, airmail envelope with exotic stamps and our name written out carefully. It was magical.

Teachers to the World

Usually, it was an elementary school teacher who introduced us to this pleasant practice, often in service of a lesson on geography. It was a uniquely wonderful window into the similarities as well the differences among the peoples of our world.


It should come as no surprise that many of those same teachers then adapted this method of communication to others teachers in far-flung countries who desired to travel in the summertime when they were free of the classroom.

Some teachers who had an entrepreneurial mindset also thought of running small classified ads in foreign newspapers, soliciting like-minded individuals and then compiling their names into a database which could be printed and distributed in subsequent mailings. It took a long time to grow such a network, but once it took hold it gave life to what we now enjoy with lightning speed as HomeExchange.com.

In the Beginning

In fact, HomeExchange.com founder Ed Kushins created his version of a network, Trading Homes International, back in 1992, just a couple of years before even the word “Internet” became part of our common knowledge. Three years later, in 1995, when we were all just learning to go online with screeching modems and monochrome monitors, HomeExchange.com became the high tech extension of Trading Homes. It was another whole decade until HomeExchange.com had its first, fully-functioning international website, but the growth of what has become known as the “collaborative economy” or “sharing economy” has been swift since then.

Since 2005, HomeExchange.com has seen membership grow 430% to over 65,000 members in more than 150 countries around the world. In more tangible—and amazing numbers––that’s a running total of 180,000 “bedrooms served” at an estimated savings $360 million USD over 2.1 million nights through 2014.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course. It may be tempting to think that because the growth of home sharing has been driven by the Internet, the typical home swapper is young, ultra-tech-savvy and on a hardcore quest to save money.

Cultural Motivations

The truth is, polling shows that 98% of members are interested in exploring the cultural heritage of the destinations they choose, and 84% visit parks and museums during their travels. Further, more than two thirds of you believe that ecologically-sensitive tourism is important and also practice that belief at home by purchasing organic food (73.5%), fair-trade food (65.3%) and supporting social causes (52.7%).


By joining and participating with other members, such beliefs and practices are truly what constitutes a cohesive, like-minded community. Which brings us to another crucial component of this collaborative economy: trust. More than three quarters of home exchangers believe that “most people are trustworthy,” and by living by this tenet, we believe we are fostering a better world for everyone.

Founder Ed Kushins came to appreciate this expansive worldview when in 1972 he worked for the Flying Tiger Line, a cargo airline, as director of market development for Asia. He married a Pan Am airline stewardess, and they traveled the world together at a discount. Ed became hooked on seeing all the countries and cultures he had never visited before, and a lifestyle was born.


See for Yourself

Now, it’s easier than ever to replicate Ed’s passion for yourself. With more people joining HomeExchange.com every day, your opportunities grow daily as well — your opportunities to enjoy more travel possibilities than ever before in history. And, with advanced tools like Local Mapping, you can see where your friends and neighbors have elected to do exchanges, from your street or city to Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and beyond.

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Enjoy the benefits of Full Membership

Still contemplating your first home exchange? Perhaps the idea of getting to know folks from around the world whom you haven’t yet met can be a little intimidating. But remember, as Ed says, “Nobody ever does a home exchange with a stranger. Our whole process is designed to eliminate fear and to assure you that the people coming to stay in your home are as real and down-to-earth as you are.”

Those teachers 50+ years ago really started something. Who could have known they would spark this “sharing economy” so many years into the future?


Those of us who have had the life-enhancing experiences of home swapping now have yet another reason to thank a teacher.

They also taught us that we have much more in common with one another than we have differences, and that by sharing our homes and apartments, it is possible to see the world without spending thousands of dollars on accommodations on every trip.

The friendships that home exchangers form, along with the cultural riches of living like a local are priceless.


17 Comments on “Explore the Origins of Home Exchange Around the World

  1. I’m a teacher desperately looking for a place in Melbourne, July and August

    • Hi Scott,

      Currently, it’s 77-degrees in Melbourne. 🙂 Feel free to post your HomeExchange.com listing ID in the comment below, so that other members can find your home and contact you on the site for an exchange.

      Thank you and happy home exchanging!

  2. A wonderful article and background reportage on the sharing economy!

  3. it is an amazing website
    since we joined iI have travel the world in my imagination !
    we will do a swop shortly to leveno and Richard is already staying in my place as we speak !

    the website in itself is just mindblowing , i have now ‘seen’ places I never even new existed !
    two owners one in Avignon and one in Amsterdam has offered us 3 days in their homes , without a exchange in mind for south Africa !

    Trust, honesty and friendly ness is what I have experienced in all my communication so far

    we will do our first Exchange soon
    lake Lenovo, Italy , Cinquntin terre Florence !
    can you believe this ?

    thank you for broadening my perception of travel and the global community

    warm Regards annie Kennedy South Africa

    • Hi Annie,
      Interested in an exchange in Florida. I also have an apartment
      In Aix en Provence, France. Nancy 514980.

  4. We live in Cairns QLD Australia & love the feeling of returning to this beautiful part of the world after the holidays and hearing what other teachers did & where they went.
    Very new to this site but we would love to do a home exchange to New York one day for my 4th July birthday! South Africa is another part of the world we would love to see. We know it is possible through this site.

  5. I enjoyed reading this article and made me realize the meaning of the swap. History is very important and gives a different perspective of things.
    Teachers are the being of everything,. I am proud of all the teachers in my family
    I am ready to see the World.
    Working a swap this summer
    to New York and my House in Rincón, Puerto Rico is available. THANK YOU.

    • Hi Diana,

      We love teachers, too! Please feel free to post your HomeExchange.com listing ID in the comment below, so that other members can find your home and contact you on the site for an exchange.

      Thank you! … Now go see the world!

  6. In the very few weeks I have been a member of HE I have the impression that most of users are really looking for a new place where to spend the summer holidays, mostly with wife and children. However, there should be a way to identify those users like me who are prepared to travel anytime of the year, because they are retired (like me) or because they have an on-and-off job. This people offer a house or apartment that is available all the year round, and would prefer the exchange not to be simultaneous, so that you can take advantage of the local experience of your potential partner. To my knowledge, this is not easy to find, and nevertheless the potential of travelers in this group is probably enormous. This group is not so much motivated for the money saving results, but for the experience and culture sharing.

    • I have a spare bedroom upstairs you may use. It has a private bathroom too. I live just north of Winston-Salem, NC (in the foothills of the Sauratown Mountains). Let me know if this is a destination you are interested in. ENJOY your travels!

      • Hi Dayla,

        Feel free to post your HomeExchange.com listing ID in the comment below, so that other members can find your home and contact you on the site for an exchange.

        Thank you and happy home exchanging!


  8. I am definitely one of those people that think that there are still people that can be trusted. I realized that it would not be easy to find a long-term (2 months) exchange for my home in a security golf estate on a surfers’ paradise, Melkbosstrand, Cape Town because of its location, 30 km from Cape Town. I will try again by broadening my scope of places to travel, apart from Paris only. For this year I will, however, rent a place in Paris and then thereafter try to exchange to Paris again or find somewhere else to exchange for 2016.

    • Hi Esther,

      Feel free to post your HomeExchange.com listing ID in the comment below, so that other members can find your home and contact you on the site for an exchange.

      Thank you and happy home exchanging!

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