It’s the week before Christmas, and I am struggling home in the London traffic with my new set of saucepans. No, they’re not a gift for some lucky cook, or even for me. We are starting the New Year exactly as I hope to spend most of it, on home exchanging. January 1st we fly off to Perth, Western Australia as Jan and Peter Watt fly over here to London. We’ve exchanged many times before; met each other via the website seven years ago and ever since we’ve been spending time in our respective houses, getting to know each other’s tastes in music, in books, in travel, in enjoyment. And in cooking. Hence the saucepans.
The thing is, no matter how many times you’ve exchanged or how well you’ve got to know your fellow exchangers you still worry about whether your house is going to be up to scratch. What about the wonky shower, what about the ancient oven, what about – well just about everything? Jan and Peter know and love our house as we know and love their’s and yet I felt the need to go out and get new saucepans.
We’ve all done it, haven’t we? When I first started, I had sleepless nights. What would they expect? Should I be steaming the curtains and ironing all the sheets? How many wardrobes are they actually going to need? Do I need to put away all the photographs? It’s at this stage I say, STOP! Take a deep breath and put yourself in the shoes of your exchangers. Are they looking for the pristine perfection of a hotel room? No, they are not. Are they looking for comfort and charm? Yes, they are. Do you want to present your home in the best possible light? Of course, you do.
I once did a little survey of home exchangers on what they looked for in their ideal home. People like the heating and/or the air conditioning to work. They like nice pillows. We all prefer fridges, ovens, kitchen hobs to work and please let us have some clear instructions about what to do when something doesn’t work. And please give us TV that doesn’t need a whole suite of remote controls. Other than that we are all pretty happy. Let’s face it. A home exchange is an amazing privilege. We not only have splendid, fully-equipped free accommodation, but we also get the chance to really live like a local. We explore the local shops, go boating on the local lake, can join the book club if we’re there for an appreciable stay and it’s not only our home exchangers house we get we also have a pick of their friends, their favourites restaurants, their doctors, their whole lives. Who else can enjoy this unique experience. Face it, friends. We’re blessed.
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.