Armchair travel? Not me

by Sandra Harris Ramini

I was sitting in front of my screen, browsing through some of the options that Home Exchange can offer.  A condo in San Paulo, an atelier in Paris, a gorgeous apartment overlooking the sea in San Diego when a second niece twice removed entered my atmosphere. “Hello Aunt, “ she said (don’t like Aunt) armchair travelling again?

Armchair travelling? Me?

“Actually,” I said pushing the ‘Yes’ button on the website. “I think we’ll try Seville for a couple of weeks. After all,” I went on, “ we don’t have to worry about school holidays and paying premium prices for air-tickets. The weather is still gorgeous in Spain, I love paella and there is a flamenco festival.

SevillaPhoto by J. A Alcaide via Flickr CC

And there it is, in a nutshell.  Home Exchange, like all great ideas, is very, very simple. You stay in my home, I’ll stay in yours. But, the big plus for us, the senior community, is that we can do it any time, for as long or as short as we want. We have that hidden luxury that no-one understands until they’ve hit 60 plus. We have time. Too often time is the essential ingredient you can’t buy.

We need time to be with our loved ones, but also time to leave them alone. If we’ve home exchanged to see sons and daughters on the other side of the world we can stick around without getting in the way.  We don’t have to grab every moment with our loved ones, we can give each other breathing space yet be around the corner when needed.

Mother and Daughter

Only last year our beloved daughter gave birth to her first baby in Australia and we were there. Before, during and after the event. There is no way we could have done that without Hotel bills would have been extortionate. Even renting something would have cost an arm and a leg. As it was, we stayed in a lovely home nearby, saw our daughter, son-in-law and new grandson as often as we and they wanted and then came home, confident that our lovely house in London would be as warm and welcoming as we had left it.

Each morning, as I open the inbox on my email I look out for, and mostly find, an enquiry from here, there and everywhere for a possible exchange.  I try to stick to those like me, who describe themselves as retirees/seniors/wrinklies with a sense of adventure.  We make plans over the internet to see each other’s countries out of season when air fares are fairer and when the weather is a bit gentler and nine times out of ten we become friends, not just home exchangers.

How much flour? Chris and Sandra cooking.

Because we can stay longer and often go further our home exchange experiences encompass all sorts of extras I never thought about such as learning French while in Nice, France, doing cooking classes in Barcelona, following a fine arts course in Florence, Italy and joining the local book group in Melbourne.

Armchair travel may be OK for the young, but you won’t catch me at it.


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 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 Sandra has been married to Jafar Ramini for 40 years and has three adult children and four grandchildren.

2 Comments on “Armchair travel? Not me

  1. Are you the UK based mother of Kami Ramini in Australia? I read her blog and love it and have just happened upon your blog. I’m sure I’ve seen your picture on Kami’s blog and I must say you both write beautifully. Home exchange sounds miraculous, but I still have to travel during school holidays unfortunately!

    • Thanks Maggie. Yes, I am one and the same. It’s nice that you have caught up with both of us. I hope you enjoy both blogs. Kami’s is brilliant I must say and I certainly can’t come up with recipes like she does. Thanks again for getting in touch.

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