My favourite New Year message for 2014 came from my brother, David.
RISK more than others think is safe
CARE more than others think is wise
DREAM more than others think is practical
EXPECT more than others think is possible.
I love it and couldn’t help wondering to myself how to apply his thoughts to us home exchangers.
Let’s take the first rule: Risk more than others think is safe.
I have an idea that we all do this already; it’s what instantly separates us from the others. What others? We’ve all heard them often enough.
“What? You mean you let people you’ve never met live in your house?”
“What? You don’t lock up all your nice things?”
“What? You let them use your car??”
Yes we do. We even prepare our houses to look their best for perfect strangers to enjoy. That’s a risk that others quite obviously don’t think is safe, but we do it all the time. The first time it was a leap of faith, the second it took merely a deep intake of breath, the third we were already cool. Experience had shown us that we’d discovered a life-changing way to expand our horizons.
Already I like us. Don’t you?
Rule number two: Care more than others think is wise.
It’s because we care about this amazing, extraordinary planet we share that we want to see more of it for ourselves. We want to find out, first hand, about its quirks and personalities, get to grips with the rainbow world we all live in.
My very first exchange was over the other side of the world in Australia at a place called Apollo Bay, Victoria a couple of hours drive from Melbourne. On day one I met Humph, our koala who sat in his tree in our front garden. Just driving along the coast road to get my morning paper every day I saw the iconic stacked rocks of limestone that are called the 12 Apostles. Tourists come on day trips from all over the world just to see them. Yet these masterpieces of nature became simply part of my view.
On another exchange the Roman Coliseum became my local landmark, while St Peter’s was my local church. On another in Sicily, I discovered green cauliflower and aubergines the size of a watermelon or no bigger than a finger. In Nice I experienced the retro world of Coco Chanel’s South of France.
Morocco was another magic destination where we lived in a Riad in Fez and stayed in another, with its courtyard converted into a swimming pool in Marakesh. Yet just an hour out of the cities were tree climbing goats, a desert trodden only by camels and more carpets than I have ever seen in my life.
Australia is probably my favourite destination, with so many untouched and wonderful aspects to experience. Swimming with whale sharks, exploring the south west coast, enjoying the miracle of the Indian Ocean.You can’t have experiences like these if you don’t care enough to go discover them.
Moving onto Rule Three: Dream more than others think is practical.
Oh boy. Do we dream? What a question. As Oscar Hammerstein memorably said, in that fabulous musical, “South Pacific”; “You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how’re you gonna have a dream come true?”
What is the wondrous city of Venice other than a most impractical, no impossible dream that somehow or other became true?
I never stop dreaming and neither, I believe, do you, my fellow home exchangers. The difference is we can make our dreams come true. Our dream destinations may be far away but if they exist nine times out of ten there’s a home exchanger living in one them who is also looking for somewhere different. The joy of it all is that their ‘different’ is your ‘same old, same old’ and vice versa. So, who can say there is no room for dreamers? We dreamers make the world go round.
And the last rule, expect more than others think is possible just tags onto the dreamers rule. As I walk up to my next home exchange property I am expecting nothing less than a fabulous adventure. I don’t necessarily expect the fridge/washing-machine/air-conditioning/heating to be exactly the same as mine at home. I don’t worry about that fact than none of the food in the local shop looks familiar and nor do I get embarrassed about not speaking the language brilliantly. If at all. I, and my travelling companion, mostly my husband expect, a great and eventful time. We have never been disappointed.
So, my fellow adventurers, what does 2014 hold for us all? I’m tripping back to Australia, the other side this time, Western Australia where our daughter is about to have her first baby and where our home exchange house is just around the corner.
We risked it first time around, we cared enough to pursue the life we believed was out there; we dreamed and we expected our dreams to come true. If this isn’t the secret of life, what is?
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.