When we joined HomeExchange.com in 2010 we had no idea just how frequently ‘too good to miss’ opportunities would PING! into our inbox. If, like us, you can be flexible with your travel plans, set up your laptop anywhere and call it your ‘office’, and love the unexpected, then anything is possible. Here’s the year where we proved it (part two!
We had a blissful summer in Oregon. We canoed, kayaked, wake-boarded, river tubed; we toured micro-breweries and ice-cream parlours; we hiked over volcanic rock and around turquoise mountain lakes. We barbequed, picnicked and even tried our first s’mores by the campfire. It was heavenly.
Towards the end of the month it was time to start journeying to Mexico for our next home exchange, via Palm Desert, California. Mr. Home Exchange Ed and lovely wife Terry had generously offered us their country club condo, so braving the intense heat, we detoured to classy Palm Springs. We rode the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for views over the valley and even took an eerie twilight hike along the San Andreas Fault.
Another simultaneous exchange saw us arriving just outside Puerto Vallarta in Mexico at a beautiful condo overlooking the bay. We spent a month catching up on work and cooling down in the pool. We enjoyed a fabulous Mexican cookery class, a perilous horse ride up a steep, muddy track for a waterfall swim, released baby turtles into the ocean by moonlight, ate some authentically spicy Mexican food, took a boat excursion to an acrobatic cultural show in a secluded bay, and joined in village festivities for ‘Mexican War of Independence’ Day.
Our round the world itinerary took us via French Polynesia, and not surprisingly, we struggled a little to find a fellow Exchanger willing to leave their balmy Tahitian island for a spell in the UK in the fall! Lucky for us the home exchange community found us homes. Travel enthusiasts and teachers Sylvie, Jean, and daughter Margot live in a chalet-style home overlooking a lagoon on Tahiti, a perfect spot for incredible sunsets and the occasional glimpse of migrating whales. With the generous loan of their car we were able to explore forests and beaches, markets and plantations, plus had the added bonus of Sylvie’s wonderful home-style French cooking. From there we took a short flight to Huanhine island where local doctor Pascal and wife Luc welcomed us with shell necklaces and a bed in their guest cottage overlooking the sea. Our second night there we ate the biggest lobster we’ve ever seen washed down with plenty of French wine after a steep hike to a panoramic viewpoint which we would never have found without Pascal’s expert guiding!
It was a chilly landing in Auckland and a little unsettling as we collected a hire car and drove in the early hours to the address of our next exchange. Luckily the key was under the mat where our host Vicki had said it would be so we were able to collapse under the electric blanket and get used to this new destination. We hadn’t managed to arrange any direct house swaps but what we did find were plenty of travel lovers who were happy to find us a place to stay knowing that at some point in the future we would return the favour. We spent a few days last minute in the holiday home of Des & Jan just outside of Auckland; in the stylish urban pad of magazine editor Claire whilst she undertook a gruelling coastal hike; with the warm and hospitable Lynne and Tony in the windswept and atmospheric remote north island village of Waipu. Then we headed south again to spend a week in the home of two artists Pam and Baz who were also off on a challenging south island trek, leaving us to tend their vast veggie plots, talk to their pet sheep and enjoy the beautiful design of their self-built home.
Whilst we were in New Zealand, family Maree, Pete, and Rhiannon had used our home as a base for their exploration of the UK. On arriving on the Gold Coast, Australia it was time for the other half of the bargain- a week in their 6 berth luxury motor home! We toured up the east coast, stopping in nature reserves, holiday parks and lake campsites before returning the van in time for our Christmas home exchange in northern New South Wales. This home belonged to a family of four braving the UK weather while we enjoyed long beach walks, dips in the pool, and barbeques with their neighbours!
Having been settled for a while, and with the family’s car to drive, we were able to catch up on work and take plenty of day trips to explore the coast, rainforest, viewpoints, islands, parks and cities. We even took a short ‘mini break’ to Melbourne and spent a couple of nights at the home of regular exchangers Carolyn and Lyndon while they were in Perth.
This is where the plan unravelled slightly- we were meant to spend the last part of our trip in South East Asia and South Africa but fate had other ideas and we re-routed our flights to return home early. We didn’t mind too much, after all we had had a pretty awesome year! But now we have a new adventure in store as Chris and I will be welcoming our first child later this summer!
With so many thanks to all the wonderful home exchange members who helped make our year so memorable.
Previously: Chris & Hannah’s Epic Year, Part 1
We are Psychologist Hannah and IT expert Chris and we’ve spent 5 years traveling the world whilst running our own business. Home exchanging has been a big part of making that happen! You can learn the 7 refreshing ‘get there quick’ shortcuts to creating your own location independent lifestyle from our loveplaywork.com homepage. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates.