Home Exchange Heaven

I’m dreaming of Provence. I’m drinking a fresh coconut and watching the sun set over the Andaman Sea as local boys play soccer on the beach and parasails cruise overhead. But I’m dreaming of France, of cheese, baguettes, wine and cycling along winding country lanes.

Langkawi sunset

Yes, we’re on holiday in Malaysia. Langkawi to be exact, after a few days in Penang. A French family is in our house in Singapore. We’ve agreed to a non-simultaneous exchange so next year we’ll have 10 days in a villa in Provence. And from our April exchange we’ll also have a week in a charming cottage in Delft in the Netherlands. FOR FREE! How cool is that?

Both families agreed to a non-simultaneous exchange instantaneously. They both said they could stay with family while we stayed in their homes next year. We’re planning a European getaway in the late Northern Hemisphere spring. In between our free houses, hopefully, we’ll do a bit of cycling and camping. In Provence. (Note to self: explain the France-romance link to Darling Man, who views the French as the nasty former colonial rulers of Indochina. What could be worse than going to France and expecting romance and getting … non-romance?)

I signed up to two home exchange websites early this year, when planning our Australia trip. It was a whim, an ambitious whim, to have someone stay in our house and keep Darling Man’s garden alive while we caught up with family and attended a friend’s wedding. I honestly didn’t think I’d have any takers. I mean, Singapore is a stopover, not a destination. Although I’ve found so many interesting places to explore, how Singapore is promoted as a tourist destination holds no appeal for me.

Our one year subscription to www.homeexchange.com has really paid off.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to our home exchange listings. We’ve had offers from California, Poland, Paris, Bali (for a house WITH STAFF — as in staff, plural), Geelong (near Melbourne) and Madrid. If only we could have said yes to them all. But we were constrained by my four weeks of holidays a year and the travel plans we already had locked in.

We had no takers for the two weeks we nominated in April, not until very late in the piece. Then Ann emailed. She was an experienced home exchanger and ex-Singapore expat. She wanted to visit Singapore with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. And she actually recognised our street from the pics we posted — she used to walk past often!

We left for Australia after a flurry of cleaning. I left a map book, the library card and our bus passes on the dining room table. Darling Man, when he did his final check of the house, put the map book back in the book case and the cards in his wallet. I didn’t realise til we returned. Sigh.

But we returned home to a spotless house, a new mop and lots of interesting food in the fridge. And a gift from the granddaughter to Miss M and a lovely letter about how little Miss T wanted to help her Dad build a house “just like this one” in Holland. How sweet!

This time, our exchange family is staying for almost two weeks. I’ve emailed Carole to tell her about the geckos that zip across the walls, the beetles that fly in and the mosquito police, who are stepping up their inspections because of a local dengue outbreak. I’ve emailed her the neighbours’ phone number and the babysitter’s phone number. I’ve organised the babysitter to clean the house mid-way through their stay. I left bread in the freezer, cheese in the fridge and crackers in the cupboard. I’ve written up a huge list of local eating places. I had a lot of fun preparing for our guests, actually.

And so, here we are, relaxing in Langkawi. Enough thinking about Provence. We’ve got an island to enjoy! And a toddler to chase. Life is good.

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10 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Andrea says:

    The more people I speak to about housesitting and home exchanges the more wonderful they sound! It’s great to have things to look forward to =)
    Andrea recently posted..Exploring The Burren and Cliffs of Moher

  2. i love this. and you’re seeing the world!!! what fun!
    wandering educators recently posted..Best Family Travel Advice: The #1 Family Travel Resource

  3. Amy says:

    Sounds like a great option for travel. I’ve always wondered if it’s a possibility even with kids.

    • The Dropout says:

      It’s possible with kids, even with pets! One of the great things about doing a home exchange is that you don’t have to pay for dog or cat boarding while you’re away. The exchange family looks after the pets. I’m sure the pets get heaps more pats this way.

  4. robin says:

    It really does seem to be the best of ideas – I must sign up for one of these sites. I imagine you have to be a home-owner though, rather than a lowly tenant?
    robin recently posted..A Starling In The Apartment

  5. naomi says:

    So cool! In love with this concept …
    naomi recently posted..LICKED CLEAN

    • The Dropout says:

      We are too! Arrived home to find another lovely note. That seems to be the only downside to home exchanges — you don’t get to meet the family you’re exchanging with.

  6. […] job that will enable us to save during our six months in Chiang Mai. Then we’re off to Europe, hopefully, then back to Asia, where costs are much, much […]

  7. […] we’ll head off to France for a holiday, to take up the home exchanges we’ve organised, then we’ll head back to […]

  8. […] two national days. I am thankful for our time in Singapore, especially because we organised some home exchangeswhile we were […]

  9. […] this myth was true, until I read about Barbara of the Dropout Diaries’ experience with two non-simultaneous home exchanges. Because coordinating your vacation dates and desired destination with another family’s can […]

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