This is the first in what I hope will be some fun reader stories about home exchanges. This story comes from Etienne, an active and experienced house swapper from France.

In late 2010, my wife and I were young teachers, with long holidays and not enough money to spend on travel 🙂 I heard about home exchange and started to look at it. I signed up on several free websites including Switchome. I was trying to find an exchange in April 2011, not too far (3-4h from our home in Normandy, north-west of France). After a few searches on the Switchome website, I saw Damien’s home in Brussels, Belgium. I thought it could be a great idea. I contacted Damien, who was a young dad at this time with two smalls boys. First he was not really interested by my home or area, but I tried to convinced him. After a few mails where we had a good communication, we agreed to swap for a week.

Damien (right) and myself in his home in 2016

A few months later, we met for our arrival in Brussels and we were really happy about it. The experience was great, for both sides, and we had incredible weather for the spring in our areas (generally around 10-15°C, and for this swap 25°C !). We’re feeling very lucky to have had such a great experience for our first swap. During and after the swap, we also found a lot of similar aspects in our life, with same type of ideas, culture or feelings about traveling and welcoming strangers in our homes, even if we are not from the same country.

Since that year, we managed to see each other at least once per year. When Damien and his family come to France and are on the roads near us, they stop by for dinner. When we go to the north of Europe, or when we take a flight at Brussels airport, we stop by at their place. Now we have two boys too, and we see our kids growing together, despite a small difference of age. We are in contact regularly by internet, Facebook and Damien, his wife and kids are friends, and we are really happy to know them since this first home swap.

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