I’d like to spend a few moments looking at a side of house swapping which is real, but probably not given a lot of thought — especially by those who haven’t as yet taken part in an actual house exchange. And that is the role that caring, sharing and generosity of spirit plays in a house swapping program, such as that facilitated by Aussie House Swap.
Because when all is said and done, the parties to a house swap are engaging in what is virtually an act of trust and intimacy by opening their homes to each other.
Your home is, after all, very much a reflection and almost a defining part of who you are. It’s your “inner sanctum,” the private place to which you withdraw after a day out in the world of business and commerce, or even of social or community activity. It’s where you rest up, kick off your shoes, and let your “real” self emerge. And where you literally wash your dirty laundry!
The home is where you and those closest to you share your private lives and your most intimate moments. It’s also at times the scene of some very difficult passages in your life, and the place where you have to deal with some of your most thorny issues. And it’s where you retire to when your working life is done. Opening your home to others is without doubt sharing part of your private, inner self with them.
Inviting somebody into your home is also a demonstration of your hospitality — whether it’s to hold some kind of meeting, to stay for a period, or simply to share a meal together. All the more is this the case when you completely vacate your home for a number of weeks, and allow another family or couple the full use of it.
In every way the home is regarded as a special place, the opening of which to strangers, friends and family alike is an act of grace, openness and acceptance.
So when two homeowners agree to swap homes, and actually make the exchange, they are showing a considerable amount of trust in each other. They’re giving AND receiving value, and sharing something which is fundamentally private, in a spirit of generosity.
They are, in their own small way, displaying the kind of attitudes and taking the kinds of actions which — if practised on a grand scale — could genuinely make the world a better place for all.
Which, when you think about it, is a pretty worthwhile thing to do, and counters just a little of the animosity, fear and selfishness which is unquestionably harming the home of us all, the earth.
Swapping houses is also engaging in a level of mutual confidence that your home and its contents will be treated with respect, and handled carefully. That this confidence is warranted is shown by surveys which indicate that damage rarely occurs when houses are swapped, and that when it does, it’s nearly always of a minor nature.
House swapping also gives you the opportunity to get to know some of the locals, and experience their lifestyle, habits and surroundings by living “in the community,” rather than spending all your time in the artificial environment of a hotel or similar holiday accommodation, and just seeing the tourist attractions.
Furthermore, a house swapping holiday allows people with disabilities to take their own time, and when they need it to rest undisturbed — instead of being bumped and jostled in crowded resorts, or disturbed by maids needing to make the beds and clean up the room to meet their schedule, not yours. It’s even possible to seek out house swaps with other disabled people, and each have the use of facilities — ramps, special bath rooms, toilets and the like — which are designed for their special needs.
As well as straight swapovers covering the identical period of time, some people enjoy “hosting” another couple, then later on being hosted by them in return. This simply means that the owners remain at home, and host their swap partners as guests and visitors for an agreed period. They enjoy each other’s company, do some exploring and shopping together, see some of the sights, and perhaps fish or play a round of golf together.
Then at a later date, they reverse the process. The hosts become the visitors, just as the visitors become the hosts in their home and town.
Hosting is a great way to build new friendships, and increase mutual empathy and understanding between people of different backgrounds and from different parts of the country, or even overseas.