Fernweh. Wanderlust. Whatever you call it, all of a sudden I’m itching to get out of town.
I love our house. And our neighborhood. And living so close to the city. And I love our life here, but…
I kind of want to go somewhere else. I don’t know why. I don’t know where.
Maybe it’s because my husband and I traveled to Italy this summer. We spent a week in Florence and Siena. We wandered around streets and neighborhoods we’d never seen before. We drove down highways and up dirt roads and through olive groves and vineyards, miles and miles away from home, work, responsibilities, and worries. It was exciting and romantic.
We’ve talked here and there about the possibility of traveling, maybe even temporarily living, abroad. I think our trip to Italy kind of kicked that desire into high gear, at least, for me. My husband has vacation time and even the possibility to work from home… wherever home may be. I’m currently staying at home with our son and writing. Our son is years away from being in school. We don’t really have anything tying us down.
We went from talking about traveling abroad as a family and doing a home swap (a la the movie “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) in the hypothetical sense to actually looking into it. I wasn’t sure how we’d even begin the process, but discovered a home exchange website. (There are actually several.) I sent it to my husband so that he could check it out.
We studied the site to learn how things work. Simply search for a destination and the amenities you’re looking for. (For us, we’ve been tweaking our searches to include a nursery or baby items!) Each family that lists their home takes pictures and writes a description of their house. Families can also create a profile so that you can learn a little bit about them and where they live. You can also list destinations you’d like to travel to and dates that you are free to go. If you find a family that you would like to exchange homes with, you send them a message on the site to see if they’d be interested in coming and staying at your house.
So we started examining our house. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms. Recently remodeled. Big backyard. Nice neighborhood close to Washington, DC. We realized we kind of have a lot to offer.
One afternoon, as our son went down for his afternoon nap, my husband and I ran around our house, straightening up and taking pictures of all of the rooms, our home’s exterior, and the backyard. We signed up for the site, built our profile, and uploaded our photos. Then we started looking at places to go.
I started looking around Florence and Italy. I loved Florence. I would love to go back. And then I started thinking… We can go ANYWHERE. So I started looking all over the place… Belgium. France. Canada. Portugal. Sweden.
As you come across homes that you like, you can save them to different lists. Our list of possible houses to check out quickly grew to over 50 houses. We both kept browsing and adding houses until finally, I realized we needed to pull the trigger. I went through our giant list and picked five homes, which I added to another list, one that was going to be specifically for homes that we were serious about contacting. I told my husband it was his turn to pick five houses, so that we’d create a top ten… and go from there.
I initially contacted ten homes in five different countries. We got a few abrupt declines. A couple declines with explanations. (People already had plans to travel this summer, or had just been to the United States this past summer and were looking to travel elsewhere for their next vacation.) A couple of our original inquiries are still out there, awaiting responses. Since we signed up for the site two weeks ago, we’ve probably reached out to 30 different families. We’ve also received our fair share of inquiries as well. We’re investigating the possibilities.
Now our problem is deciding when and where to go.
A family home in Galway, Ireland? A flat in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark? A cottage in the mountains to the north of France or a more modern home close to the sea in the south?
Every house we look at is a glimpse into some other family’s life. It makes me wonder what our life would be like there… even if it’s just for a few weeks. I am falling in love with cities like Brugge and Amsterdam and Barcelona and am falling in love with the idea of traveling to these places as a family. Adventure awaits! Who knows where we’ll end up? I’ll keep you posted!