Post image for Hospitality Exchange—the luxurious and old fashioned alternative to couch surfing

Hospitality Exchange—the luxurious and old fashioned alternative to couch surfing

by John Mensinger on May 1, 2013

Home Exchange was invented in the 1950’s by visionary idealists that wanted to explore and experience other countries and cultures on the cheap and in comfort. Swapping homes was the solution but they had another good idea. You could offer to host visitors at your home and they would reciprocate and host you in the future. This is known as hospitality exchange.

This option has always been available with home swap leaders such as Homelink,, Home Base Holidays, and You can search specifically for other members offering hospitality exchange.

We have given and received hospitality through Rotary and Sister City programs. I recommend a self-published book by Australian John Axelson, Exchanging Homes Holidays. He and his wife enjoyed several consecutive hospitality and normal exchanges during a five month trip to Europe. They were creative and flexible—they could host people in their home or they could give up their place and hang out with relatives or take a local trip (they were retired.)

Hosting others in your home requires energy and effort. Mark Twain is famous for saying visitors and fish begin to smell after three days. It follows that hospitality exchanges will be of shorter duration—a few days, perhaps up to a week, probably not much longer. You need to have good social skills and be well behaved, either as the host or the guest. It is hard to imagine family groups traveling this way. Who wants to host an invading army and who has a house large enough?

Couples without kids are ideal hospitality exchange hosts and guests. Those that are retired have the time and relaxed attitude for hospitality exchange, as I discussed in a previous post. Our youngest child left a few months ago; we look forward to experimenting with hospitality exchange. For example, we could host a family of five in our home for a couple of weeks. They would have to rent a car and we would hope they took many long day trips. They might reciprocate by letting us use their second home.

Being hosted has its advantages. You get to see the city, region, and country through the eyes of local residents. You probably will eat well but should help with the cooking and offer to pay for a restaurant meal now and then. Your hosts will provide touring tips—like having a tourist information office in residence.
There are many new home exchange agencies with innovative ideas. Interestingly enough, they don’t tend to think about or cater to hospitality exchange. Love Home Swap,,, and are beautiful and well integrated with social media. They don’t offer Hospitality Exchange as an option.

I am too old to try couch surfing, though the cheap, poor, and youthful me of 35 years ago spent a lot of time on friend’s sofas. A few years ago I stayed with friends in Derbyshire, England that we had first met through home exchange. They said I was welcome to visit, but they would be busy helping organize the village festival. I ate and drank well, and their guest room was clean and comfortable. I ended up spending several hours setting up, working at, and cleaning up after the village festival. (See the photo.) Being a guest has its joys and responsibilities.



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