Earlier this autumn, I wrote a post about moving from France to the United States with my family for an entire school year. Our motivation was to be near family and to give my French-born children a chance to experience American culture beyond just a summer holiday. But moving, like most anyone knows, is a complicated matter. Especially when there isn’t a big corporate entity helping you out. When you swap your home with someone else for an entire year it becomes even more complicated.
For anyone considering a year-long, transcontinental house swap with your family, and largely without outside support, then this is the post for you!
Now, where to start?
- Make the “Why” compelling. What is your motivation for the move? You are going to displace your family for one year, which is kind of a big deal, so make sure your reasons are compelling enough to go through the bother!
- Think big and make your vision realistic. Everyone will look at you like you’ve grown two heads when you mention your idea. It’s okay for people to think you are bonkers. Ignore them. Otherwise you will start to think it’s too crazy when in fact it could be the greatest year of your lives. Think big!
- Plan way in advance. Between finding the right city, the right home, finding someone to house swap with (or a place to rent), the process is time consuming. Starting a year in advance would not be ridiculous.
- Get your children’s buy-in. Every time I mentioned our idea to the three kids, one of them looked at me with evil eyes. He was not game for the longest time, but I would mention it regularly and eventually he capitulated. Don’t lose hope. (He was, by the way, the one who had the most fabulous year out of everyone!)
- To find a house, start with your contacts. If you are going to try to house swap, start with a detailed email and send it to all of your contacts. Ask your contacts to send it to their friends who might be interested. Follow-up. This is how we found the perfect “swapee”, and we were excited it was a friend of a good friend!
- Keep your expectations realistic. If you are relying on a house swap, stay totally flexible and realistic! You may not find the totally perfect house; your kids might have to share a room; it might not be in the exact neighborhood you were hoping for. You are not purchasing the house of your dreams, you are moving for a relative short term period and want the experience of another culture.
- Figure out your priorities. Figure out what your top two or three requirements are for your move and let the rest slide. For us, it was East Coast (close enough to family), decent public school for kids, easy access to airport with direct flight to Paris. The rest was just fluff to us.
- Close to family, but… If you are not used to living near your family, this might not be the time to move into their home. It might seem hugely practical on many levels at first. However, we found that being a three-hour drive away from family was perfect: Do-able for the weekends and holidays, but not stepping on each others’ toes.