Local pair swap homes for travel

By Amy McGillivray

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HOME EXCHANGE: Tauranga resident Renee Smith has swapped homes with 18 families all over the world and is planning her next trip to Croatia.PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK
HOME EXCHANGE: Tauranga resident Renee Smith has swapped homes with 18 families all over the world and is planning her next trip to Croatia.PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK

A Tauranga couple has found a way to travel the world without leaving behind the comforts of home.

Renee Smith, 50, and her husband Greg, 62, have swapped homes with 18 people all over the world through Home Exchange.

The website has more than 50,000 listings in more than 150 countries including 34 members in the Bay of Plenty.

"It's been brilliant. It's been an amazing way to travel," Mrs Smith said.

"It's not about being a cheapskate at all. It allows you to go for a longer period of time and live in a community.

"You have neighbours who come over and you can't speak the language so you have a lot of laughs pointing. And they bring you food."

The Wairoa residents' first foray into home swapping was in 2008 and since then they had swapped homes in Australia, France Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Canada and the United States.

"We're semi-retired. We were able to do that at a relatively young age so we take advantage of it while we can," Mrs Smith said.

"Our biggest trip was through Europe. That was three months and that involved five exchanges."

They signed up when their cousins in Nelson mentioned a French family they were arranging an exchange with also wanted to stay somewhere in the North Island. Until recently, the Smiths had a second home on the Tauranga waterfront so the pair could stay in their other house while exchange families were in the country as the difference in seasons meant exchanges often did not happen simultaneously, she said.

Mrs Smith said she far preferred exchanges to staying in hotels.

"A hotel is beige. They are all beige," she said.

Not only did you get to enjoy being part of a community but you still had some of the comforts of home you could cook meals, have quiet nights in after a busy day out and work out routines to suit all your travelling companions.

The couple had also become good friends with people they had swapped homes with, she said.

Mrs Smith admitted they did have a few reservations the first time people came to stay in their rural home near the Wairoa River.

"The biggest fear was the first exchange people coming into our house. Everyone goes through the same thing. We've only had one let us down. They leave it as they find it, sometimes even better."

Mrs Smith said Home Exchange members tended to be more mature couples with nice houses whose children had grown up and left home.

"To be involved seriously in exchanges you have to be able to offer something a wee bit different," she said. "There has to be a little hook to get the good inquiries."

The pair had not yet got their next trip sorted but were in the early stages of organising it and hoped to be heading to Croatia.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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