Home exchange stories

France & Dagmar

A friendship story

Once upon a time there were two ladies. They were both INTERVAC members. One, her name is France, lived in Kehl, the other, Dagmar, in Berlin.  One day France asked Dagmar if she was interested in
an exchange.  

Since Dagmar and her partner love travelling she agreed right away. At the same  time she found out that France had two daughters. The youngest, Claire, wanted to move to Berlin. She had just finished her
studies. She was looking for a job as medical doctor and needed a place to live. Now it happened that a friend of a friend of Dagmar had an apartment that was available. And sure enough Claire got the apartment. Not only was it newly renovated and affordable but also in a beautiful neighborhood in the center of the city. How fortunate she was and how happy!

Meanwhile France and Dagmar became good friends…and this is not the end of the story!

Home exchange stories

30 years of home exchange with Intervac

Alfredo Magalhães

Florence, 2007

It was already in the early 1990’s that I learned, through a magazine, that a group of French
and Dutch teachers (it seems that they were actually Swiss) had created an organization to
allow the exchange of houses. I, who was already passionate with travels, found the idea
extraordinary, once, besides allowing to save on stays and meals, gave us above all the
opportunity to know the country, the city or the region like a local inhabitant. So I joined
quickly. At the time, new entries were published in booklets and we received them with
updates twice a year. The booklet contained an identifying photo and a short description. The
real proposals arrived by regular mail, inside an envelope, with detailed and appealing
descriptions and more photos of the house and region. Sometimes the interested partner
called to shorten the process.

Rome, 2009

I made my first exchange in 1991 with a family from Saint-Ismier, a French village just outside
Grenoble for Geneve, Switzerland. From the balcony, where we sometimes ate, we could see
the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc on the horizon. I went with my wife and a couple of friends,
whom we travelled on other trips, and we visited several interesting cities in ancient Savoy,
Geneve and of course the Alps, especially Mont Blanc. My daughter was two years old and we
thought it was too early to travel with us, at the time a car trip. She stayed with grandparents
and almost every day we called her and sometimes she couldn’t stop sobbing and cried with
longing. I promised myself that she would go on the next trips. So it was, when two years later
we made another exchange to the south of England, in Rye, near Hastings. With this family we
established a special friendship and we visited them when two years later we made another
exchange to the city of London and several years later, on a visit to Portugal, they called me,
we met and they slept one night in my house. On the trip to London we also take my son, who
was 3 or 4 years old at the time. When I got divorced years later, my children became my
favourite companions on the trips I made through Intervac exchanges, but sometimes friends
or family travelled with me too. Of course I looked for specific attractions for them, such as
Disneyland, PortAventura and others, but I also tried to teach them the local culture and what
motivated me to travel. That’s why they fell in love with Florence or Rome like I did. It was a
suffocating heat in Rome in August when we went for the first time, but there are sources of
fresh water everywhere. But my children, still kids in 2001, preferred ice cream, so we became
customers of an ice cream shop on the corner of Piazza Navona. That’s why every day, on our
daily trips, we had to go through Piazza Navona. When the employees saw us arriving, they
said: “arrivanno i portoghesi!” Five years later, on an exchange to Florence, we went to Rome
and at the ice cream shop they still remembered us.

Rome, 2001 “arrivanno i portoghesi!”

I usually say that I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveller. That’s why Intervac met my preferences,
because I like to choose the attractions I want to see, how long and how often I want to see
them. This makes me to prepare the trip very well and while I am preparing it, I am already
enjoying it, even before it begins. And in order to get to know a city or region we need to know
a little about its history, its culture, habits and a little bit of its language. So besides the
languages ​​I speak, I always learn the basic sentences of the language of the country to where I
travel. Gastronomy is part of the culture. We can also try local products at our Intervac
partner’s house, but a typical restaurant is always advisable. In Iceland, Lára (read Laura) left
us a decent amount of fish, especially fresh cod, all very tasty. We tried other local specialties
at restaurants, but I just didn’t have the courage to try the most famous one – Hákarl. They are
cubes of shark meat that are buried for 2 to 4 months to “ferment” (understand: rot) and those cubes have a very strong smell and taste. In a restaurant near the port of Reykjavik, the
delicacy was advertised and added: “eat first and ask later”. But I already knew and I didn’t
need to ask.

Paris, 2002

My Intervac partners always leave tourist information, more or less detailed, and a list with
practical information about the house and the area. I also leave detailed information, but I
have always enjoyed meeting them whenever possible. That’s why, even in the simultaneous
exchanges, I try to delay our journey in order to receive the Intervac partners, show them the
house and the area and often take a short tour of the most important spots of Porto (the city
and the surroundings where I live) and we ended up having lunch. This gives them important
help and establishes bonds of friendship and trust. We have already found partners that when
they receive us, also did the same. Once in a while I even took a full day trip to show them the
wonders of the Douro landscape and the best places to admire it. After a new affective
relationship, in which we both live in our own house, it’s easy to delay the date of our
departure. But before, I tried to sleep at a relative’s house and I even went to sleep in a hotel
twice. I strongly advise you to do this, because it strengthens the bonds of friendship and trust
with those with whom we are exchanging.

Vienna, 2006

I don’t have pets and I rarely find exchange partners with animals. But the ones we found with animals (usually cats) were very independent and lived outside the house. I remember an exchange we made to a mI don’t have pets and I rarely find exchange partners with animals. But the ones we found with
animals (usually cats) were very independent and lived outside the house. I remember an
exchange we made to a mountain village of Brengenz (near Lake Constance). They had a cat
that lived outside the house, but every morning he came to show what he had hunted – a
mouse or a sparrow.
I am pleased with Intervac. I even joined two other services of the same kind. In one of them I
still made two or three exchanges, but I just gave up, because it’s at Intervac I find almost
everything I want.

Lake Blend, 2015
Home exchange stories

3 exchanges in a row

Isabelle, Summer 2021

This summer, we exchanged our house 3 times:

– one week in July with Catherine and Yves in Mayenne ;

– one week in August in Champagne with Frédérique and Pascal ;

– a week in early September with Michèle and Guy in the Côtes d’Armor, Brittany.

We had three beautiful experiences that were pleasantly prepared by both sides: phone calls and emails beforehand.

Our friends from Mayenne and Brittany waited for us to welcome us and present us their house, their garden and to really get to know each other. It was a good moment of sharing where we really understood how each one lives in his house, what he expects from you and how he plans to live his vacations in your home.

In Champagne, no physical meeting, but we phoned each other regularly and everything was well planned, for both families.

We have been exchanging our home with Intervac families for 15 years, both internationally and in France, and we have always been delighted with our vacations and have always found our home as we left it.

I think that doing home exchanges is a way to live our vacations differently. It’s also thinking about the person who will come to our house, that they feel good. Our house is not a palace, but we love it, it is a beautiful old lady of 135 years where it is good to live … also during the vacations, for friends with whom we will also spend a good vacation!

Home exchange stories

A Summer to remember at Saint Brieuc

Philippe Mollon-Deschamps, July 2021

Saint-Brieuc is an ideal destination to discover this part of Brittany…

The bay, the very high cliffs of Plouha (104 m), the beaches of Erquy, the pink granite coast, the castle of Laroche Jagu, the medieval towns of Dinan and Moncontour, all these sites were indicated to us by our hosts. We are very satisfied with this stay which mixed culture, history and beaches!

The Sentier des Douaniers (Customs Officers’ Path), otherwise known as the GR34, overlooks the sea and offers a great opportunity to enjoy the varied landscapes. The route is invigorating in every way, as you enjoy the view from the cliffs at the Pointe de Pordic or Pointe des Roseliers headlands. And then enjoy the peace of the dunes of Bon Abri, Anse aux Moines cove or the long Plage des Rosaires beach, all lapped by beautiful turquoise water.

If, like Philippe, you want to share your home exchange experiences with us, do not hesitate to tell us about your adventures, we will be happy to publish them and offer you an additional 3 months of Intervac subscription to thank you when you renew!

See Philippe’s listing FR010126

Home exchange stories, Intervac

The (typical) life cycle of an Intervac family

We were in the late twenties and had just settled in our first house with two babies, but still wanted to go on holidays abroad. From friends to my parents (they were all teachers) we had heard several (great) stories from their experiences with homeexchange through Intervac. So we decided to try that out as well.
That was in 1990, a time without (public) Internet and nothing called emails. A time where the
member profiles was distributed in catalogues only and where the initial contact to a possible
exchange partner was made over the phone with immediate response or even by traditional post
mail. Amazing how this has changed in our present digitalized world.
The first exchange was with a swiss family and from there many exchanges in Europe and the US
followed. The two babies became three and a red line in all our exchange was to look for families also
having children, and preferable around the same age as ours.

Austria, 2003

That provided three big advantages:

1-Toys and other baby/children equipment were already on site, both for us and for our
exchange partner and

2-Very likely there would be local play mates close by already informed that there would come
new play mates to the house and

3-The mindset and attitude of the exchange family would for certain be open for bringing
children into their homes

The list of great exchanges is long and now 20-30 years later the kids still have great memories of a
lot of specific experiences and so do we as parents.

Pontresina, 2003

Then kids grew bigger and older and suddenly they get into other ideas than making holidays with
their parents and often at other times, making it a bit difficult to let strangers into your home while
teenagers are still at home. So for us at least it lead to a break in our exchange continuity and then
when suddenly the kids left home both time and financial capability gave the opportunity for other
types of holiday again leaving home exchange a little in the background.
Now the children have settled themselves with house and kids and I imagine that they soon will aim
for their first exchange and as I am slowly approaching my senior life with plenty of more time to
travel I am sure I will soon return as active Intervaccer again enjoying the many possibilities of
Not as part of my above view on the typical life cycle of an Intervaccer, but as a great part of my
personal life with Intervac I have been involved in the organizational work since 2002. My
enthusiasm for Intervac during the 90’ties brought me in close contact with the Danish organizer at
that time, Lone & Jens Lauritzen that together with a number of other people really was among the
pioneers of developing Intervac. When they wanted to step back I was giving the opportunity to take
over from them and continue their work to promote the homeexchange idea, develop the concept
and take care of the members question and issues. I look forward doing this for many more years.

New York, 2005

Michael Stoevelbaek, DK

Home exchange stories, Intervac

A traveller amongst locals

G. Pétur Matthíasson, Iceland ambassador of Intervac

Coffee time in Berlin

Many can’t wait to visit a hotel, check in and unpack and all that, because it means they are travelling again. It has been a long time now without travel, but we do see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, we don’t need to stay at a hotel, using Intervac to exchange houses is a much more interesting way of travelling.

Our house in Bordeaux

The main thing is that we stay in areas where the locals live, we go to the supermarket, we visit the bakery just as if we were at home. We might have to prepare our own breakfast but then again, we probably make a much better breakfast than the hotel cafeteria.

Watering plants in Paris

The traveller staying at someone’s house will see a different aspect of the area he is visiting; he we will get the feel for how it is to live in that place. He gets a bigger and greater experience than if he is just following all the other tourists in the hotel areas of towns and cities.

Canard for dinner in Bordeaux

If thinking about the cost as well it does mean that one can stay so much longer in an expensive city like Paris, to mention one, if staying with someone via Intervac. That means you can stay relaxed and enjoy so many more things and learn to know something about people’s daily lives.

Having lunch in Paris

I have exchanged houses in Denmark, Paris, Berlin, Bordeaux and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and all them have been enjoyable and exciting. I have become friends with the people I exchanged houses with, and they have visited me again and I them. Everything went smooth and everybody has been very helpful is assisting me to get settled and show me around.

Writing a travel journal in Paris

The luxury of being picked up at the airport or driven back is just one of the perks of Intervac, when it is possible and as priceless as it is making new friends.

The home of the tango in Buenos Aires
Street performance in Berlin

I have learned how it is to be a Parisian and at the same time seen all the beautiful tourist landmarks. My experience has been so much fuller this way and I can’t wait to organise the next one. The question is – where to go next?

Home exchange stories

Swap between France and Belgium during Covid-19

Summer exchange, late July/ early August 2020, with Huguette et Albert Lemort (BE065)

Actually our exchange prospects started very early, as early as the autumn of 2019 and the exchange was to take place in the summer of 2020. Of course it was shaken by the coronavirus pandemic and by June 2020 we still didn’t know whether it would be possible.

With Huguette and Albert, who have become our « Belgian Friends » since then, we have very regularly shared some news from home as well as our personal experience of the lockdown both in France and Belgium. When we finally met them for the exchange of keys, they came along with armloads of delicious local produce and we felt we already had known them for a long time. It was like seeing old friends again while chatting eagerly.

This stay in Belgium was particularly enjoyable, not just because of the beautiful house and huge garden, but because after the lockdown we could enjoy some freedom again, though partially.

Moreover I like cooking special dishes from other countries and we have exchanged some culinary mails. Thanks to Huguette the « boulets liégeois » (meat balls typical of Liège) are now part of our favourite traditional recipes.

Last but not least, what I find extraordinary about it, is going on sending news. The coronavirus crisis is far from over but it is easier to live when you share it with friends beyond the national borders and I say to myself, that’s also what INTERVAC is about : friends with whom we come together to share a common destiny.

Home exchange stories

Taking the girls to see the Netherlands

Testimonial from Maria vanHarten

Our first home exchange was in 2008.
We wanted to bring our two young girls to see the Netherlands where my husband’s grandparents emigrated from after WWII. In the one photo, my husband is standing in front of a home formerly owned by his ancestors in Holland.

In the other photo, the girls and I are in front of the Batavia ship in Lelystad, Flevoland.

We chose to arrange a home exchange because living out of suitcases and always searching for restaurant food appealing to young children didn’t sound like much fun. An exchange allowed us to settle in (baby gear and all) to much roomier accommodation, enjoy private gardens and do our own cooking. We included cars in the exchange which allowed us to see parts of the country not easily accessible by train or bus, especially if you’re pushing baby strollers. The family we exchanged with even had the same kids cutlery and plates from Ikea that we had back at home in Canada!  We are still friends with the family we did the home exchange with – we visit them every time we go back.

Home exchange stories

Swap between London & Provence during Covid-19

Carine L. is one of our most loyal members. She’s had a good 40 exchanges since 1988 and she shares with us today her latest British adventures!

In August 2019, we were thinking of spending a few days in London the following Autumn. As we are retired now, we can travel whenever we want. And we take advantage of that.
As our house is big enough, and as each floor is totally self-contained, we suggest in case of short stays, a simultaneous or non-simultaneous exchange if the family prefers to come later on, during school holidays for example, periods that we personally try to avoid.
Our home in Provence can host a couple, 3 or 4 people on the ground floor, which leads to the garden, whilst we can stay on the second floor, reachable by an exterior staircase. This level has a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom too.
The first person we contacted, a Franco-English lady living in England, replied quickly, suggesting instead of a week’s stay, « a long weekend ». « It will be a one-way swap, as I can’t do non-simultaneous swaps » she explained. « I don’t have many holidays and half of the following year is
already booked. But as I go to Porto in October, you are most welcome »
Her generosity did not surprise us : we have also welcomed people in the past, being totally unable to give them the precise date when we could go to their place. Valérie, for sure, has a long experience of exchanges : she has been a member of Intervac since 2003 and has done 25 swaps. On our side we have done 40 since 1988.
The very morning we took off to England, Valérie was flying to Portugal. She returned from Porto the very evening of our departure. A week before our arrival, she had sent us by email the instructions to get her keys. These were in a key safe, openable with a code,  attached to the gate facing her building.
We never met during our stay, but to thank her, we had brought her 2 bottles of wine from France [to thank her] and some Mediterranean aromatic plants.
Apart from  a list of her favourite pubs and restaurants, she had left us a full fridge and 2 Oyster cards. These London transport cards are very useful for visitors. You have to pay for them but after you can recharge them with your own credit card on the Tube; we posted them back from Heathrow airport before checking in, having recharged them.  Future guests could use them again.
In January 2020, Valerie contacted us, asking if she could stay at our home in June wih a friend of hers. « Of course » we answered. But Covid 19 quite changed our plans. Borders shut down one after the other in Europe from mid-March, and Valerie did not feel like being stuck in quarantine on her arrival to France or on her way back to England. Her stay has been delayed until better days, because of the pandemic.
As for us, we went back to England to visit friends in Kent in August. Staying one night in London, before we left, we invited her for dinner in order to meet her at last. She had been kind enough to print the official documents we were supposed to show to health authorities. But nobody took our temperature or asked for any document at Saint Pancras station, before we took the Eurostar, nor were we checked on arrival at Paris Gare du Nord.

Take a look at Carine’s place here:

See Valérie’s apartment here:

Home exchange stories, Intervac

Intervac Jugendaustausch

Im Laufe der letzten zehn Jahre haben wir insgesamt sechs selbstorganisierte Jugendaustausche mit unseren Haustauschern bzw. deren Familienmitgliedern in den USA durchgeführt. Teilweise ohne Gegenbesuch, teilweise mit simultanem oder auch non-simultanem Gegenbesuch eines amerikanischen Gastschülers. Meine Nichte konnte die High School in Utah besuchen und ein amerikanisches Mädchen ging mit unserem Sohn ins Gymnasium. Alle Austausche dauerten zwischen drei und fünf Wochen. Alle gesammelten Erfahrungen waren ausschließlich positiv und die Kinder konnten nicht nur sprachlich profitieren, sondern auch ihre Landeskunde-Kenntnisse erheblich verbessern. Erst vor etlichen Tagen hat uns die Gastmutter unseres mittleren Sohnes aus Seattle besucht und die beiden konnten ihre intensive Verbindung erneut auffrischen. Was für eine tolle Erfahrung. Individuell gestaltbar, keine Isolierung mit weiteren Non-Native Speakern und auch eine enorme Kostenersparnis. Im Endeffekt fielen außer den Flugkosten und einem kleinen Taschengeld keine Kosten an. Wir können diese Austausch-Form nur wärmstens empfehlen.