It took Kerry, aka The Trusting Traveler, until her mid-forties to Live Her Dream, but the journey was worth it. Come and learn about her travel lifestyle and a little bit about Home Exchange. Could be for you...
What is the first country you visited? Who with and why did you choose it?
The first country that my family of five (including our two kids and grandma) traveled to together was Spain. I had been to Spain on a tour when I was single and that’s when I fell in love with the country. I had really enjoyed Andalucía in Southern Spain. In fact, my favorite city to this day is still Grenada because of the ancient Albayzin area and the incredible Alhambra (Moorish) Palace and Gardens.
It was a dream of mine to revisit this area with my whole family and for a much longer period, so that we could experience the local culture and people. In 2009, we spent 10 full days in a wonderful home exchange that allowed us to fulfil that dream, and it was truly extraordinary.
When did you start a travel lifestyle? What inspired that change?
I developed a ‘wanderlust’ when I was only twelve years old and taking French in school. However, I consider my traveling lifestyle to have started in the summer of 2009 with that first trip to Spain. My family actually spent six weeks in Spain and France that summer, in three back to back home exchanges.
My husband’s career change to teaching, and having summers off, inspired me to find a way to afford global family travel. International home exchange was what I found. Now my family travels extensively every other summer. If not for our home exchanges, this type of travel would not have been possible. In addition to free homes, we also exchange our car.
To give you an idea, we have calculated our savings (since 2009) at over $25,000 in accommodations, cars, food (because exchange homes provide kitchens), and amenities (pools, sports equipment, toys, etc…) all thanks to our last five home exchanges.
We spent so many hours in this great yard - at our exchange home - located in the middle of an olive grove in Andalucia, Spain.
Do you have a base you travel from? Or is it continuous travel? And why do you choose that style?
I am in awe of the way your family (The Bender Family) travels. It is extraordinary, and if I was a lot younger, I would love to do what you do; but for my family (my kids are now teenagers), continuous travel is not realistic; so, traveling every other summer for a month or two works really well for us. Our base is New Jersey, about one hour from New York City and only 20 minutes from the NJ shore. Fortunately, we have been able to find a wealth of home exchange partners interested in our location.
I would like to point out that any family that would like to try a home exchange, only really needs two weeks; that would give them two full travel days and twelve whole days in the location– that’s perfect. You do not need months to home exchange, but two weeks is needed to make it worthwhile.
Aside from the obvious economic benefits of our chosen style of travel, it also offers so much more. Our cultural adventure starts as soon as we connect (via e-mail) with our exchange partners; we then receive the fantastic benefit of their informed guidance regarding our trip; and the best is that we ultimately get to live in their home as a temporary local. The homes my family has exchanged for have been quite luxurious, and full of interesting amenities. The truth is, we travel so much more richly on our home exchanges than we could if we stayed in hotels or even in rented apartments (which we have also done on occasion.)
How do you fund your travel lifestyle? Is it something you do when travelling or are you a saver?
We do save a ton of money by trading our home and our car; but we also need to get great deals on airfare. Because I plan my trips about a year in advance, that gives me plenty of time to work some magic and get my airfare down at least 40-50%. To afford the rest of the expenses, my family saves. We sacrifice wherever we can in order to put money into our travel budget. We feel any/all of the sacrifices we make are worth it; for us, global travel is more enriching than anything else we might spend our money on.
If you could tell yourself one tip before you started your travel lifestyle, what would it be?
I only wish I had put forth more effort earlier to find a way to afford global family travel. I would have liked to find international home exchange 10 years earlier. My kids are now teenagers; it would have been nice to have more years traveling with them, before they go off on their own. That aside, I’m grateful I found it when I did. Now, I look forward to a life filled with authentic, invigorating travel–with or without the kids!
What does 'Living The Dream' mean to you?
I do feel that I am living ‘my dream’ and now that I am, I am so much more fulfilled and happy. I would like to point out that ‘living my dream’ did not just fall into my lap. I only figured out, in my mid-forties, that if you want something badly enough, you have to take steps, sometimes drastic steps, to make your dreams happen. The good news is, once you do that, you feel really wonderful and really proud.
I have recently changed careers and become a travel writer and speaker. Because of my incredible experience with international home exchange, I have written a book about it. That book is called Have Home Will Travel, The Ultimate International Home Exchange Guide for Families. It was just published, in print and e-book, in May this year. I hope my book helps other families to afford to travel the globe, so they get to experience the joy of cultural travel that my family and the Bender family have been blessed to experience.