Copyright 2006, Nicole Feist. Reprinted with permission. This article may not be posted, published, or distributed without permission from Nicole Feist.
At age two, my son has now completed 11 home exchanges. My six-month old daughter has two exchanges under her diminutive belt. Some of these swaps were as short as a weekend. All were wonderful ways to introduce the children to new places and lifestyles.
Before our first exchange with our then 7-week old son, friends with children warned us, repeatedly, that traveling would be a nightmare with a baby. They claimed that his schedule would be disrupted and a new environment would frighten him. They forgot that, at age 7 weeks, the baby's environment is the caregiver. Find me a 7-week old baby on a "schedule" and I'll show you a frustrated baby.
A home exchange makes traveling that much easier, and not just for the infant. Unlike a tiny hotel room with no kitchen or laundry facilities, the experience is very similar to being in your own home with your baby.
Our son's first home exchange experience was in California. Our exchange home was set in a redwood forest overlooking the wild ocean. He traded a sweltering New York City that kept us inside all day for a fresh sea breeze on his cheek. We traded our chic neighborhood's fabulous shopping and restaurants for the expansive isolation of the exchanger's forest retreat. There was a wrap-around redwood deck and a different bedroom for every night of the week, as long as you spent the weekend out of town.
By the time a baby is about six months old, s/he can sense that a new environment is not home and become agitated accordingly. We avoid this problem by bringing familiar toys and a play mat or play yard. We establish and maintain a bedtime routine (bath, prayer, song, rocking to sleep) and follow it at home and on the road. The Peapod, a toddler-sized pop-up tent with a tiny air mattress and matching comforter, is the one piece of equipment we've found to be indispensable. It serves as our son's "bedroom" in every home exchange. Because it is familiar and enclosed, the room in which it is placed is immediately "home".
And the advantages of a home exchange don’t end when your child begins to walk. Children love to explore new environments and see new things. On the last exchange, our son saw a deer and bunny for the first time, right in our exchange partner’s back yard. Our children will learn and grow from home exchange travel in ways they never would in a resort or hotel. We're glad we ignored the nay-sayers and launched our children on a lifetime of appreciation for new cultures and places. Our family travel adventures continue "en famille".
Copyright © Nicole F. Feist. All rights reserved.
Nicole has successfully completed 27 home exchanges. She is the author of Home Exchange Travels an informative blog on home exchange travel and travel with children and seniors.