For our summer 2018 home exchange, we started looking for an exchange partner in February. I sent out a first round of eight exchange requests to England, Italy, and Spain, with no luck. A few requests from potential partners also started to trickle in, but none were quite the right fit for us.
Then in late February we got this message:
Dear Mr & Mrs Thurrott,
We are a Stockholm-based family of four – two adults and two children, turning 13 and 11 this summer – who are looking for a home exchange in the US this summer. Would you be interested in spending a vacation in the area close to Stockholm in Sweden? We can offer the Stockholm archipelago very nearby, a lot of natural surroundings and historical cultural sightings. Our home is very close to the forest and has several lakes to enjoy.
The house is well equipped for families with kids and teen agers. We have musical instruments, a large trampoline in the garden, large areas for playing in the garden, bikes for a family (mountain bikes and city bikes), Xbox for video games and Netflix for a quiet evening after a full day outside. The commuter train takes you to downtown Stockholm in 20 minutes. It’s a combination that we really enjoy. We’ve had four lovely exchanges with France (Bordeaux, Marseille and Bretagne) and Spain (Girona).
On our profile you can read more about our house and region. We would be happy to send you a more thorough presentation about the area, house, activities and ourselves if our area interests you.
If you are interested, we would be happy to discuss a possible exchange, maybe sometime during the period mid July through to about mid-August, in total about three weeks.
Paul and I were intrigued—their location sounded lovely, and we hadn’t exchanged anywhere in Scandinavia before. We did some quick research and discovered that Sweden might not be as expensive as we thought.
We wrote back later that same day, with lots of details about our area and questions for them about theirs:
Yes, we would be interested in seeing if we can work out the details of an exchange with your family! We have exchanged roughly 10 times in Europe but never in Sweden so it would be nice to see that part of the world!
I recently compiled this list of things that might be of interest to kids/teens:
The biggest local attraction for teens here is Dorney Park
https://www.dorneypark.com/, which is an amusement park and water park
only 10 minutes away.
We also have:
SkyZone https://www.skyzone.com/, a trampoline park, about 25 minutes away
An escape room https://www.capturedlv.com/ about 25 minutes away
Minor league baseball http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t1410(which is professional baseball but one level down from the top) 20 minutes away
Musikfest http://www.musikfest.org/at SteelStacks in August, about 25 minutes away
Laser tag http://www.palasertag.com/ about 20 minutes away
Go-kart racing https://www.lehighvalleygrandprix.com/15 minutes away
Movie theatres https://www.newvisiontheatres.com/15 minutes away
A roller skating rink http://bethlehemskateaway.com/ 25 minutes away
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g4266551-Activities-c49-Lehigh_Valley_Pennsylvania.html That might be of interest
Plenty of shopping less than 10 minutes away (this is just one example
I can’t find a directory but there are tons of stores here) and a high-end outlet mall https://www.outletsatsandsbethlehem.com/outlets/25 minutes
For outdoor swimming pools (in addition to Wildwater Kingdom at Dorney Park) there are 2 more traditional pools nearby, Lower Macungie Pool
http://www.lowermac.com/recreation/pool/ a mile away and Macungie Pool
http://www.macungiepark.com/park-pool.html about 1.5 miles away.
We have a couple of questions:
How expensive is the commuter train to Stockholm? Do you generally drive or take the train?
Do you know what your wifi speed is?
Would you be able to care for our two cats? They stay indoors and just need food and water and for the litter box to be emptied once in awhile. We also have a dog but she can stay elsewhere.
Is there a grocery store or food market in Tullinge?
Please let me know if there are other questions about our area we can answer for you.
They wrote back quickly, with detailed answers to all of our questions and a long list of places to explore, from nearby sites to day or overnight trips further out in Sweden. Their fast and thorough response made us feel comfortable planning an exchange with them.
It looked like a good match, and by early March we were contacting each other’s references. I reached out to three references for them and heard back from two right away. Both had very nice things to say:
The family is a lovely family you can rely on them. Their house and place are wonderful and we still remember about our holidays in Stockholm.
They are so nice, really.
I remain at your disposal for any question;
Our experience on this exchange was great.
They are nice and careful people. They kept our home in perfect conditions and didn’t have any conflict or problem worth mentioning.
Our stay in their lovely home in Sweden was wonderful. Nice and quiet spot in a Swedish suburb close to Stockholm. The house is comfortable with lot of natural light above all in the dining room. Maybe, our only regret might be a little-too-narrow kitchen.
Garden is nice and well kept with sweet wild berries !!
(We’ve become friends with many of our former exchange partners, and the folks we exchanged with in Lyon told us that they received a reference request for us as well.)
With the biggest “complaint” from the reviewers the size of the kitchen, we were ready to finalize the exchange. We felt confident that this family was as nice as they seemed in their emails, and I guess we passed their test, too.
By April we were confirming dates, and that’s when things started to feel “official.” Until both families agree, there’s always a chance the exchange could fall through. In fact, one year, when we planned an exchange near London, we were just about to buy our plane tickets when the other family backed out.
But this one was a go. We booked our flights. And as we emailed back and forth we got to know a bit more about each other—we learned about their ski trips in Norway, and told them about our trip to Colorado so Kelly could look at colleges.
There were still a lot of details and logistics to work out. All told, We had more than 50 emails back and forth before the exchange, plus a lot more communication with Facebook messenger.
But all that communication gave us a chance to get to know each other, and by the time we were exchanging we didn’t feel like they were strangers—they were friends who just happened to live far away.