This interview originally appeared in French in myAtlas magazine.
PLU, People Like Us.
Meet Drew, the founder of this Home exchange website where the spirit of exchanging is the keyword.
Swapping your house ? Swapping your life for a few days ? A few weeks ? A few months ? Exchangers ? Swappers ? Try a new existential tourism! All the questions you may ask about this kind of holidays, travels, adventures, I asked them to Drew Seitam, the founder of People Like Us, the coolest home swapping website! 100 % nice and fun!
HELLO DREW ! MAY I ASK YOU TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF ?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity! I’m the founder of People Like Us Home Exchange which I run with my wife, Kathy. We have one son, 19 years old and studying at university. I’ve been working with software all my working life. In my spare time, if I ever have any, I dabble in learning Italian. I have very little spare time so my Italian is poor !
HOW AND WHEN DID PLU POP UP IN YOUR LIFE ? WHY PEOPLE LIKE US ?
In 2016 Kathy and I had been very fortunate to be offered the holiday home of a friend of a friend in Tuscany, in the fields just down from Cortona. We were there for two weeks and we spent most of our time exploring locally, cooking, walking and dreaming of being Italian. We were nearly at the end and thinking of our future travels and wondering “How can we do more of this? How would we afford to do this every year?”.
We came up with the idea of home exchanging, something which I thought was a unique idea at the time! Obviously, it wasn’t unique but I had never heard of it, let alone done it. I hadn’t seen the movie and I had no experience. Being a software developer, I just thought I’d build it myself.
The original idea was just to do it for our friends and our “friends of friends”. It’s how the name came about. I had thought that if I wanted to use it for my friends, others may want to do that too, so I opened it up to the general public and it just kind of grew from there.
While the original meaning of “People Like Us” meant “People Like Kathy and Me”, it quickly changed to mean “people who share the values of our community” ... sharing, trust, kindness, adventure.
COULD YOU EXPLAIN TO SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT HOW HOME EXCHANGE IT WORKS WITH PLU ?
If you want to holiday in France, you search for a suitable home on our network and make an enquiry. If accepted, you stay in their home and they stay in yours.
You can do it at the same time (“simultaneous”) or different times (“non-simultaneous”). You can even use a “Globe” to stay in someone’s home if they can’t come to yours, and then they can use the Globe to stay somewhere else. It’s very simple and it saves thousands of dollars on an average holiday.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE THE BIG JUMP IN THE WORLD OF SWAPPING ?
The first thing to do is create a home profile. Join the website for free and it will take you through the setup steps. You’ll describe your home and your area and upload photos. You’re really creating an advertisement for your home and your location so you need to make it attractive. You’ll also add some “desired destinations”, places that you want to go to. This is helpful so our members can use “reverse search”, that is searching for people who want to go to a particular place.
The most important thing to do is to get to know the community, and also to become known in the community. It’s the best way to advertise your home and to entice people to your local area.
THERE ARE QUITE A LOT HOME EXCHANGE WEBSITES, WHY IS PLU DIFFERENT ?
Our community is our difference. People Like Us is not the place to come if you just want a cheap holiday. It is great value, but that’s not our reason to be. We are a home exchange community.
Exchanging relies on trust and people will exchange with those that they feel they know and feel they can trust. Our community Facebook group provides the place for people to build that trust and friendship with each other. It’s where the community meets to talk about travel, exchanging and life. It’s where you’ll meet people like you and build the confidence that you need to take the plunge.
IS IT EXPENSIVE TO SWAP ?
Our website is free to join and search for exchanges but you need a paid subscription to exchange. It costs $USD95 for a whole year of exchanging and there are discounts for multiple years. You can exchange as many times as you like for the cost of around one night in a 3-star hotel.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR PLU ?
We’ve only been going for three and a half years. We’re already one of the biggest sites but we want to offer the best possible exchange experience for our members. We want more choice in our network so that there’s a better chance of finding an exchange where and when you want it.
We know that a lot of people are hesitant to try exchanging so we want to tell the world that it’s the best way to travel and get people to try it. I feel very strongly that if they tried it, if they met our members, if they realised that they can save all the accommodation costs for their next holiday, they’d love People Like Us. We just need them to try!
WHAT IS YOU SPECIAL LINK WITH FATHER CHRISTMAS ? 😉
While I don’t know Santa personally 😂, our Secret Santa program was one of the most successful events we’ve had. At a time when nearly no one could exchange in 2020, we ran a Secret Santa and nearly 500 members bought or made a gift and sent it off to another member somewhere else in the People Like Us world. It was just to spread some happiness during the pandemic and it was truly wonderful. We’ve just started doing it again for 2021.
DO YOU SOMETIMES FIND TIMES TO REST, SLEEP OR SWAP ?
Not as often as I’d like! For the first three years of People Like Us I also had a full-time job to support its development. I would work on PLU in the early morning before work, at night and on weekends. Working two jobs was hard but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my work. I recently resigned from my job to work on PLU full-time. It gives me so much more time to get things done!
I originally set up People Like Us thinking of travelling the world while working remotely. If not for the pandemic, we would have done that in 2020 but we will finally get to experience that in 2022. We want to spend some months in Europe exchanging and meeting members while continuing to work on PLU. It’s my view of absolute bliss!
So, don’t hesitate, learn more about this wonderful way to travel, so rich in meetings, discoveries, and adventures. Come and reach people like you on People Like Us ! I’m addicted !