Slow Travel with People Like Us

Home Exchange Makes Extended Stays Possible

We are slow travellers. I realise now it has always been thus. Darrell is from New Zealand and I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, so for the first twenty years of our marriage all our holiday time and budget was spent visiting his family.

Back then, to travel from Perth to his parents home in Wanganui took over 24 hours and I remember one Christmas visit, the airfares were more than a quarter of my annual income - so a long stay seemed important to make it worth the time and money spent getting there.

Although we would often take short trips away to discover the wider delights of NZ, my favourite memories of our earliest visits are of sitting reading a book in the sun on the verandah of Darrell’s parents’ farm or playing cards with his parents of an evening - and of course, I loved being immersed in the daily lives of his extended family.

I was in my forties before we took a significant trip other than to NZ - when we headed to ‘do Europe’ with two teenagers in the ‘noughties’. We purchased airfares and Eurail passes and planned to hit the big cities during our month-long stay. Having hosted three exchange students over consecutive years from a small town in Germany however, we started the trip with a week-long stay in their small Black Forest village. In the days before Airbnb, one of the families found us a small flat attached to a home - and filled the fridge with breakfast items (sound familiar).

That week in Schramberg was by far the best part of our trip - with the whirlwind stops in Dijon, Paris, St Moritz, Lausanne, Zurich and Vienna all blending into one another - and only our Schramberg experience remaining clear in our memories.

So when the idea of home exchanging came across our path, we were hooked. Immersion is what we crave in our travels - simple things like having coffee in a local cafe or browsing the aisles of a supermarket are far more attractive to us than joining the queue at an iconic tourist attraction.

It remains a large investment of time and money to get almost anywhere from Perth - so we still feel we need a long stay to make the time, effort and cost of the journey worthwhile - thus we love long exchanges.

We have spent two and a half months in London, six weeks in Devon, UK, six weeks in Muscat, Oman and now three months in St Andrew’s, Scotland. We absolutely love living in Perth, but do also really enjoy the taste of life somewhere else.

So what do we do for all that time? Well, for a start, we slow down. We try to find a couple of favourite spots (be it for a lemon and mint drink in Oman, an ice cream in Devon, a cocktail in London or a coffee in St Andrews) where we can become ‘regulars’. We take advantage of what is special about the local area (shows in London, Golf in St Andrews, the spectacular Cornwall coast adjacent to Devon or the magnificent alternative culture in Oman). 

We take side trips. Whilst I know others enjoy consecutive shorter exchanges to make up a longer trip - for us there is nothing quite like coming ‘home’ to our base after some time away. From London we visited both Scotland and Wales, from Devon we did several three day road trips, in Oman we travelled to the mountains and Salalah and from St Andrews - the Yorkshire Dales, London and the NC500 (the first two on non-sim or globe exchanges).

We walk a lot, as we find the slower pace gives us time to enjoy, see and feel things more closely (and helps keep us fit). And we meet locals where we can by participating in regular activities. I’m a Rotarian, so we will often attend a local Rotary meeting - and on this last trip we were happy to discover the bridge clubs played at night; so we were free to explore during the day but play cards with locals in the evening. And of course Darrell enjoyed playing golf - preferring the smaller ‘parkland’ courses to the iconic and touristy ‘links’ ones.

We try to enjoy what’s good about the local produce. In St Andrews the fresh vegetables seemed particularly cheap so we spoilt ourselves with loads of yummy vegetable soups, in London the home had an abundant apple tree so Darrell learned to make home made apple pie and in Oman we discovered the joys of Labneh.

And what about our exchange partners? How do they fill their time in Perth? Well, Perth is a vibrant, clean and beautiful city of 2 million people, so as you would expect, there is nearly every activity you can imagine on offer. It has a string of beautiful beaches, loads of lovely parklands and access to one of the world’s leading wine regions. But most of all, the Perth lifestyle cannot be beat.

Not many people think of Perth as a destination - but every one of our long term exchange partners are repeat visitors. Our most recent partners have their next visit organised already  - and while they did take advantage of the inexpensive holiday packages available from Perth to Bali (just a three hour flight away), they found plenty to fill the rest of their twelve weeks without feeling the need to leave the city. However, previous partners have taken our car as far south as Esperance (surely one of the most beautiful, if remote, places in the world) and as far North as Exmouth. Other places they have visited include Margaret River, Coral Bay, Wave Rock and Monkey Mia (feed the dolphins anyone?) and future visitors are already planning a trip to Kalgoorlie for the iconic Race Round.

Of course slow travel (and thus long-term exchanging) is not possible for everyone - we were lucky to have long service leave (a uniquely Australian thing) in the beginning - and are now pretty much retired. But, with the increase in remote working and world schooling I think opportunities are growing - and PLU makes it all that much more accessible.




Travelling group
LGBTQ+ friendly Retired