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Meet Uli and family


January 19, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Meet WSE Members



Tell me a little about your family and who you travel with.

Hi, we are “The Kollers“, a family of 5, based in beautiful Austria.

My wife and I have been travelling a lot, then we settled down, built a house and had 3 kids.

Well, it wasn’t quite in that order, everything was a bit mixed up ;-).  Everything was pointing to an “ordinary“ life, but we realised soon that this is not quite what we wanted for our family. Kids got older, decisions had to be made and all of a sudden we were “homeschoolers“.

So why not start travelling again when school holidays don’t bother us?

My wife and I we are both self-employed, run our small businesses and we are both currently trying to set up our business in such a way that it works location independently.

 

Do you travel full time? How do you educate your children?

Our house is our home base which we are quite happy to live in for a couple of months. Preferred from late spring until late fall.

Traveling full time is not an option for us as at the moment as we can not imagine (yet) how life would change and transform when leaving our house behind.

We educate our kids at home (which is possible in Austria, but at the end of school year we have to pass an exam).
The first 2 years of primary school we did “unschooling“ believing kids learn and teach themselves everything they need in a normal life, based on the “inner curriculum“ of kids, family, love and trust.

Now, we have to decide whether to continue unschooling. But as exams get tougher and content differs a lot from what we consider necessary for a self-determent life, or we go on with homeschooling trying to make our kids learn exactly what teachers want them to “perform“ for the exams.

 

What are your main reasons for house swapping?

When my wife was pregnant with our 3rd child, she got the feeling that we need to spread out again and explore the world. (We own a VW-camping-van so she had the idea to travel for a few weeks through Europe).

I thought that would be a brilliant idea, but I wasn’t quite convinced about using the van.

When we travelled before we had kids, we changed location every day to see as much as possible. After our first trip with our kids, we soon figured out that we need to change that approach immediately ;-). Since that moment we are “slow travelling“ and house swapping just fits perfectly to that concept!

 

How many have you done? Where have you been?

So far we have done 4 exchanges. It all started when we tried to arrange consecutive swaps in Scandinavia. We failed, it didn’t work out.

All over sudden we were offered a 7-week-exchange from a French family who’s woman is original from one of our hometowns before she moved to the Provence.

She wanted to spend some time with her family near her parent’s place. So we ended up in their house in the Provence for 7 weeks.

For us, it was the most perfect house to start the “sharing-experience“. Small, no fancy-architecture and expensive furniture, with a fenced pool and all on one floor. Something we haven’t considered but at this time our youngest was a toddler and any stairs would have been something extra to keep an eye on. The pool was completely safe so we did not have to worry about any of our 3 kids who couldn’t swim at that time.

 

Tell us about your favourite swap ever?

Every swap is different so they are very hard to compare. But to be honest, so far we enjoyed Thailand most.
Why? Well, I would say because it was so different to the way we normally live.

 

How far in advance do you organise your travels?

Most of the time we get contacted by other house swappers around half a year in advance.

It does feel a bit strange when you have to make a decision where you want to go in summer and it is snowing outside … but we have got used to that.  As soon as we get an enquiry we try to find out as much as possible about the potential future house-swap.

Does the country and the house fit our family? Do we want to stay there for a while? What does the climate chart say? Can we find it on google maps? (Are there any houses (kids) around or is it isolated?) Is there public transport? An airport nearby?

 

Best swapping tip?

You’ve got kids? Always swap with families!

We try to find families with kids about the same age as ours – that helps a lot.
They have toys according to the age, maybe a child-seat for the bikes (great, we don’t have to bring ours along), bikes for the kids …

 

How much money do you reckon you have saved on travel accommodation by swapping homes?

It is hard to say, but just look up what houses in Thailand, France, Netherlands cost to rent for 1-2 months.
Of course, rent isn’t everything. Transport sums up to quite an amount.

When we do exchanges within Europe, we take our camping-van to keep costs low.

 

What other accommodations do you like to stay in when you are not swapping?

We normally only stay in our camping-van or in swap-houses.

We really try to avoid hotels as much as possible as we want to follow our own daily routines rather having to eat at certain times, …

We may give “woofing“ a try next year and travel for some months with a camping-truck (that we are still looking for).

 

What one thing do you travel with that you use to make other peoples homes feel like yours?

When we travel within Europe, we bring all our bed-sheets along. Kids feel at home wherever their favourite set of bed-sheets are.

We also bring along the kids bikes.

 

What would you say to other people considering this type of travel accommodation?

You cannot possibly imagine anyone sleeping in your bed, eating off your plate, drinking out of your cup? Then you should better check in to a hotel ;-).

You will only have a great time at someone else house if you stop thinking about yours.

 

People say they like to Swap Homes rather than stay in a hotel as it feels more like a ‘home from home’ – Does it really? Can you really make someone else home feel like your own? How do you achieve this?

When travelling, I don’t want to stay in my home. So why should I make someone else home feel like mine ;-).
Of course, we try to set us up in such a way that we can connect to the place easily.

We normally put all mattresses on the floor and sleep in one big family bed. Like at home. That helps a lot.

 

Tell me what you do in preparation for your swapper staying in your home? Do you clear a wardrobe for their clothes?

Put your valuables away for safe keeping. Do you worry about your own home while you are in someone else’s?
We normally do an intense cleaning in our house. We believe that our swap partners will leave our house behind the way they have experienced it when entering it for the first time.

We have also a very detailed written house manual which we updated after every swap.

As we only do longterm-exchanges we believe that no-one wants to live “out-of-their-suitcases“. So for us, it is pretty normal to clear the wardrobe and provide a shelf in the bathroom.

We have one room that will be locked during the swap and in that room, all our private belongings go.
(when we did the first exchange, the room was full, now we hardly put anything in there anymore)

 

So where to next? Any more swaps planned?

Of course, we are addicted to it and it brings us closer to the world without having to spend an awful lot of money!
We will be going to Thailand for 2 months again to meet up with dozens of other travelling- and digital-nomad-families before we are flying to Australia where we will be swapping with a lovely family from the Westcoast.

(So, if anyone is interested in staying (renting) our house from February the 12th until April the 8th, just message us via worldschoolerexchange.com!

Eco Family-Home in the middle of Europe, with garden and toys for the kids / 1 months swap minimum

One of our dreams would be “slow travelling“ from Canada down to Costa Rica.
So if any families on the route want to swap or can accommodate us (woofing), we would love to get in contact with you!

All the best for your future swaps!
Uli and the rest of the family

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