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Covid-19 has kept families and friends around the world apart for too long. Many of our members have been dreaming of the day when they can be reunited with their loved ones – and as lockdowns start to ease in some countries, our lovely members are ready to facilitate those get-togethers. Happily, the first of those reunions are now starting to take place. Love Home Swap member Justine hadn’t been able to see her Sydney-based daughters and granddaughters for a while due to travel restrictions. So when she was finally able to travel to Australia to see them (and to stay in a beautiful flat by Bondi beach), their reunion was all the sweeter. Justine told us the heartwarming story of seeing her family – and being there for the arrival of her baby granddaughter. 

Justine and her husband on their swap in Sydney, reunited with their grandaughter 


How long had you been separated from your family?

“We last saw our family (two daughters, their husbands and our first grandchild) in Sydney before Covid when our granddaughter Francesca was just 6 weeks old. When we left, the plan was for everyone to come home to us for Easter 2020. Thereafter, we envisaged trips to and from Sydney on a regular basis… we wanted to be hands-on grandparents and be a significant part of their lives. However, Covid-19 threw everyone's lives into disarray and kept us apart for too long.”


What was it like being reunited with your family after so long apart?

“It was a very emotional, heart-thumping, spine-tingling moment. Our younger daughter was 38 weeks pregnant by then. There were many tears, laughs and hugs, and a huge sense of relief tinged with disbelief that we were really in Sydney at last. And to be present when our second grandchild, Isabel, was born was an extra special privilege. Spending time with our two little granddaughters was a highlight of our lives, and thanks to David and Imy’s lovely apartment at Bondi Beach, we had a peaceful, tranquil haven to retreat to at the end of each busy day.”


Did home swapping rather than staying in a hotel mean that you could be closer to your family?

“I’ve been a member of Love Home Swap for over 10 years and it’s always been my first port of call when looking for places to stay. We kicked the hotel habit long ago in favour of home swapping. With Love Home Swap having so many properties in many different countries worldwide, there always seems to be one right where you need it. David and Imy's apartment, our 13th Love Home Swap, was absolutely perfect for us. It was within walking distance to both families, but most of the time, we drove our JUCY rental car because we were delivering supermarket supplies and meals for everyone. Apart from saving massive amounts of money, staying in a private home swap rather than a sterile hotel room is a much more personal experience, with lots of space to spread out and all the comforts of being in your own home. Chris (my husband) loves to cook, so the first thing he does when we arrive is check out the pantry which, without fail, is provisioned with all the essentials you need!”

“The other wonderfully refreshing thing about the Love Home Swap experience is how relaxed and stress-free the lead-up to your trip is - no demands for a huge deposit months in advance, no weekend surcharges, no booking, parking and cleaning fees or terrifying cancellation policies that make your blood run cold. Just friendly emails offering travel advice and things to do and see. On another swap, our host in the French Alps booked ski rental, lift passes and a dog sled ride for us before we arrived using her local discount rate. We've kept contact with many of the Love Home Swap members we've met over the years and some have come to stay with us too.”

What was your home like in Sydney?

Their home was perfect for our needs. Conveniently located between our two daughters’ houses, commuting from one to the other was easy. Our daily schedule involved helping with a newborn, looking after a toddler, doing the grocery shopping, cooking and laundry and running other errands. We loved every minute of it, and our support was hugely appreciated – but it was a blessing to have our own space to relax in the evening. We could put our feet up, watch the stunning sunset from the balcony and have a quiet glass of wine. Our daughters and sons’ in-law, who live in small apartments, welcomed the privacy and time to themselves too.”


What type of details make a home swap preferable to a hotel?

David and Imy’s home was a joy to stay in. The open-plan apartment is absolutely immaculate and well-equipped, with high-quality appliances and everything we needed. We really enjoyed the long balcony which overlooks the spectacular rugged coastline between Bondi to Bronte beach, as we could eat dinner at the table on the balcony on the warm summer evenings. The famous Bondi to Coogee coastal walkway is only a few minutes’ away. It’s an absolute must. The two bedrooms had very comfortable beds made up with high-quality linen sheets and pillowcases. In the evenings, I made good use of the space sewing clothes for our granddaughters, while Chris watched the tennis and America’s Cup yacht racing on the large flatscreen TV."

“There was also a library in the master bedroom containing some great cookbooks, and a secure covered carpark under the apartment was a boon as parking can be a major problem around Bondi. We were in a great neighbourhood with trendy cafes, fruit shops, restaurants and an excellent seafood shop nearby called The One That Got Away.”

Did you meet your hosts?

“Yes, we met our delightful hosts, David and Imy, before they headed off on a road trip in New South Wales.  David is an IT expert so the technology and WiFi worked very well and he had prepared an impressive 40-page guide to the apartment covering everything from security and access to neighbourhood shopping, dining and recreation. It’s the most comprehensive compendium I’ve ever come across! They even left us some superb local wines to sample which was a lovely touch.”

If Justine’s adventures have tempted you to consider Australia for a break, then you might find this handy guide to Oz useful. If you’re still making your mind up on where you want to go, take a look at our blog for loads of travel inspiration, or check out the top Australia Swaps from last year. Already been to Bondi (or are you a local?!) Then share your swap tips on our social media channels using #welovehomeswap. And don’t forget that we always want to hear about your best travel experiences! If you'd like to share your story or suggestions with our community, then get in touch with us, or pop into our friendly Facebook groups to meet likeminded travel-lovers.

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