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‘The beauty of Iceland lies in the nature – you can see the Northern Lights over my home!’
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‘The beauty of Iceland lies in the nature – you can see the Northern Lights over my home!’

Lydia Altman
By Lydia Altman - 7 minute read

Sav­ing up to £10,000 per trip, ded­i­cat­ed home swap­per and Reyk­javik native Styr­mir and his fam­i­ly have saved thou­sands while trav­el­ling to envi­able loca­tions such as Cal­i­for­nia, France, Ver­mont, Rome, New York and San Fran­cis­co. As mem­bers of Love Home Swap since 2013, the family’s knock­out loca­tion means they can see the North­ern Lights over their home in the win­ter months – so their place is unsur­pris­ing­ly pop­u­lar with our friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty! We recent­ly caught up with Styr­mir to dis­cuss his home swap­ping adventures.

What inspired you to start home swapping?

I have four kids and I got tired of spend­ing 70% of my trav­el bud­get on hotels or Airbnb’s! I’ve cal­cu­lat­ed that some of my trips have been in the range of £10,000 pounds per trip, but instead I’m pay­ing £0 because we’re using Love Home Swap. Because of this sav­ing, we get to trav­el quite a lot – I tend to trav­el three times more than most of my friends, pure­ly because of home swapping.” 

San Francisco Iceland Home Swap Love Home Swap

Styr­mir and his fam­i­ly enjoy­ing a trip to the Gold­en Gate Bridge while in San Francisco.

What are the main benefits of home swapping for your family?

First­ly, I think it is a much more per­son­al way of trav­el­ling as you tend to vis­it areas, cities and towns that you would not nor­mal­ly have planned on going to. We did a home swap up in the Lake Dis­trict in North­ern Eng­land, and it was so beau­ti­ful. If it wasn’t for home swap­ping, I would nev­er have thought of fly­ing into Glas­gow, rent­ing a car and dri­ving down to this stun­ning barn house in the mid­dle of this pic­ture-per­fect land­scape in the Eng­lish coun­try­side. We also got to go to Mal­ibu which was incred­i­ble, and these are places we could nev­er have gone to before. 

It is also more per­son­al because you make friends with these peo­ple that you stay with. The first time I went to Rome was last sum­mer, and I stayed in a beau­ti­ful house with a swim­ming pool which was only 25 min­utes away from the city cen­tre. We made friends with the peo­ple that we stayed with, and we’ve stayed con­nect­ed with them on Face­book. Next year, I will prob­a­bly be going to San Fran­cis­co again to swap with the same peo­ple we swapped with back in 2018. It becomes a lot more per­son­al in every way, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you have kids and they’re shar­ing their rooms, toys and all the ameni­ties that you would nev­er get at a hotel or an Airbnb. 

Anoth­er great thing is that you’re not in as much of a hur­ry as when you’re stay­ing at an expen­sive hotel for a short time. You’re not so stressed about doing every­thing you need to do and see in such a short time. On a home swap you can stay for three weeks instead of just five or ten days, so you can be much more relaxed. You’re not rush­ing to buy tick­ets for an attrac­tion every day like you do in a hotel. I can just wake up and say: Oh, the weath­er is nice today, why don’t we try doing that?” 

Reykjavik is always popular with our community. What makes it so special?

The beau­ty of Reyk­javik is that it’s very close to all the nature that Ice­land has to offer. When you’re look­ing at doing the nat­ur­al sights, and want to go hik­ing or some­thing, you can do a lot just two-to-three hours east or north of the city. Peo­ple who home swap here aren’t com­ing to par­ty, they want to start explor­ing the nature Ice­land has to offer straight away. I tend to make an itin­er­ary for all my vis­i­tors, where I tell them what I would be doing and what oth­er locals would be doing, where to eat the best food etc. Ice­land is real­ly expen­sive, but the beau­ty of basi­cal­ly stay­ing for free by home swap­ping is that you have the option to do a lot more! 

One of the things that makes it so spe­cial to me is the food cul­ture we have in Ice­land which is amaz­ing. The lev­el of qual­i­ty when it comes to food is absolute­ly fan­tas­tic. It’s phe­nom­e­nal here. We have a Miche­lin restau­rant, fresh fish every day, and the best lamb in the world because we let them run free up in the High­lands where they eat berries and rose­mary. If you’re stay­ing in a home and not pay­ing for a hotel, then you can jus­ti­fy pay­ing a lit­tle more for food and real­ly get­ting to enjoy it. You won’t find out where to have the best arc­tic char using Tri­pAd­vi­sor, you need to get it from a local con­nois­seur which you can with home swapping.” 

Styrmir Iceland Home Swap Love Home Swap

Styrmir’s son bal­anc­ing on the wing of the famous Wing House’ in California.

What are your top tips for spotting the Northern Lights?

I see them maybe 10 – 15 times a year. My kids can be walk­ing back from soc­cer prac­tice in the win­ter and see them above the house. We kind of take it for grant­ed, but I always like it when I see them. I enjoy them for 30 – 40 sec­onds and then get on with my day! 

When my vis­i­tors ask about them, I send them the web­site to check the auro­ra activ­i­ty, and I also tell them to check the weath­er to see if it’s cloudy or not, because it needs to be a clear night, or you won’t be able to see them at all. In Octo­ber to Novem­ber time, you will need a jeep or an SUV to go a lit­tle high­er into the High­lands to see them, but you need to know where you’re going, so it may be best to get a local guide for help. In Jan­u­ary and win­ter­time, you should be able to see them over the city.” 

Styrmir Iceland Home Swap Love Home Swap 2

Styrmir’s son learn­ing how to surf in Malibu.

Finally, tell us about one of your favourite home swaps.

I would have to say our swap in Mal­ibu, it was great. We spent almost three weeks in Mal­ibu and then we drove up the Pacif­ic Coast High­way and spent a week in San Fran­cis­co. The cli­mate in Cal­i­for­nia is so nice and so laid back. 

We drove from Mal­ibu to a lady we made friends when she had stayed with us at one of our pent­hous­es in Reyk­javik. She owns this home called The Wing House’ which has been on The World’s Most Extra­or­di­nary Homes’ and we went over to it for a bar­be­cue! She also came to our oth­er home swap for some drinks one evening when we were out there. It was also my son’s birth­day while we were out there, and as we had a car, we could go on a day trip to Vegas for his birth­day which is some­thing he will nev­er for­get! I also got to teach him how to surf while we were out there, which was great.” 

If you’re inter­est­ed in home swap­ping to Ice­land, check out our avail­able Ice­landic home swaps. Or, if you’ve already been to Ice­land with us and you’d like to share your sto­ry (and pro­mote your home and swap knowl­edge in the process!) then we’d love to hear from you. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can share your swap snaps on our social media chan­nels using #welove­home­swap so that we can like your pics.