Discover home exchange stories from our members.

This one is brought to us by John and Jan, while on home exchange in Salzburg. Let’s see what they have been doing on their latest Gap Year destination with GuestToGuest.

Last July we travelled from Zermatt in Switzerland to Maastricht in The Netherlands for an Andre Rieu Concert and then returned to Austria. We were to stay in Hallstatt, Austria, a beautiful village on a lovely lake in the Salzkammergut Lake District but our eight-hour train journey meant that we needed to stay overnight in Salzburg. We could have booked a hotel or B&B for one night but we had some ‘Guest Points’ and we thought that if someone would host us, we would go GuestToGuest.

We contacted Veronika who readily agreed to our stay. We kept in e-mail contact with her and she informed us that she would be away but we were most welcome to stay in her home. Her good friend and neighbour, Margrete, would look after us. Margrete met our train, drove us to the apartment, insisted that we leave our heavy cases in her apartment and just take up our backpacks to Veronika’s.

The next day, we caught the local bus, as advised by Margrete and walked the Old Town, saw the Cathedral, Mozart’s House, the markets and had breakfast at the famous Tomaselli’s Café, which is 317 years old – they must know the secret to longevity in the hospitality industry! Later, Margaret drove us to the station and helped us with our luggage, all with great conversation and a merry smile. We knew that this experience would only be possible with GuestToGuest. We were treated as friends, as family, not just as guests and it was just for one night!

The story doesn’t end there. We remain in e-mail contact with Veronika. In December last year, we went on a wonderful Christmas Markets Bus Tour, which culminated with Christmas dinner in an Italian castle in the Dolomites! On the way to our castle, the Tour took us back to Salzburg. We contacted Veronika and she met us after our walking tour had concluded. It was wonderful to finally meet her and we were greeted like ‘long lost cousins’! We had our own personal guide for our second walking tour, which was even better, as we heard so much more of the local information and not just the tourist brief. Veronika accompanied us back to our meeting place and we said our ‘goodbyes’ with hugs and kisses. When we embarked, several people in the Tour group commented on the lines of – “Do you have family here in Salzburg?” – to which we replied, “We do now!” We did explain the situation and how GuestToGuest had made it all possible.

Martin Buber said that “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware” (Buber, M. Early 20th Century). We’ve found that some of the very best memories we have, are of places we have experienced and people we have met none of which were planned nor expected – serendipity moments that enrich and transform whatever had been planned. Our Salzburg experience was such a good example of that. It was supposed to be a one-night stopover and yet it led to such a lovely experience of friendship and hospitality that amazed our fellow travellers. It would not have been possible without GuestToGuest!

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