The HomeLink Story

The history of HomeLink is the story of a simple and generous idea that has found its time. Anticipating an era of personalised travel organised in a spirit of trust and sharing, HomeLink pioneered a home-based, not-for-profit alternative to commercial tourism. In today's era of venture capitalist-driven dot com startups - where it's all about numbers and money - HomeLink continues to stand for traditional values and the authentic "gift economy".

  • A young teacher in New York, David Ostroff, types up a list of fellow teachers looking for an economical way to spend the summer - away from the bustling city. The list is shared with other educators in neighbouring towns and States who crave the excitement of the Big Apple. Contact is made, and teachers agree to swap their homes for the summer. The first home swapping network is born!

  • Word spreads quickly. More and more teachers and professors join Ostroff’s "Vacation Exchange Club". Pan American World Airways contacts Ostroff for the coordination of home swapping among their corporate employees worldwide. The hand-typed lists of home-swap offers become booklets edited for an international audience.

  • David Ostroff pools resources with Jan Ryder, head of a small network in the UK, comprised primarily of members of the Armed Forces, and works briefly with the French creator of Intervac until 1981. By the end of the 70's, HomeLink offices include Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United States.

  • The HomeLink network expands. Through the 80's, more representatives are recruited in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, and South Africa - offering advice and support to home swappers around the world. The booklets of listings become catalogues, as the concept of home exchange continues to gain momentum.

  • HomeLink representatives increase in the 90's with the addition of Austria, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Russia, and Turkey. Catalogues of home exchange listings, now thick as phone books, are printed five times a year. But they can’t keep up with the ever-increasing number of HomeLink members around the world. Global internet access offers a welcome solution. HomeLink goes digital and creates the world's first home swapping internet site, translated into 17 languages. Members can now post their listings on-line and find exchanges instantly using advanced search criteria.

  • The new millennium sees the emergence of a more personalised approach to travelling, and HomeLink attracts an ever-growing group of like-minded people: those concerned about the environment, who shy away from hotel chains, resorts, and large tourist developments - detrimental to the eco-system, and the sustainability of authentic local culture.

  • The world economic crisis looms, and the HomeLink network continues to expand as more and more young families, professionals, and seniors look to home swapping as an expression of solidarity as well as a unique alternative to offer each other fabulous holidays thanks to the exchange of trust and collaboration, at no commercial cost.

  • It's HomeLink's 60th birthday! HomeLink makes a substantial investment in a new central website featuring dynamic search engines, geo-localisation, translation options, a more advanced internal messaging system, support services, and more. Finding the home swap that fits each member’s aspirations becomes even easier and faster. Despite the growing impact of technology, people remain the heartbeat of HomeLink. With the new international website, members discover more opportunities to share their interests, to find others with similar affinities, and to organise cultural and linguistic exchanges for their children. More than half a century later, with thousands of active members, and 27 local representatives around the world, Homelink still remains a tight community, sharing common values of trust and respect. David Ostroff would have been proud*.

     

     

    * Sadly, David passed away in February 2000 without witnessing fully the blossoming of the seed he had sown all those years ago. This short history of HomeLink is a tribute to the wonderful foundation he laid. David’s loving wife, Mary, remains in Rio Rancho, New Mexico USA, and Jan Ryder resides with her husband in Sun City, Arizona USA.