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
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
thanks to the exchange of trust and collaboration, at no commercial
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
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.