Ed Kushins caught the travel bug as a young teenager when he took a road trip across the United States soon after finishing high school. After university, a spell in the Navy and a job as Marketing Director for Flying Tiger Airlines in Asia, Ed founded his own travel company called HomeExchange.com.
Whether you live in a country home, beach house or city apartment, HomeExchange.com is a simple concept – “you stay in my house while I stay in yours”. Starting with a few hundred members and a printed directory in 1992, the club has since grown into a truly social network with a website of more than 46,000 member listings in 150 countries.
What is it that you do exactly?
When I am home in Hermosa Beach, California, my wife and I like to start the day with a quick swim in the Pacific Ocean and then stroll to our favourite local coffee house. From there I am usually on back-to-back Skype calls with my international team, working on our latest projects and upcoming events for our community. I’ve never thought of my position as a “job”, it’s a passion that I get to enjoy every single day (at all hours of the day, time zones are fun in that way!).
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
It may sound clichéd but I really do love what people are able to experience through their trips. They can behave like a local instead of as tourists because they have lodging. It is ecologically friendly and sustainable because the carbon footprint of a house swap is practically zero compared to staying in a hotel. It helps local economies too.
What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?
My wife and I get away for three months of the year house swapping along the way. It is so hard picking a favourite but among them a highlight would be Priddis, which is just outside of Calgary but a real rustic experience. It was the perfect location for access to Calgary, but also for hiking, biking, golf and not too far from Banff. The hot tub overlooking the forest was really nice after a day out hiking.
As active outdoorsy types we love beautiful locations. Another favourite of ours was a picturesque getaway in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We were steps away from the ocean and made fantastic friends in the area.
Another trip that left an impression was to Tuscany in 2008. Due to a change of circumstances our host couple had to stay behind which meant they became our personal guides showing us parts of Italy we wouldn’t have been able to explore without them. We went to their favourite restaurants, to their friends’ vineyards, local shopping and made best friends along the way. It truly was special.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?
One of the greatest meals I have ever had was during the aforementioned trip to Tuscany. Our host offered to take us to meet his favourite chef in Italy. When we pulled up to a tiny place just outside of Florence, we were admittedly sceptical. This was all forgotten the second we entered the homiest room and were welcomed with vino and a stellar amuse-bouche. Five courses later, I felt like I had been taken on an Italian food and wine tour! Hand crafted pasta, wines made from local family vineyards, and what is hands down the most mouth-watering tiramisu I have ever tasted. This is exactly what home exchange is all about. Never in a million years would my wife and I have known this gem existed. Thanks to our local connections, we made life long friends and had one of the most authentic and unforgettable meals of our lives.
Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?
I haven’t personally rubbed shoulders with any celebrities but interestingly my company inspired Nancy Meyers, the screenwriter of the Hollywood hit The Holiday, to come up with the movie plot. You may recall Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet starred as the two women living 6,000 miles apart who decide to exchange their homes in LA and the UK one Christmas. They each find romance while on their vacations – Diaz with Jude Law and Winslet with Jack Black. The film certainly captured people’s imaginations as we saw when a number of new members joined our community as soon as the film was released. We have actually come across romantic tales like the ones depicted in The Holiday and I’ve certainly experienced first hand and heard so many other stories of the lasting friendships being formed as a result of home exchanging.
What currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
We’d like to experience Scandinavia over the next few years.
Thank you for taking part in our interview, Ed. How interesting that your company inspired a Hollywood movie! How did you come to know that was the case?