I Tried WindowSwap, a Site That Lets You Stare out a Stranger’s Window

It’s comforting to know that no matter where we are in the world, we’re all stuck at home, dreaming of being somewhere else.
Koh Ewe
Photo: R Mo on Unsplash

The coronavirus pandemic might have thrown our travel plans out the window, but windows? They're the in thing right now.

WindowSwap is the quarantine brainchild of Sonali Ranjit, 32, and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, 36, a couple living in Singapore. Offering a curated collection of window views from around the world, the website allows people to “travel without moving for now.”

The idea came to Sonali and Vaishnav during a nationwide lockdown, when they saw a friend's social media post about his house.


"We were like, 'Wow, just imagine if we were there right now'," Vaishnav told VICE. "We wish we could swap places with him, and then we were like 'OK maybe we could just swap windows'… And that's literally how this idea began."

The concept of window-hopping is disarmingly simple — you click through the site for random window views submitted by netizens from all over the world. But the experience of toggling between windows across the globe is a therapeutic excursion that soothes wanderlusting souls. From the hazy streets of Istanbul to the crisp blue skies of Honolulu, you get to stare out of strangers’ windows forlornly while waiting for quarantine to end.

So, I spent one morning doing just that.

The first house I arrived in was located in Jaipur, India, greeted by an unassuming frame that’s half concealed by white floral curtains. On the windowsill sat a mug, and I imagined Prakhar, the window owner, sipping on his morning coffee (or tea?) while taking in the tropical greenery captured in the rectangular window frame.


Photo: WindowSwap user Prakhar

Then, with a simple click, I arrived at Simon’s window in London, greeted by a different kind of greenery, and six impeccable potted plants.


Photo: WindowSwap user Simon

I was caught off guard by the breathtaking blue skies of Honolulu, as seen from Denny’s balcony. His potted plants swayed in the sea breeze. I could hear someone moving in the house, making careless clanking sounds that instantly intrigued and made me feel right at home.


Photo: WindowSwap user Denny

As it turns out, the unassuming background noises are an essential part of WindowSwap videos.

"We felt that just having photos wouldn't do it justice," said Sonali.

"To feel like you're looking out a real window, you'd have to see some sort of movement, even if it's just like a few leaves moving here and there, and you have to hear the wounds of that place to actually feel like you're there."

Next, I went to Long Island, where Fernando showed me the spectacular city skyline from his window at sunset.


Photo: WindowSwap user Fernando

Then, I visited Rob’s cosy hideout in Derby, nestled in a quiet-looking suburb.


Photo: WindowSwap user Rob

I also peered through Neil’s window in Shanghai, and got a glimpse of the cityscape hidden behind his neighbour’s building.


Photo: WindowSwap user Neil

Towering over this hazy neighbourhood in Istanbul is Söylem’s high-rise apartment. I marveled at the neatly arranged houses and the busy street behind Söylem’s plush purple cushions, and made a mental note to include the city in my future travel plans.


Photo: WindowSwap user Söylem

Besides the visually striking scenery and ASMR-inducing background noises, knowing the window owner’s first name adds a surreal touch of intimacy. We’re all still strangers, but we’re strangers who have granted one another access to our daily window view — a view that some of our actual friends have never seen — a strangely intimate peek into anonymous private lives.

What started as a passion project in early June, with video footage contributed by the couple's friends, quickly snowballed into a global collaboration. Within a month, Sonali and Vaishnav went from getting a couple of videos a day to receiving about 500 daily submissions.

Like me, quarantined souls scattered around the world are bewitched by the collection of therapeutic window views.

Users can add to the crowd-sourced collection by submitting a 10-minute, horizontal HD video via email. WindowSwap has also created an Instagram page for windows that didn’t make it onto the website but are too precious to not share.