We were invited to arrive at our current house sit in Yorkshire the night before our home owners departed for New Zealand. It's nice to have plenty of time for a thorough handover, but it's also lovely to be invited for a cozy dinner. We had plenty of time to chat with our hosts, and had a very enjoyable evening, getting to know them and Picola the cat.
The conversation covered a wide range of topics, including, of course, house sitting and the range of lifestyle possibilities it can offer.
As many of you know, Vanessa and I are full-time house sitters. We have no home base and very few possessions. We often book sits back-to-back, while occasionally scheduling breaks between sits for our own travel adventures.
One common question which almost always comes up in any house sitting conversation is, "So, how long do you think you'll continue to live like this? Do you have any plans to settle down?"
In our mid-50s, we see many years ahead of this lifestyle of freedom, and when we check in with each other once in a while, neither of us has yet expressed a desire to settle.
So, our hosts wondered, what is it about this transient lifestyle that we find so appealing?
For me there are several possible answers:
- seeing new places
- meeting new people
- spending time "at home" somewhere new
- caring for a wide variety of animals
- an on-going life of travel
- a satisfyingly minimalist approach to life
- lower living costs
- a sense of adventure
It's quite a list of positives.
But for both Vanessa and myself, we feel many of these reasons boil down to one succinct reality...
We both thrive on change.
What's our ideal length of sit?
Over a period of a year, Sept 2018 to August 2019, we took on the challenge of achieving 52 house sits in 52 weeks. We really enjoyed the constant change, the new places, the range of wonderful animals we met. But towards the end of the year we were a little tired of the endless packing and unpacking of our little van.
Conclusion: 1 week sits (or less) - a little too short
For a couple of years before that we took on fewer longer sits, sometimes as long as three months. Often we were keen to move on to new adventures before the sit came to an end, although it was great to settle in to an area, get to know some of the neighbours, and really feel "at home".
Conclusion: 3 month sits - a little too long
At the moment we're finding our perfect "Goldilocks" sit - not too short, not too long, but just right - to be somewhere around 5 or 6 weeks.
We're here in North Yorkshire for 5 weeks, and we've already been over to the local community hub, and the local pub, which at two doors away is a little too convenient! The budget is taking a bit of a hit!
We'll be here over Christmas and New Year, and we're close enough to my home town that my mum will be able to come and celebrate Christmas with us - with the pre-arranged consent of the home owners, of course.
By early January we'll be ready to move on to the next part of the adventure. That part is planned and set, but plans from March onward were loose, with our only booked commitment in June/July.
Living life like this, embracing changes when they come, does mean that you have to have a very flexible approach to future plans.
So often we think we have everything mapped out, then something else comes along, and we dive in to re-jig everything to come up with a new plan.
For example, during this couple of months of UK winter we had planned to buy a large van and begin the process of converting it to a campervan. Our plans was to spend much of the rest of the year in the camper in the UK and Europe.
But about a month ago Vanessa spotted a 3 to 4 week house sit in Brooklyn, New York, listed on Trusted Housesitters. We've always said if an opportunity to spend time in New York came up we'd take it.
So Vanessa fired off an application as quickly as possible, and after a Skype chat, we secured the sit. It all happened very quickly, and we had to once again re-assess our plans once we had made the commitment.
Maybe we could stay in the States afterwards for a further 3 weeks, which would take us right through to our 6-week repeat sit in the Caribbean, on the beautiful island of St. Vincent.
After lots of hunting through different flight options and routes we had a new plan. Norwegian Air could get us direct from London to New York in April for less than GBP £165 each. We found a direct flight from there to St. Vincent in June, which was a bargain too. And a return to the UK from New York in August was a further £165 each, thanks again to Norwegian Air!
The only piece of the travel jigsaw currently missing is getting back from the Caribbean to New York. We're looking at options to spend a few days in-between sits in Trinidad & Tobago.
The flights we've booked will probably work out cheaper than simply flying from London to the Caribbean, which was our original plan. We've managed to add on a 3-week New York sit, and 3 weeks of travel time in the States at no further cost. What a win!
It's amazing, and thrilling, how quickly plans can change like this.
I think that is my best answer to the "what do you like about this lifestyle?" question - It's the wonderful and exciting unpredictability of the future.
Live life as an adventure
I've always believed that life is meant to be lived as an adventure, and house sitting helps make this true for us.
Of course, our campervan project has to be put on hold until we come back to England in early August. But it will be much easier to do the conversion over the summer months, instead of in the depths of winter.
Once the conversion is complete we'll head south into Europe, hopefully to find somewhere a little warmer to spend the winter than this year.
Well, that's the plan for now...
Best wishes, and Merry Christmas,
Ian and Vanessa
(currently house sitting in North Yorkshire, England)