April 2021 (from Issue 35 of House Sitting Magazine)
Over the past months Vanessa and I have enjoyed living in a smaller world than we’ve been used to over the past 7 years or so.
We’ve now been in France for six months, and have spent time travelling in our campervan, as well as fitting in some great house sits. It’s been quite unusual for us to be settled in one area for so long, but we’ve managed to fit in a variety of experiences when Covid restrictions allowed.
On our most recent house sit we looked after two llamas, a first for us, and then spent a few days camping by a beautiful secluded lake in the hills. At the time France had a 6pm curfew, so by the end of the day everybody else had gone home, and we had the peaceful landscape all to ourselves.
As always, we’ve been mulling over our lifestyle options, and with current travel restrictions not looking like they’ll be coming to an end any time soon, we’ve made some fairly big decisions.
With the UK finally leaving the European Union on 31st December 2020, travelling and house sitting for longer periods in Europe is not as easy or practical for UK citizens as it used to be.
So Vanessa dived in to researching other options, and after much consideration we decided to apply for French residency. This was possible under the UK Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, because we were living in France on the day the UK left Europe. After several months of back-and-forth paperwork we finally received our approval. We’re going to be official residents of France.
Over the same period of time we’d been casually looking at properties in the area in which we were house sitting, and found a lovely piece of land in the Burgundy region with a couple of old barns, ideal for a conversion project. We made an offer, and it was accepted. We wrote into the contract that we could only complete the purchase if we were approved for residency. So now we’re going to be French land owners too.
Our campervan, built in the UK with plans for longer term European travel, is now almost surplus to requirements. Also, we’re going to need the funds for developing our property, so we decided to sell. This was going to require a return trip to England, which is where we are briefly as I write this.
On entering England via ferry from France we were required by current UK law to self-quarantine for 10 days, which we did in the camper at a friend’s farm on the North Yorkshire Moors. It was a little chilly at times, but the van’s heating system performed admirably. Although we’d had one Covid test in France in order to depart, we had to have two further tests in the UK on Day 2 and Day 8 of our self-isolation.
Since completing our isolation, we’ve been on a whistle-stop tour of the UK, visiting friends and family, and trying to co-ordinate viewings of the camper with potential purchasers.
Before selling the camper we needed to buy a car so we wouldn’t end up stranded if we found a buyer, and an old friend in Darlington had just what we needed... a 2010 Volvo V50 diesel estate with a towbar. Travelling in convoy with our two vehicles we headed south to visit Vanessa’s mum, where we quickly found a keen buyer for the camper. I think we could have sold the van three or four times over, as we got a lot of interest in it.
It’s all been very frantic, with lots to achieve in a short period of time. We’ve been fortunate so far in that everything has fallen into place without too many problems.
All we have to achieve now is to get another negative Covid test result, and we can hop on the ferry to return to our new home base.
Once again this house sitting lifestyle has offered the flexibility to be able to make some fairly big decisions in light of changing conditions in a changing world.
We still plan to do plenty of house sitting in the future, and have already secured several French repeat sits, but we’re also excited to have a home base for a while. We’re looking forward, perhaps with a little trepidation, at the challenges ahead this new project will present.
In this issue of House Sitting Magazine we have a collaborative article featuring stories from other house sitters who have also decided to make some significant changes to the way they are dealing with current challenges. Find out more on page 20 (issue #35) in the article “Reinventing your lifestyle”
We hope you’re still managing to enjoy life, and are coping with whatever lifestyle challenges you’re facing.
Happy house sitting.
Ian and Vanessa
(currently on the road, heading back to France)