Category Archives for "Latest house sitting posts"

Thoughts on our new electric car

November 2022 (from Issue 38 of House Sitting Magazine

Our life has changed somewhat over the past year. We've gone from full blown nomadic travellers to long term house sitters in Burgundy, France with French residency, and become owners of our own renovation project too.

I guess it's time to admit we are for the moment "settled", having reinvested back into property, obtained French residency, committed to a long term sit (now into our 3rd year) and more alarmingly we've begun the process of accumulating necessary "stuff" again!

Before the pandemic we'd already invested in an older Volvo estate car as it was considerably cheaper than hiring while we were back in the UK. It was diesel-powered and had incredible fuel economy. But it was a little old, and had a few issues, so we wondered what to do longer term to ensure we had a reliable form of mobility.

Brexit had also seems to have made the process of importing British cars into France very complex and expensive.

After much research in France, where second hand cars sell at premium prices, we settled on a new all-electric car, which we have taken on a lease-with-option-to-buy agreement.

Why choose all electric?

One reason was the very attractive lease terms being offered by Peugeot along with a grant from the French government who were pitching in with €7,000.

Secondly, we have plans of installing a larger solar system at the little property we bought last year, I think it will be quite feasible to charge the car on solar, with minimal use of cheaper overnight electricity from the grid if needed.

Thirdly, I've (Ian) never "owned" a new car, so this is quite possibly a real "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity for me.

How is an ALL electric car different?

Obviously, the biggest difference is we never need to go to a fuel station! But of course we do need to consider recharging the batteries.

When driving, one of the first things that struck us is the relative silence in the car. There’s some noise from the electric motor, and a little road noise too, but it really is quiet inside the car. It’s also super-smooth to drive. 

There’s no gearbox so it’s very-much like driving an automatic car, but without even the slight pause many automatics have as gears change. The electric car simply accelerates without any hesitation or pause.

Performance is impressive too. There are 3 settings: Eco, Normal and Sport. It goes without saying that "Sport" uses up the battery much quicker than the other two modes, but the acceleration and fun to be had is worth it if you aren't planning on going far enough to run the battery flat.


The car continually estimates distance left in the battery, and when fully charged claims 350km should be possible in Eco mode, 332km in Normal, or 316km in Sport. Based on experience to date, these estimates are all overly optimistic and we've had to be quite careful when planning distances and recharge options.

The longest distance we aim for between charges is 200km, but on longer journeys we aim to stop every 150km, erring on the side of caution.

The battery is a 50 kWh (kilowatt-hours battery, and knowing this can help with understanding charging times.

Our vehicle offers 3 charging options

We were given a home charger which plugs into any regular wall socket. This will charge at a rate of 1.8 kW (kilowatts), so can add 18 kWh to the battery over a ten hour period. That means if you come back home with 20% left in the battery, it will take more than 20 hours to recharge to 100%. However, to do this you will probably have driven 180+ km the day before.

For most of our use, (shopping, days out, and cycle trips), the car is almost always back at 100% the next morning.

The second charge option involves a different cable, which we had to buy. Our Peugeot dealer suggested the cable would cost around €300, but we found a secondhand one online for €90. With this cable we can use faster charging stations and they add power to the battery at 7kW.

The standard electric car top-up that most charging stations measure is how long it takes to charge from 20% to 80%... for our vehicle this equates to adding 30kWh. This means that a 7kW charger would take just over 4 hours to add this power back to the batteries.

Our home charger would need almost 17 hours to achieve the same result.

Option 3 is a fast charger, which again needs a different cable connector. Fast chargers have a cable attached, and will charge our car at about 50kW, so to add back 30kWh, from 20% to 80% takes about half an hour.


The easiest way to calculate costs is to consider cost per kWh. Charging at home on overnight rates costs about 16 cents per kWH, so a 60% charge, from 20% back up to 80%, costs around €5.

Standard and rapid chargers vary widely. We've found a few that are free to use, thanks to generous local councils and supermarket chains. When paying at standard chargers, costs vary between 20c and 40c per kWh, so a 60% charge will cost between €6 and €12.

Fast chargers might be priced between 40c per kWh and €1, but again, we have found a few of these which are also free. At €1 per kWh the cost of a top-up is €30, which means your cost per km is way above petrol or diesel costs, so these particular charge points are to be avoided if at all possible.

Using a combination of home charging and cheaper (or free) charge points while we are out and about, we find our costs are generally very low. And of course there are minimal costs related to servicing.


We've found the car fits our needs perfectly when at home, easily covering day trips up to 100km without any battery worries at all. On longer trips we use the relevant apps to find suitable fast charging points along the route, and stop off for a coffee break while the car charges.

Most of the time we only do short local trips... down to the shops for some groceries or to the hardware store for something for a DIY project. We can use the car for several days like this, then put it on charge overnight to top it back up to 100%.

The car has an option to delay the charging start time, so we set that to 10:30pm to take advantage of our cheaper overnight electricity rates.

Recently, on a weekend house sit, we found a charging point in a little car park by the canal. Our 7kW cable worked well there and the local council offer their charging points for free, so while we wandered along the canal for a couple of hours the battery was topped up at no cost.

On our recent mini-break to Paris we had to stop mid-journey on the way there to recharge. Through the Freshmile charging app we'd found a little town by a river with a rapid 50kW charger, again free thanks to the local council. As we were leaving Paris at the end of our holiday we had to add a little bit of charge at a petrol station, where - shock-horror - we had to actually pay. It cost about €12 to top up from 20% to 80%.


We love the car for general day-to-day use around home, and for day-trip shorter adventures, up to perhaps 80km away. It also works well for overnight trips especially if we can get there from home without having to recharge on the way.

Longer journeys are more challenging, as we have to factor in stops for recharging. There is always the possibility that the charger we plan to visit on route is out of order, or that someone else is using it when we arrive. This means factoring in plenty of spare time for the journey, and a Plan B option if you encounter the dreaded "out of order" notice.

Ultimately, until there is a much more robust and dense fast charging network, if more of your travels are over longer distances, we'd advise avoiding an electric vehicle.

But for a daily runabout they are fantastic, and super-cheap to run especially if you have a solar option.

In light of current electricity grid challenges, and the availability of raw materials (including the way these are extracted), who knows just how ethical or sustainable this latest push away from diesel to electric really is!

Time will tell!

Until next time, happy travels,

Ian and Vanessa

(still on our long term house sit in burgundy, France)

  • November 15, 2022

Cow wrangling in France

October 2021 (from Issue 37 of House Sitting Magazine

As you may know, Vanessa and I chose to settle for a while at the start of winter last year. Well... when I say "chose", what I really mean is we got stuck in France as the country went into a strict lockdown at the start of November 2020. So we didn't really have much choice but to stay here and see how things played out with lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Fast forward to October 2021 and we are still here, in the Bourgogne (Burgundy) region of France. We love the area, and thanks to the kindness of the home owners of our current house sit, we are fast-approaching one year in this lovely area.

Prior to arriving here our longest sit was 3 months, so we've beaten that record by a long way.

The house we're taking care of is a holiday home, so there are no pets living here, which means we haven't had any of the usual challenges of caring for pets.

However, we have had a few slightly unusual challenges to deal with recently.

Our responsibilities have been more about longer term maintenance of the property, which has quite a large garden. I've never done so much lawn-mowing in my life (in part because our own newly acquired piece of land here also requires a lot of garden maintenance). Vanessa has done a lot of shrub, tree and rose bush pruning too.

However, just a couple of days ago we had an uninvited visitor to the garden. We have a large chestnut tree at the very top of the garden, right by the fence, beyond which is a field of cows. Some of the chestnuts fall into the field, but most into the garden. The cows love them, and we often see them close to the fence, noses deep in the grass looking for a tasty snack.

It would appear that the other morning there were no chestnuts left to be found in the field, so one cow decided those in the garden looked obtainable, and had somehow got over the now trampled fence and wandered in. 

Our main worry was the swimming pool in the garden, now closed and covered for winter. The winter cover is green, quite similar to the grass. What if the cow wandered on to that and then fell through, into the pool? That didn’t bear thinking about. Action was needed.

While I attempted to lower the fence to ground level so we could get the cow back over it without it getting caught up in the barbed wire, Vanessa played cowgirl, keeping our visitor away from the pool. Once I had the fence prepared, Vanessa went to inform the farmer next door about his escapee, and I took over wrangling duties.

I feigned an air of breezy confidence as I tried to herd the huge beast towards the fence, but she just stared at me in a mildly indifferent manner. As I got closer she started to move, and I was amazed when she made a beeline (a cowline?) for the hole in the fence, and casually leaped over it like a racehorse.

We quickly raised the fence again, reinforcing it with some wood from the shed.

The rest of the afternoon was spent raking up the chestnuts, so the tempting treats were no longer in sight just over the fence. This will be a daily task for the next week or so.

Another household maintenance task which has been on the list over the whole summer has been to fix the chimney cap (le chapeau) before we light the living room fire for winter. The roof is very very steep, and quite high.

We’d been told we’d need someone with a crane on a truck, but handymen are in short supply in our rural area. Just yesterday I spotted our cow-owning neighbour standing a huge ladder up against the side of his house. He then produced some flat wooden roof ladders so he could access his chimney.

I quickly offered to hold the main ladder for him while he worked, and wondered if I might borrow it when he was finished.

These things are never as easy as you hope, and we were unable to secure the roof ladders on our house in the same way he had done on his... something to do with the roof construction. But our neighbour is very practical.

He is a farmer, after all, and being hands-on practical comes with the job. "I have an idea," he smiled.

Before long we had a tractor parked on the front lawn, and had the roof ladders held (sort of) safely in place by the bucket raised up to roof level.

I headed up onto the roof, assessed the job, and returned with tools and screws. The chimney cap is now firmly fixed in place, and we're ready to get the fire blazing for winter.

With our house sit being pet-less, we've had quite a bit of freedom to roam, which means we've been able to take on a few short house sits in other parts of France, and just 2 weeks ago our village mayor asked if we would look after his little Yorkshire Terrier, while he and his wife enjoyed a much needed break.

It's the first time we've ever done a pet sit at home, even though "at home" is actually house sitting. Of course we made sure our home owners were happy for us to entertain this tiny visitor. The smallest dog we’ve ever looked after!

However, a couple of other locals weren't quite so happy... the two cats who often come to visit us in the back garden weren't as keen about having a dog around for a week, and we saw a lot less of them for a while.

We're enjoying our different experiences of house sitting on our longest house sit ever.

We hope you're enjoying your current adventures too.

Ian and Vanessa

(currently long term house sitting in Burgundy, France)

  • October 15, 2021

Getting to grips with two gardens

July 2021 (from Issue 36 of House Sitting Magazine

How many house sits have you done in the last three months?

I think we’ve set a new personal record... for the lowest number of sits we’ve done over such a period since we started full-time house sitting at the end of 2015.

In the past 3 months we’ve done one house sit... well, maybe two, if we count the house we’re currently living in, which sadly doesn’t have any pet care duties.

In May we drove from Burgundy across to the French Alps, where we had a week long repeat sit booked in the shadow of Mont Blanc. We were looking after the same two dogs and two cats we had cared for over Christmas, but this time there was a lot less snow, so we could get out and about on longer walks in the mountains.

On our return to Burgundy spring was in full bloom, and we’ve had our hands full looking after the large garden here at our “home” house sit.

We divide our responsibilities fairly evenly... Vanessa looks after the garden beds, does lots of weeding, and keeps the trees, shrubs and rose bushes in check, while I take care of the large lawn.

The property has a large swimming pool which has been closed and covered since we first arrived here in November last year. In fact, because the owners couldn’t come here last year the pool hasn’t been used for almost 2 years.

They said it was up to us if we wanted to open the pool for summer.

We peeked under the cover nervously, and discovered the water level was still correct, but it was very green and murky. The local pool guy took a look and said that it would clean up fine, so we went ahead and had him start the de-winterizing process.

Maintaining the pool has also been added to my list of responsibilities, but I don’t mind at all. On a hot summer’s day, a dip in a cool pool is a lovely treat.

The property we purchased earlier this year (see the intro to the previous edition of House Sitting Magazine) is just 4 kilometres away, and we’ve both been doing quite a lot of work up there too.

Our first priority at was to get the overgrown land into some sort of order, and to make some of it productive as soon as possible.

The final signing off on the purchase took place at the end of April, so it was early May before we really got around to doing much. The previous owners had said we were welcome to start work before the sale completed, if we wanted, but our last minute dash to the UK in April meant we hadn't been around for the whole month to do anything.

The place had become a bit of a jungle by May. Things seem to grow quickly here once spring gets into high gear.

My neighbour lent me his chain saw, as one of the two big walnut trees on the property had died, and was looking a bit dangerous. Down it came, and it's now been chopped up into logs, drying out for use in winter 2022.

The other walnut tree is in great shape, and will hopefully be productive this year.

Our first purchase was a strimmer - I think this is called a “weed whacker” in the States, and a whipper-snipper in Australia. It took a couple of days of concerted effort to re-clear the area that had been clear when we viewed the property in late January.

We also cleared out some more areas which had obviously been neglected for five years or more, as the previous owners had done little to develop the place, and had had someone doing just the minimum of garden maintenance.

The area of land we own, including the barns, garage and little summer house totals 2,425 square metres - for those that use other measurements of area, that's about 0.6 of an acre, just under quarter of a hectare, or about 26,000 square feet.

After our first major week of clean-up, which involved cutting and burning huge piles of bramble bushes (blackberries), wild wild roses and nettles which had taken over everywhere, we reckon we'd cleared about 60% of the land.

Much of what was revealed underneath was mainly grass, with quite a lot of deep moss too, but the moles have been busy, so a lawn mower would only be useful for certain areas.

It looked like the strimmer was going to be well used.

With a large area cleared it was time to make a garden bed for some vegetables. We already had potatoes growing in pots back at "home", which is just 4 kilometres away.

I had become intrigued by the concept of "no-dig" vegetable gardening, and had been watching lots of videos by UK-based no-dig guru Charles Dowding. You can find his YouTube channel here if interested in the concept:

So I began the construction of our first plant bed by laying cardboard, setting up planks to hold soil and compost in place, and sourcing the necessary materials.

Over a couple of weeks the beds took shape, and the plants started going in.

The other priority was to sort out a way to water the plants. There is an electricity connection to the property, but no service is currently active. Unfortunately there is no water connection. However, there is a huge concrete slab near the entrance of the property, and under that is a large water tank, which we estimate holds about 4 or 5 cubic metres of fairly clean rainwater.

Initially we could just pull this out with a bucket on a rope, but I had plans for a better system, involving one of the solar panels I had ordered, and a little 12 volt pump.

So, by the end of May we've got a fairly clear plot of land, a decent sized vegetable patch starting to grow, and a simple water system to see us through the summer.

During June I worked on getting a better solar system up and running, as well as keeping on top of the endless strimming and mowing.

As we enter July things are shaping up nicely, lots of vegetables are growing, we have plenty of power, and an automatic watering system.

Not a bad start to our current adventure...

Best wishes for a productive year.

Ian and Vanessa

(long term house sitting and property developing in Burgundy, France)

Here's a video of the latest projects at our newest project (slightly nerdy tech warning!):

  • July 15, 2021

Adapting to changing circumstances

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)

  • April 15, 2021

A new home base in France

January 2021 (from Issue 34 of House Sitting Magazine

Happy New Year.

Welcome to the first issue of House Sitting Magazine for 2021.

Are you, like us, hopeful for a better year ahead than last year turned out to be? I imagine, like most, you'll be glad to see the back of 2020?

I think it was a pretty challenging year for all of us, and having flexibility was one of the major keys to getting through these very strange times. I think the year ahead is also going to be filled with surprises and challenges, and who knows how things will play out over the coming months.

Vanessa and I do feel, however, that we made the best we could of the past 12 months, despite the situation we found ourselves in. We hope you managed to do so too.

At the start of October, with a possible new lockdown on the horizon for the UK, we decided to head south into France, in our newly converted campervan, where we had a great month of safe touring along the Normandy coastline.

Then in early November France beat the UK to implement a second lockdown, and we had to make a dash across the country to our new home base in the Burgundy region.

We had very kindly been offered an empty holiday property from a UK home owner, and were extremely grateful to have a warm and cozy home to ride out the six weeks of strict lockdown.

In order to leave the house we had to create and take an "attestation", declaring why we were away from home, and what time we had departed. For us, the only valid reasons to be out and about were either going shopping, or getting some exercise.

Exercise could be for a maximum of 1 hour, up to a maximum of 1 kilometre from home. I think sometimes our cycle routes took us a bit further afield, but we hardly ever saw another person, so didn't feel we were acting irresponsibly.

At the start of December the rules were relaxed a little, and we were allowed to wander as far as 20 kilometres away, for a maximum period of 3 hours. Our world opened up significantly.

Living in a home without pets made us realize how much we missed having animals around, and with France potentially opening up again on 15th December, we had applied for and were accepted for a couple of house sits. It helped that we were already in the country and close by. But everything still depended on whether the home owners would be allowed to travel, and then pass the mandatory covid tests before leaving.

Thankfully everything fell into place, and on the 15th we set off for Chamonix, high in the French Alps, for what would be an amazing Christmas house sit, looking after two dogs and two cats.

We stayed in a beautiful chalet with an amazing view out onto Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain. We enjoyed some fantastic clear winter mountain weather, and took the younger dog on some long hikes through the forests and up into the foothills.

We even had a go at snowshoeing.

The home owners returned after Christmas, and we stayed on in Chamonix over the New Year in the family's little apartment in town. Their winter renters had had to cancel.

Our next sit wasn't too far away, but we had to battle snowy conditions to get there, and couldn't make the final climb up the steep hill to get the the house. We had to park the van in the cemetery car park at the edge of town for the first night there.

Our second winter sit was fun too. We looked after two more dogs who both loved to be out and about in the snowy conditions, so we all got plenty of exercise.

On our way "home" we spent a couple of days in the campervan in cold conditions, with night-time temperatures dropping as low as -5 degrees (C). The heater system in the van performed admirably, and the sheepswool insulation meant we had a couple of very comfortable nights.

This allowed us to visit two wintery lake towns, staying one night at Annecy, and another at Aix-le-Bains.

Our almost-month-long mini adventure over Christmas and New Year allowed us to see a few places we haven't been to before, to look after some lovely pets, and to meet some wonderful home owners.

Once again, we feel we have made the most of what is currently available to us. I think that perhaps is going to be the key to enjoying what the coming year has to offer too.

Although for now we have lost many of our freedoms, and travel is incredibly restricted, it is as important as ever to remain optimistic, and try to find the positives in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

We have all had our horizons narrowed for now, so we must try to find the joy in the little adventures we can still create for ourselves.

Here's hoping for a happy 2021 for you all, however you choose to live it.

Ian and Vanessa

(currently house sitting (without pets) in Burgundy, France)

  • January 15, 2021

The on-going challenges of living a freedom lifestyle

October 2020 (from Issue 33 of House Sitting Magazine

I’m sure you’ve had a more challenging year than you ever imagined lay ahead as you celebrated New Years’ Eve 2019, and the calendar changed to 2020.

  • What changed for you this year?
  • What challenges have you faced?
  • What difficult choices have you had to make?

As we’ve mentioned before, our plans for the early part of 2020 changed significantly, and instead of heading for the USA and then the Caribbean, we rented a small cottage in the south west of the UK. We lived there for almost four months while the country went through various stages of lockdown.

Over the summer, as freedom to travel began to open up, we managed to make a tentative return to house sitting, successfully completing half a dozen sits over a period of three months, still based in the UK.

Those sits were often subject to changes and alterations, and four sits had to be cancelled as home owners were unable to follow through with plans they had made.

We saw that flexibility and adaptability was going to be key to moving forward into this newly chaotic house sitting environment, and decided to bring forward one of our plans that we’d been considering for a while.

We bought a big white van, and began the process of converting it into a campervan.

Our thinking was that as there are fewer sits being listed in general, and competition for those listed can be quite stiff, we are going to have less opportunity to pick those which really appeal, and fit our timeline exactly. This means our schedule is likely to have many more gaps, and a van we could live in between sits would be the ideal solution.

We could enjoy small travel adventures, all in the relative safety of our own home on wheels. An additional benefit would be that we could offer home owners the option of a socially distanced hand over the day before the sits begins, and sleep overnight in the van, moving into the house as the owners departed.

So in early July we made our purchase, a 2016 Peugeot Boxer van. They come in 4 different lengths, and 3 different heights, and we bought the biggest model available, an L4H3. A couple of our main criteria for the build were

  1. a full size bed which didn’t have to be dismantled and assembled every day
  2. room to carry 2 bicycles hidden inside the van, not on a rack on the back
  3. a “stealthy” appearance, so we could overnight pretty-much anywhere
  4. off-grid potential, so we didn’t need to pay to be in a campsite each night

We were fortunate that the homes we were looking after over the 3 months of summer were all spacious enough to fit the van, as well as offer the opportunity to work on the conversion with the homeowner’s permission.

While Vanessa did most of the pet care, house work, magazine and Facebook upkeep, cooking, cleaning and providing endless cups of tea, I spent an almost solid three months working on the van.

I loved the challenges of the creative process, figuring out how to make the various systems - solar power, batteries, wiring, lighting, heating and a water system - work together. I also had to figure out how to fit everything into a very limited space.

As I worked through those months a word kept surfacing in my mind which captured what it was I felt we were working towards together – resilience. Our goal was to build more resilience into our life, so whatever challenges the future might hold, we’d be in a stronger position to be able to adapt and cope.

I worked with a strong sense of urgency, knowing that perhaps autumn and the onset of winter held the potential for a second wave of the virus, and the possibility for a lot of plan changes and new challenges.

At one point over the summer we found that our schedule looking ahead was completely empty for the whole month of October, and thought that might be a great opportunity to give the van its initial test run.

Where could we go? Perhaps a trip around the Highlands of Scotland on the iconic NC500 route? So we added this to the calendar, hoping to return south for house sits booked for November and December.

As the end of September approached I worked frantically to complete the last few tasks on the van. At this point I hadn’t yet filled the water tanks to test for leaks, and we didn’t have a gas tank, so the cooking and heating systems were still untested.

At the same time as I worked on the van Vanessa was keeping an eye on Covid development in the UK, as it was starting to look like more lockdowns might be coming, particularly in Scotland, which has tougher rules generally than England.

As the end of our final house sit drew close our plans were still vague, and a last minute discussion led to a dramatic change of plans. We’d make a quick dash north to visit family (all with appropriate social distancing, of course) before potential restrictions came into place there. Then, instead of heading further north, we’d return south, and cross the English Channel to France.

It was beginning to look like our November and December house sits may be forced to cancel their trips, so we chose an option that would make it easy to return if these sits did happen, but also offer the potential to head to a warmer climate for winter should all of our assignments fall through.

So we headed south! The ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe took about 4 hours, and was only about 20% full. Once through customs we made our way to our first planned overnight stop – a free campsite for motorhomes on a clifftop above a small town to the west of Dieppe.

Since that first night at the beginning of October we’ve stayed in lots of different towns, usually in an area provided by the local council, set aside for motorhomes. Most are free, some have a small fee, particularly those by the coast, or near heavily trafficked tourist destinations.

We’ve explored the historic Normandy coast where the D-Day landings took place in 1944, and are now heading further west into Brittany, all the time travelling safely, wearing masks and adhering to local regulations. We don’t eat or drink outside the van and are keeping ourselves to ourselves in our small home bubble.

Over the three weeks we have been here all our UK sits have confirmed their need to cancel their own travel plans, so it looks like we made a great decision to make our way across the channel.

We’ve actually managed to secure three short sits here in France for early November, and hope they will go ahead as planned. Although as I write this it looks like France is considering further restrictions on movement, which again may impact our home owners’ plans.

There is also the possibility that these travel restrictions may impact our freedom to roam too. We’re keeping a close eye on developments, and looking at alternate routes, locations and possibilities. The offer of a second home to use as a base in Burgundy will provide a winter destination while we wait to see how things pan out across Europe.

As I said, going forward into this new, ever-changing travel landscape is going to require a great degree of resilience.

We hope you’re plans aren’t being too badly impacted right now, and we hope you’re managing to find ways to cope with the challenges you face.

Best wishes,

Ian and Vanessa

(currently heading west across Brittany, France)

  • October 15, 2020

Making the most of little adventures

July 2020 (from Issue 32 of House Sitting Magazine

Well, the last few months have certainly been challenging for most of us, haven’t they?

And of course, house sitting was hit pretty hard when lockdowns and travel restrictions came in to force around the world.

Vanessa and I had both of our April and May United States house sits cancelled, and our repeat sit in the Caribbean for June and July also fell through as all our flight bookings were cancelled.

Without a place to stay, and lockdowns beginning we quickly settled on a small holiday rental in rural Cornwall in the UK’s south west. We were lucky to find among our friends, a recommendation that meant we could stay until tourism reopened in July.

Our travels on hold and our adventures restricted

However, we soon discovered that adventure can come in all shapes and sizes.

Vanessa and I often dream of adventures on a grand scale – chartering a yacht in the Caribbean, driving across Australia, touring Eastern Europe, freefall skydiving... that last one is more me than Vanessa!

But adventure can be found anywhere, even in your own back yard.

I was inspired by a book I stumbled across (at one of our previous house sits) called Micro Adventures (Local Discoveries For Great Escapes), written by UK-based author, Alastair Humphreys.

Among the many suggestions this wonderful book offers, I was particularly attracted to the idea of an overnight adventure, sleeping under the stars in a hidden spot somewhere close to home.

Equipment required for such an adventure is basic and reasonably cheap.

The only purchase I made for my first wild overnighter was a water-resistant bivvy bag. I already owned a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and small inflatable pillow.

It was the warmest day of the year up to that point, in mid-May, so even under a crystal-clear night sky the temperature wasn't going to be too cold overnight.

It took about 5 minutes to pack the small backpack, and I headed out around 9.30pm in the late evening twilight. I had a rough idea where I wanted to spend the night, in a field just off one of the coastal paths.

I planned to pick a spot which would be out of view of any passing ramblers or dog walkers the next morning.

After a beautiful sunset walk along the coastal path I headed inland and picked my field, about 15 minutes walk from home. The grass was long and the earth dry and flat.

Within 5 minutes I was tucked up in my sleeping bag, with a stunning view over the coastline, as the last light faded from the sky.

As darkness descended the stars slowly appeared, and with almost no artificial light to pollute the night sky, the vista was stunning.

I slept well, and woke to find it was already light, and the sky was now overcast. I enjoyed a short "lie in" to take in the view, then packed my bed away. It was slightly damp from condensation that had built up inside the bivvy bag, but would soon dry out back at home.

In didn't take long to return home, where I discovered the time was 6.30am. Vanessa was still fast asleep. I reckon I must have had around 7 to 8 hours of sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

I had consciously chosen not to take my phone, so had no electronic distraction for the evening, and no real idea of the time. I wanted the experience to be one of enjoying the silence and the solitude. I used our small digital camera to take the pictures.

My little adventure was quick and easy to organise, super-cheap to fund, but paid off hugely in terms of personal satisfaction.

A small radius challenge

Together Vanessa and I also planned a longer term local Cornish adventure. As local lockdown rules eased we were allowed to travel a little further afield for daily exercise reasons. Our local walks along the cliff tops could be extended further.

We set ourselves a challenge to walk a section of the stunning South West Coast Path, between Land’s End and Lizard Point. We split the route into about ten sections, some of which would need a full day to complete, some shorter, which could be fitted into half a day, around our online teaching jobs.

We took the bikes in the back of the van, locked them up at the end point of the day’s walk, and drove to the start of that day’s section. At the end of the walk we’d collect the bikes and cycle back to the van at the start.

Over a month or so we completed our little challenge, and extended our route beyond Lizard Point to Helford.

We were lucky to have great weather almost every time we went out, and with the UK still under some long distance travel restrictions, we had this stunning coastline almost to ourselves.

We feel that despite the challenges the coronavirus crisis put before us, we managed to make the most of the situation we found ourselves in. We found simpler pleasures in smaller adventures, and thoroughly enjoyed our Cornwall micro-adventures.

Now, as we approach the end of July, house sitting is beginning to see a slow return to normal (at least here in the UK), and we’re now house sitting again, looking after two lovely dogs in rural Kent.

Of course, there are probably further challenges and surprises ahead, as home owners may have to cancels sits, because travel remains so uncertain.

But we know that whatever happens, we’ll still manage to find our little local adventures to enjoy.

We hope you do too.

Ian and Vanessa

(currently house sitting in Kent, UK)

South West Coast Path:

Micro Adventures book:

  • July 15, 2020

Welcome to a new world

April 2020 (from Issue 31 of House Sitting Magazine

Two months ago, on 15th Feb 2020, we published issue 30 of House Sitting Magazine, and published our previous blog post here on Long Term House Sitters, taken from the intro to the magazine. Who could have predicted our world would have changed so much since then?

Vanessa and I suspected the coronavirus was going to impact our lives in some way, as we'd been following progress in China and other countries since late January.

But we didn't foresee the huge changes which have been thrust upon us all over these past 60 days.

I imagine that everyone reading this issue of the magazine will have had to make significant changes to their plans, or adjust their lifestyle in some major ways. We all have.

Life for us all right now probably looks very different to the plans we had for our future just a couple of short months ago.

These extreme changes make publishing this issue of the magazine (#31) a very different experience to the previous one. The uncertainty around what the future holds for travel and house sitting makes it difficult to decide what content to include.

Obviously we want to help our readers keep abreast of current developments, and also to be able to have some ideas about how the future may turn out.

Therefore we've changed the focus of this issue to a degree, in order to factor in the events unfolding around us. We have a few articles from our readers about how they are dealing with their "new normal", as well as a couple of articles looking to the future, hoping to shed some light on how our chosen lifestyles may be impacted.

We've tried to keep the tone as upbeat and positive as possible, but we also want to maintain a realistic view at the same time, so some of the articles may not paint such a rosy picture of the future as we would all wish for. I sincerely hope that we're wrong with some of the more dire predictions.

Vanessa and I have had to return to work as online English teachers, as we now renting accommodation, and obviously don't know how long we may have to continue to do so.

Therefore, we're going to have less time to devote to the magazine, so have decided to make a (hopefully) temporary change to our publishing schedule.

We're going to change to a once-every-3-months model for a while, as we go through a period when there will be a lot less travel and house sitting. This means we'll have time to settle back into our work routine and secure our financial position before we get to work on the next issue, which we now plan for 15th July 2020.

We really don't like to do this, but we all have to make sacrifices at times in order to deal with the challenges life sends our way.

Our hope is that you enjoy this out-of-the-ordinary edition of the magazine, and we would love to hear your thoughts on the current situation, and possible future outcomes.

We are sure that as flexible and resilient house sitters, you're coping admirably with any challenges you are facing, and we wish you all the best for the difficulties and changes ahead.

For additional support and information, our active and engaged Facebook house sitting community group is a great resource for helping you through these difficult times and staying in touch with others affected:

Finally, we also hope we get the chance to meet up somewhere in the world, sometime soon.

Take care and stay safe.

Ian and Vanessa

(currently renting a tiny home in (a very quiet and empty) Cornwall, UK)

  • April 15, 2020

Time for some downsizing action

February 2020 (from Issue 30 of House Sitting Magazine

The Sun (British newspaper) ran a story branding the comic 'The Seven Penny Nightmare'.

Over the long hot summer of 1976 the British press whipped themselves up into an outraged fury over the UK teenage boys' comic "Action". My friends and I bought a copy every Saturday... price 7 pence.

The comic featured violently gory stories which paralleled movie and real-life favourites of the era:

  • Hook Jaw (Jaws)
  • Death Game 1999 (Rollerball)
  • Dredger (Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry)
  • Blackjack (Rocky / Mohammed Ali)

Parents worried, according to the newspapers, about the impact this graphic violence was having on impressionable young minds. However, I remember my dad enjoying a flick through my copy of "Action" every now and then.

As kids, we just couldn't wait each week to see how high Hook Jaw's bloody death count would be. It was all detailed in glorious colour on the centre pages.


The un-doing of the comic came towards the end of the year, when the new story, 'Kids Rule OK', caused concern to the point of debate in the House of Commons over the outrageous violence. In a world where older people were getting killed off by a deadly virus, teenagers were free to run amok. And they did, brandishing chains and knives, and generally causing mayhem.


On Saturday 23rd October 1976, thousands of boys across the UK were in for a big shock. There was no sign of "Action" on the newsagents' shelves. It had been banned.

Several weeks later, on 4th December, the comic returned in a much watered-down format.

  • 'Hook Jaw' had been moved from the centre pages, so blood only flowed in black and white, and the deaths took place 'off-screen'
  • 'Look Out For Lefty', a football story which was my least favourite, now took pride of place on the colourful middle pages
  • 'Death Game 1999' had been re-branded as 'Spinball'
  • 'Kids Rule OK' had simply disappeared, replaced by some bland racing cars drama

I continued to remain a loyal, though slightly disappointed reader. The comic limped along for another year or so, but when I look back I can't even remember what happened in stories like 'Slater's Steamer', 'The Loner' or 'Jinx Jackson'.

Nothing from the tamed post-ban issues is burned into my mind like the horrific surprise death of Rick Mason, Hook Jaw's long-time heroic adversary, from one of the pre-ban issues.

Click image below for a full-size version of the gory tale:


The post-ban version of the comic died with a whimper at the end of 1977.

The cover of the 12th November issue of "Action" announced 'Exciting news inside!'

The 'exciting news' was that "Action" would be no-more. It was to be merged with "Battle", which featured mainly war stories.

I never bought a single copy of "Battle-Action".

My comic-buying days were over.


Vanessa and I have recently started the process of downsizing again! We head off to the States in April, and will be selling the little van we've had for the past 18 months.

We've gathered quite a bit of 'stuff' and need to lighten the load again.

For me this will be the fourth major downsize in my life, although this time it is on a much smaller scale than the previous three.


My first huge downsize was in 2001, when my wife and I decided to move from the UK to live in Australia. We were in rented accommodation at the time, so had furniture to sell, along with all the things we'd both collected over the course of our lives to that point.

We sold pretty-much everything we had. For me the hardest things to let go of were my various sets of sports equipment - climbing gear, motorcycle clothes and equipment, wetsuits - all sold at car boot sales for far less than I felt they were worth.

And my collection of music CDs. I digitised most of my favourites, so still had access to much of my music.

However, one thing I couldn't bring myself to sell was my collection of "Action" comics, along with the Summer Specials and Annuals I had kept in pristine condition.

I boxed them up carefully and stored them in my mum's attic.


In 2008, in Australia, after my wife and I separated, I decided to downsize again. This was by far the most radical downsize of my life, and became a very public event.

After the divorce I'd realised it was time to sell up and move on, as that part of my life was obviously over.

I had the idea of selling my 'whole life' on eBay, and when I announced my intention to do so, the worldwide press coverage was astonishing.

I planned to sell everything as one single item, and leave Australia with just one set of clothes, and my wallet and passport.

I'd forgotten that I still owned a collection of comics, stored in mum's attic back in the UK.


Vanessa and I met in 2013, and lived together on my little island home in Panama for a year. The island was already up for sale when we met, and we knew our future would revolve around travel and house sitting.

It took a while to find a buyer, but when we sold up we left pretty-much everything with the new island owner, setting off with just one backpack each in May 2014.

This was my third major downsize, and was by far the easiest emotionally. This time I had very little attachment to any of the 'stuff' I owned, and it was very easy to just walk away and leave it all behind.

But my comics were still there, tucked away in the darkness.


Vanessa and I have spent most of the past 18 months house sitting here in the UK, and have had much more time to spend with friends and family.

My mum has asked on several occasions, "When are you going to get rid of that box of mouldy old comics in the attic? It's probably full of moths."

I've put off dealing with this for over a year, using the old "I'll get around to it when I have time..." excuse.

The real reason was that I just couldn't bear the thought of getting rid of this vivid part of my youth. The idea of just putting them in the recycling was unthinkable.

Over Christmas I realised the "I don't have enough time" excuse was no longer valid. With some longer sits coming up I did have time. I got the box out of the attic and crammed it into the over-stuffed van with the rest of our belongings.

Maybe, I reasoned, being 43 years old, and having had their 1970s moment of infamy, they might be collectible..?

I did some research online... going back to eBay again... and discovered there were quite a few issues of "Action" listed online. Prices were encouraging, but none of them seemed to actually be finding buyers, and I wondered if there really was a market for them.

The box remained in the back of the van for several more weeks, as I failed to act, reluctant to face the potential disappointment of nobody wanting to buy my childhood memories.

It was a heavy burden to carry, both physically for the van, and emotionally for me.


At our last house sit I buckled down and got to work, photographing each cover, and listing them online. I set my prices way lower than those that didn't seem to be selling, and was pleasantly surprised by the response.

I got messages, questions and comments, and a lot of bids and offers too.

The best sum I received for a single issue was £12.50... not bad compared to my original 7p investment. Most pre-ban issues sold for £4 to £5, and post-ban issues for £3.

My biggest success was with the 8 Annuals and 4 Summer Specials I owned - I believe a complete set of every special ever printed. They were still in pristine condition, and a buyer in the States purchased the lot for £260.

Overall I'll raise around $600 when all are sold... not bad for "mouldy old comics in the attic." (Mum's words, not mine!)

I'm down to the last 15 issues still to sell as I write this.

It's not all about the money, although it will come in handy, of course.

I am just happy that the comics have gone to people who really appreciate them, and who will get a lot of pleasure from them.

It would have been far harder to put them in the bin, knowing they'd be pulped, never to be seen again.


Isn't it funny... the things to which we have the biggest attachment?

I have known for years that my box of childhood memories was going to be one of the hardest things to deal with.

Before I listed them for sale I really did feel worried that they wouldn't find a buyer, and that I would find it all an emotional wrench.

But once the sales started coming in my mood lightened, and I became quite enthusiastic, enjoying mailing the comics to their excited new owners.

And once again, as in previous downsizes, I have been amazed by the feeling of lightness and freshness that comes with off-loading this huge chunk of the past.

I only have 15 more issues to sell, and they'll soon all be gone... well, almost!

Apparently I'm not quite 100% ready to let everything go...

I'm keeping one copy, and plan on framing the front cover. It is one of the iconic issues, with Hook Jaw causing terror and mayhem in New York. Quite fitting, I think, as New York is one of our next destinations.

Maybe one day I'll have a wall to put my framed cover on.

Best wishes,

Ian (and Vanessa)

(currently house sitting in Maidenhead, UK)


Find out more about the story behind "Action" in these two great articles:

ACTION: How Britain’s most brutal comic laid the real ’70s bare

Too much action: how kids' comic Action drowned in its own ultraviolence


  • Have you downsized, or are you considering doing so?
  • What was / will be the hardest thing to get rid of?
  • Do you struggle with emotional attachment to 'stuff'?
  • What do you own that you just can't let go?
  • February 15, 2020

A change is as good as a rest

December 2019 

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.

The Shambles, York City, UK

The Shambles, York City, UK

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.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York, USA

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)

  • December 15, 2019
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