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)