In part one of the Chronology of a House Sit: Arrival, I discussed aspects of getting started with a new house sitter assignment including learning the layout of the home and community and reviewing the details of homeowners’ requirements. The middle part of the house sitting assignment begins once the house sitter feels oriented and has the basic needs of living handled.
Chronology of a House Sit (part two): Living Your Life in a Foreign Country
The middle of a long house sit is much like when you have moved to a new town and settled in. It is unlike a vacation or short visit where free time is spent entirely on holiday pursuits. We are house sitting as a sustainable lifestyle and have found that it needs to include three major components for it to work for us: structure, connection, and pursuit of personal interests and goals.
When choosing a house sit that is longer than a few weeks it is wise to spend time imagining what would be most delightful to you! Maybe the thought of endless, unplanned days is just what you are looking for in a house sit. Or, perhaps, this is the time you have been looking for to catch up on your reading, write your book, learn a new language or train for climbing a mountain. One of the great things about house sitting is that you can choose a length of stay and look for the right kind of setting to match your needs.
Having life settle into a rhythm is essential to having a good long term house sit. Without a routine, we found days a bit stressful, filled with “what are we doing today?” questions. Of course, there is plenty of room to flex, travel around, and follow new inclinations.
Having some structure makes this easier than having to plan everything about each day. As a couple, it allows us to have our separate routines and not need to be constantly checking in with one another. In each new location, there are special places we want to visit and explore and we have learned that it is important to plan for that as well. One advantage of a longer house sit is that there is spacious time for touring compared to a typical holiday schedule.
Even if one has no actual job besides looking after a home, there are tasks to complete, whether it is keeping up with correspondences, paying bills and handling banking or running a portable business. Scheduling time for self care, work and household tasks helps to make things feel familiar and to reduce confusion. Most house sits come with responsibilities, too, be it dog walking or watering the plants. Some of these can be scheduled, others might depend on how fast the weeds grow or when the fruit is ripe!
For some folks, finding gathering places for coffee and chats might be enough, but we like creating more connection. For us, house sitting is more enjoyable when we find some groups to join, invite friends or family to visit, or sign up for a class. Keeping up connection with our family and friends is an important part of our social life. Fortunately, Skype, email, instant messaging and Facebook make it easy. Sometimes staying in touch with the family or friends “back home” requires a plan for a skype call when everyone is awake and available
In a country where expats gather, it is easy to join a social group or a language conversation group. There are opportunities to volunteer that don’t require a commitment beyond several months. In the US we find meetup groups, a religious or spiritual affiliation, a familiar club or the local gym can be good resources for a social connection.
House sitting with a partner is a learning and growth experience. Spending time together, without the benefit of a familiar network of friends and activities, it is enlightening to learn more about each of your needs for connection and space. It becomes more important than ever to deal with disagreements and to tune in to and respect one another’s needs and limits. Each location comes with a new set of challenges. We quickly adapted to some of the changes, while others have taken a bit longer to figure out.
In a Canadian house sit, we each had our own office, Laurie had a place to exercise and relax that was away from the main house. We sometimes could not find each other! In most places we have shared an office space. While house sitting in Australia, the kitchen table became an art studio after dinner. We have enjoyed having our own favorite spots to read, work and rest.
As for personal goals, they might overlap with the social. My artist self needs to be creating something, and for me, this is best done in an atmosphere of camaraderie. If I can attend an art class at the local community center, college or artist club, my house experience house sitting is bound to satisfy my needs for routine, social time and creativity!
Some of our other personal commitments include writing, exercising, reading and studying a foreign language. None of these seem to happen for me unless I make a plan for when to do them.
As a couple that share many interests, we rely on each other for support and encouragement for more challenging pursuits, like studying a language. We both really enjoyed training together on the wii fit plus, while we were house sitting in Arizona in a hot climate which limited daytime outdoor activities.
Knowing about and planning for our individual and couple requirements for routine, creative expression and community has made our experiences as house sitters more successful and more fun. It has also helped us to be more selective when choosing a new assignment to apply for. In the third installment of Chronology of a House Sit we will review aspects of ending an assignment, including preparing the house, making plans and moving on.
Read Part three Chronology of a House Sit: Saying Farewell