After becoming a digital teacher in 2015, it took me a whole year to work out that I didn’t necessarily have to stay in the UK. So, in 2016, I set off to house-sit in Europe, for what was supposed to be 3 months but turned into around a year.
Here is my summary:
Freedom is What You Make it:
The house-sit I came out for was 3 months, and I could have easily called it a day at that point, but with a flexible attitude anything can happen. Each time I moved to a new place, I had no idea what would happen next and no long term plan. People kept asking me “Do you think you’ll settle here?” I never thought that way. I took each phase as it came; that’s been very important to me.
Travel Doesn’t Have to be Busy:
This has been one of my most leisurely years on record. I didn’t go to loads of tourist attractions or famous cities, but have been living a quiet life in rural areas, hamlets and villages. The aim has been “retreat” and to seek a sense of peace. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to bring that inner sense back to the UK, and have even found that on trips home I’ve not been affected by the rush of London in the way I used to be. I’m much more in my own space. Another aim I had was to really live wherever I lived, and see what it was like to be a local there. I wanted to spend time with the land, at nearby lakes and woodlands, rather than feeling that I had to go and see all the nearest tourist attractions.
Learning a Language is Hard but it also Doesn’t Matter as Much as You Think:
I’ve been surprised at how hard I’ve found it to pick up a language from scratch, even if it’s French, which shares so much with English. Of course, I’ve been living in sparsely populated areas where the only people I might see for weeks are market stall holders. Ex-pats come out of the woodwork pretty quickly, but natives are unlikely to strike up conversations when you only speak a few words of their language, so it’s hard to break in. I was also learning from CDs, which unlike a tutor, can’t correct you on your pronunciation, so no matter how many words I learned nobody understood me any better, and I ended up returning to the art of pointing. However, the quality of my miming has hugely improved, and this has helped communication overall. Amazingly, even with a language barrier I’ve been able to negotiate most situations.
When Life is Travel You Can’t Put Your Life on Hold Whilst You Travel:
This is probably due to the “retreat” nature of my trip, but I wasn’t going to give up cycling or being a multi-instrumentalist just because I was travelling. In fact, half way through I snapped and took a trip home to pick up ALL my stuff, because I just couldn’t be creative without all my instruments with me.
Never Let Your “Nomad” Get in the Way of Your “Digital”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Work comes first, travel comes second, since one makes the other possible. Never pick a house-sit with unreliable internet (this has really bugged me as sometimes it’s been impossible to tell until I’m there). Don’t move house-sits on a work day. Make sure your phone works wherever you are and always answer it. As discussed in other posts, making the most of this lifestyle means developing the ability to switch in and out of work mode quickly and often.
I Didn’t Earn Enough:
Turned out that even though I was mainly house-sitting, this lifestyle held lots of unexpected hidden costs, from the price of my trips home to running a van abroad. When I realised I was going to end up making a loss and had to borrow money to get by, I was disappointed at first. Then it dawned on me that in 5 years from now I would laugh to think that making a loss in my first year of digital work + travel was a failure. Indeed, the only way from here is up and I’ve been able to secure more income for the coming year.
I Can’t Give Up This Way of Living:
Whether in Europe, back in the UK, or whatever happens next, I love the freedom of moving from place to place, having new experiences, and not having to worry about sorting out leases, plans, or dealing with a load of physical possessions. On preparing for my return to the UK, I surprised myself by being very straight with my employer, by saying “I want you to see the fact that I don’t live anywhere as an advantage”. Gone of the days of my being embarrassed about living in a van or yurt, and hoping my workplace never finds out. In fact, they can enjoy my willingness to travel, which will likely become part of my new expanded job-role when I get back.
So that’s it folks. What are your experiences of travelling and working at the same time?
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