I’m not one for superficial travel; the idea of living in a hotel and visiting sights or sites with the help of a local guide is not my idea of a rich travel experience. You are seeing what others have seen and what others tell you are the most important places to visit. House sitting offers me the opportunity to be either tourist or local depending on my inclination and needs. It also offers the opportunity of animal companionship, something which traditional travel does not and it is often through animals that I get to experience the less well-known aspects of a place. In their own inimitable way they teach me what it’s really like to live in an area and in a particular home.
Usually in the first week I stay close to home. This serves a couple of purposes;it reassures the pets that I am not going away like their owners, gives me time to get to know them, helps me to accustom myself to a new environment and allows me to re-establish my routines like meditation and writing in order to restore my energy. After the first or second week, I then like to explore the area either by car or public transport. There’s nothing like local knowledge and sometimes neighbours or friends of the homeowners generously offer to show me around and share the history of the place, as well as where best coffee shop is located and those places to avoid. Of course I make my own decisions but it does help to have some initial guidance.
Sometimes, if my stay is longer than a few weeks or the area particularly welcoming, I start to feel like a local. It’s then that I usually make friends and I continue to nurture these friendships throughout my future travels.