Adventures come in all shapes and sizes; they don’t have to involve cycling the length of the Americas. In my blog, I am highlighting people who are living adventures of many different kinds – I love how different we all are and how we all find adventure in different things. It’s all good. It’s all about chasing your dream wherever it leads. Today’s guest post comes from James Cave, about lessons he’s learned from housesitting.
Around this time last year we saw an offer we couldn’t refuse. Somebody was looking for a pet sitter (or a couple of pet sitters) to come and look after their home and pets in the South of France for five months while they went to visit family abroad. We applied, were accepted and… well, here we are just over a year later: James & Jemma, two semi-adventurers learning how to speak French looking after a mid-renovation 200-year-old property and at the same time managing the challenges of working remotely.
Lesson #1: We can’t live without an iPhone (just yet)
When we left for France, Jemma decided to leave her iPhone behind. She was tired of being tethered to technology and wanted to use her time in rural France to break away from it. No such luck; an iPhone, as we’ve quickly learnt, is essential for anyone trying to do the whole digital nomad thing so it was a good thing that I brought mine!
Aside from being very useful for keeping in contact with clients, or homeowners who wanted us to housesit in the months coming up to this assignment, it’s also been our sat nav and dongle and without it we would either be lost halfway up a mountain in the Pyrenees or apologising to clients for not being able to meet deadlines and get our work submitted.
In the future we may have another stab at not being so connected to technology all of the time, but in all honesty I think it’s probably part of the territory that comes with a location independent lifestyle and we’ll probably just have to accept that.
Lesson #2: Learning French (or any foreign language) takes a lot of work
We could live here for the rest of our lives and never learn to speak French and a lot of people do just that. Living in the countryside there are few opportunities to practice speaking French aside from the traveler phrases. We always knew that learning another language would be difficult, but I think a lot of people are under the impression that by simply moving to another country they’ll “just pick it up.” In fact plenty of people told us exactly that before we left.
The reality is that by living here you’ll learn how to order a baguette or order a coffee but that’s a far cry from being able to speak the language to any degree of fluency. Learning to speak a language means daily study and very regular practice; not Rosetta Stone CDs but actually going out and speaking with other people. Interestingly looking after other people’s pets has been a great way of introduction to meeting other French people and having adventures in France, although it’s usually apologizing for something the dogs have done like chase their cat up a tree. It definitely gets you thinking on your feet!
Learning French isn’t easy, hence why so many of the other people we’ve met who live here haven’t progressed past the baguette-ordering stage.
Lesson #3: We should have done this earlier
Before we left for France I’d been planning on going traveling for five years. Had it not been for a giant kick up the ass by way of frustration with work and a few other things in life, I could probably have procrastinated another five years. Maybe even ten.
The reality is as humans we’ll always make excuses to play it safe. Admittedly, both of us did want to ensure our working life was well set up before we left and that was probably very wise, but we could probably have got ourselves on the road a lot quicker had the pressure been on.
France and adventure are not two words that generally go together – that is unless you’re on a mission to try the 350-400 different varieties of cheeses there are here. But actually living in the French countryside and at the same time trying to run two businesses has been an adventure in itself, something that surprised both of us. Sure it’s not trekking through the Amazon or even cycling across the Americas (very jealous) but in its own way it’s been its own adventure and a good starting point for all of the others ones we’ve planned.
James and Jemma are currently mid-way through a five-month housesit in the Midi-Pyrenees in France. They housesit full-time and have done so throughout the UK and in parts of mainland Europe with plans to continue their adventures across the world. For more information about house sitting visit Trusted Housesitters’ website where they found this housesit and many of the others they’ve taken on or find them on twitter, something James occasionally uses: @hscouple