Trying on the Expat Lifestyle
Do you fantasize about moving out of your home country? Do you think about one place after another, weighing the pros and cons of each, wondering at the feasibility of starting a new life in a new country? We did, with greater and greater frequency as the years went by. Our thoughts, in part, were driven by economics. Could we live better, on less, happily in another country? But the driving reason for us to try the expat lifestyle was our desire to do something new and adventurous. Our problem, if one can call it that, was that we just weren’t ready to commit to living in any single place yet. Our solution, and we think it’s a brilliant one, is to house sit our way from country to country “trying on lifestyles” in each place we visit.
For us, house sitting is an affordable way to spend enough time in a location to get the feel of what it would be like to live there. We do that by choosing house sits that are of at least a month’s duration and usually longer. We have all the amenities of living in a home and our daily lives are lived not like a tourist but like a resident. We market, attend community events, visit shops, and hike nearby trails. We read the local newspapers to gain insight into what issues the community faces and what is has planned for its future. We try to meet as many locals and expats as we can. We want to fully understand what our life would be like if we were to make our move permanent.
When people find out what we do, they’re usually curious as to how we do it. How do we find house sits? What did we do with our house and all of our belongings? How do we get our mail and pay our bills without a permanent address? How do we stay in touch with our family and friends? What happens if we arrive somewhere to house sit and it is not what we expect? What’s it like to live on the road? Don’t we miss our home? These are a few of the most frequently asked questions.
So, how does one become a house sitter? There are many sites on the internet that advertise listings and we joined several of them. We created profiles, put together references, made business cards, and obtained International Driver’s Permits and police clearance letters. Then we began applying for house sitting opportunities in locales of interest to us. Almost immediately we landed our first assignment for a seven-week house sit in Merida, Mexico – home to a very large international expat community. We had two months to prepare for our “new life” on the road.
We packed everything we owned into a 10×30 foot storage unit and leased out our house. We hired a property management company to free ourselves of the day-to-day oversight. We allowed ourselves two suitcases and a laptop each. We changed our cell phone service to an international calling plan. We set up online bill payments and banking. What little mail we were expecting would be forwarded to a family member. We notified our bank and credit card companies of our plans, paid our taxes, visited our dentists and doctors for our annual exams, and stockpiled some prescription meds. We spent time with our families, encouraging everyone to install Skype so we could stay connected while on the road. We did our best to cover all of our bases. Finally the day arrived, our house was empty, our cars put away in storage, and we were ready to go. For the first time in our lives we had one-way airline tickets!
So what is life like on the road? It’s alternatingly fun and frustrating, surprising and challenging, and exhilarating and exhausting. But we’ve come to like being “homeless” and find that living without our possessions is liberating. We embrace the unknowns of our immediate future – it’s exciting not knowing where we’ll be living a few months down the road, who we’ll meet, what we’ll see. Our expenses are minimal, offset by rental income from our house, so essentially it’s costing us nothing to see what life is like as an expat living all over the world. What could be better? We are enjoying ourselves so much that we may never decide upon a permanent move out of the country – but stay permanently on the move.
About the authors
Rick and Colleen Ray are the authors of the recently published “House Sitters How-to Handbook”, a guide to travel and adventure as a house sitter, available at Amazon and their website at www.ouradventureshousesitting.com.