This is a question we get often, and it’s a difficult one for us to answer. We aren’t being coy, but it really isn’t as simple as yes or no. We often have people referring to our winter vacation or our winter holiday, but that’s just not how we see it. We consider our 5 months of travel a regular part of our lifestyle.
I can hear it now, “You pack up and leave home to travel and explore new places, but you say it’s not a holiday? Come on now, sounds pretty good to me!” Of course, it’s good. In fact, it’s great! It’s just not a vacation. When I think of a vacation, I think of a whirlwind of touring and eating out at restaurants, staying in a hotel with my bed being made and my bathroom being cleaned. I think of doing exactly what I want when I want every day, then going back home, catching up on sleep and getting back to normal. Just try to imagine keeping up that pace (and the spending that goes with it) for 5 months!
Our time away from home is far from that. For our first two winters away, we lived in a 24′ travel trailer along with our aging cat. We cooked most of our own meals, washed our dishes, did our laundry, looked after the cat, and carried on with a fairly normal routine. We just did it on the road.
This winter, we are trying something new. We’ve ditched the trailer and traded up to live in other people’s houses. We are now part-time house and pet sitters (I like to joke that I had to come out of retirement for this job). We still get to travel and see different places, but we have responsibilities that go with the privilege of living in someone else’s home.
While house sitting provides us with free accommodations (and a whole lot more space than our trailer or any hotel room), we are still, for the most part, living a pretty normal life. We do explore the area where we are living, we enjoy new places to walk, hike, or bike, and we enjoy some touristy things like museums and different restaurants. We also walk the dogs, scoop kitty litter, wash the dishes, do our laundry, mow the lawn, and look after normal household maintenance chores as they pop up. We’re not suffering, but this isn’t exactly what most people think of as a holiday, either.
Another big difference between a travelling lifestyle and being on holiday is spending. We couldn’t possibly afford to travel for 5 months at a time ‘living large’ as most of us do on vacation. Of course, we enjoy a restaurant meal or a trip to the pub, but we cook the vast majority of our own meals at home. We visit museums and galleries and go on tours, but we try to find as many free or inexpensive alternatives as possible (fortunately, in places like London, that is super easy to do). Just as we try to do in our normal life at home, we try to walk as much as possible. It’s amazing how much more you see when you’re on foot. When we can’t walk, we take public transportation; we almost never rent cars. For the most part, we take cost into consideration more than we would on a short-term holiday.
For us, this is sustainable. For us, this is normal life. It’s a pretty damned good life, too!