2020 – The year everything changed

At the end of 2019 we enjoyed a great Christmas and New Year with family, and were looking forward to getting back to international travel, with house sits booked ahead through until August 2020.

We had a couple of final wintery months in the UK to take us through to Easter, and enjoyed a chilly visit to seafront resort Blackpool, closed and quiet for the off-season.

We spent more time with friends, and fitted in a couple of lovely house sits.

All went well until March, when the spreading virus was classified as a pandemic, and the world started closing down.

One of the last little freedoms we enjoyed before the onrush of lockdown was a visit to Stonehenge, where there would usually be thousands of daily visitors. The place was almost deserted.

We had flights booked for April to New York, where we had a house sit booked in Brooklyn. We’d added a second sit in rural Massachusetts, and planned to rent a car for a bit of a US east coast road trip. In June our next flight was scheduled to take us back to St. Vincent in the Caribbean, where we’d be repeating our two month house sit from two years ago.

It quickly became obvious that our flights were going to be cancelled, and travel to New York was not going to be an option. It also became obvious that the UK was heading for a lockdown.

With everyone else having to cancel holiday plans, all house sits were cancelled, and we realised we were going to have to find somewhere to rent pretty quickly, as we were soon going to be homeless.

Through friends of friends we were offered a beautiful little barn conversion on the coast in Cornwall. The owners weren’t going to be allowed to operate their Airbnb business, so it was a win-win... they’d have long term renters, and we’d have a home base.

We were very lucky to find such a lovely location, and were able to spend a few months exploring the coastline, on foot and by bicycle, as spring changed to summer.

It was quite surreal to be able to visit national landmarks, and see only a handful of other people there. Usually these places would be packed with holidaymakers at this time of year.

In early July, as lockdown eased, people began to book UK-based holidays, and a few house sits started to appear. Our landlords were obviously keen to get their holiday rental business going again, so we were on the road again.

Through the summer we enjoyed a few lovely house sits, some new to us, one at a home we’d looked after a couple of times before.

But it wasn’t as easy as it had been previously. We could see that, for now, the world had changed, and we were going to have to alter our approach to our lifestyle if we were going to maintain some of the freedom we had enjoyed before.

A couple of the challenges we could see we were going to face were:

  • a much lower level of house sits being available. Before the pandemic we had been able to books sits almost back-to-back, and had travelled the world doing so for about 5 years.
  • more potential for problems if we booked international sits involving long-haul flights
  • a reluctance on our part to use hotels for gaps between sits

During lockdown we had spent many hours discussing potential solutions to these problems, and we had a plan. It was time to bring one of our future projects forward and make it a reality now... we needed a campervan as a “between-sits” home base.

This would also give us the freedom to roam and explore, potentially opening up the whole of Europe to us for extended road trips combined with house sits...

Coming up in the next post... building our new home on wheels.

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Phillip Smith - March 25, 2021 Reply

That looks just like Australian beaches and East coast towns every where in lock down in the middle of the pandemic We have been very lucky here in Western Australia we can travel and caravan. Joy and I meet Ryan in Exmouth after he travelled across the top of Australia to get into WA .
It has been a trying time for the whole world but living in WA at the bottom of the world has been fantastic.
Keep enjoying your journey

    Ian Usher - March 25, 2021 Reply

    Hi Phil,
    Glad to hear you’re doing well down there. Yes, as you say, challenging times for all, even Down Under.
    Great that you could meet up with Ryan, even if you did have to go all the way up to Exmouth.
    Hopefully we’ll be back there soon, and would love to catch up again.

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