Snout and Crackling, pet pigs we looked after in London

Pigs, Portugal, house sits and veganism

It’s six am and a cat is prodding me. Now, I can hear the dogs rucking around downstairs followed by the insistent snorting of pigs in the garden. Yes, pigs. Welcome to our first London house sit of the summer! We’ve taken up temporary residence in a beautiful, leafy part of west London that we’d never in a million years be able to afford to really live in. Have I mentioned how much we love house sitting?

Snout and Crackling, pet pigs we looked after in London

House sits, from London to Portugal

Aside from allowing us to spend time in London and have some temporary pets, house sitting is also a great way for us to reduce our living costs. Life in the UK doesn’t come cheap and considering that our freelance and online teaching work has slowed down over the summer, some free accommodation is just what we need right now. If you’re interested in house and pet sitting, we’ve been using Trusted Housesitters for three years and would definitely recommend it.

London house sits, Andrew with three dogs we looked after

As well as house sitting we’ve been pondering our next move, researching different countries in Europe to visit, trawling through Airbnb listings (is it just me or is that site getting more expensive?) and looking at house sits. At the moment, our autumn calendar still looks pretty empty but we do know where our European adventure will begin: Portugal. We’ve landed a house sit in the south of the country with two more cute piggies, which we plan to follow up with stops in Lisbon and Porto before moving east.

Duchesse the cat we looked after on a London house sit

The UK and transitions

Despite the excitement of onward plans, there’s always something about being back in the UK that I find slightly disconcerting. Even as an ‘outsider’, I notice the pace and stress of daily life. Everyone is so busy, rushing from one place to the next, working long hours and struggling under constant pressures and expectations. Even though I’m not really part of this, over time I feel I’m absorbing some of the stressful mood and my anxiety levels start to rise.

London Bridge pub with The Shard in the background

Then there’s the fact that I’m constantly cold in the UK (even though it’s summer and people dressed in shorts keep telling me how ‘muggy’ it is) and I always seem to get sick when we return. Which leads me to wonder, could I in fact be allergic to this country? Jokes aside, as nice as it is to visit the UK, our summer here feels like merely a transition into the next phase of our journey and a reminder of the type of lifestyle I don’t want to step back into.

Veganism and travel

This summer we’re also making another big transition – we’re going vegan. This is something we’ve been learning about for the past six months and we’ve finally decided that for animal welfare, environmental and health reasons, we’re going to give it a shot. If you’re interested, some of the best documentaries/films we’ve watched about veganism are Cowspiracy, 101 Reasons to go Vegan and Forks over Knives.

View of St Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge in London

Although I’ve been vegetarian for many years, Andrew hasn’t eaten meat for at least a year and our dairy intake was quite minimal while we were living in Asia, going vegan is still a big lifestyle change. We’re having to relearn what we can eat, research new recipes and resist falling into old habits. We’ve discovered that there’s milk powder in so many products and even wine can contain egg. Although we’re still learning and making mistakes, I already feel healthier and happier knowing that my food choices aren’t having such a negative impact on the world.

Borough Market, London Bridge

So how will our new vegan lifestyle gel with travel? While some places like Chiang Mai are heavenly for vegans, there are plenty of other places where I’ve found it challenging to be vegetarian, let alone vegan.The UK is actually a great place to make the transition as there are so many vegan ingredients in the supermarkets and we have kitchens to cook in but how will we fare in South America in 2018?

We're back in Europe for a few months looking for house sits, caring for pigs and transitioning to a vegan lifestyle - here's how it's going.

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We still have plenty of time to figure things out over the next couple of months while we continue house sitting and hanging out with family and friends across the UK. Do you have any experience of travelling as a vegan? Any recommendations of places to visit in Europe?

  • Stefan
    Posted at 14:29h, 29 July Reply

    Good luck with the vegan transition guys. Where in West London is your housesit? That’s our neck of the woods- Acton/Ealing to be precise. We are in Colombia now but returning end of October 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:19h, 31 July Reply

      Hi Stefan, the house sit is in East Barnet and we’re here at the moment, it’s lovely 🙂 So are you just back for a visit in October then? Colombia sounds great, how would you rate it as a potential month-long base in South America? We’re on the lookout for somewhere to set up next year 🙂

  • Nikki T
    Posted at 11:42h, 30 July Reply

    Congrats on going vegan! My husband and I have kept a vegan diet for over a decade now. We found it easy to do in SE Asia and Europe. In Central America, at least Costa Rica and Mexico, beans and rice were everywhere which made it easy there too. Although I can not guarantee the food was lard free. My beginner Spanish wasn’t enough for that. We haven’t been to South America yet though, so it will be interesting to read about your travels in 2018. We are planning an overland (car) trip from the USA to Argentina starting November 2018. So, I was super excited when you announced your plans. We will be following your posts closely.

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:21h, 31 July Reply

      Hi Nikki, thanks so much for your comment, it’s great to hear about your experiences as a vegan travelling. Yes, we keep a record of how it goes in SA, Andrew actually speaks Spanish so hopefully that will make it a bit easier. Your overland road trip sounds immense!

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 17:08h, 02 August Reply

    Amy, how cute are those pigs? So I am not surprised you rather not have them for dinner 🙂 Well as a Dietitian I have seen a lot of Vegan patients who did not know how to be Vegan and avoid nutritional deficiencies…such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids etc. But sounds like you have done a lot of research and you know well how to ensure a balanced diet, I have no doubt that you will do it very well indeed. The Vegan Society is a great source of very good information. I think it will be a little harder for you to ensure a vegan diet in South America, but certainly not impossible. In any case, if you are well prepared, plan ahead, ensure you have emergency snacks (just in case), cook your own food if necessary…it should be absolutely fine 🙂 I will look forward to following your journey and how you get on with being vegan in SA 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:05h, 03 August Reply

      Hi Gilda, thanks so much for the advice, it’s great to hear your perspective as a Dietitian. Yes, we have been researching a lot but I still think we have plenty of learning to do. We’re trying to use Cron-O-meter to track what we’re getting from our food and we’re considering taking B12 supplements too. I will have a better look at the Vegan Society too; I’m not sure how things will go in South America, we may have to relax it back to vegetarian but we’ll see. Thanks for the support 🙂

  • Ryan Smith
    Posted at 14:51h, 03 August Reply

    Good luck with the vegan transition. It’s great to know your motivation is for a better world. Being a vegetarian isn’t an easy one. I would love to learn about your journey

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:18h, 05 August Reply

      Thanks Ryan, we will keep you posted with how it goes.

  • Patti
    Posted at 17:07h, 03 August Reply

    When will you be in Porto?! 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:21h, 05 August Reply

      some time during the first couple of weeks of October we think, either that or we’ll stop there on our way down to the housesit between the 25th and 28th September. Will you be around then? It would be great to catch up!

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 09:24h, 04 August Reply

    I would recommend the B12 supplements, very difficult to get it from a vegan diet. A lack of B12 has very serious consequences, I looked after a gentleman few years ago with severe neurological damage due to B12 deficiency, although in his case it was due to many years of a deficiency. I have not used Cron-O-meter, but tracking your micronutrients would be a good idea. It is a very healthy diet, you just need to ensure you meet all your retirements, if you have any questions feel free to get in touch?

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:22h, 05 August Reply

      Thanks so much Gilda, I will let you know if we have any more questions along the way. You’ve convinced me to get the B12 supplements though, at least as we transition and get used to the new diet.

  • Victoria @The British Berliner
    Posted at 11:01h, 08 August Reply

    Congratulations on your move to being vegan.
    We tend to go veggie most of the week as we have fantastic organic food stores, and I actually prefer seafood!

    Where I live, we have a farmers’ market on the corner, as well as the first 100% vegan shop, the first 100% vegan supermarket, and the first 100% vegan shoe store, on my street in Berlin! Even though I’m not vegan, we’re very proud of it and of course, as soon as it opened, I went shopping! I couldn’t buy a single thing though as most ingredients have some element of nuts, and I’m allergic to all of them! 🙁

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:18h, 08 August Reply

      Hi Victoria, wow, Berlin sounds very Vegan friendly! We’re actually house sitting for a vegetarian couple, one of whom is German, and she was telling us how Berlin is now supposed to be one of Europe’s top Vegan spots. I think we need to visit! It sounds like travelling with a nut allergy is even more challenging than travelling as a vegan too, especially in Asia?

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