Life update: travel changes, a UK autumn and living rent-free in London

It’s dark, bleak and rainy outside. For the first time in nearly eight years, we’re back in the UK for autumn and winter. Wondering what we’re doing here when we could be on a tropical beach somewhere? Life has certainly changed for us over the past few months, so I thought it was time for an update post. Here’s the lowdown on what we’ve been up to, how we’re living rent-free in London and our future plans.

St Paul's Cathedral from One New Change Shopping Centre, London

So, where did we leave off?

In my last life update, we were just about to say goodbye to Portugal. We packed up the car and left our apartment without any of the tearful nostalgia I felt when leaving our temporary homes in Chiang Mai and Hanoi. The Algarve definitely wasn’t the place for us long-term, but I have no regrets about our time there. As we drove the hundreds of miles through Spain and France, I felt nothing but excitement for our summer adventures.

The west coast of the Algarve from Sagres

First up was Paris, where we spent a couple of nights before catching a ferry back to Dover. In the midst of a European heatwave, we walked miles around the city, recording 30,000 steps (23km) in just one day! We marvelled at some of the city’s most famous sights, from the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur, not to mention the sadly-burned Notre Dame. We even squeezed in a trip on the Bateaux Mouches down the Seine and found some vegan croissants.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Next up was our big summer trip to South Africa, which was filled with iconic African wildlife, Jurassic-Park-like national parks and rugged beaches. We road tripped along the Garden Route, hiking our hearts out along the way. After an incredible self-drive safari in Addo National Park, we headed back to Cape Town, which has become one of our favourite cities in the world.

Elephants at Hapoor Dam, Addo Elephant National Park

Summer continued with family catch-ups, including a trip to Chessington and camping in the New Forest with our nephew Alfie. In late August, we returned to Portugal for a week-long holiday with Andrew’s family where we hung out by the villa pool and strolled around nearby Carvoeiro. It was a great way to close out our year in Portugal.

Amy and her nephew with a New Forest Pony

Trying to live rent-free in London

Since the start of September, we’ve been back in London with no set plan for the future. At the moment, we’re focused on working and saving as much money as possible, but how do you manage that in one of the most expensive cities in the world? Well, rather than rent a flat for an extortionate rate, we’ve decided to house and pet sit for as long as we can in the capital. It’s working out pretty well so far.

The striking Betz, who we regularly look after in Chiswick

As well as returning to a couple of previous house sits, we’ve used Trusted Housesitters to book up our diary until mid-March 2020, with a couple of gaps here and there. That means we can live completely rent/bill-free in London. Plus, we get to look after cute pets and explore new areas of the city. It’s literally saving us thousands of pounds.

Walking Marble in Kingston upon Thames, London

Sure, house sitting full-time requires a lot of planning and preparation. We have to spend time searching and applying for opportunities, then Skype with families or pop around to visit them before the sit. It’s also a big responsibility looking after someone else’s home and pets, one that takes a lot of time and attention. There are a few gaps in our schedule to fill too, but luckily my parents aren’t far away in Hampshire and are always great about letting us stay.

Brilliantly carved pumpkins at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens, London

In terms of work, Andrew has started supply teaching around London, which fits in well with house sitting because of its flexible set up. In other news, I’ve just accepted a three-month copywriting job with a UK travel brand. While most of the work can be done remotely, I have to commute to Surrey a few times a month. I’m also trying to keep up with some of my regular freelance clients, so it’s a busy time for us.

Trying to work while being mobbed by a cat

The good news is that we’re saving more money than we were living in Portugal and have been able to see family and friends more often. Yes, it does feel a bit strange being grounded here with no travel plans on the horizon, especially with the never-ending Brexit bullshit and miserable UK weather, but so far, we’re content with how things are going.

Travel, veganism and the future

That being said, this is a transitional time for us as we try to figure out what our future will look like. There are so many places we still want to visit and we dream of one day being able to live in the US for a couple of years and travel slowly across the whole of North America. We still want our future to be filled with new experiences and opportunities to live and work abroad. However, we also want to have some kind of home base and reduce our environmental impact.

Things are feeling more and more like a moral minefield. Can we really justify flying when the planet is in such peril? Can we even things out with lifestyle choices such as choosing not to have children, to be vegan, to live a minimalist lifestyle and use public transport in London? All I know is that we all have to make changes and sacrifices right now if there’s even going to be a world for the generations that come after us.

George Monbiot at the Animal Rebellion occupation of Smithfield Meat Market in London

We might not always succeed, but the point is for all of us to try. George Monbiot (above), the Guardian’s environment reporter who got arrested at the recent Extinction Rebellion protests, articulates this moral struggle much better than I can: “I will be lambasted for hypocrisy: this is now the favoured means of trying to take down climate activists. Yes, we are hypocrites. Because we are embedded in the systems we contest, and life is complicated, no one has ever achieved moral purity. The choice we face is not between hypocrisy and purity, but between hypocrisy and cynicism. It is better to strive to do good, and often fail, than not to strive at all.”

Jumping for joy at the Vegan Campout 2019

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing all these issues lately. Our final summer trip was to a vegan campout in the UK, which had a big effect on me. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people, to listen to vegan speakers and go to environmental workshops. We ate so much delicious vegan food and got to meet one of our activist heroes – Earthling Ed (pictured below serving us incredible Tofish and chips).

I’m vegan first and foremost for the animals. Before I went vegan, I had no idea that animal agriculture was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole of the worldwide transport industry. Or that it was the leading cause of deforestation, species extinction and ocean dead zones. In short, there’s no way we can tackle the climate crisis without society shifting to a more plant-based food system.

Go Vegan Save The Planet, banner at Animal Rebellion's occupation of Smithfield Market, London

With that in mind, we’ve been getting involved with the latest Animal Rebellion protests in London. I’m also hoping to launch a new website about vegan life in the capital in the coming months, with the idea of shifting some of my freelance writing into this niche. Travel-wise, we’ve decided to plan just one long trip in 2020 to Canada and the USA, with the possibility of a shorter Easter break elsewhere.

Life update travel changes, a UK autumn and living rent-free in London Pinterest PinPin Me For Later!

We really want to figure out more sustainable ways of exploring the planet while making our life in the UK as low-impact as possible. Part of our plan is to save up for and research building an eco-friendly Tiny House. Truth is, I really don’t know what the future holds, but living nomadically over the last eight years has taught us how to be adaptable, to live differently and not to fear change. I think these will be vital skills for the path ahead, wherever that may lead.

  • Rosie Thomas
    Posted at 09:38h, 31 October Reply

    Enjoy your time in London – your favourite city! I think you’d love Canada, should you get there. A beautiful country, where you’d find many like minded people! We just returned for a “catch up”, having taught there for a year many moons ago, and making life long friends.

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:55h, 31 October Reply

      Thanks Rosie, great to hear from you. We’ve been trying to get to Canada for so long now – 2020 is the year! Great to hear that you’ve had positive experiences there, teaching in Canada must have been incredible! Which area did you live and work in?

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 10:24h, 31 October Reply

    Amy, you and Andrew can certainly never be accused of living a dull life. It is great to hear about your future plans and that you are doing well in London, saving money, working hard and campaigning for a better world. Kudos to you, you are inspiring people. Brian and I have cut down a lot on our meat eating habits and going more towards a plant based. diet.. Like you we love traveling, but also think about the environment and how we can reduce our carbon footprint. We are planning to spend January and February in South East Asia, so I will be reading all your blog posts on that region. I hope we can meet up again sometime in the future,

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:57h, 31 October Reply

      Thanks for the lovely comment Gilda. I hope you guys are enjoying your epic Europe trip (I’ve got a lot of your blog posts to catch up on soon!). Pretty jealous of your upcoming trip to SE Asia; I’m writing about Vietnam for work at the moment and it has brought back so many incredible memories. Do let me know if you need any advice about particular destinations. Are you back in the UK for Christmas? Would be great to catch up 🙂

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 02:53h, 01 November Reply

    Oh my. Your first few sentences fit us perfectly, although today was a stunning day on the Oregon coast, we know the dreary and rain are coming and we question what exactly we’re doing! Of course, having just left a couple of days helping out Jim’s parents is the answer but we’re still dreaming of warm beaches and exotic locales. Alas, this is all to come! Glad to know you’re working and house sitting. Try to enjoy this temporary new adventure 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:11h, 05 November Reply

      Hi Rhonda, great to hear from you. Glad to know we’re not the only ones dealing with dreary weather and questions about the future! I’m sure you guys will be somewhere exotic again soon!

  • Patti
    Posted at 19:36h, 04 November Reply

    Isn’t it funny that even though we’ve got a generation gap between us, we’ve traveled very similar paths over the past seven years? Not so much in choice of destinations, but just overall game plan similarities. And, aren’t we lucky having crossed paths so many times?

    We too are in a bit of flux travel wise. Seven years in and the travel industry has changed so much, it’s become a constant dance to keep up.. Hasn’t it? And, other life experiences seem to be taking priority.

    So pleased for both of you that you’ve found living accommodations and work in/around London. Sometimes it’s good to sit still for a while, we’ve actually been enjoying it.

    I don’t know what 2020 is going to bring our way, but it will be an adventure one way or the other and hopefully, we’ll be able to cross paths again.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your tiny house build as plans progress.

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:14h, 05 November Reply

      Hi Patti, yes, we have travelled similar paths and it’s been great to cross paths. I’m thinking next time we meet will be 2020, fingers crossed, either when/if you’re in Europe or over the summer when we’re in US/Canada. So true, the travel industry has changed so much and blogging is a whole different board game. Sometimes I miss the old days when we first started, but change is good for the soul I suppose. Hope you guys are enjoying your stillness too. Time to start researching that Tiny House as the dreary winter weather kicks in!

  • priya
    Posted at 09:18h, 27 November Reply

    thanks for sharing

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