30 Oct 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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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.