It’s the first night. The house is unfamiliar, your bed is unfamiliar and all the noises are unfamiliar. You’ll be used to it all in another two or three nights, but in three week’s time you’ll have to go through the whole process again. Familiar is something that you have now become, well, unfamiliar with. You’re a full-time house sitter and life is very different now. It’s a hell of a lot more interesting, for one thing.
I first arrived at the decision to become a full-time house sitter through financial necessity. I had been a web designer for a company, 9:00 to 5:30, Monday to Friday, for three and a half years. I was 44, with a long line of dead-end jobs behind me before I finally put the design skills I developed at University to good use and became a web designer. But the truth is I was never cut out for the grind and dismal routine of full-time employment. Is anybody? I found being stuck in an office was gnawing away at my sanity and my serenity. I needed a change.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, one change can act as the catalyst for many, until the life around you is unrecognisable. So it was when I decided to become a freelance web designer. Obviously, one doesn’t suddenly decide to become self-employed and find a queue of clients waiting at the door. If only! Any new business needs a transitional period before it begins drawing enough income to keep itself afloat. I didn’t want to watch myself sink into the mire of debt and bankruptcy during that transitional period, however, so I needed a way to cut my overheads to the bone. My partner had mentioned house sitting to me before, as an option for the both of us to spend some time traveling and, in a rare eureka moment (I don’t have many) I saw house sitting as the perfect option for cheap living.
So, I quit my job and then I quit my apartment, having sold, dumped or given away almost all my possessions, leaving only a few boxes of precious things with family members. I joined a number of house sitting sites, created as dazzling a profile as possible, and managed to set-up my first appointment; six weeks taking care of a small holding in Wales, with two dogs, a huge garden and a whole lot of chickens. I was in at the deep end, and I loved every second of it.
One year and thirteen first nights later and I haven’t once regretted the decisions which brought me here. I’ve spent two months living in a multi-cultural wonderland in New York, spent hours walking alone in the Peak District, taken part in late night ghost walks in Edinburgh and donned a bee-keepers suit to mingle with a swarm. In short, I’ve done more in the last year than I managed in the previous ten.
That’s what being a hermit crab is all about.