This post is out of chronological order in an attempt to be more timely and wish you all the happiest of New Years.
We are in currently in rural France, (Lupiac to be exact...southwest France). We chose to be here in a quieter and colder place for the holidays. Buenos Aires was over 80˚F and certainly didn't feel like Christmas. We found a house sitting job in France and are now looking after 3 dogs, 3 horses and 9 cats. We didn't know there were 9 cats when we committed to the job, we thought there was just one.
If you are unfamiliar with house sitting, it's a great concept. People with animals who need to travel offer up accommodations in their own house in exchange for caring for their animals, house and property. It's a win-win situation. We wanted some quiet time for the holidays and the owners get to travel without having to kennel the dogs or needing to hire someone to care for the horses and cats. We have a membership to Trusted Housesitters and can read regular posts from people who are looking for sitters. If you build up a good reputation with good reviews as a sitter, you may get lucky and sit in some great locations. There are tons in the UK and Australia. For some people this is their lifestyle. They just go from one house sit to another traveling the world. I guess it beats paying a mortgage.
Maeve and Liam have always begged for a dog. On this trip, they have made up lists on what type of dog would be best for them. They've always been wonderful with animals and, like most children, promised they could be responsible to care for an animal.
I imagined they would use this house/pet sitting opportunity to prove to us they could be responsible pet owners. Boy, was I wrong. They are loving the cats, but they can't manage to get outside with the dogs when necessary. They've even conceded to my threats of never getting a dog. They barely put up a fight. What a learning experience this was.
So we are about to end our first formal house sit abroad as we approach New Year's Eve. It is a natural time of year for reflection and resolutions. I don't think we'll be making any resolutions this year. Our changes last year will last us a while. It's amazing how an idea evolves into a decision and how one decision leads to action. We all have the power to make changes if we want them. Most of the time we already know what needs to happen, but for some reason we often lack the ability to follow-through. Life changing decisions are a leap of faith, a definite risk that many aren't willing to take.
I'm not sure what sparks the instinct for major change. Selling our house and resigning from my job wasn't my first monumental life change. I've always enjoyed traveling and had backpacked in Europe with friends a couple of times. In fact, on my second backpacking trip I met my husband Michael. Two years after we met, I quit my teaching job and left the country to explore that relationship. I remember being inspired by a Shirley MacLaine interview at that time. She had written a book and was promoting it. She said if you want the fruit from a tree, you have to go out on a limb. So I did.
There was less risk involved as a single person, but everything fell into place eventually. After a year, Michael and I returned to the states and settled into a more predictible lifestyle. We got married, bought a house and had two lovely children.
Most major decisions involve challenges and risk. Desired results are not guaranteed and almost always yield unexpected benefits. While life is often unpredictable, I don't want to go through it with the 'What if' factor. I also don't want to 'wait until retirement' to travel. Fortunately, I have a like-minded partner and I'm thrilled to share this adventure with him and my children. This journey at this time was the right thing for us. We've learned so much already. It's not always peachy (as Liam's slightly exaggerated blog posts suggest), but that's often where the true lessons are learned. We are all becoming quite resilient.
I cherish this time with my family. Over 5 months and 8 countries visited. I can't wait to see what the next year brings. As you enter the new year, I hope you find or continue to travel your path of happiness. If you aren't already on that path, then I hope you go out on a limb and grasp it.
Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions. –Dalai Lama