The Art of Turning House Sitting Into a Vacation

(if I had to do it all over again, I’d be a professional house/pet sitter…)

My last real vacation was with these (great) people.

Looking back, with the exception of my best friend’s 40th birthday celebration held in Key West over a five or six day (I forget) period of debauchery, non-diving and extreme drinking three years ago, I have not taken a TRUE vacation in over eight years, when I took off for five weeks to solo hike El Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.

Part of this non-taking of the vacation is due to timing and most of it is due to financial constraints.

(Just as an aside, if you are ever looking to test yourself both physically and mentally and come out with a richly rewarding spiritual and cultural experience, find the time to hike for four weeks from the French Pyrenees to the city of Santiago de Compostela in far Western Spain on this ancient pilgrimage. You’ll thank yourself someday.)

But, Spain wasn’t much of a vacation. It was a Quest. El Camino is not an expensive trip, staying at church run alburgues (hostels) and eating ‘pilgrim’s meals’ at local restaurants. A total cost to me of about 25 euros a day to hike, eat and sleep. The two days following in London cost me as much as the previous four weeks had!

A vacation should be time to just chill and enjoy the local food and drink(s), dip my toes in crystal clear, warm ocean waters, SCUBA dive deep below the waves or hike up to a waterfall or an ancient ruin in the jungle, like a PROPER vacation should be. Vacations are NOT going home to visit the family in December-cold Michigan. I love my family to death, but I’m often more tired AFTER visiting them from the weather and activities.

And if you were to not include this pilgrimage, my last vacation would have been in 1987 with my parents as we drove from San Fran to LA. In a car. With the family. Depressing…

Thankfully, though, I have friends who are constantly on the go and have lots of things planned, from weddings and get-togethers, to actual family vacations.  And because I am constantly without plans, a family or any other obligations, I am the go-to guy to house and dog sit. I am not complaining by any stretch of the imagination. To me, this has become MY vacation time. It’s my pied de terre. My second home. My HQ. And, it does have both its advantages and disadvantages.

Like all good vacations, even to those places where you’ve been many times before, there is an initial exploratory phase to get the lay of the land so to speak. WHERE do my friends keep their toaster!!!! WHY are there so many condiments in this fridge!!! On my current “vacation,” I quickly found my guest room and laid out my clothes for the week, consisting of gym clothes and my “writing clothes” which are sometimes plucked from the same clothes grouping…

This current extended stay vacation comes with Riley, who most of you know already if you are a Facebook Friend. Eager to great me, she quickly settles into her various sleeping poses. We schedule out our walks for the week, agreeing that 7 a.m. seemed reasonable wake up time and for both a quick bite and a walk, and then we quickly devolve into vacation mode, which is why writing this damn post is really getting to be a pain in my ass!

Riley's vacation time activities and mine are often synchronized..

Riley's vacation time activities and mine are often synchronized..

Even though I am 4 blocks from my house, I might as well be a world away from my home. Here, I have access to hundreds and hundreds of TV channels and can catch up on “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” and whatever else I don’t have access to home. This is very distracting when you should be telling yourself to write (i.e. this blog, “Cold Void” information, building the Cocktails and Movies website, looking for a job, etc., etc., etc.). Already, this vacation is killing me!  🙂

I also have access to appliances like a washer and dryer, which is a blessing when your laundry piles high.

Then there’s the stocked kitchen. The last words my friends said to me as I dropped them off at LAX (another service I provide) were, “Help yourself to anything in the kitchen.” I will. I have. I suspect that this serves a purpose for them as well: cleaning up the fridge of anything that is about to go bad. I will have to double my efforts at the gym as I graze through both the upper and lower parts of the Frigidaire AND the cupboards…

But, what really makes this a vacation for me is the silence and comfort. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my place. It’s the perfect size for a single man (alas), with comforts that I’ve always wanted to own. But, when I go on vacation to my friends’ house, I sleep in a very comfortable bed and don’t have to hear the sounds of loud, drunken 20-somethings talking about how they can’t believe that, “Tiffany was making out with Travis even though he just made out with Muffy. OMIGOD, RIGHT?” (how much trouble can one get into using an air rifle and BB’s to quiet the drunken cattle at 2:30A.M.?)  In this vacation home, the windows weren’t made in the 1940’s and actual reflect sound away rather than draw it in and amplify it. I slept through an entire night without waking up last night…

Unfortunately, someday I will have to say to my friends, “I’m sorry I can’t this weekend. I have plans.” I know, I know. I’m laughing at that thought as much as you are. I’ll honestly be very disappointed that day for putting my friends out. I’ll miss my vacations here. And in some weird way, I suspect that I’ll hate whatever I will be doing instead of house sitting here. I’ve grown accustomed to helping out. It gives me a purpose.

And a place to get away from doing nothing at all at my place to doing nothing here! The way a good vacation should be!

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