I can totally see that moving abroad seems attractive to many people, as I have done it five times myself. Our last move was in 2017 and we moved from Australia to France. As we are originally from Europe, it felt a bit like going home although France is not our home country.
After more than 5 years in France, we can conclude that our move was successful. We have settled in a lovely small town in the Aude surrounded by vineyards and gorgeous countryside. There is plenty to do in this area although Covid through a huge spanner in the works.
People have asked WHY we left, as Australia is an attractive country to visit and settle. It certainly is or maybe better, it was. We arrived in Australia in 1991 and at that time, it was a great country but it has changed and not entirely for the better.
Our reasons for leaving Australia
Cost of living
Since we migrated to Australia, the country has become increasingly more expensive. Consequently, a reason why we left was the high cost of living.
Easy to settle
France is part of the EC and that makes it relatively easy to settle there. At least for me with a Dutch passport and it would have been for my British husband before UK left the EU. Fortunately, he has been able to get French residency status because of being married to me.
Being able to see other countries and spend longer periods in other EU countries was part of our decision to leave Australia. Distances in Australia are huge, and it takes time to get a change of scenery. The landscape is stunning but relatively similar and it usually requires a plane trip to immerse yourself into a different type of landscape.
Closer to family and friends
An important factor was to see family and friends more regular although we found out that travelling in Europe is not without hiccups. A flight from Australia to Europe takes 24 hours if you are lucky. As a result, you don’t hop over for a weekend. It requires planning and realistically you may see loved ones only every couple of years. A few people came to visit us, but we often heard that a visit was too costly or would require their total annual holiday.
If you like it hot, you can have it that way Down Under. After having lived through 17 subtropical Brisbane summers, I can honestly say that I had enough.
What you must consider before moving abroad
Understandably there is a lot to consider before moving abroad. A mistake many people make is not knowing how they could support themselves. It is important to know to find out in advance if you are allowed to work and if there is work available.
If you are thinking of setting up a business, you must find out if there is a demand. Since we moved to Limoux, the offer of holiday accommodation has at least doubled. For example, a bed and breakfast business is not an automatic ticket to success.
Those who plan to retire, they need to check whether it is possible to receive your pension. Do your old country and the country you are going to, have an agreement to pay out pensions. Many Australian have found out that they won’t be able to receive their pension in France.
All in all, moving abroad can be an exciting adventure but it needs realistic planning. You need to assess your reasons why and become clear about the things you will leave behind.
I hope that give you some food for thought!
Feel free to reach out if you want to explore this further.
As a matter of fact, I can and ……..I am proud that I made it.
Curious? Here we go. In April 2022 instead of flying to London I spent unexpectedly a day in hospital on a heart monitor. Consequently I found out that I had a few heart rhythm issues and that I would need an operation. The cardiologist muttered almost mischievously that of course drinking alcohol was not the best thing to do. While saying that he was doing a scan of my heart and did not even look me in the eye.
In France there is a joke that if the doctor asks if you have been drinking and your reply is – ‘No, nothing at all’. He would say: ‘What, not even wine?’
I decided to take the cardiologist’s advice rather seriously. Maybe because deep down I felt that I would love to drink less regularly. In fact I had been thinking about it for some time. I looked up causes of the heart problems I had and there it was – cause number one, alcohol and number two, coffee. Two of my favourites!
The best decision in action
Moving forward 6 months, I am still drinking a few coffees per day. However I have almost removed drinking alcohol from my life and against expectations, it was not hard. To be honest, it almost went by itself.
This made me think as I never before had a real need to stop having a glass of wine. Despite the fact that I felt that I rather would not have the habit. This time the urge to have a drink was gone and I slowly became indifferent about it.
Throughout the summer I explored zero alcohol beers and I discovered they are getting increasingly popular. Furthermore there are some tasty ones out there and I tried a few different brands. When Autumn came and the weather became slightly cooler I did not fancy a cold beer.
Then something interesting happened!
Imagine coming home from work on Friday. You feel like a drink to reward yourself and to finish of the work week. Instead, I felt more and more that that drink was not going to give me that feeling of reward anymore. In fact a cold glass of sparkling water with a slice of lemon had the same effect. It seemed that the association of alcoholic drink and reward had become less strong.
It went even further and even if I poured myself some wine with a meal, I forgot to drink it while I was eating. So why have it then, was the logical conclusion. I am not sure what exactly happened but without me putting any effort into it, I had reduced the association between wine and enjoyment. To be honest I am thrilled that it happened like that.
My best decision made
Now I tend not to drink during the week and have a bit when socialising with friends or going out for a meal. I am happy to sit hours on the tiniest glass of wine and usually end up pouring it into my husband’s glass.
And one more thing – no more bad wine, please! If I have some, I would like a wine I appreciate. For instance there are a few local cafes where they serve rather mediocre cask wine. It definitely is less attractive going there since I made this decision.
Can you relate to this at all? I am sure there are many people out there who wish they could do this as well. Yet it never seems the right moment. In my immediate circle of friends there are at least a handful of people who have made the same decision during the last year.
Housesitting was something that came into our lives by pure coincidence! Before we left the land Down Under in 2017, a friend asked us to housesit for them. In fact, she wanted to know if I knew someone who would be willing to house sit their house and dogs. I looked at her and said: ‘We could do it’. And she said: ‘I hoped you would say that’!
That housesit in Brisbane was the spark that ignited a new exciting lifestyle. Since then we have done over a dozen house sits in The Netherlands, Spain and France. We only use one housesit website and nowadays get many direct requests to housesit.
Housesitting as a lifestyle
So, what is so good about housesitting, you may ask? I bet there are people who consider it their worst nightmare as you may have to work for the privilege. Homeowners may ask you to walk their dogs and cuddle their cats. Other chores are mowing the lawns, maintaining the pool, watering the garden and more.
Sometimes there are 3 – 6 dogs and a few cats. Some dogs apparently need up to 4 walks per day and cannot be left for more than 5 hours. Others may require daily medicines and leave dog poo everywhere which you are required to clean up.
If you don’t like the idea of this, you may not be suitable for a pet housesitting life as it ain’t a holiday. You are stepping into someone else’s life and are required to continue the pet routine that the homeowner established. In other words, the chores are the reason why you are there!
Your benefits are that it is free, most of the time as there are some homeowners who charge a small amount for utilities. And you get opportunity to see different parts of the world.
How to make your housesit successful
For us a successful housesit is a win-win situation and nor home owner and sitter should feel that it is not. In the past I have applied for housesits that required us to do change overs for a whole summer and be available 24/7. The owners would give us a small renumeration. But reality was that they wanted someone to run their business while they went on a trip with their teenage boys.
I could be interesting taking on a housesit that is partly a paid job but only for the right reward. As I said it must be a win-win situation – a barter that feels in balance. Not one that fills the pockets of the owner while the house sitter does the work.
Some homeowner consider you living in their home a privilege and ask you to perform more tasks than the home, pet and garden care. If they ask you to take care of their business as well, we feel there should be an additional monetary exchange.
When housesitting becomes a job
I know that some people take on sits like that for no extra pay, but I would not. It is important to discuss such matters before taking on a housesit. I have heard about disastrous mismatches where sitters left after only having been a few hours in the house.
The best example was a young, groomed couple that thought that an off-the-grid remote sit with 6 animals would be charming. They literally left right after having had dinner with the homeowners. They left them stranded with no sitters, 6 animals and a ferry to catch the day after. Not good for your house sit profile!
If the idea of housesitting appeals to you but you are unsure how to start, reach out and chat with me.
Ever thought about what would be your perfect lifestyle? I certainly have. In fact it started in my late teens when I wanted a summer job abroad. One of my high school friend’s worked a summer season in Switzerland and that seemed the ultimate dream to me. So I found a summer job in Zurich and returned for five summers while I studied in The Netherlands.
Working in Zurich created a hunger in me for exotic and foreign. Switzerland seemed to have better summer weather, the scenery was more appealing and it was foreign. A long story short, I had planted the seeds that caused me to change my lifestyle several times.
What is my perfect lifestyle
Without realising it before, I discovered that nature was important to me and so were sunny days. Growing up in The Netherlands, grey skies, drizzle and wind is part of life. I was no fan.
Jumping ahead several decades, I have moved abroad a handful of times. I have lived in Switzerland, UK, Australia and had some shorter stints in Greece and Norway. Nowadays I live in southwest France. The reasons for moving vary but work, opportunity, relationship and lifestyle choice have been some of them.
I grew up in the Netherlands and went for summer jobs to Switzerland. I joined a man in London and with him I created a new life in Australia. 25 years later we moved to France for lifestyle purposes. And believe me, I don’t think we are not done yet!
I feel we are still on the search for the perfect lifestyle – one that would suit us. I say ‘us’ as not everyone will have the same idea about ‘perfect’. Admittedly we are still searching but are finding more answers with every adventure we have.
Some of our recent adventures have been housesits in different countries. We have added working online, managing a holiday rental and a guardian role for a large French property . While doing such things we discovered what we like and don’t like. Above all we learned new things about ourselves.
We love France and have been here since 2017. Being Dutch, I can live in France while my British husband qualifies for residency because of being married to me. Understandably Brexit caused a little stir for the Brits that live abroad in Europe.
Although we love France we are still looking at other options. Unfortunately, if we stay in France we cannot receive a retirement pension from Australia. Yet, we can if we move to Spain or Portugal. For some reason France and Australia have decided to cut strings when it comes to pensions.
There are a few disgruntled Aussies in France who may not have been aware of that. We knew but as it was so many years ahead we still bought a house in France and settled there. After living here for 5 years we realised that the sun is not always shining in this part of France. The winters can be quite nasty and do really not differ that much from those in Northern Europe.
Climate change seems to be for real. Many places in the South of Spain have become unbearable during the summer months. Even in France where we are, the temperatures rise to high thirties for days on end.
What we have discovered….
While doing housesits and jobs in different locations we slowly find what our perfect lifestyle should and should not have. We have discovered the aspects that are important to us. Consequently we are now researching locations in Spain and Portugal on increasingly more factors. Examples are weather, unpleasant winds, sun aspects, proximity to medical services, public transport, work and costs.
There is obviously no perfect fit for everyone and people differ in needs, likes and dislikes. However after seeing ourselves and others make mistakes, we learned a few lessons. So start with considering the following.
Let’s have a look at role reversal. As some of you may know, we have made a recent move to the countryside. To be precise we have taken on the role of caretakers for an estate near the Pyrenees. It came our way and it shows how life can take an unexpected and sudden turn.
We usually do a few housesits throughout the year and 2021 was no different. In June we got a request to replace a caretaker’s couple so they could visit their family in the UK. The house was for sale and during that fortnight there was a house viewing. We helped to make it look presentable and met the couple that ended up buying the house.
To make a long story short, they asked us to become the new caretakers after they became the new owners. We accepted and hence the lifestyle changes since early December.
You can read about our recent lifestyle change here
The impact of our role reversal
The biggest change would be for my husband as he really was the one taking on the job. I have a job of over 30 hours per week and was not on the lookout for additional hours. I am aware I may have to chip in during the weekends especially when there are holiday guests. The house is already booked out during July and August. Considering it is not a cheap rental, we can expect demanding customers.
Our daily routine is as follows. We get up and I go to the ‘home office’. My husband puts on his work gear and ventures outside to tackle the property’s maintenance chores. The remarkable thing currently is the role reversal in this new life. I have not worked in an office ever in my life and all my jobs were hands on and quite physical. My husband on the other hand is an office man and never was that keen on manual labour.
The way it used to be
I was the one who took on landscaping, gardening, painting to name a few. Although I have always said NO to lawn mowing. Funnily now, we do what the other usually did and we seem to have taken to it without much effort. I must admit that although I do like my job, I find the ‘office hours’ element a bit of a struggle.
At the moment I am happy to do it, but I knew that I had to say NO to full time. In fact, I managed to negotiate a four-day gig, from Monday to Thursday. As a result I have been working like this since August 2021.
The role reversal has made me think about the things we like to do ‘innately’. I am sure that my calling was hands-on, active, outside and lots of people contact. My husband would be more of an office man happily sitting behind a computer and do his thing.
I have trying to install this sense of ‘doing what you are naturally good at and feel happy doing’ in my kids. Only time will tell if they manage to achieve this.
Writer David Chapman on how to improve your thinking:
“Learn from fields very different from your own. They each have ways of thinking that can be useful at surprising times. Just learning to think like an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a philosopher will beneficially stretch your mind.”