I’ve gotten this question a few times lately, and it throws me every time. When it comes from a friend, it feels like a pat on the back. When it comes from someone I’ve just met, it feels like, “Nice motorhome, where’d you get it?”
I have been living without a fixed address for the past three years, either travelling or house sitting. What small amount of paper mail I receive goes to my sister’s house. My possessions–except for what fits into one checked bag, one carry-on, and a personal item–are kept in storage containers stacked in the basement of a house that I sit a couple times a year. I earn my living by doing language-y things and sending my work over the internet to my clients, most of whom I’ve never met in person. Years ago I used to dream about being completely portable, and these days that dream seems to have come true. People say “How do I get your life,” and I feel kind of proud, but also I don’t really know how to answer.
My gut reaction to that question is to say something like: Well, it helps to have never found the love of your life and to have not been blessed with children and to have not bought your dream home and to have not found a job that’s too secure. And if you can be lucky enough to be living in a city experiencing an economic bubble causing rental rates to skyrocket just as you’re looking for a new job, then bam, you have everything you need to start hustling.
Because hustling is one side of the coin. I spend a lot of my lazy time surfing the web, exploring sites about house sitting or short-term home rentals. Work-wise, I’m either rushing to meet a deadline or fussing about getting it right for a new client or floundering in some low level panic about when my next job will come in. If I am house sitting in my hometown, I’m scrambling to see friends&family, eat the good fi&chi, see my doctor&massagetherapist&hairdresser in the short time I’m there, all while re-packing my suitcase for the coming months when I will be away from my storage containers. (I tend to come down with a flu bug or a torn muscle right about the time I’m due to be home, too, I’ve noticed.) Other times of the year, I’m living temporarily in places in the world I used to fantasize about, but still spending most of my days scrunched over a computer just as I did when I had a regular day job–except my work hours are strewn all over the clock and in between work I get to visit the Acropolis or the Charles Bridge or a bird sanctuary island in the middle of the Danube River. Compared to my old lifestyle, when I worked a 9-5 job and lived in an apartment on a yearly lease, this new way of living is a clunky way to operate. With regard to planning for my future, even three months into the future, it lacks certainty. And I have way fewer footwear options than I’d like.
But the other side of the coin is wonder, for I am convinced there is some invisible force, which I think the olden times people would call providence, and which my mother would have acknowledged simply by saying, “How things happen, b’y.” Three winters ago, I came to the end of a job as my rental building was sold to a new landlord who wanted to move into my apartment. I decided to visit the west coast of Canada for the first time. It seemed a reckless decision, but I knew I had to make a change and didn’t know what form that change should take. By the time I left for BC, I had already been offered a series of house sitting gigs to start when I got back home, enough to get me through the next winter. That gave me enough rent-free time to build up a clientele for my freelance services. Since then, it’s been travel, then house sitting at home, travel, then house sitting at home, landing on my feet at each new place on a so-far-so-good basis for three years now. It feels like flying.
How do I get your life? To answer that question, I can give you a link to the freelancing website where I find work, a link to a house/pet sitting website where you can get free accommodations if you can take good care of other people’s property and pets, a link to a home rental website where you may find monthly rates in some cool location that rival your local apartment rental rates, a link to a site that helps you find cheap airfares. Those are some of the tools to be sure, but I should add that I’m not convinced it’s a foolproof strategy. I feel grateful for all the so-far-so-good that’s come my way, but I’m also aware that my good fortune could turn into some less fun kind of adventure at any time, because that’s how life works.
I think the real strategy to getting whatever kind of life we want to get, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, is to take it all on a so-far-so-good basis. Savour every experience as if it’s once in a lifetime. If we are in our hometown, try to view it with the wonder of a tourist. Eat the fi&chi like it’s going out of style. Enjoy the shoes you’re wearing today because they may not fit into the suitcase when it’s time to move on. Because everything is momentary, isn’t it, and aren’t we all just passing through?