Taking Flight: Why we're selling everything and going house sitting around the world.
It all started with the snake and the peacock…
No, that’s a bit of a lie. It all started three years ago when my husband, Tony worked out he’d had enough of working for a big multinational corporation and I worked out that I wanted to start my own publishing company.
We’d been living in Scotland at the time and despite the spectacular scenery surrounding us and the amazing friends we’d made, we were stressed off our collective tits. Tony was experiencing the side-effects of one of the biggest downturns in the oil industry for years and my lovely editors at my publisher, Penguin Random House had all become casualties of publishing industry shenanigans.
At the time, we’d thought that finding a nice little affordable place in the United Kingdom would be a good idea. The plan was to settle down and get down to the serious business of writing yet more books. It seemed like a good idea. A safe idea. An overwhelmingly practical idea.
So telling ourselves that we were incredibly practical people, we set about on the epic task to find somewhere to live. Not Aberdeenshire, we decided. The presence of the oil industry had made the real estate too expensive. The Lake District in England’s North looked promising, as did Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland but as beautiful as they were, we just couldn’t find a place we could both agree on. And after one epic all-night drive home in a snow storm after viewing a spectacular townhouse attached to the Abbey in the very Gothic town of Whitby, we began to despair that we’d never be able to find somewhere that felt right.
Finally we decided that since nowhere was going to be perfect, that we’d settle on Edinburgh. Because who wouldn’t want to live in one of the most spectacular cities in the world? We rolled the plan around in our heads, decided it was a good one and Tony made the decision to tell his supervisor that he wouldn’t be accepting the promotion he’d been told about, and would be instead requesting a redundancy. Meanwhile I set up Exile Publishing.
Plans felt like they were falling into place. We began scouting out the Edinburgh streets we’d like to live on. Or more to the point—we scouted a whole lot of pubs and cafes, deciding that the food was absolutely amazing and that we’d have to watch our credit balance! And then Tony learned that he could only receive his redundancy payout if we move back to Australia. We’d have three months to pack up everything and go.
There was no question of us not doing it and although we hadn’t seen ourselves moving back to Australia, we decided to make the best of it. It had been over ten years since we left and no doubt the country had changed a lot. It would be yet one more big adventure.
We settled on moving to Adelaide, firstly because it’s one of the few affordable cities in Australia to live in and buy a house, and secondly because it’s one of the only cities in Australia that we’d not been to or lived in before. And it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s got an amazing food culture, arts culture, phenomenal beaches and even better, a bunch of wonderful people who we’ve already befriended. It should have been perfect. We’d be able to buy a house, settle down permanently and have a couple of critters—a cat and maybe a dog to keep us company, since we couldn’t imagine not having animals around us in some shape or form.
But we just didn’t feel right. We started looking at houses and nothing appealed. We just didn’t love anything enough. Thinking it could just be South Australia’s climate, we decided to take a trip to the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane. After all, we reasoned, maybe we were just missing the heat. We’d just spent most of the past decade in the Middle East and the tropics after all. And anyone who has spent three years in Scotland would be craving some warmth.
I managed to find one of the most amazing AirBnBs we’ve ever seen—an upcycled cow shed that was pretty much open to the elements with an open air bathroom. It was rustic, charming and above all inspiring. We also lined up a bunch of houses to view after immediately falling in love with the Sunshine Coast hinterland’s weather and scenery.
And we found our dream home. It was incredibly cheap by Australian standards. It overlooked a valley. It was a fully restored “Queenslander” that was over one-hundred years old, which is ancient by Australian standards and it was surrounded by a fruit orchard. But it still didn’t feel right…
It didn’t make sense. I felt completely disoriented. I was supposed to love this place. We were meant to make an offer. This was where we were meant to live! And then Tony voiced the words that had been rattling around in the back of my thoughts.
“What would you rather do instead?”
My immediate answer was that I wanted to have more adventures. Only the night before we’d found a snake in the kitchen of our AirBnB. It was only a python and my first reaction, instead of being horrified, had been excited. Here was an adventure! Here was something interesting, yet harmless. Here was inspiration for our stories! And the snake wasn’t the only inspiring beastie. There was also a peacock. A rampant, confused, lovelorn peacock that clomped over the cowshed roof like a dinosaur and woke everyone up at five on the dot the entire eight days of our stay. The peacock was giving me ideas for characters. I wanted more experiences like this. I missed traveling. I missed the stories.
Luckily, only a few months before I’d talked to someone in New Orleans who’d spent the past five years house-sitting around the world. They’d had so many brilliant stories about their adventures that I must have kept the idea sitting at the back of my mind.
Driving back from seeing that perfect house in that perfect little valley I turned to Tony and suggested selling all our stuff and house-sitting for a couple of years, at least until we worked out where we really wanted to live. As always, being the pragmatist, his first response was that he would have to think about it.
Now, five days later, we’ve made our decision. This is happening. And as for the dream house? Well, we learned not long after that the little perfect town wasn’t without its little quirks. Apparently one of our would-be neighbours wanted to get her Bobcat license so she could quit making amateur porn! Given the thinness of the walls of the average Queenslander and the way the sound would have carried in that valley, we may have just barely missed out on hearing a whole lot of noise that would have put the tremendous honking of the lovelorn peacock to shame!
And as for the peacock, last we saw him, he was serenading everyone from the roof of the shed, while the peahen ignored him completely because she thinks she’s a duck. The snake hung around the entire eight days of our stay and by the end of it Tony was happily brushing his teeth with it wrapped around the kitchen faucet!