When someone offers you a housesit in the centre of Copenhagen for the entire summer, it is very difficult to refuse. Hence the reason I am writing this on a warm sunny afternoon in the Danish capital. Housesitting is not something I had ever thought about or considered up until a few years ago. I had read an article about someone who was travelling around and keeping costs down by housesitting. I decided to check it out. It seemed to be a solution to a problem I had been pondering for a while.
I don’t have a house. Some people have two. I live in one of their houses while they are not there. I forward the post, water the plants, look after the animals if there are any, and make sure the house is looked after, lived in and secure. In exchange I get to live rent free and experience a different lifestyle, culture and country. I started housesitting four years ago. I thought it would be for a year. I wanted to experience life in rural France. It was great, but after a year in a farmhouse in the country came a villa by the sea, then an old château, then a campsite in Italy, then back to the château, and now a city apartment in Copenhagen.
I thought I would have run out of money by now but it’s amazing what you don’t have to spend when you put your mind to it. And when you’re not paying rent either a few odd jobs here and there means money in the bank for the next housesit. We keep saying that this is the last one, we really need to put down roots and get our teeth into something. And we do, really. I want to work more. I want to work for myself on a small, heart-centred business. I have a million ideas every day but most of them focus on being in one place for a while and that just seems too absurd given the past few years.
So here we are in Copenhagen for three months. We’re already half-way through our time here and I’ve realised that this is the kind of tourism I enjoy. Being somewhere long enough to experience it properly. To live the experience and feel part of a place. Visiting cities has always been a difficult thing for me as I’m not really a city person. I don’t like crowds, noise and lots of people. When I’ve lived in a city I’ve always gravitated to the quiet spots, the green spaces, the water. Just to stay sane. Here in Copenhagen after an initial few days of wandering through crowded streets and waterfronts I’ve been visiting the tourist attractions with an average of one a week which feels perfect for me. This means I can actually take things in.
Last week I visited the Glyptotek which has a wonderful collection of art and sculpture. On Tuesdays admission is free so you can wander in and out and I had the whole day to enjoy it. This feels so much better to me that rushing off to the next big thing. I had a great time wandering through the galleries and revisiting the French painters I studied when I was in my teenage years – Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin… There are works from them all in the Glyptotek. Tomorrow is free admission at the Nikolaj Kunsthal which focuses on international contemporary art in a former church, so I’ll be heading over there to see what inspiration I can find.
There’s so much to see in Copenhagen – parks, harbours, shops, cafes, museums – that part of me thinks I should be out every day “seeing something” but I know from past experience that this just isn’t me. Most days I cycle to the small beach nearby for a swim in the cool waters of the Baltic Sea. I love this. The salt water feels so good and on sunny days it can look almost tropical. In the evenings I walk or cycle around Fælledparken near where we stay. This is such a great park with free dancing, offers to join in with Ultimate Frisbee, and people running, cycling, doing yoga, having BBQs and picnics. It’s got a great vibe and it’s good to see so many people out being active. But apart from my regular swims and cycles the rest of my time here is unplanned, unscheduled, unhurried and pretty slow.
Slow living is a way of life that I seem to have accidentally happened upon in the last few years and is now something that feels really important to me. Everything in our world seems to be getting faster and faster and sometimes I think that the only way to stay sane is to really slow down and give ourselves time to reconnect with who we are and the world around us. Maybe this is why the idea of “slow tourism” feels so good to me. I love to travel, see places, experience new things. But I’ve got to do it at my own pace. I can’t be rushing round and trying to see ten things at once. In the last four years we’ve seen so much and experienced things while we’ve been housesitting that just wouldn’t have happened on a short holiday.
Knowing about the different experiences you can have and the opportunities that are out there if you are willing to take a risk, rethink your priorities and say “what if….” a bit more, makes me curious about the future. I always thought that housesitting was going to be a short-term thing and we would eventually go back to who we were and what we were doing before. I realise now that’s impossible. There are a million ways to live a life and once you start out on the path to find your own way, there’s no turning back ♥