Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Nicola (pic taken while all of us - except the dog - were watching Live Earth on 7.7.7 http://www.liveearth.org/)
We now have 10 days caring for a Basset hound pensioner, Fleur. She sleeps in until midday, and appears to be delightful unless you are a postie or try to share her sofa.
House sitting is brilliant - made all the more so by memories of our wet camping week. We have beds! Hot water on demand! Kids' toys and an internet connection... Both Lola and Nell have commented on how easy it is to take these things for granted, though they sensibly learnt the lesson in just four days sleeping under canvas. Our new home (near Aberdeen) is particularly enviable - an enormous wood and stone converted kitchen with a grass roof to keep it cosy and dry in all this rain; energy efficient lightbulbs and appliances; raspberries in the kitchen garden; plus recycling systems in place.
There's also a stream where the kids can try to scoop out minnows and bikes for exploring the neighbourhood.
The catch is that this idyllic rurual spot - down a grass drive - is also under threat of a bypass (the Aberdeen western periphery route or AWPR) that no one locally believes is needed or wanted. A recent list of people against the road was signed by more than 2,500.
The 46km road is due to wreck several rural communities, destroy around 20 homes and will see Aberdeen's International School having to be knocked down. And it'll cost a staggering amount, #395 million! You can find out more at http://www.road-sense.org/documents/PressRelease_15-Nov-2006.pdf
Perhaps the cost of this plan is the real reason why the new First Minister [since July] Alex Salmond, has been saving up his two salaries (as an MP and SMP)?
TOP TIP: You can find out how to housesit all over the world using formal sites on the web, but so far we've only tried it in Britain.
Our main success has been with relations who want someone living in to reduce the chance of burglary or families who need their pets looked after (in one memorable case we also got left with an 11 year old as his passport was out of date so he couldnt' go on holiday with the rest of his family!).
About five months before we wanted to go travelling I sent a letter to loads of old friends (my Christmas card list which I rarely get round to using) asking if anyone was willing to let us stay in their homes. Most replied! There's usually more house sitting opportunities than house swapping (more of that later), presumably because you don't both have to work to the exact same dates.