Everywhere I go, I am home. This is no easy feat: For the past six years, I have lived mostly rent free, moving around the country every few months as a professional housesitter. So far, I’ve lived in nine states (Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Mexico, Montana, Michigan, West Virginia and Maine) and visited 49, with only Alaska yet to go.
Housesitting is a sweet side gig for a travel writer, but it’s not for everybody. To do this year round you have to be highly flexible, willing and able to go anywhere, at anytime. You also can’t show up at somebody’s house with a U-Haul full of stuff, so you need to travel light and live light, all the time.
You also have to be able to feel at home in a wide range of places. I’ve moved from a cabin in Oregon to an apartment in Baltimore, from a golf course condo in West Virginia to a dune shack in Cape Cod, from an elaborately artful Earthship in New Mexico to an all but empty mansion in Montana. And I absolutely loved living in every place, all for very different reasons.
My most recent move kept me in New Mexico, but the living arrangements are as different as they could possibly be: last week I was living in an Airstream, this week I’m back in the Earthship.
A little over a year ago, my sister Sarah got married and moved to Freiburg, Germany, where her husband is in medical school. A few weeks after the move she called to ask me for tips on how to feel at home in a new place.
I told her to make an altar. One of the first things I do when I move into a new place is clear a shelf for my shoebox of favorite things: the rocks, treasures, and trinkets I’ve collected over the years. I find the simple act of arranging familiar things in a place where I’ll see and handle them daily reminds me of where I’ve been, and where I am and that helps me grounded and happy. That is Home to me: being happy where I am.
The concept of Home is different for everybody. For some people it’s where they grew up and for others it’s a place they discover. My own concept has evolved greatly over the past six years. Sure, in some ways, Home will always be the big red house with the big red barn on Main Street in Strasburg. But after six years of loving life on the road, I am proud to say, everywhere I go, from an Airstream to an Earthship, I am Home.