I have mentioned before how Mark and I love our current lifestyle of house and pet sitting… The variety it offers, the different areas we experience, the wonderful pets we get to adore and take care of, the low cost, the comfort and conveniences of living in a house, the adventurous aspect of packing up and moving every few weeks or months. Yet, there is one, big, not to be underestimated negative aspect when committing yourself to full-time house sitting. One we only slightly realized while in New England, but that has bubbled up since we have been in California. Every day, it appears to become stronger: we are feeling lost! Not so much in a literal way as in “we don’t have our own place to live in and don’t feel like we belong anywhere”, which is true as well, but we knew this ahead of time when choosing this lifestyle. No, I mean socially lost. Mark and I don’t know anyone wherever we temporarily live and that does not seem to change for the better. We are isolated.
When house sitting in New England, we still had a home base we would return to once in a while and we were never too far away from friends and family for a visit there, or for them to swing by our current place. Moving across the country has taken that little bit of social network away from us. Just like when we were living on our boat or in our camper for years, we are rarely in touch with those distant friends. There is an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude, as usual life with all its responsibilities, commitments and complications continues in a very hectic way for them. We understand. And, we will touch base again when we are back. Whether it is in Massachusetts or in Belgium. That’s the way it goes.
Roaming about as much as we do is not good for our social skills, and because of our transient nature, we don’t make new friends. So, we are lost on a mental level. Mark and I just have each other, 24/7, unable to add new people to that circle of two. We live in areas unfamiliar to us, where neighbors know each other, or not, and where there is little chance of becoming part of a community. Settled adults already have their own group of friends, habits and lives. They like their environment, their lifestyle, their comfort zone.
To be honest, we could probably do a little bit more effort to meet people – if there are occasions to do so – but we often think it is not worth it, for three reasons: we don’t want to look desperate and feel embarrassed trying to connect with people who don’t give a darn about us (this is a lame and lazy excuse, I know), we are never in the same place long enough to make friends so why bother, and, even if we meet people (and who knows, get along with them and like them – and they us), what will we talk about? We truly have nothing in common with the majority of Americans, who live their protected lives in the suburbs, with their stressful job, two car garage, big house, nice yard, and young or older children… They have different priorities and busy schedules. At least, when traveling by sailboat or camper, you meet and hang out with like-minded people. That is a start. Now, we don’t fit in anywhere and continue to feel utterly lost.
Over the last month, Mark and I have done our best to blend in. We greet people on the street, we met one neighbor, we frequented a couple of bars and I signed up for classes in a yoga studio nearby. Has anything changed? Nope. Some people throw us a funny look when we say “hi” out of nowhere, we haven’t seen our neighbor in weeks now, we did talk for all of two minutes with a bar tender one night and I am amazed by the intent of the yoga students. They arrive in the room, set up their mat, do a few stretches, attend class, roll their mat back up and leave as fast as they arrived. I end up staring at my sweaty old self in the mirrors, seconds after the class finishes.
Despite all the advantages of this amazing lifestyle, Mark and I have come to the conclusion that the lack of social interactions and emerging friendships might be the downfall of our lives as house and pet sitters. Human beings are social beings. We are not at the moment and that will feel a bit worse over the coming holidays. Things might change if we can secure long-term house sits in cities like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin or Vancouver… The future will tell. For now, the dogs we sit are the beneficiaries of our extra time and need to share emotions: they are smothered with love and attention, and they don’t mind! 🙂
Do you have any ideas or tips about how to interact on a deeper level with locals, meet new people and connect with others in an unfamiliar area?