Living on the Land … Spanish Manor Style
It’s important to know what you are looking for when applying for house sits. We have 5 factors that guide our selection:
- Unique locations or opportunities
- Expatriate families undergoing a sea change or overseas for business
- Strong unlimited wifi
- Non touristic & non English speaking destinations
- Close access to nature
With every sit we are looking for something new & unique that keeps us connected with nature. From off grid living on the side of a volcano on the gorgeous Lake Atitlan Guatemala, overseeing a Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) plantation in the jungle of Belize, to caring for a 300 year old Spanish Manor & surrounding property.
Living like a local is also important for us. Being able to integrate into a local foreign community, so we can experience life through the eyes of another. It opens our minds to greater understanding & acceptance. As well as creating an incredible amount of gratitude for the lifestyle we live, especially when compared with 3rd world communities.
Targeting expatriate families has been very successful for us. It not only ensures good living conditions & wifi, it allows us to share their visions & lifestyles. Coming from business backgrounds, we are both team contributors. So we love the opportunity to roll up our sleeves & help our owners with a project or two.
300 Years of Spanish Heritage
Our current home owners bought a broken down Spanish Manor House 12 years ago. Their vision was to return it to its former glory & share it with others through Airbnb style studios. They also wanted their children to experience another culture & grow up fluent in a second language. So Spain it was!
Armed with engineering & interior design skills, their vision honoured the heritage of the rural Galician region. All the original stone work, with fortifications, have been maintained. Meter thick walls with strategically placed arrow holds create a keyhole presence of the lush green gardens that await you outside. Add in an open plan kitchen equipped with marble top island benches, enamel sinks, butler’s pantry & stainless steel appliances … you get the most amazing kitchen to create & dine in.
Old stable doors are a feature of the living area along with a cosy combustion heater & bunker style TV/media room. Whilst all the bedrooms have a beautiful sunny outlook over the grapevines, pool & paddocks.
In rural Galicia … size does matter … the wealthier you are, the larger your ‘horreos’ or grain silo! These iconic landmarks punctuate the countryside whilst being in total harmony with their rural surrounds. Made from granite & wood they stand proudly alongside each homestead creating a distinctive look only found in the Galician region.
Something about this house sit makes you want to do things! Whether it’s cooking a local paella dish in the fabulous kitchen, playing in the spring garden & veggie patch or busting through a blackberry bramble in the back paddock. It’s a total privilege & joy to be caring for this historic beauty, her grounds & all the wonderful animals.
Connections to Community
Typically we apply for house sits that are not in tourist or expat areas. This allows us to experience life through the eyes of the locals & forces us to practice our Spanish … ‘mucho practica’ is the only way to master something new!
Whether it’s shopping at the pescarderia (fish market), making an emergency visit to the vetarinario (vet), buying feed for los pollos (chickens) & burros (donkeys) or trying to stop the consejo local (local council) from cutting down arboles (trees) on your property. ‘Situational Spanish’, as we call it, accelerates your fluency & understanding … even if they do speak 6 words a minute faster than us Aussies!
Wherever we travel we try to support local families & their businesses. Whether it’s a B&B, restaurant, corner store, street food or the local markets. We’d rather see the money get into the hands of the local community than some international chain! So we were thrilled when we discovered our home owners had the same priorities. They too liked to keep things local.
This created many special connections & experiences for us while we were at the Manor house – impromptu spanish lessons from our local stone mason, cafe & ‘postres’ with the local Major, roast lamb with our farm hand’s family, tea with the descendants of the original owners, engaging the post lady & her network of friends to help us find our runaway donkey & sampling the home brews of ‘vino rojo’ & locally cured ‘jamon’ in each village we ventured through. Funny how most of these experiences involved food!
One of the highlights of this house sit was being here for Easter fiestas … costumes, music & parades. The Spanish really know how to party! The heart of these celebrations was in Santiago de Compostela, a sacred city in the Christian faith. It is the final destination of the Camino Way, an age old pilgrimage from the 9th century. Hundreds of pilgrims complete their 780km (500 mile) trek over the Easter weekend. So it’s a colourful & emotional celebration for both locals & travellers.
From Corporate to Farmhands
The property is remote & all about building a self sustaining lifestyle. So chickens, ducks, sheep, lambs, orange trees, strawberries, figs, kiwi fruit & a big old veggie patch are all an essential part of the gig.
Our passion for ‘off the grid’ & rural house sits has seen a dramatic shift in day to day activities. Coming from the Corporate world our days were filled with training & supervising staff, project managing events, coaching & supporting leadership teams & problem solving ‘on time’ production issues. Now we are playing nursemaid to newborn lambs, wrangling wild dogs & problem solving leaks, filtration & solar systems. On reflection, the tasks are vastly different but the underlying skills are the same … adaptability, flexibility, diplomacy, proactivity & patience!
So if you are considering a remote or rural house sit, here are some of the capabilities you will need: troubleshooting, resourcefulness, quick thinking, a good working knowledge of water filters, gas boilers, generators, pool & alarm systems, mowing devices, handling & caring of livestock.
Remember … life is a continuous learning experience where you build upon existing capabilities. Your greatest growth gift is the transferability of your skills. For example, being able to use your office meeting skills to think ahead & get the necessary information from potential housesit owners during your interview.
Also, trusting your own capabilities is key. House sitting takes you beyond your norms & comfort zones. The big bonus … you learn to be comfortable in your own discomfort. This gives you the courage to step into new, exciting & sometimes scary opportunities … so go for it!