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Carole Livesey and Chris Lampard

by Susan Holtham, 30th August 2007

British couple, Carole Livesey and Chris Lampard, have traded a double income and home-owning lifestyle in Scotland’s Glasgow for a bit of something else. If you had asked them four years ago if they would consider offering work in return for accommodation and living out of a car and two backpacks in between minding others’ houses you would have heard a resounding ‘no!’. But now, roving around the bottom of the world in beautiful New Zealand seems to suit our intrepid wanderers just fine.

Carole and Chris have discovered that by ‘giving back’ to the communities that they find themselves in, they create a loop of giving and receiving that has exponential benefits for everyone concerned. Tune in to see how this 40-years-young couple became financially independent and free to spread the word about their many passions in life.

We are life explorers

Carole Livesey & Chris Lampard

Ages: Carole b. 1966, Chris b. 1966

Nationality: British (soon to be dual UK – New Zealand citizens)

Hobbies: dog walking, travelling, house sitting, learning new skills, writing, teaching

“It’s so liberating to know that we can move whenever we want to. If we want to explore a place then we can go there.”

From Carol and Chris's picture albumSome people might think that living out of two rucksacks, a car and the occasional tent sounds like great fun – for twenty-year-olds. But throw dozens of borrowed homes per year into the equation and you have a lifestyle that suits our intrepid 40-something British couple, Chris Lampard and Carole Livesey, very well.

Two years ago they were living the dream: recently arrived from Glasgow, Scotland they had aced New Zealand’s tough immigration requirements and were enjoying a comfortable two-income lifestyle in well-to-do Christchurch. So why would you chuck all of that in to become full-time wandering house sitters?

We wanted a more flexible lifestyle, to travel and as a route to financial independence. By house sitting we save money on all the costs associated with renting or owning a home and we get to live in amazing houses that we would never buy. Also, we live in a different area every few weeks, so we have lots of new places to walk and visit. Plus there are great opportunities for networking and meeting new people.

They haven’t been at it that long – Chris and Carole’s first experience of minding someone else’s home was in early 2005. As enjoyable as that experience was, they didn’t fully launch into their new dedicated house sitting lifestyle until selling their home in July 2006. Since then, they have been remarkably successful at picking up one assignment after the other with twenty house sitting assignments under their belts in the first 12 months.

House sitting full time gives Chris and Carole the chance to explore their twins passions of walking with dogs (really!) and meeting more New Zealanders. Now that they have so much more going in the day besides trying to generate income they have been able to focus on becoming multi-skilled ‘uber sitters’ who are able to offer home owners a lot more than they expect.

We are keen to explore ways of combining our many skills and resources with travel. We would also like to do more house and business sits so that we continue to learn and develop. There’s a real need for skilled house sitters and we have a great combination of skills between us. We have just made a list of useful skills we would like to learn including DIY, car maintenance, farming and farm management.

Chris and Carole’s tips for successful house sitting:
1) There are lots of opportunities out there for proactive, skilled sitters. Many homeowners aren’t even aware of house sitting as an option for pets when they go away. Some of our best house sits have come from chance encounters and contacting people to ask if they need a house sitter.
2) Think about where you will stay between sits especially if you’re working. It’s useful to plan places to stay. We have stayed with friends and campsites are great, weather permitting. You meet lots of travellers on campsites and we’ve been offered a few sits by people we’ve met there.
3) Be flexible about location and dates. When we first started house sitting we wanted longer sits. However, there are more shorter sits available in New Zealand.
4) We use a variety of ways to find sits eg. Internet sites, agencies and through word of mouth.
5) Finally, you don’t need to become a full-time, professional house sitter. You can housesit for friends and families or for a cheap holiday, etc, etc.

Since abandoning a conventional lifestyle, Chris and Carole have been able to meet far more people in their new adopted country.

We have started to meet far more people through house sitting…There’s such cultural diversity in New Zealand in addition to Maori and Pakeha [white New Zealanders]. We have met people from all over the world while house sitting. It’s fascinating to hear people’s stories, where they were born and how they came to New Zealand. Many homeowners that we meet are from overseas and are returning [overseas] for a holiday or visit. We got an enquiry recently from a couple originally from Scotland who had been in New Zealand for 30 years and were going back to the UK for the first time to spend Christmas with family and friends. They were so excited about this trip of a lifetime.

The process of leaving Scotland to re-settle in New Zealand has seen Chris and Carole on a topsy-turvy ride of buying and selling possessions. Now that they have consciously sought to simplify their lifestyles they find that borrowing other people’s furnished homes for a time suits them very well!

Moving to New Zealand was definitely part of a plan to simplify our lifestyle. We wanted to spend more time outdoors and live a more flexible lifestyle than we had in UK. There’s a culture of living outdoors in New Zealand which suits us perfectly. Before we arrived, we thought we would buy a house bus and travel around the country. However, during our first winter in the south island we had more snow than in Glasgow and realised we might need to explore other ways of living a flexible lifestyle!!! House sitting has enabled us to travel whilst still living in comfort.

The principles of the simple living movement: wanting less, spending less and taking time to enjoy the simple things in everyday life resonate with Chris and Carole in their new incarnations as full-time house sitters and new New Zealanders. However, they had to first acquire a house-full of possessions in their new adopted country before realising that was not what they really wanted! That old adage about how ‘we don’t own our things but our things own us’ rings very true here!

We have become skilled at downsizing over the last four years. We sold our house in Glasgow and got rid of our all our furniture. When we came to New Zealand in 2003 we arrived with just one rucksack each. That was the sum of our belongings. Within six months we had bought a house in Christchurch and accumulated enough stuff to fill a three bedroomed house. In the last year we have sold or recycled our belongings, several times!!! It’s been great to let go of belongings. However, we still had a car load when we started house sitting. In the last three months we have reviewed what we need. We gave our tent away to a charity that would make use of it. It felt great to be able to give something away. We realised how few belongings we need when house sitting. We still have the same rucksacks that we came to New Zealand with and are well on the way to only having one rucksack each. We can then travel and housesit where ever we want doing a mixture of paid and unpaid work as we go.

Chris and Carole have achieved the goal of financial independence that most of us think is unattainable for those who are on the ‘right side’ of 50. A mixture of living simply and wisely investing their savings has meant that our intrepid couple are able to ditch their day jobs for good. Hooray!

Our flexible lifestyle is possible because we are financially independent. We no longer need to work because we have enough money for the rest of our lives. It’s taken us less than 10 years to achieve this. When we paid off the mortgage on our flat in Glasgow, we were well on the way to financial freedom. We came across a book when we were house sitting called ‘Your Money or Your Life’, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, which is about financial freedom and realised we are already doing many of the things they suggest such as managing your spending and paying off your mortgage.

Giving back to the communities that they find themselves in is an important part of life for Chris and Carole. When in between house sitting assignments they use a website called www.helpx.net which brings volunteer workers and hosts together from around the world [sound familiar? – your editor]. Volunteers perform a range of tasks in exchange for food and accommodation. Chris and Carole have thoroughly enjoyed time spent on farms in New Zealand helping out with tasks as diverse as bottle feeding lambs, grooming horses and felling trees. They have also been inspired by time spent volunteering locally for ‘Housing for Humanity’ and becoming business mentors.

Chris and Carole’s requisites for successful house sitting:
1) We have references from all our previous house sits as well as police checks.
2) We’ve also owned a house so we have that knowledge of running and managing a house, which home owners appreciate.
3) Some knowledge of animal behaviour is good, especially with dogs. A lot of our knowledge of animals is from experience. We’ve also read books and learned about animal behaviour.
4) Having access to the Internet has been vital for finding sits and maintaining contact with agencies and homeowners, especially as we move around frequently.
5) It’s worth investing in marketing yourself as a house sitter. Business cards are useful, especially when out walking with a dog. A website is also a great way to let people get to know you before they’ve met you. We also have business cards and a website that we can refer people to. Our website has more information about us including pictures, testimonials, articles and helpful hints for sitters and homeowners.
6) Making contact with other sitters has worked for us. We often refer homeowners to other sitters if we are not available for a house sit.

Chris and Carole have a range of other passions in life that they have recently been able to unleash due to their new time-rich flexible lifestyle. Chris has set up his own online business designed to help people to better organise their thinking, memories and communication skills called www.thinkright.co.nz. He is keen to teach the skills of ‘mind mapping’, a technique using diagrams to represent information as pictures, to anyone who is interested.

These are such powerful skills it’s really cool to share them with people. They are incredibly useful for anyone who’s learning, which I think is most people because we’re all trying to learn on some level. I think by having these skills it’s really great for people to make progress themselves.

So what does the future hold for our intrepid couple? These two British wanderers are trying to pass on their good fortune to all who meet them. By living community-focused lives unencumbered by stuff, Chris and Carole would seem to be well on their way to some kind of enlightenment.

We would like to help more people achieve financial independence and are exploring the notion of giving training in this area. We’ve already had a few articles written about our lifestyle in local papers. Writing articles and giving free talks about house sitting are part of the plan. One of the things we love about house sitting is the opportunities that we are creating. For example, Carole has enjoyed working as a live-in nanny, looking after children while their parents are away on business. This work combines her social work and house sitting skills. We would also love to become travel companions for elderly people wanting to visit relatives overseas. We meet lots of older people who need some help planning a trip or someone to go with them when they travel.

To visit Chris and Carole online check out their website at www.skilledsitters.com

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!