9. Change my life. What else can I do?

So, assuming that chalet hosting works out at whatever level, it is only for a 4 month period, so what to do Chap9.4for the summer months? There is a remote possibility that we could save some money during the winter season as we will have board and lodgings provided along with ski kit and lift pass. We would not intend to be partying hard so hopefully all our money would not be consumed in the après-ski bars. However, even if that is the case we would probably not earn enough to cover the summer months without further income.

House-sitting seems to be a popular option but although providing a roof over our heads all the living costs would still need to be met. Whilst the properties advertised are often beautiful, luxurious and in wonderful locations the ‘sitting’ is required out of season therefore the opportunity for local casual work is reduced if not ceasing altogether. If we could accumulate enough saved and rental income we could possibly manage one of the properties where a little extra work is required and therefore involves a small salary. This could be maintenance of the building or work on/in the garden or even involve looking after pets. These latter jobs are often for shorter time periods as people don’t tend to leave their beloved four-legged (usually) friends for long. This could still be an interim option during spring or autumn.


Abel Tasman National Park

If we were qualified and experienced in winter chalet management there are some opportunities to manage summer chalets with minimal significant difference in the role apart from an adapted menu and a lack of snow shovelling. We may need to learn pool instead of hot tub management but I doubt that summer pools would require a fire lit beneath them for that all important heating system. Plenty of the ski holiday providers are generic travel companies so if we do not blot our copybook too much we may be able to transfer within the same organisation to the summer resorts and even back again in the winter. If we don’t want to go back with the same company, hopefully, our experience may put us in a stronger position for the following season.

With these potential moves in mind it would appear that we are looking at the hospitality industry more closely although this had not been the initial intention. However, holidays tend to be taken in places which have a strong attraction due either to the climate, the environment, the activities available, or all three. We would like to find ourselves in a beautiful environment and preferably in a good climate. I can’t help but wonder what happens to all those empty ski-chalets for the other 8 months of the year. Is the climate kind enough for there to be no deterioration? Are they basic enough not to have any risk of burglary? Is it just the guests’ belongings which may be the attraction? Or are they in such benign places that there is little crime so they don’t need chalet sitters? Surely the summer Alpine holiday market has a long way to go to catch up with the winter demand and occupancy.

Another idea had been crewing on privately owned leisure craft. We are both comfortable on the ocean Annabel j slopewaves having spent our childhood within a stone’s skim of the sea. He even crewed in the calamitous Fastnet race of 1979 although obviously was one of the lucky ones. There are many classified adverts from people looking for assistance to make significant voyages and whilst not necessarily requiring a skipper’s license they do seem to want people to share payment of passage so this doesn’t quite fit our criteria but I’ll keep looking just in case the desired appointment materialises.

We have browsed the cheap properties available on RightMove and have found some unbelievable bargains… in Bulgaria. Some of the houses, and I use that term loosely, can be bought for as little as £1500 with a plot of land however I do think that the ability to build or rebuild a house from scratch would be essential without the money to throw at the project in a very foreign speaking country. Slightly closer to home are the Fincas for sale in Spain. These appear to equate to the old crofts of the Highlands of Scotland comprising a basic dwelling and a piece of land in an inhospitable environment.

Crofting on Skye

Crofting on Skye

In complete contrast to Scotland the problem would appear to be lack of water, not just from mains supplies but from the skies as well. Whilst we became quite excited at this prospect a reality check revealed that we had no idea where these plots were and there wasn’t really any reason why we would want to tie ourselves – as a purchase would do – to an unknown location. Maybe in the future if we do find somewhere we might like to settle that would be the time to look to purchase something quite rundown i.e. cheap, and renovate it to a standard acceptable to ourselves, not necessarily the holiday rental market. There are certainly some more intact properties available in France and Greece for that purpose but maybe by then we will be content to return to our own home(s).


My Granny outside her croft

My Granny outside her croft

On a romantic whim I had researched obtaining a croft in the North of Scotland, my family’s origins on my Father’s side. I was amazed at how much in demand they are despite the arduous conditions illustrated by the recommendation that one doesn’t aim to be self-sufficient from this piece of land, exposed to horizontal rain, gale-force winds, freezing temperatures and minimal sunshine, and that’s just summer. Cutting peat would generate significant amounts of internal heat but not enough to maintain a core temperature for the long dark winters whose season is considerably longer than ours a little further south. Potential applicants, i.e. those who don’t stand to inherit a croft, need to provide evidence of training and qualifications accredited by the Crofting Commission to prove that they can manage this rare resource whilst holding down another job. I wish my ancestors had kept ours in the family instead of diverting into the professions!

June 2013

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