A year ago today, myself and my adult child took one last walk around the island, on a gorgeously overcast and foggy day, the kind of weather that is like walking around on a cloud. We were saying goodbye to 15 years of childhood and memories, and to 15 years in our home, and both looking forward to new adventures ahead.
It has been a whole year since we lived together as a family, and I’m not sure the loss of that will ever get easier. I miss our little Stable Cottage every day.
Over the past year, they have moved four times, and I have moved 12 times! Houses, apartments, Airbnbs, rented rooms and hotels have been my daily hussle, and my two suitcases have carried my life on planes, trains and buses across two countries.
I’m starting to worry that once you start moving, it may be difficult to stop. I’m currently torn between a desire for absolute freedom and the need to hoard and nest.
At first I had an idea that it would be fun to live out of Airbnbs for a year. I made it to 10 months before it got too expensive, but I did get to sample lots of new places!
From the South of England to the American Midwest, I managed to take 5 whole months off from full-time work, apart from a short stint as a housekeeper in Falmouth, and it was worth giving up the security of a home for, at least for a while.
A ‘large house made of wood. Surrounded by trees. The house is filled with many rooms, each alike, but occupied by different souls, night after night’ – Twin Peaks
I have always loved hotels, which is why I do the work that I do. I love the temporary and transient nature of hotels, but with the cosy comfort of fluffy beds, good food and warm fires. There is something so glorious about drinking coffee in a hotel lounge while stormy weather rages outside.
I have worked in hotels and holiday cottages for 25 years. Before that, I always found it hard to hold down a job. Then a new pub and Lodge opened up in Lowton, Warrington, and I found my place in the working world.
I discovered the wondrous White House Hotel on Herm Island 22 years ago, and it became my home for a long time.
Working there in the Conservatory restaurant gave me a chance to leave my small town and live-in in a safe place. I lied about my experience as a Silver Service waitress (I had none), and would practise in my room with books and pens instead of plates and cutlery.
18 years later, I would return there as Reception Manager, and once again, I was just winging it. (I mean, who isn’t?)
Guests paid a lot of money to sleep under the same roof as us, eat the same food and watch the same sunsets, and we got PAID to do it!
When my child was born, we lived and worked at pubs and hotels in Yorkshire. Yet again, it was live in and good food, plus we got to live in Brontë country rent-free!
Last year, I thought I would try something new, but even though the great job I landed at the University of Oxford was as senior receptionist for the Department of Continuing Education at Rewley House, almost as an afterthought, even they had a 45 bedroom hotel attached, too.
What I realised while working in Oxford is how few people know about this seasonal worker lifestyle. Thousands and thousands of people around the world live this way, moving on every 6 months or so, from hotel to hotel, bar to bar, country to country, and yet so many don’t even know this way of life exists. It’s like tapping into some secret survival mode that half the world is unaware of.
The beauty about this kind of work is the ease of moving around. The work is much the same from one place to the next, and often contracts are short-term and live-in. It offers a huge amount of freedom, if you are an adaptable person who can move easily from team to team.
For years, when I was trapped in the cycle of child-rearing and school fees, I saw seasonal staff come and go, just passing by for a few months at a time then heading on to the next place, always moving, always free. I’m happy to finally get my turn.
Right now, back in my beloved islands, I have a clean little en-suite room a minute or two away from my desk, and a short bus ride away from the sea. After a summer of Oxford commutes of an hour or more, it is an easy existence. Plus I get fed by an amazing team of chefs! Such a life!
It may not be forever, but it is pretty good for now. It is time to save money for the next adventure, and maybe one day take my skills abroad.
Of course the real dream would be to work at the Salish Lodge and Spa, right by my other love, the wonderful and powerful Snoqualmie Falls in Washington. Perhaps someday that dream will come true.
Or perhaps I will just get to stay there, for once being the guest, cosied up by the fire while the dark trees blow outside. Another home from home, just for a while.