For the past several years Steve and I have been planning to do “A Year in England”. We love England for many reasons – the beautiful countryside, the abundance of good walking and hiking trails, the charming villages, the people, the tea – and we want to do a longer stay.
We spent five months in England in the late 1980s (fall and winter) but did not return until 2000 when we spent a month in the Cotswolds during a glorious May. After that trip we returned to our Italy obsession, so did not start yearly trips to the Cotswolds until 2004. Since then we have spent at least a month in England each year, skipping only summer 2007 when the floods in the Cotswolds caused the water to be shut off in the cottage we had booked, so we canceled the England part of the trip. In early 2008 we spent two months in a cottage in Nailsworth and were lucky to be there for a mild and sunny winter. Last summer we had the best trip ever to England, during a hot and sunny May/June, where we spent six weeks in three different cottages in the North Cotswolds.
If you add it all up, we have already done “A Year in England”, in bits and pieces. But bits and pieces is a vacation and a year is living there. In May we return to the cottage in Nailsworth that we rented that 2008 winter to spend five months – May through September. It may not be “A Year in England” – more of a long summer in England – but it is a start at living there.
Santa Fe to Boulder to Nailsworth
We recently moved from Santa Fe, where we spent the last 20 years, to Boulder Colorado. We are in a house and town that we love. We will have been here less than six months when we leave for England. While I would like to spend the summer in Colorado, we have been waiting for two years for the Nailsworth house to become available, so need to act now before it gets rented out long term.
It is not easy to find fully furnished and equipped long-term rentals in the Cotswolds. I have been watching the rental listings for the past two years and not many are available. We could consider an unfurnished rental, but even if we went for the full year, I think it would be too much work to buy a household worth of furniture and get rid of it after.
We are lucky with this house rental because we know the house, the neighborhood, the neighbors and the owner – so we know what we are getting. Plus we don’t have to fly over to see the house before booking it. That is probably what has stopped us from renting a house – the logistics of doing it. Each time we did a trip to England we planned to look for a long-term rental, but gave up after a day or two, not wanting to spend our vacation time looking at houses. If we had found one, we would have had to rent it, fly home, spend a month packing and organizing, rent out our house, then fly to England – too overwhelming and we kept putting it off.
I think we were also wanting to settle our US living situation before taking on “A Year in England”. We loved Santa Fe, but knew we were ready for a change and had been looking for a new home for several years. Last fall we were deciding between going to England for a year or moving to Boulder. We moved to Boulder.
Finding a Long Term Rental
Vacation rentals (holiday cottages) are popular in the Cotswolds, so if someone has a furnished house, they turn it into a vacation rental, not a long term rental. There are some furnished long term rentals available, but not many. Most rentals are unfurnished with a one year commitment. One option that we thought of was to find a rental in the fall when some people rent out their vacation rental cottages long term over the winter, but then you are looking for another rental for the summer.
How We Are Making it Work
Work: Steve and I are both self employed. I run travel websites: Slow Europe and Cotswolder. Steve produces software for schools and works on Slow Europe with me. We plan to work part time (on the rainy days) while in England. We are lucky that the work we do allows us to do long trips, but this was a decision that we made more than 20 years ago – to find work that we can do from home or while traveling, and that we can do full time or part time. Over twenty years of great living and travel experiences, but no pension
We will take our notebook computers. Steve set up a PogoPlug on our home network and has attached large disks where we can keep our backup files and anything we think we might need for working. We can access this online.
Our House: Usually when we travel to Europe, even for a two month trip, we have a house sitter look after the house and our cat Buddy. We had a great house sitter in Santa Fe and various friends who liked Santa Fe and our house and Buddy and would house sit for free. It always worked out for us.
Five months is too long to leave the cat behind and too long to pay someone to look after him or to coordinate paid and unpaid house sitters, so we decided to take the cat with us (more about that in another post). We thought about offering our house to friends for the cost of utilities, but after figuring out the costs for this trip thought we would look into getting some income from the house.
I posted on SabbaticalHomes.com and sent an email to everyone in our Homeowner’s Association (about 50 houses in our neighborhood). I immediately got a reply from a couple that we know (T & P) who were renting a few houses away and had to leave but had not found anything they liked. I also got some replies from SabbaticalHomes.com. We agreed to rent the house furnished to T & P. The income from renting the house will cover some of the expenses for the trip and I won’t have to worry that the house is sitting empty.
The only downside to renting the house is spending the time getting it ready. We are doing all those projects we put off when we moved in, so the house will be “complete”. We have a huge closet in our guest room and I am putting all our personal things there – filing cabinets, boxes of travel books, my boxes of “stuff” and wool. We will move all our clothes and office things into that closet too. Then T & P will have a furnished house with empty closets (except that one) and drawers. We will leave our car in the garage.
Money: We set up UK bank account several years ago because it makes it easier for us when traveling in England. Before a trip we wire transfer money to the UK account, then use our UK debit cards or checks for expenses in the UK.
Mail: Most of our mail goes to a UPS Store mail box and we will have them forward it to us each week. We did this when we spent two months in England and it worked well. All our house utilities are on autopay and I can do other banking things online.
In the late 1980s we spent two years traveling in the US and one year in Europe. No internet, no cell phones, no Skype, no online paying of credit cards. Our accountant received and paid our credit card bills. We were “homeless” back then, so did not have to arrange anything for a house, but it was a very different travel experience from what we do now. Now it is all pretty easy.
What are You Going to Do for Five Months?
Five months to explore every corner of the Cotswolds! Five months to do every single hike in the Cotswolds (Walking in the Cotswolds)!
The main focus of our trip, as it is with most of our England trips, will be walking/hiking. We love the walking trails in England. Some days we do a two hour stroll, other days a longer five hour walk – nothing too strenuous and we usually stop in a village for tea or have a picnic on a hillside.
We plan to do day trips to areas near the Cotswolds and a few overnights into London (one and a half hours by train from Stroud). We are planning a few one-week trips to France and Italy. We can fly EasyJet from Bristol Airport or take the train from Stroud.
The United Kingdom allows travelers to spend up to six months in the country with no visa (Home Office – UK Border Agency). Steve and I are both US citizens and Irish citizens (my father is Irish, so I am a citizen – Steve became a citizen after marrying me), so we are able live and work legally in the UK. For this trip, because it is under six months, we will travel as US visitors.
Our costs over and above normal living and travel expenses will be $3,000/month, but our rental income will cover almost half of that.
- To rent a two bedroom plus office, two bathroom, furnished house – £1,000/month (approx $1600/month plus utilities)
- To lease a new VW Golf from a local agency – £160/week (approx $256/week – $1100/month). We may look into buying a used car, especially if we decide to stay longer.
On Our Way Very Soon
There were a lot of things to do for getting the cat ready to travel (more in another post), but they are done. Buddy will fly one day ahead of us because the wait at pet customs can be long and I do not think I could deal with that in my jet-lagged arrival state. A pet agent will pick him up and take him to a kennel near the airport. Then he will have a day to recover before being tossed into a car and driven to the cottage in Nailsworth.
We fly the next day. I arranged for a car service to meet us at the airport, get us and our luggage, go to the kennel and get Buddy, then drive us to the Nailsworth cottage. The owner of the cottage offered to get some groceries for us so we can arrive and collapse. I ordered some cat supplies (litter box, scratching post, etc.) to be shipped to the cottage before we arrive, so Buddy will have his stuff. The car we have leased will be delivered to the house the day after we arrive.
We won’t be traveling light, but we don’t need to since we are staying in one place the whole time. We can bring three bags each on British Airways (Premium Economy upgraded to Club World with miles). We won’t over pack, but we will need all our hiking stuff, plus clothes for warm, cold and wet, plus some of my Cotswolds travel books and maps, plus things for working. And Buddy’s cat toys. Okay, maybe I am over packing.
I plan to do more posts about getting organized for this trip and to post regularly while we are there. Let’s hope we have thought of everything!