Our journey from Switzerland to our house sit in Spain was an adventure in itself. Once again, the flights were a little overpriced, so I put my crazy planning skills to work and found us transportation for a fraction of the price. But the road was long and more than a little bumpy. Only days before we set off on our 1,000 mile journey from our house sit in Mannedorf, we received a sad call from our host. But I’ve skipped too far ahead. Let’s start at the beginning…
This may be a bit unsurprising, but our biggest monthly expense is transportation. It’s relatively inexpensive when compared with the US, but still an obstacle to overcome when working with a budget of less than $30 per day like we are. Our house sit in Spain was in the small village of Freila, located in the heart of Andalusia. There are no airports in the village and very little public transit (as in one bus, once a day). So, I set to work looking for an airport that wasn’t too far away nor too expensive to get to, as well as the best option for car rentals.
After days of research, I was flummoxed. I tried every conceivable angle. I put together numerous departure and arrival combinations, using plane, train, and bus schedules. All were expensive. After a few more days of trying, I finally cracked the code and found the perfect solution, and managed to cut our travel expenses from a minimum of $250 to a total of $110. Oh, the things I do for the pleasure of finding the perfect price! Haha!
Männedorf to Freila House Sit
Finding travel arrangements for over half the price of a direct flight or train isn’t easy, nor does it come without some extra discomfort. This time around we had some strange layovers and two extra travel days, but we made it comfortably, happily, and with $100 extra in our pockets. I still call it a win.
From Männedorf, we took the train 12 miles to Zurich. Next, we hopped on a bus and enjoyed a stunning 200 mile bus ride to Milan, Italy. We stayed one night in a surprisingly nice hotel near the Milan airport for only $45. Then from Milan, we then flew via RyanAir to Alicante, Spain for $13 each. That whole journey, including the hotel in Milan cost only $110, including food (breakfast was free at the hotel).
In Alicante, we hired a car and booked an AirBnB on the beach while we waited for our sit to begin in Freila a week later. But before we even left Switzerland, we received some troubling news.
Change of Plans
Our house sit in Freila, Spain was booked months in advance. We had been chatting with our two hosts (sisters) throughout our European journey. Shortly before leaving Switzerland, we got an update that broke our hearts.
My sister had a heart attack last night and is in the hospital in Granada (45 minutes away). She is booked for surgery in a few days and I have been visiting her as often as I can.
– Host in Spain (highly adjusted)
Josh and I began making back-up plans in case the sit was cancelled when Josh mentioned how hard it must be to drive back and forth so far with a diabetic cat. I wrote our host back and offered to come earlier if she needed some extra help with the cat, but half expected she would cancel the sit entirely. To our surprise, she welcomed the help and asked us to come early. We cancelled our hotel in Alicante and instead went straight to her house upon landing.
An Unusual House Sit
Although understandably blue, our host was extremely welcoming and kind. We spent our time taking care of the house and pets as we usually would, but with the added benefit of chats over tea afterwards. Josh was able to provide our cat, Smarty, with her twice daily insulin injections so that our host could travel freely between home and the hospital.
Unfortunately, less than a week into our stay, her sister passed away. We did what we could to try and make the situation a bit easier, doing extra little chores around the house, baking cookies on our day off, and making ourselves available to talk. We also did our best not to complicate the situation further by being too “present”. After all, it’s a difficult enough situation to navigate without having guests (near strangers, no less!) in the house.
On the day of the funeral, we assisted with the post-service gathering at the house. We cleared our schedules and helped clean up, fried up some potato pancakes (which turned out delicious), and welcomed the guests while our host was taking care of some final details in town. Circumstances aside, it was a surprisingly enjoyable occasion. We got the chance to learn more about our hosts, met an expat from Idaho(?!), and ate some tasty finger foods. I’m not sure if fun is the right word, but it was far from melancholy and we really appreciated the chance to mingle with the local expat community.
Although our usual social awkwardness made us a little extra edgy during this sit, we actually had a wonderful time. I loved the area and came to truly love our host and her nephew. The experience made for a very unusual sit, but it was also positive in a lot of ways. It wasn’t just a first day meet and greet where everything goes perfectly to plan and our best “meeting-the-hosts” outfits stay crisp and clean. It was real life, day after day, getting to know each other in our pajamas, with laughter and tears. This was an opportunity for us to step up and be there for someone in need, a goal we hope we achieved. I learned a lot on this trip and am so glad that we went, and can’t wait to get back to Freila to visit our new adopted aunt.