When I first came to the Yukon in the summer of 2002, I lived for free for six weeks.

It was a refreshing and liberating time for me as it marked the first period in my life I was living on my own and not paying rent.

Sure, I’d lived rent-free before, but that was at home with my parents shortly after finishing college and, while I didn’t have to pay rent to stay there, I did have to endure the daily ritual of listening to loud Greek music and watching the Price is Right with my recently retired father.

So, understandably, I was a little taken aback by my inaugural Northern house sit gig.

My aunt’s friend’s sister’s neighbour was out of the territory for the summer and wanted someone to look after the place.

I remember thinking to myself, “House sit? What exactly is house sitting and why is this complete stranger allowing me to not only live in their house but do so for free?”

Growing up in Victoria, the whole house sit idea was very new to me and therefore hard to fathom.

Sure, I had looked after pets before and watered neighbours plants from time to time, but being a “cheechako” at the time I was totally oblivious to what I’ve since learned is a very common term used to describe the way many Yukoners live.

Like gypsies, they move from house to house, all the belongings they require packed in a suitcase or the trunk of a car.

For some, the house sits last just for the weekend while for others they can last months on end.

The premise is simple: essentially you are looking after a person’s home.

What exactly that entails can vary from place to place.

The more challenging house sits may require you to look after a couple of dogs and a well-maintained vegetable garden, whereas other opportunities might be as simple as keeping the heat on and a human presence in the home.

But then there is the mother lode, the crème de la crème, the Grand Pu Bah of house sits.

It lasts a minimum three weeks, but can go for as long as three years (trust me, I’m not making this up).

There are typically no pets to look after aside from a collection of rocks and a gold fish or two.

And then there’s the access to modes of transportation which can range from a little Mazda 323 complete with gas card, up to full use of their snowmobile, boat and SUV.

It doesn’t stop there.

Hot tubs, pool tables, espresso bars … the stories I’ve heard of some luxury living quarters are jaw-dropping.

And then there’s the generosity when it comes to food and drink.

From full fridges and pantries to total access to the home brew and liquor cabinet, the house sit gigs some of your fellow Yukoners are enjoying are quite simply startling.

And it gets crazier.

Not only are these certain individuals living for free, soaking in hot tubs, enjoying cappuccinos and 10-year-old Glenmorangie, when it is all said and done and the house sit comes to an end they are showered with gifts.

Money, art, jewellery, liquor, you name it.

Not only have they been living rent-free, sleeping in someone else’s house and, at times, bed, they are now being rewarded for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against house sitting and by no means want to see it stop.

I guess maybe I’m just bitter as being a homeowner now myself I can only reminisce about that one special summer where I lived careless and free in someone else’s home.

No older Greek man in underwear critiquing the showcase showdown, no roommates and no rent, just me, a stranger’s bed and a rock collection.

If you have a Yukonism or need a house sitter, e-mail George at yukonimprov@yahoo.ca.

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