Retirement for Dummies ~ Go Big or Stay Home

A few weeks after I officially retired I  found myself pacing the cage with a serious case of cabin fever and more than a wee touch of the crazies. I was Bored with a capital B. And that always spells Trouble with a capital T.

What’s a recent warrior fresh from the corporate front to do? Well there was Donut Thursday, a couple of classes at Vanderbilt, trivia night with the girls, a few art projects that are now on the shelf and then…BINGO! Right back to the original plan that hubs and I talked about when I began writing this blog five years ago. Backpack and Rollie. It was now or maybe never. Time to walk the talk. Go big or stay home.

We started to hatch our plan back in March when a request came through from Home Exchange. Would we be interested in exchanging with a couple from Madrid in August? We mulled it over for about three minutes and, as we are not people who spend too much time contemplating the big decisions in Life, we said Yes indeed we would. So, that led me to thinking that maybe we could put together a few house sits and extend our trip. I applied, and applied, and applied and came up empty handed. Second best but never the chosen one. I was frustrated and ready to throw in the towel when a request came through from a mother-daughter team in Barcelona asking if we might be interested in house sitting over Christmas? We did think a few days about this one before deciding that it was a sign and we should go ahead and throw caution to the wind and say Yes again.

Now all I had to do was figure out how to fill in our time between August 28 and December 20. No problem. Or maybe a big problem. I wasn’t sure at this point.

I applied for three house sits in England over September and October and bingo, bango, bongo (or whatever) they ALL said Yes! On the same day. Yikes. It was getting very real now.

Our home away from home just outside of Barcelona

I once again had a full time job as I took on figuring out how to fill in the time between house sits and our home exchange. Good thing I had lots of time on my hands. I dug right in. Those who know me well know that I was in my element. Happy to be creative and busy again.

Overlooking a canal from the tiny living room of our airbnb in Venice

Hubs and I decided that if possible we would do all of our travel from location to location by train. I’d heard the trains in Europe were excellent. I’d also heard that they can strike without warning leaving you late or stranded. May the train gods be with us. I have now booked almost 17 different train trips as we wind our way from Madrid (home exchange) to San Sebastian (where I will celebrate my 70th) to Bordeaux then Paris, through the chunnel to London, on to Grantham, Thorne (house sit), Dunstable (house sit), Edinburgh, (airbnb), Cheltenham (house sit with a cat named Freddy Mercury), back across the channel to Paris (hotel), Turin (overnight on a long train journey), Venice (airbnb overlooking a canal), Rome (airbnb), Florence (airbnb), Nice (again breaking up a long train journey) and Arles, France (airbnb). Finally down to Barcelona (housesit) and then fly to London for New Years Eve and back home to Nashville.

How cute is this? Two weeks in central Florence and this is our home base

Nothing to it. One medium sized suitcase each for 3 seasons and one backpack/carry on. My new ipad with all of the apps will hopefully make life easy as we go. No cellular but FB messenger and WhatsApp to stay in touch.

What could go wrong? Everything and nothing. Too late to worry now. We leave in 5 days. No turning back. We are committed. We are ready (almost). And we are excited, terrified, exhausted and going for the gusto.

Watch out what you wish for. You might just make it happen.

Stay tuned for tales from the road.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

House Sitting in San Miguel de Allende ~ Tall Tales and True Adventures

Every experienced house sitter has a few tall tales and more than a few true adventure stories to tell. It goes with the territory. Stepping out into the semi-unknown can bring out strengths (and weaknesses) you didn’t even know you had. Or needed.

Folks ask me all the time about our gigs as house sitters. How does it work? How do we find the gigs? What does it cost? And most importantly, do we have any problems being away from our home, our stuff and our routine for weeks or months at a time?

I can bend your ear for a long time talking about why I love house sitting, but house sitting is not for everyone. This I know for sure. It can be more than a little daunting settling into a complete stranger’s home, sleeping in someone else’s bed, cooking in an unknown kitchen where you can’t figure out how to turn on the stove and (the biggie here for two complete tech-idiots) remembering out how to work the TV system/remote.  The first few days are often challenging and more than a little frustrating. But eventually we work the kinks out, manage a work-around or decide we can just do without and the thrill of being in a new place, a (usually) lovely home and the fun of bonding with new furry friends makes up for almost any inconvenience.

A few true adventures from our most recent house sit come to mind. I’ll leave the tall tales to hubs. I’m sure he can conjure up a few.

Sunny San Miguel.

Staying warm in sunny Mexico is no easy task in the winter where it can be warmer outside than inside. Many of the older homes were built to keep heat out and don’t have any kind of furnace or forced air system like many of us rely on in the US. They often have small fireplaces with a single gas pipe and no logs or any kind of heat distribution system. Fireplaces may or may not be vented and are generally lit with a flame-thrower (aka a BBQ lighter). They scare the hell outta me! And on this particular sit, the main fireplace in the living room was in pieces waiting for the homeowners to return from the US with new parts. So…workaround time. We found two electric blankets. One had a cord and the other did not. Lucky me, I got the one with the working cord. Hubs used it in the late afternoon when he took his daily nap to the drone of Fox News and we shared it in the evening while watching PBS. I also used it on the bed under the blankets to take the frost off the sheets before getting in to sleep. A pile of blankets keeps you warm, but the initial frost bite that hits you upon diving under the covers that can be a problem. We often climbed into bed wearing socks, sweat pants and a layer or two of long sleeve tee shirts.  As house sitters you must be able to adapt and overcome.

Taking advantage of the view.

Hilltop house sits without a car can be seen as a challenge or a free workout. We chose to see the 1.5 mile, 25 minute scramble down a steep cobble stone hill as a plus. Our walk did go right past one of the best bakeries in San Miguel so of course we stopped in for a morning treat. Our walking lead us to the Tuesday Market, the botanical garden (for more walking), the Bibliotec for information, lectures, movies and more. In the Centro, we walked to various parks, restaurants, shops, art galleries and pretty much everywhere we needed to go. My pedometer registered between 4-7 miles on most days. Not too shabby! Of course, there were also a couple of downsides. Being on top of a hill that was pretty much straight down meant that a return walk would be STRAIGHT UP. Being old, generally out of shape and at an elevation of 6200 ft, we wisely opted to have one of the ever-present taxis take us back up. Five minutes, 50 pesos and voila back at nuestra casa. As responsible pet sitters we never want to leave the furry ones in our care for very long. This required us to plan our outings to include returns for walking, feeding and playing with the two cute pups waiting at home. On a few occasions we found ourselves going down in the morning, coming up early afternoon, going back down late afternoon and coming up in the late evening. We thought twice about walking down that hill a second time. It had to be a special event, like the Christmas Tree lighting or spending time with visiting friends.

Down, down, down

Panio. Our favorite bakery all dressed up for Christmas.

Electronics. If we seem to have a reliable failure on our sits, it is with the TV, cable, sound systems and all that goes with the modern practice of watching TV. I’m pretty good with my laptop but I have fully and completely handed the task of TV functioning to hubs. Let’s just say it’s hit and miss. I have no patience and don’t care that much, so, if it doesn’t work the first time, either he figures it out or we’re reading. Not a bad choice really given the options. In the case of our most recent sit, they had Netflix and DVD’s but hubs couldn’t remember how they worked so we relied on PBS (yea!!) or Fox News (sorry!) for our English language viewing options. Interesting choices to say the least and for whatever reason Fox came from southern Florida unless they lost the signal and then it came from Pittsburgh. PBS came from Seattle. Go figure. And, even though it might seem like the perfect opportunity to improve my Spanish, local Spanish TV was way beyond my ability and I gave up pretty quickly.

No habla espanol. No problema. In a town like San Miguel, home to thousands of expats from the US and Canada, a visitor can get around easily with only a few words of Spanish. You hear a lot of buenos días and gracias but it takes a little time and a wee bit of courage to try tackling a short conversation. I made a fool of myself on more than one occasion like the time in the Starbucks (no the baristas do not all speak English) when I nervously stepped up to the front of the line and attempted to order my hot tea with cold milk on the side (té caliente con una taza de leche) and my old lady brain confused it with my other most frequently ordered beverage. It came out as té caliente con una copa de vino. Miguel, the young man at the counter kept a straight face while advising me that they did not sell wine at this Starbucks but the young lady working with him broke out into a huge grin, did a little dance and said “por dos” (for two). I got my tea with milk, made two friends at the Starbucks and became known as the copa de vino lady. I joked that I had approximately 67 words in Spanish and I existed only in the present tense. Nevertheless, I Persisted! And I got better.  And braver. Thank goodness for the Spanish app on my phone. One morning I used it in the butcher shop when hubs wanted pork chops and there were none visible in the case. When our turn at the counter came up, I stepped forward asking for la chuleta de cerdo. To my amazement, the butcher nodded Si, trotted upstairs and came down with a huge side of pork. He cut us off two beautiful chops and 45 pesos later we were on to our next shopping adventure – verduras.

These cuties were always happy to see us.

 

 As you can tell, our answer to one of the most important questions is that house/pet sitting isn’t always easy, not always comfortable, and can be full of surprises (don’t even ask about the morning I locked myself out of the house with the pups right before I was scheduled to be on a conference call for work). Given all of the above, our experience after dozens of sits, is that it has been a grand adventure that has given us lots of fun and funny tales (tall and otherwise) to share.

Is it worth it? Absolutely!

Nancy

 

 

 

Adieu to Ashland

The old adage that times flies when you are having fun is certainly true for folks lucky enough to spend time in the quaint and quirky town of Ashland, Oregon. Our three month house-sit is coming to an end. It’s time to say Adieu Ashland, it’s been great getting to know you.

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubs and I adopted the roving house-sitter lifestyle back in November. Our current plan is to explore as many of the cities and towns, historical sites and breath-taking natural beauty of this great country as we can while we’re searching for our next spot to officially call home. For now, home is wherever we unpack our bags and hang up our clothes. House-sitting offers us the opportunity to linger a while and blend in with the locals. So much better than a room at the Holiday Inn.

Ashland consistently ranks as one of the best places to retire in Oregon so when the opportunity presented itself to explore the area we excitedly threw our house-sitter hats into the ring and came up winners. Lucky us!

Our list of criteria for our next hometown is still very much a work in progress. And, it comes as no surprise that our must haves are as opposite as night and day. Hubs – opportunities to fish. Me – not too remote, moderate climate with lots of sun, walk to shops, restaurants, coffee if possible, arts and culture, educational opportunities (i.e. college town), low cost of living, easy airport access, friendly folks, good food/farmers markets, not a big city but near a big city…and the list goes on and on. Dream big and adjust as needed. That is my current motto.

So how does Ashland stack up? From our three months of totally random and non-scientific research here is my completely biased opinion.

What’s to love ~

1. Noble Coffee Roasters for great tea, hot chocolate, coffee and snacks like fresh baked raspberry scones. I will miss every one of the friendly faces behind the counter who greeted me each day with a smile and a chat. You guys are the best! Want to feel like a local right away? Find a great coffee shop and settle in. You’ll soon get the inside scoop on what’s happening all over town. Noble became my morning office, my afternoon break and the place hubs and I walked to on Saturday morning for coffee and a sweet treat (which we picked up up from Deux Chats along the way).

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

2. The Ashland Food Co-Op for good healthy food and the absolute best people watching. No day was complete without a stop at the co-op.

3. The Ashland Vibe. Bernie bumper stickers, Buddhas, fading prayer flags and yoga studios will always be top of mind when I recall our time in Ashland. It’s a community that definitely leans a little to the left. In a good way. Here’s how the pot boils – start with a few well-healed retirees, sprinkle with hard-working theater folk, artists and musicians of every ilk. Toss in a heaping handful of college students. Mix well. Flavor with a delicious blend of hippies – young, old and wannabe, local farmers and a few old timers who have seen it all and you brew up the heady sauce of interesting, intelligent, quirky, fun and friendly that is Ashland. It is a sweet elixir indeed. A century ago it was the lithia water that made Ashland unique, but I know for sure it’s the people that make it so today. Ashland Prayer Flags

4. Arts and Culture. It’s the home of the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival so Ashland has become a tourist town for sure, but the year round residents share a love of art in all its forms. Opportunities to explore your inner artist abound. I took full advantage at the Ashland Art Center’s classes where I played with clay and learned the art of needle felting. I also spent a rainy Sunday afternoon making croissants in a french bakery. Oooh La La! I could have done so much more if it wasn’t for that pesky thing called “working full time”.

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

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I captured this view on an after dinner photo walk right by our house.

5. Nature and the great outdoors.  Hiking, (you are at an off-ramp of the Pacific Coast Trail), walking (beautiful Lithia Park or the streets of downtown), nature photography, fishing, and skiing can all be found less than 45 minutes from downtown.

6. Food Fabulous Food. There is no shortage of eating establishments in Ashland and hubs and I did our best (for research purposes) to check out as many of them as possible. A few became our go-to favs and we would recommend them highly if you have the chance to visit Ashland. *Standing Stone Brewery has an on-site brewery and outstanding casual food menu. They bake their own breads and many menu items come from their own 1-mile farm (yes it is a mile from downtown Ashland). *Pie and Vine for pizza, pasta and a delicious grilled romaine salad. *Morning Glory serves up an outstanding breakfast (there is always a wait) as does Brothers Restaurant (generally no wait). Hubs gave the hash at both places a big two thumbs up. Amuse, a tiny French bistro was recognized as one of the best restaurants in Oregon. Liquid Assets is a lovely little wine bar that is perfect for a Friday night Happy Hour and Sammich pretty much nails it if you are hankering for a sandwich piled high with house-smoked meat served with a side of Chicago ‘tude and Da Bears.

7. Things to Do. Life slows down in Ashland during the winter but come early spring, the trees start to bloom and The Bard works his magic once again. Restaurants that took winter breaks re-open, shops extend their hours and tour buses dot the once empty streets. Parking spots are nowhere to be found. Winter might be cool, damp and dark, but we had no lack of fun activities to keep us entertained. First Friday Art Walk is a great way to explore Ashland’s many galleries. Rain or shine, the entire town comes out to stroll Main Street on First Friday. How about a Festival or two? March found us indulging at the weekend long Oregon Chocolate Festival right in downtown and our inner cheese nerd led us down the road to Central Point for the Oregon Cheese Festival. Yes, we have both expanded our “love handles”. We are sad that we will miss both the International Film Festival and A Taste of Ashland coming up in April. For a wee bit of old-timey outdoor fun, mosey on over to the Ashland Gun Club for the Cowboy Shoot Out held on the third Saturday of every month. Yeehaw, it was an unexpected good time! Rainy Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to visit the Varsity Theater where you can munch a little popcorn and watch first run movies.

Hubs with his new friend Dakota.

Hubs with his new friend cowboy Dakota.

If you feel like exploring beyond Ashland there is plenty to keep you busy. A short scenic drive will take you to the historic town of Jacksonville, home of the fabulous Britt Music Festival and a great stating point for the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Medford is 10 miles up I-5 from Ashland and offers big city amenities like a Trader Joes, REI and an indoor mall. It is the home of Harry and David who offer regular tours (we missed this) and has a small historic downtown (we took a self-guided walking tour using a map provided by the Visitor Center). Nearby Mt. Ashland offers skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. From cooking classes, to yoga classes, to wine tasting and lectures of every kind, you can be as busy and entertained and educated as you want to be.

And the Not so Much ~

While hubs and I really enjoyed our time in Ashland, we’re ready to move on. Here’s why.

1. It’s too expensive for us to live here on a small retirement budget. Housing costs, whether renting or buying, are out of our price range.

2. It’s too far from a major city. Five hours to Portland! Four hours across the Siskiyou mountains to Sacramento. I’m hoping for an hour or less.

3.  Flying in and out of Ashland is not easy or cheap. I learned this the hard way when I had to fly to Phoenix for work. I spent more time getting there than I did in the actual meetings.

We still have a few house-sitting gigs on the books (Washington and Mexico) and then in mid-June we’ll be loading up the SUV and heading from Portland to Colorado Springs, across the mid-west to Omaha and down through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. We will be checking out the towns and cities along the way. We are open for short term house sits so let us know if you or anyone you know might have a need. We’d love to hang out a while at the local coffee shop and get to know the folks in your town.

Learn more about us and our house-sitting experience at our website GlobalHouseSitPros.com

See you on the road!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

Housesitting is Like a Box of Chocolates

2PMhousesittingislikeaboxofchoclates

House-sitting is like a box of chocolates. There are so many unique opportunities to choose from and you are never quite sure what you’re going to get until you arrive on the doorstep.

It’s been just over 60 days and we are now on our fifth house-sitting gig. Each has had it’s own unique charm. Hubs and I luxuriated for a month in a large home in the suburbs. Next we watched the sun rise over Mt. Hood from a high-rise loft and enjoyed Christmas in the city. New Years day we hiked the “back forty” surrounding our custom built cabin on Whidbey island and took the ferry to go to the movies. Last week we settled into a very tiny no-frills house within walking distance to all of the art, culture, food and drink that Ashland has to offer. We’ve thrilled to glorious snow-capped mountain views, driven through rain, sleet, ice and snow, made good use of the Washington State Ferry System, become best-buds with five fabulous kitties and two lovable dogs. We’ve slept in big beds, small beds, hard beds, soft beds…just call me Goldilocks.  But I haven’t seen any bears. Yet. DottieinLangley Ferryatnight PMmountainview tacomanarrowsbridge

All this adventure and we’re still in Oregon. This was definitely not the plan. We thought we would be soaking up the sun in Arizona by now. Sometimes you make the plan and sometime the plan reveals itself as you go. For once, we’ve been smart enough to go with the flow and let the plan unfold as it will. Not so easy for a habitual planner, but I’m learning to (mostly) let it be.

So do we have a plan? Yes we do. And it’s quite simply this…to sample every damn chocolate in the house-sitting box. We think it’s a pretty good plan.

We’re in Ashland for almost three months which gives us time to experience living like we are locals. Hubs has found a gym and a trainer. Yea! I’ve signed up for yoga, tried a new hair dresser (that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped), settled in to a new afternoon tea place, met a lovely friend Dany who just moved up from California and plan to take a needle felting class at the fabulous Ashland Art Center this Friday. We’ve stocked the larder, located the liquor store and the wine shop and know our way around the food co-op. We’ve met the neighbors and been invited for cocktails. Not bad for the first week. Ashland is our current box of See’s and we’re hoping to sample every buttercream, truffle and nougat that this little town has to offer. Life is sweet!

Cheers!

Nancy


					

Home Free ~ Bloom Where You’re Planted

It’s been a month since we packed up the old SUV and drove off into the future.

So far.  So good.

We definitely planned an easy take-off by staying on the west coast through the winter.  And when we see the nightly weather reports, we are very glad we decided to play it safe and not make a long cross country drive right now. We’re in no hurry. We’re old. And as it turns out, much more cautious than we used to be. We’re still in training and figuring out this new lifestyle one day at a time.

Even though we are back in Portland for a few weeks and know our way around the New Seasons market and where the best restaurants are, it is definitely not “home” as we knew it.  What we’re learning to do is put down very tiny roots wherever we are.

It sounds easy…and sometimes it is.

Other times, not so much.

Each new place we land, things feel slightly different. Some crazy people put their silverware in the wrong drawer. The recycle has to be dragged down the street to the corner. In the rain. The TV remote is new and we’re too un-techy to get anything beyond basic cable. The bed is kinda hard and I need my memory foam. Nobody can find the broom. Blah, blah, blah. We allow ourselves a momentary WHINE. Then we look at each other and laugh. Because it is NOT our house and therefore NOT our problem. As long as we have silverware, who cares what drawer its in? It’s time to roll up our sleeves, let ourselves settle in and figure out how to make it all good. Change your attitude. Change your reality. Or something like that.

It turns out that once we’re done sorting through everything that is different, there is much that is the same and most of the time, it all works just like we want it to.

We unpack our bags and begin to work out a routine. I set up my office. Les looks for a local gym. We get the lay of the land. And most important of all, we open up our own box of small comforts that will make this house our new (temporary) home. There is magic in this box! We each have our beloved coffee and tea mugs. I have a both red and a white wine glass. Hubs has three of his favorite knives. I have my mini whisk, my cheese spreader and the world’s best veggie peeler. You get the point. There is even flashlight and a deck of cards in case the TV doesn’t work at all. And, yes, I have my holy crap tiara as well.  It’s the little things that make us feel like we’re home.

Home on the road

Home on the road

 

Wherever home is.

Here’s where home will be for the next several months – Southwest Portland in a lovely large house with a sweet 18 year old kitty. Downtown Portland in the trendy Pearl District in a high rise condo with a new kitty we’ve yet to meet. A custom built log home in the woods on Whidbey Island in Washington with two lap-loving doggies. And finally, a small house in beautiful Ashland, OR with brother and sister kitties will take us through March.  Not too shabby for a couple of old beginners! And the good news is that we are learning how to put down very tiny roots at each stop we make.  Bloom where you’re planted are our new words to live by.

A comfy couch, a warm blanket and a kitty.  Feels like home!

A comfy couch, a warm blanket and a kitty. Feels like home!

We’re counting our blessings! One home, one pet, one new location at a time.

See you on the road.

Cheers!

Nancy, Les and Tika our kitty of the moment.

If you need house sitters or know someone who might, please check us out at www.theglobalhousesittingpros.com

 

 

 

Housesitting 103 ~ Get a Backgound Check

Experienced house sitters have told us it is a very good idea to get a background check.  A quick visit to your local police station will earn you a document that says you have never done anything illegal in your home town.  I’m not so sure that would sway my decision to invite a stranger into my home, but apparently it helps.

Since hubs and I plan to take our house sitting adventure to other countries, we thought we should go full banana and get the FBI verified check.  Go big or go home!

So, last October we took a little noon-time field trip to meet up with the roving fingerprint lady.  She sets up in the hallway at various local courthouses and does a booming business inking and pressing fingertips into tiny squares.  Twenty bucks apiece and a few minutes of our time and we’d be out the door and on to a lovely lunch.

Or so we thought.  The indignities of growing old seem to pop up when you least expect them.  Who know that old fingers are DRY fingers and if you have DRY fingers, the cheerful fingerprinting lady cannot get a usable print.  Ink.  Press. Check.  Nope.  Ink. Press. Check. Nope.  I was up first and it was becoming somewhat embarrassing as I was holding up an ever-growing line of 20-somethings who were there on their work breaks hoping to pop in and out in ten minutes.  Well that was definitely not going to happen. Because the old people with the dried up fingers are on re-take number TWENTY!  Finally, all 8 fingers and my two decrepit thumb prints passed muster and she moved on to hubs.  I have to be honest here and say that even though I felt bad for the long line of folks waiting for us to be done with it, I was not unhappy that his fingers were as blurred by time as mine.  The friendly fingerprint lady finally dosed him up with some kind of very thick hand grease and voila! we were outta there.  Cheers were heard from the back of the line.

All we had to do next was fill out the simple one page form, attach our perfectly inked prints, toss in a check for $36 (for two – quite a bargain) and mail everything off to the FBI office in Maryland.   And wait.

And wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

The form clearly stated that with the current backlog, we should not expect anything back for 21 days but to not even think about calling them for 4-6 weeks.

So we waited and then waited again.

I was beginning to worry.  What if our paperwork had somehow gotten lost and our hard-won fingerprints had to be taken all over again?  Do not make me go there.

Finally, last Tuesday, about 4 1/2 months after we started this process, a lovely brown envelope from The Department of Justice arrived in the mail.  I’d passed FBI scrutiny and now had a very nondescript piece of paper to prove it.  And my fingerprints had not been rejected – which really was my biggest concern.

fbi2

What about hubs?  He’s still waiting.  I keep asking if there is anything he wants to confess, but he swears he’s clean.

So far, we have not been asked for a police/security background check for any of the house sits we have applied for or gotten, but I am confident that having them will add to our resume and profile.  Proof that we are always willing to go the extra mile.

The other benefit that came out of this experience?  I am now diligent very about hand cream!

We are actively seeking house sits for Summer/Fall in the western US and Canada.  If you know anyone who would benefit from our services, please send them over to our website Global Housesitting Pros.  Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

House Sitting 101

Notes from the House Sitting 101 file ~ Learning the ropes and getting ready to take off the training wheels.

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Spectacular view from our house-sit high on a bluff above the Colombia River. It changed hourly.

Greetings from high on a bluff over-looking the mighty Columbia River just outside of the (very) tiny town of Kalama Washington.  Hubs and I are on day 9 of a 10 day house sit with Daphne the wonder dog.  She is well loved, well fed and has more toys than most 2 year old kids I know.  Daphne is a cutie and smart as a whip.  She had us trained in no time.

Daphne the wonder dog

Daphne the wonder dog

What the hell are we doing living in a strange house with someone else’s dog in the middle of nowhere?   Good question!  We’re in training.  Last Fall I set a goal to build our resume and our experience by signing on for as many house sits as we could within driving distance of our home.  My vision was to house sit the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  We’ve applied for 6 or 8 and so far we’ve pretty much been the runner-up not the winner.  I honestly had no idea how competitive house sitting is.  For every sitting opportunity there are anywhere from a dozen to 40+ applicants – from single 20-somethings who work remotely and travel the world to retired and semi-retired geezers like hubs and I.   Even a few families.  Apparently the competition wasn’t so tough for Kalama.  Actually, they called us.  We did not apply for this sit.  But after meeting with the nice folks who are Daphne’s humans, we knew it was a good fit and a great place to start.  So here we are.

Nancy and Daphne watching the evening news

Nancy and Daphne watching the evening news

Kalama is not anyone’s idea of a picturesque town.  It’s a run-down port town of about 2500 citizens located 35 miles north of Portland.  If it ever had glory days, they are long since faded.  We are staying out of town way up a windy road in a lovely custom built house with a gorgeous view.  But to tell you the truth, for a city girl like me, it’s more than a little lonely at the top.  And you can only count the trees and the birds and the squirrels for so long before cabin fever sets in and it’s time to come down from the mountain.  Which hubs and I do every day at 11:30 for lunch, a walk and some on-foot exploration.  We’ve covered every inch of Kalama (20 minutes), walked for miles along the river, taken our own walking tour of historic downtown Longview, discovered a couple of decent restaurants (and a whole bunch that were a little scary).   The weather has been in our favor and one day we strolled the 4 mile perimeter of Lake Sacawajea.  It was gorgeous.  We also drove back into Portland to hit up the Farmers Market and Vancouver for a Volkswalk.

Lake Sacajawea in full blossom.  Perfect day for a picnic and a long walk.

Lake Sacajawea in full blossom. Perfect day for a picnic and a long walk.

A few hours in civilization and we’re good to head back up the mountain again.  Daphne is always happy to see us return.  It is amazing how easy it is to settle comfortably into someone else’s space.  We knew this from home exchange, but still our ability to do this was one of the things I wanted to make very sure about before we up-rooted out lives for the road.

My plan is to test the waters, learn as much as we can from each experience and build up our reference bank account.   We haven’t lived with dogs for quite a few years so it was good to know that we’ve still got the touch.  We also learned that even though a rustic house sit in the remote French countryside looks inviting, unless its a week or less, it might not be right for us.  Score two on the things we learned meter.

So, tomorrow we will make sure the house is clean, the bird feeder is full, the plants are watered and the beds are freshly made.  We’ll feed Daphne her dinner and then we will load ourselves into our car and head for home.  Mr. Ricky is waiting.  He had a wonderful house/pet sitter staying with him while we were gone but I know he will be as happy to see us as Daphne will be to see her real people (not the stand-in servants).

While this was definitely not the exotic house sitting adventure we have been dreaming of and planning for, it was a great experience and we’re glad for the opportunity.  Now when we’re driving 70mph up I-5 to Seattle or Port Townsend and we see the signs for Woodland, Kalama, Kelso and Longview, we won’t wonder if we should stop to check them out.  Been there.  Done that.  Keep on driving!

Next up… house sitting in Mexico for 8 (OMG!) cats for a month.  We are definitely open for more west coast house sitting opportunities.  We’ll be available again starting in June.  We’d love to spend a few weeks in Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria area, Phoenix, or San Francisco so if you know anyone invite them to check out our website Global Housesit Pros.

See you on the road.

Nancy

Top Baby Boomer Travel Blog 2015 Awards

And the winners are… pause for breath-holding… pause for envelope opening …

Well, actually there are 20 winners.  But I am beyond excited to be named one of FlipKey’s Top Baby Boomer Travel Blogs to follow in 2015.  There are some well-seasoned travelers and heavy-hitter bloggers in the mix.  And now me and Just a Backpack and a Rollie.

I’ll take it!

And hubs and I will keep on dragging our backpacks and rollies and sharing our adventures with you throughout 2015.  I’ve been busy applying for house sitting gigs all along the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  And we have some very interesting gigs in the works.

So please click on through to the wonderful post on the FlipKey blog and check out our fellow boomer travel bloggers.  They are all truly an inspiration to me.

And here is our little Award.  She’s not a gold statue, but I think she’s pretty cute.

Chicken Dance ~

Surely I’m not the only crazy old fool who still loves to do the chicken dance.  I’ve flapped my arms and clapped my hands to this catchy tune at kid’s birthday parties and fancy dress wedding receptions.  It’s always a crowd-pleaser.

Why is it called the chicken dance?  Well, now that I have a couple of chicken wrangling experiences under my belt, I’m here to tell you that chickens really do dance.

There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.  But, when it comes to chicken wrangling, I say grab your cell phone and shoot some video.  How cute are these ladies?

 

Thanks Vicki for sharing your girls with me and teaching me the ropes of chicken wrangling 101.

Hubs and I are actively seeking short term house sits on the west coast (California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia).  If you hear of anything, please let me know.  Or you can direct them to our new site Global House Sitting Pros.

Stay tuned for more house sitting adventures.

Cheers!

Nancy

Labor & Delivery ~ hatching a retirement plan

Hatching a retirement plan isn’t always quick or easy. It’s been germinating for weeks, months, heck, probably the better part of two years…

As many of you know, the whole idea for Just a Backpack and a Rollie started (somewhat as a lark) in response to hubs’ daily happy hour comment “Let’s become citizens of the world…it if doesn’t fit in the backpack and rollie, then we probably don’t need it.”  You can check out that very first post here.

Les&Nancyinairplane

I thought he’d gone over the edge.  He was newly retired and I was still firmly tethered to the corporate world and all it’s trappings (read that as security with a capital S).  Truth be told, he had no idea in hell how this new plan might happen.  But he sure liked saying the words.  No amount of logic on my part seemed to deter him.  When they say that opposites attract, they are talking about hubs and I.  He tosses them out there…I feel compelled to catch them and then figure out how to make them come to life.  I’ve spent a lot of time exploring all of the options and opportunities available to free-spirited retirees looking for travel and adventure on the cheap.  The possibilities are endless, but for us (at least for now) it kept coming back to house sitting.  Well, okay then…let’s do it!  Get the ducks lined up and get the hell outta Dodge while we’ve still got enough get-up to go.

And TADA! at 3:45pm Pacific Standard Time on November 1st, a new life was born!

World meet Global HouseSitting Pros – our new website/blog.

Creating the Global HouseSitting Pros site has been a labor of love, a huge learning adventure (now I can add website developer to my CV), and a giant leap forward for hubs and I as we inch closer toward our retirement dream.  I haven’t cut the corporate tie quite yet, (sorry, I’m the logical one) but since I can work from any location with a good wifi connection and cell reception, we’re going to start by setting up several house sits on the west coast – anywhere from British Columbia, Canada to Baja, Mexico.

We will keep you posted – hopefully with postcards from the road.

Cheers!

Nancy