House Sitting 101

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


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.


Meet 3 Great Role Models for our Backpack-and-Rollie Retirement Adventures

What’s the first thing you do when you have what you know is a really great idea but you have no idea how to get started?

You need information, education, and most of all, inspiration, from those folks who’ve been there done that already.   You hope to connect with a few trailblazers who can lend a hand, shed some light, and encourage you through those first scary baby steps.  Where do you find these mentors and role models?  Well, if you are lucky, maybe you already know someone who is living their travel dream.   But if you’re like us, you are the older folks who are taking the leap and trying to figure it out while friends and family watch politely from the comfort of their own “I’m still working, I’ll worry about retirement in a few years” lives.

That’s when you turn to the internet where I found these three fabulous role models who are already going for the gusto in their travel and retirement lifestyles.

1.  Meet David and Veronica who blog at gypsynester and have their own utube channel as well.  (I can’t picture the hubs and I on utube tv, but, hey, you never know).

David and Veronica say that when they started experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest and become Empty Nesters.  They are definitely having a grand adventure and a lot of fun along the way.

2.  Lynne and Tim Martin of homefreeadventures sold their house in Central California’s  wine country, gave away the furniture, and stuffed their clothes and their treasures into a 10 x 15 storage unit, said goodbye to their surprised children and quizzical  friends and now we live in rented apartments and houses internationally, putting down new roots one country at a time.

And in her own words, here’s why being “home free” is working so well for the Lynne. “We have no property taxes, roof repairs or home insurance, so all of our spendable income is used to fund our new way of life.   We do have small suitcases, an appetite for new experiences, good computers, and the savvy and flexibility to make ourselves at home in almost any situation.”   

3.  Donna & Alan Hull are experts on boomer travel.  Donna and her photographer husband inspire you to get up off the couch and go traveling.

Since 2008, on their blog, My Itchy Travel Feet, they have published hundreds of great articles and beautiful photographs focusing solely on boomer travel: where to go, what to do and how to do it.

These three couples jumped right in…we’re still standing on the shore, but with this kind of inspiration, I know we’ll soon be right behind them on the road. 


Somebody Pinch Me ~ I Must Be Dreaming

I am over the moon excited!

I’m clicking my heels together and doing the happy dance!

And here’s why  ~ Ta Da ~ I am a newly published author.  Yes, in a real book.  How cool is that? bookcover

I am also living proof that anything can happen if you say yes! to life’s adventures and then pick up your skirts and wade into the stream.  I know, sometimes all you get is wet feet.  But every now and then something truly wonderful and amazing happens when you reach the other side.

Last year when my hubby started talking about retirement and travel and living on a whole lot less income, I created Just a Backpack and a rollie to share ideas and information I found while searching for ways to live La Vida Cheapo in retirement, finding joy in our new lives as “elders”, going for the gusto in our second (or third) act, and laughing at our foibles and missteps as we explore this brave new world.  I am delighted that so many of you have found my blog and are not only following our adventures but are sharing your own. Thank you!  I’ve loved every minute so far.

And then…last October I received an email from Mark Chimsky of  Sellers Publishing.   Mark said that he enjoyed my blog and asked if I would be interested in submitting an essay for a new book set to publish this Spring.   Without thinking twice, I said yes, I would love toWhat do you want me to write about?  It wasn’t until the next day when I panicked.  Me?  I can’t do this.  I’ve got nothing to say.  I’m not a writer.  I just have this little blog…  But I did write an essay.  And I learned so many new things about the writing process, editing, publishing.  It was a great experience and now, with 64 others (many of whom are published authors and travel/retirement experts) I am a contributor to a great new book for boomers and anyone thinking about travel and retirement – Sixty Five Things To Do When You Retire: Travel bookindex

65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel is now at a bookstore near you.  In fact, I visited “my” book just the other day at Barnes & Noble.  There it was in the Travel section, right next to Bill Bryson.  I had to take a picture. bookintravelsection

Here’s what folks are already saying about the book:

A total of 10,000 people turn 65 each day — and many of them who retire want to make the most of travel opportunities.  65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel offers practical, inspiring advice about how to have the time of your life, whether traveling with a group, with a spouse or partner, or on your own. 

I have just started reading my copy and there is so much great information from so many unique perspectives packed into this book.   I am sure I’ll find some brilliant new ideas and inspiration for our own Backpack and Rollie adventures.

You can buy a copy at your favorite bookseller, by clicking on the link below or, if you are feeling lucky enter to win one of two copies I’m giving away.  Here’s how:  1.  Sign up on the right side bar to receive new posts direct to your inbox.  2.  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your retirement stories.  3.  Refer a friend to the blog – and leave a comment letting me know.   Winners will be drawn at random and notified at the end of March.

Now I think its time to go pop the cork on that bottle of champagne!  Thanks for sharing my big moment.  I am proud to be part of this outstanding publication.

See you on the road!


Click through to Amazon and take a closer look!  All proceeds go to cancer research.