House Sitting 101

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

kalamaview2

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

Les & Nancy Global House Sit Pros ~ check out our new profile!

Hello, Hola, Bonjour, Ciao and Hej!

We are Les and Nancy aka the kitty whisperer (Les) and the chicken wrangler (Nancy).

Les & Nancy on the camino de santiago

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Les&Nancy2

We clean up pretty well too.

 

For the past 30+ years we have enjoyed rewarding and successful corporate careers, Les as an electrical engineer turned sales ninja and Nancy as an award-winning corporate meeting, event and travel manager. We’re retiring from the corporate life to focus on our new career as full time global house sitters.

Why House Sitting?

As long time homeowners with beloved pets of our own, we were delighted to find trusted house and pet sitters who cared for our furry family members, our house and our plants with such enthusiasm, respect and considerate care that we (finally!) felt free to go off on a vacation without worrying if a pipe might break or the plants turned brown. On top of that, our kitty (currently Mr. Ricky) could enjoy the comfort of his own home and a friendly snuggle or two.

Win. Win. Win.

It’s not always easy allowing strangers into your home, we know that. But, we also know from experience that once you make that right connection, communicate expectations clearly and develop a level of trust – house sitting will change your life. Whether you are the home owner or the house sitter.

We want to pay it forward and that’s why we started house sitting earlier this year.

Why Choose Us?

~ We are committed to being the absolute best house and pet sitters you will ever have.

~ We have an abundance of life, professional and travel experience and we’re very comfortable and adaptable in new surroundings and cultures.

~ We will confidently handle most emergencies with calm, quick-thinking action. If we can’t handle it ourselves, we’ll know who to call. That’s where our management and leadership experiences come in handy!

~ We will be respectful of your home, your possessions and your privacy. We’re homeowners ourselves and will treat yours as if it were our own.

~ We are excellent communicators. We will keep you updated as often as you like so you know everything is in good hands. We love to send photo updates!

~ We love animals of all kinds (sorry not snakes) and have shared our home with dogs, cats, hamsters, white mice, tropical fish. We’ve also learned the fine (and very fun!) art of chicken keeping through several house sits and home exchanges.

~ We’re fun, friendly, detailed oriented retirees with a zest for life, curious minds and and energetic healthy bodies. We welcome the opportunity to get our hands dirty in your garden, take long walks with your pups and keep your house in tip-top condition.

Our Skills and Experience – here’s why we are such a great team ~

Les was Director of New Business Development for a large exposition and trade show company for many years. He worked with clients from around the world to understand their specific needs and deliver their expectations on time, on budget and make it look easy. This required outstanding listening skills, the ability to communicate ideas and manage large, complicated projects. He has also been the president of our home owners association for the past five years leading our town home community through a major construction project. His vision and ability to lead both the board and the multiple contractors was key to the success of this project.

Skills Les brings ~
• handy/Mr. Fix-it
•enjoys puttering in the garden
•chief trash carrier and mail retriever
•good with a vacuum and a mop
•manager of home security
•family chef
•pooper scooper
•kitty cuddler
•extremely organized

Nancy is currently the Manager of Corporate Travel for a multi-national corporation. She leads a team that supports over 1500 corporate travelers, developing travel policy, negotiating hotel and airline agreements while ensuring the security and safety of every employee while on the road. Prior to becoming travel manager, Nancy managed corporate meetings and events. Her creative vision, team building and leadership skills combined with a focused attention to detail were crucial to her award-winning success in this arena. Nancy is also a published author with essays in two books on retirement. She blogs about retirement, travel and living the good life at www.justabackpackandarollie.com

Skills Nancy brings ~
•communication expert
•loves to garden and has a green thumb
•lead dog walker (Les always seems to tag along) and ball tosser
•keeper of schedules, lists and all other very important details
•chief bottle washer and laundry detail
•chicken wrangler, egg gather and coop scooper
•experienced with giving pet meds and care of aging pets

As a Team we ~

•believe that taking good care of your home is our most important responsibility
•are honest and reliable with local and state background checks
•work well together and with others
•appreciate the importance of maintaining a clean, well-maintained home and garden
•share house sitting responsibilities based on our individual skills and interests
•are grateful for the opportunity to travel and the wonderful new experiences that house sitting around the globe provides.

We are non-smokers who enjoy a great glass of wine and all kinds of food, we have excellent references, a strong sense of adventure and a can-do attitude.  We’re working hard to become the house sitters we’d want to hire!

If you are looking for a fantastic house sitting duo to care for your home and furry family members so you can relax and focus on your time away, please contact us.

A few of our furry and feathered friends stopped by to say Hi! and give us their stamp of approval. Pups on parade

This is the beginning of our new profile which will soon appear on our Global House Sit Pros website (in the works), and several house sitting referral sites including Trusted House Sitters. Housesit Match and Nomador.

I’d love your feedback on our “resume” and if you know anyone on the west coast (U.S. or Canada) who is looking for good house sitters, please let them know about us.  We’d love to connect with them.

This is getting really exciting!

Cheers,

Nancy

Create Your Roving Retirement … Five Fun Ways to Kickstart Your Dream

“Listen to the Musn’t’s child, Listen to the Don’t’s. Listen to the Shouldn’t’s, the Impossibles, the Won’t’s. Listen to the Never Haves, then Listen close to me. ANYthing can happen, child, ANYthing can Be.”
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999);Poet, Songwriter, Musician

Maybe you were one of those 20 year old free spirits who stuffed everything they could into an over-sized backpack and set out to see the world before you settled down.  Or maybe, like most of us, you only dreamed about that kind of travel and then stepped straight onto the well-worn path already laid out for you – work, marriage, kids.   Your travel dream was put on the shelf and after a few years, the backpack went to the Goodwill.  A big trip became a week at Disney World.   It’s funny how that happens.

But those dreams never fully go away do they?  Like long lost friends, they lurk quietly in the back of our minds only to pop up as fanciful daydreams while we’re slogging through a mind-numbing day in the office or waiting in the carpool line.

What I know for sure is that for many of us, somewhere around 50 is when those old dreams start to re-surface in earnest.  Gone for a while, but not forgotten.  That travel gypsy is still alive and well.  A little older, a lot wiser, and eager to explore the world.

Don’t worry, there’s still time.

A growing number of people are becoming vagabond retirees.  People in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s are packing up their new, high-tech backpacks and heading out to become citizens of the world.

Want to join them?  It’s easy.  And it doesn’t have to blow your hard-earned retirement nest egg either.

Traveling on a retiree budget does require thinking outside the box, lots of research, some advance planning, a sense of adventure and a willingness to be flexible.

Don’t wait until you are officially retired to set your travel dreams in motion.  Include them in your planning now.  Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

1.  Create a Travel Dream Board.  It might sound hokey, but it’s fun, it’s easy and it works!  Buy a large piece of posterboard, gather up lots of magazines, travel brochures, old photos, scissors and a glue stick.  It’s as simple as cutting out pictures and pasting them onto the board.  Don’t over-think this.  Cut out everything that catches your eye – beach sunsets, different cultures, village life, bustling cities, historical settings or mountain views.  Can you see yourself in the picture?  Then it belongs on your board.  I call this visual goal setting.

2.  Make a Wish List.   Use the images on your Dream Board to create a Wish List.  Here’s where you get more specific.  What are your must haves for a travel or retirement living destination?  Sleepy village or bustling city?  Beach or mountains?  Easy access or remote?  The options are endless, but honing this list to your top 5 or 6 must haves will give you a great jumping off point for your initial research.

3.  Do Your Research.  Whether you need resources for small hotels or hostels while backpacking through Central America, house swaps in France, or which visas are required for a trek across Tibet, it’s all available on the internet.  Find out where the best airports are, what ground transportation is cheap and easy, who speaks English, what the local currency is.

4.  Become an Arm Chair Traveler.  Read and use the country and city travel guides from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.  Check out books from your local library.  Reading about the adventures of buying and fixing up a run down farm in Portugal, living the gypsy life on a boat in the Caribbean, or women walking all 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, is very inspiring and educational.

5.  Get Connected.   Find and connect with the folks who are blazing the trail ahead of you.  Ask questions and get the scoop from people who have been there, done that.  It’s helpful to know the good, the bad, and the “never again” about a place before you go.  Start reading travel blogs.  Many are filled with first hand information, great personal stories and links to more resources.

I hope these ideas give you a good starting point.  I have LOTS more information and some great ideas and resources that I’ve learned from all my research that I’ll be sharing in future posts so stay tuned.  There is so much inspiration and adventure to be found in the planning process.  Let’s get going! bridge

See you on the road,

Nancy

Two For the Road ~ 5 traits that make a great travel partner

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

 Let the Adventure Begin.

The photo above accompanied by the caption “Let the Adventure Begin” was how hubs and I chose to announce our marriage in 2003.  I thought the couple in this photo looked like a perfect team – happy partners in crime and in life.

Whether you are a duo on the Road to Zanzibar or the Road of Life, traveling with a partner can be tricky business.  One of the things I love about my hubby is that we travel well together.  As we get closer to heading out on our own Two For the Road adventures I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what makes a really good team.  For me it comes down to a few very important traits.

Here are the top five on my list ~

Every great team needs…

1.  A Yes Man, a partner who says Hell Yes or Why Not to whatever crazy idea you come up with.  Someone who is all in for a good time or an adventure and doesn’t sweat the details.  When you say “Just shut up and get in the car.”  That’s exactly what they do.  They might even roll down the window and hang their head out to feel the breeze.  Oh, wait.  That’s the dog.

2.  A partner who is calm during your storm.  Like the time a few years ago when Amtrak cancelled our train with no warning – just taped up a hand printed paper sign “No Train Today”.  No train?  Really?  I’m on a five day vacation!  I need the train TODAY!   That’s when you need a partner who stands back calmly while you throw an earth-shattering-all out-but-still-lady-like-bitch fit after the Amtrak service person says, “Ok. So, do you want to cancel now or do you want to come back tomorrow?”  and, then said partner calmly steps up, takes your arm, and says “Let’s go find a Happy Hour and come back in the morning”.  Happy Hour?  Ok.  I love Happy Hour.

3.  The guy in the rose colored glasses.  On those days when one of you is less than your shining best – let’s just call it major-ass cranky-pants and your partner looks over and says  “Have I told you today how crazy I am about you?”  Whoa!  Hello Dolly! Just the right words at the right time.  Well, rightbackattcha Big Boy.

4.  A comedian and a straight man.  You know, like George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Will and Grace.  Every great comedy duo has an instigator, the comedian with the cockeyed point of view and the straight man who makes it all seem funny.  They are a finely oiled machine.  They play off each other.  They give as good as they get.  They make each other laugh.

5.  And, finally, you’ve each gotta be a switch hitter.  A great partnership works when you can switch roles easily and as often as required.  When you’re at the end of your rope – he’s just getting his strength.  When he’s too pooped to participate, you slow your frantic pace and stop to smell the roses.  It’s a balancing act and it works best when each person is tuned in to the other, to the moment, to the goal at hand, and to the bigger picture.

And so, ten years later, I say – Let The Adventure Continue.  We’re two for the road and I cannot wait to see where the road will lead us.

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something we must always remember.  We are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem and smarter than we think.  But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… we’ll always be together.”  Christopher Robin

I originally published a version of this post back in 2012.  It seemed like a perfect post for Valentine’s Day so I dusted it off, prettied it up a bit and thought I’d share it again.

Cheers!

Nancy

Go Go Gadget ~ Great gifts for your favorite traveler

It’s hard to think about buying anything when you are in the midst of paring down all of your worldly possessions.  I’ll tell you, downsizing takes the shine off shopping in a big way.

All this downsizing creates a challenge for those wonderful folks in your life who want to shower you with lovely gifties at Christmas or on your birthday, too.  Suddenly, they’re unsure.  To buy or not to buy?  That is the new question.

So, Little Miss Helpful (that’s me) has started a list of travel must-haves that would make brilliant gifts for any traveler or retirement gypsy.

Here are my current favs:

1.  Travel Clothesline.   Don’t think you need one?  Either did I, until I washed a pair of my expensive moisture-wicking socks in the sink of our hotel room in Santiago and having no place to dry said socks, I ever so carefully laid them out on the sill of the open window in our room.  Hubs and I went out to lunch and upon our return, one lonely sock was there to greet me.  The other had apparently flown away.  I scanned the rooftops and ledges of nearby buildings.  No sock.  So I dashed down the stairs and along the cobblestone streets to the alleyway below our window.  Two trips up and down the alley (chased by a crazy old woman who thought she knew me) and still no sock. Never found it.  Maybe a bird took it to puff up its nest.   A travel clothesline will be in my pack on the next trip.

2.  Kindle Paperwhite – It’s small, lightweight, holds a charge for a long time (unlike your iphone or ipad), it’s easy on the eyes and works well in low/no light or with bright sun streaming through your window.  Add an Amazon gift card and life is good.

3.  Noise Cancelling Headphones –  Crying babies, loud talkers, the annoying squawk of Angry Birds all fade away when you put on a really good set of headphones.  Bliss on an overnight flight.

4.  External Battery Pack –  This can be a life saver if you can’t find a place to plug in.  It can also be used as a flashlight.  How cool is that?

5.  Cocoon – I spend way too much time digging through my purse or may bag looking for something I had only minutes earlier and now has suddenly disappeared into the cosmic vortex.  Organization like this could save my sanity.  Or my marriage, because hubs always has a helpful comment or two. 215_xlarge

6.  Nap Anywhere –  Hubs can nap anywhere and in any situation.  I’ve tried the blow up pillows, the tiny silica ball pillows, rolled up blanket pillows.  Nothing holds my head in anything remotely resembling a natural position.   This handy-dandy device might be worth a try.  It was launched through a Kickstarter campaign and who doesn’t want to support start-up innovators.

7.  SCOTTEVEST –  With a variety of styles including shirts, vest and jackets there’s a pocket for every device, your money, your passport – you name it – there’s a pocket for it.  And, although it’s not much in the fashionista department, the Scottevest does not make you look like the Michellin Man (or woman).  Trust me, nobody’s going to pick your pocket. category_tile_chloe_hoodie_normal category_tile_tvm_normal

Travelers, what’s on your must have list?  Let us know in the comments.

See you on the road.  I’ll be plugged in wearing my stylin’ Scottevest fleece hoodie.

Nancy

What’s in a Word? Sometimes more than you thought.

This fun post is courtesy of my friends over at International Living

It made me smile because I could really relate.  I’ve been struggling to become conversant in Spanish for the past six months.  If you want to know about mi gato o mi familia o mi casa, you’re in luck, but try for anything more meaningful and tenemos un problema grande.

These Spanish Words Are Not Your Friends…
By Tara Lowry

The first time I went to a Spanish speaking country I figured that needing to know the language was over-rated. I jumped on a plane bound for Spain with an exaggerated sense of confidence, and a tiny phrase book that I assumed would cover everything I needed.

After landing in Madrid, I found my way to the train that would take me to my destination: the beautiful city of Seville in Andalusia.

Despite the jet lag, I was feeling pretty chipper until someone came to tell me that I was in the wrong seat. The number I had on the ticket matched where I was sitting so I couldn’t understand the problem or where I was supposed to be, if not there. It turns out I was in the wrong car and it took them half the trip to communicate it to me, much to their frustration and my bewilderment.

When the taxi that I took from the train station stopped outside of my new home in Seville, the driver said something to me and pointed at the door. I assumed he was in a hurry and wanted me to get out. After nearly being run over by a motorbike and being yelled at by both drivers, I realized that he was telling me to wait to open the door: “No abras la puerta.”

I enrolled in a Spanish language school the next day.

As soon as I started taking classes, I fell in love with El Español. I was delighted to realize how many Spanish words sounded similar to the English versions. My teacher called them cognates: artist—artista; tourist—turista; university—universidad; family—familia. It was so easy! (Or so I thought…) Whenever I didn’t know the Spanish word for something I just said it in English but made small adaptations to make it sound more Spanish.

That was until a couple of months later when I unintentionally made a big announcement at a dinner party hosted by my new Spanish beau’s parents. After accidentally spilling wine all over his mother, I attempted to apologize and convey my embarrassment. I told her (in front of everyone) that I was “embarazada.” I found out the hard way about false cognates and how to say the word “pregnant” in Spanish. It turns out that even though a word sounds similar in English and Spanish, the meanings can be very, very different.

This would not be my only encounter with false cognates or “false friends” as they are also known. I also discovered (to the great amusement of my Spanish friends) that:

Preservativos are not preservatives but rather condoms!

If someone asks you if you are “constipada,” they are asking if you have a cold or a stuffy nose.

If you want to say you are excited about something, say “emocionado/a” and not “excitado/a,” which means aroused.

“Molestar” is to bother or annoy. I learned this after a very confusing conversation where someone was telling me about his dislike of clowns…

“Ropa” is not rope. “Ropa” means “clothing”. I found this out when I attempted to ask a storekeeper to cut off a piece of string from a package I had just purchased. Not knowing the word for string I figured that “ropa” would be close enough. It wasn’t. I ended up asking him to cut off his clothes.

While it’s not necessary to be fluent when you live in a Spanish-speaking country, having a base sure helps. That little bit of grammar and vocabulary you learn will come in handy in unimaginable situations. Plus the more you learn, the richer your new life will become. Just remember: making a bit of a fool out of yourself is all part of the process (and, as I prove, can lead to some very funny stories). And watch out for those false friends! madridrestaurant I totally agree with Tara’s comment that the ability to converse makes your travel experience so much richer.  It’s scary to stumble through a conversation and nobody (me) enjoys playing the fool, but Tara’s experience inspires me.   Who knows, you might make a new friend and get to sample the delicious ceviche.

¡ Salud! Nos vemos en el camino

Nancy

Gracias International Living for allowing me to share this post.

Home Exchange ~ the art of settling in

Where’s the light switch?  I’m not sure.  Here?  No.  This it?  Nope, not that either.  #$#%&*!!

There is an art to settling into the home of a complete stranger.  Something as simple as finding the light switches can take on a whole new meaning if they aren’t the straightforward switches you’re used to, located in the places you would normally expect to find them.  It’s funny at first…and then…not so much.

Actually, it IS fun.  It’s just different.  And it takes at least a day to settle in and make it home.  Sleeping in a stranger’s bed, cooking with their spices and watching their TV.   Hanging your clothes in the closet right next to theirs.  It can all feel a little bit strange and uncomfortable at first.

This week hubs and I are swapping houses with Tom and Dana from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  I’m writing this post in their cozy den looking out on the back garden.  I’ve set up my office here and I’m working, but I have to admit that I am often distracted by the backyard antics.  There are several bird feeders outside the windows and each one is a fly-up restaurant.  Traffic jam on feeder #2 as they push each other out of the way.   Back and forth, each getting their turn somehow.  To my friends who are “birders” – I totally get it now.  I could watch this action for hours. Sydneybirdsatfeeder

Birds Eye View

Birds Eye View

We’re staying out on the Saanich Penninsula in the middle of farm country and very close to the lovely little harbor town of Sydney.  We came on the car ferry through Victoria.  We spent the first day in Victoria, but were glad to leave the bustle, the traffic and the tourists behind and head out to find our home and explore this beautiful island.

We’re here for a week so we have plenty of time to settle in.  And we are doing just that.  The first evening we had a few moments of frustration.  After we finally figured out how to turn on some of the lights, we poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch TV.  There were five remotes and one Apple TV controller.  They left instructions for us, but we were definitely out of our limited range of ability.  We might have to watch TV all week with close captioning because we could not figure out how to make it go away.  Netflix?  Don’t even go there.

Not for the technology challenged!

Not for the technology challenged!

We needed Geek Squad, so I did the next best thing and emailed Tom for assistance.  He emailed back with just the right info.  And, he also informed me that he saw the second cable we had not yet installed for our DVD player/Apple TV and hooked it up for us.  Yea Tom!  By the next night, we were relaxing on the couch enjoying Diane Sawyer on the news without the aid of close captioning.

Keeping some sort of routine is helpful.   We found the local rec centre and set hubs up for his regular morning workout.  Day pass only $5.50.  I’m trying to stay on my Camino training schedule so I’m walking morning and evening on the steep hills right outside our door.  My glutes will thank me later.

It’s day three and we’re feeling like a couple of locals.  We know where the market is, the wine store, the shortcut into Sydney for my daily Starbucks fix and we’ve walked the Lochside Trail into town.  Hubs cooked up a delicious salmon dinner on the barbeque last night and I’ve re-kindled my childhood love of meat pies, sausage rolls and butter tarts.

BBQ salmon + veggies picked from the garden.  Doesn't get any better.

BBQ salmon + veggies picked from the garden. Doesn’t get any better.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like home…only different.  And once you get used to it, that can be a very good thing.

And the wee bunny who visited this morning was the frosting on the top of this home exchange adventure.

And the wee bunny who visited this morning was the frosting on the top of this home exchange adventure.

I am determined to master the art of photographing birds while I have this opportunity.  It’s a whole new world I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of enjoying if we hadn’t said Yes! when the note came from Dana through HomeExchange.com.

Life is good eh?

Cheers,

Nancy

 

Three Days in Madrid ~ and our first stop is…

We’re counting down the weeks now until our trip to Spain and our walk on the Camino de Santiago.   Finally, it feels like it’s really going to happen.  That’s the downside of booking an adventure twelve months in advance.  I’m not good with delayed gratification.  I want to go NOW.

Patience is a virtue that I have in very limited quantity.

Our upcoming adventure begins in Madrid.  A city I’ve not visited before.  We have only three days to soak up the culture, savor the food (and wine!) and hit the highlights.   So much to see…so little time.  Where to start?   The Prado?  The hop on hop off tour bus?    The Museum of Ham?  Dance the Flamenco at midnight?

Since I firmly believe that no one can appreciate great art or culture on an empty stomach, my pick for our first stop is the Mercado de San Miguel.  History, art, architecture, culture, and food, glorious food – all in one amazing edifice located right in the heart of Madrid.  Does it get any better?  I think not.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

Built in 1916, saved from the wrecking ball, completely renovated, and re-opened in 2009, the Mercado is a temple to gastronomy – home to 33 stalls offering every kind of taste delight.

Fresh seafood from Galacia

Fresh seafood from Galacia

Considered a Property of Cultural Interest, the Mercado de San Miguel has become one of the most glamorous spots in the city and a meeting place for gourmets. Salted fish from the traditional Casa del Bacalao, European meats from La Boucherie, fresh pasta from Il Pastaio, Jugosa juices or cakes from Horno San Onofre. These are just some of the delicacies to be enjoyed in this historic market, a food connoisseur’s paradise filled with modern products that, come sundown, turns into a popular stop for tapas.
Photos of Mercado San Miguel, Madrid
This photo of Mercado San Miguel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Glass of wine?  No es un problema!  Just make your way to one of the various wine houses like Pinkleton & Wine, or to other stalls such as Ostras Sorlut, where you can enjoy a plate of delicious oysters washed down with a glass of French champagne.  (Two of my husband’s absolute favs!)

I’m not sure we’re in the category of “food connoisseurs”, but hubs and I are always searching for unique and interesting places to sample the local offerings of food and drink.  I think I’ve found a great place to start.

Take a quick tour of the San Miguel Market with Anthony Bourdain.

Well, that’s Day One in Madrid.  I’ll let you know what’s on tap for days 2 and 3.

Your suggestions are most welcome.  What was your favorite place to experience this great city?

Cheers!

Nancy

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. 

Nancy

And the winners are ~

Cue the trumpets, drop the streamers, shoot the confetti canons because  our very first reader contest is now officially over and ladies and gentlemen, we have WINNERS!

Thank you to everyone (and oh my, there were a quite a lot of you) who left a comment or signed up to follow Just a Backpack and receive notification of new posts.  Yesterday was the last day to get your name in the hopper.   I’m not sure what a hopper is exactly, so I used a festive birthday bag and some lovely purple paper pieces to write every name on.  Then I reached in and pulled out two names.  Ta Da!  Pam Reynolds and Janis Magnuson ~ you each won a copy of 65 Things to Do When You Retire: Travel.

bookwinners

I’ve heard from a few folks that you already purchased the book.  I hope you are enjoying it and have found some new ideas for your own retirement travel.  I already finished my copy and I am inspired all over again.

Cheers and congratulations to Pam and Janis.  I will contact you each by email to make arrangements for getting your books to you.

See you on the road ~

Nancy