8 ways to make it easier to say YES!

Do you find it hard to accept and take on new challenges in your life? Is it difficult to motivate yourself to make new things happen?

We all know that personal growth is essential if you want health, happiness, ambition and general well being in your life. But many of us find it difficult to progress from thought to action.

You’ll be pleased to know that as human beings we do have amazing potential to accept and conquer new challenges.

There are few things in life that you cannot achieve if you really want to achieve them.

But this is the key – you have to really want something to achieve it. This is because when you want something enough you will automatically motivate yourself to take action.

Many people hamper their own personal growth by refusing to take action. They find any excuse not to make necessary changes in their lives.

Be honest – are you an achiever or a non-achiever?

If you want to avoid becoming a “non-achiever” then you must develop a personal growth mindset. If you do this you will find it easy to actively search out and take on new challenges.

You might think this is difficult. Our minds are very good at making things seem hard and unattainable. Basically we are lazy – we want to go to work, come home and eat, entertain ourselves and sleep!

But this is all about mindset and the good news is you can change your mindset with just a little retraining. All it takes is a small amount of discipline and some regular practice.

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Do you always say “no” before you say “yes” ?

Do you find yourself putting forward objections when you’re asked to try something new or challenging?

I used to be like this. When I was a child I was quite nervous and shy. My mum pushed me to try new things all the time, but I hadn’t developed my self confidence enough and so I was always very worried about what other people thought of my performance.

I found it hard to try new things unless I could do them perfectly. I became a “perfectionist” and this attitude limited both my personal growth and my social skills.

I spent more time worrying about getting approval from my parents and teachers than I did enjoying the new and interesting challenges presented to me.

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How does a personal growth mindset help?

When you develop a personal growth mindset you understand that you can’t be instantly good at everything you try. You have to work at it, persevere and develop your skills over time.

You also have to be prepared to fail and learn from your mistakes. Ironically, the process of failing does also help you to succeed.

Challenge leads to Passion = Enjoyment

But before any of this you have to start trying new things. You have to find out what you enjoy and what you have a passion for in your life.

When I saw how my attitude was holding me back I decided to make a change. Each Christmas I made a short list of 5 things I’d like to try in the upcoming new year.

These things weren’t always huge challenges but at least one of them would involve me stepping outside my comfort zone. For example, my first ever challenge was to skydive on my 18th birthday!

Other things on my very first list included improving my French, going to the opera in London and visiting “Le Mans” the 24 hour motor racing event in France.

The more you challenge yourself by trying new things or visiting new places, the more you will naturally build your self confidence and develop a mindset that improves your personal growth in many different ways.

Try these 8 different ways to develop your personal growth mindset

No. 1 – Start dreaming

Every new adventure or achievement begins with a dream. Allow yourself to dream and this will stimulate your imagination. Dreams originate from the creative part of your brain – they are part of your creative self.

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You may have to work hard to dream if you haven’t allowed yourself to do this much before. But the more you practice the easier it becomes.

If you embrace your dreams, you’ll see new opportunities for growth. When you’ve identified these opportunities don’t be afraid to try them out.

No. 2 – Stop justifying

You don’t need to justify everything you do in life. When you change your behaviour or start a new hobby, your friends and family will probably ask you why you are doing it. They may even give you reasons why you shouldn’t continue to pursue your goal or dream.

Politely listen to their advice but remember you don’t need to give them any justification, except to say ‘I’m doing this because I want to!’

No. 3 – Monitor negativity

Being negative is really a modern day form of defense. We always want to take the easiest and safest route to achieve a result. Often this is simply to say “no – I can’t, won’t or don’t want to do it”.

This is the thing I most have to watch. I can’t count how many times I’ve said no before going on to complete something, and many times without any problems.

Be watchful of saying “no” before actually giving something a try. As they say, it’s better to say yes and fail than never to have tried at all.

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No. 4 – Approval sucks!

You are improving your mindset for “yourself” not for “others”. This is very important to remember. This is your life and if you get it right you will be a happy fulfilled person. This will automatically be good for your family and friends.

What other people say is irrelevant unless it is good, sound practical advice given with you in mind.

If you ask for the opinions of others as a way of getting approval then you’ll end up doing what they want you to do – not what makes you happy.

You are not being selfish. Others may say you are, but honestly, it’s the people that try to control your destiny that are actually behaving selfishly!

No. 5 – Know that you’ll never be perfect

No matter what you do, there will always be opportunities for improvement. You can do your best in any given moment with the skills and tools available, but you’ll always be able to learn from your experiences and do better than before.

This is how mediocre athletes become great athletes.

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No. 6 – People matter!

Spend time with people or groups that you don’t normally hang out with. Subscribe to Meetup.com and attend discussion and networking groups so that you can have new and interesting conversations.

Your own views and opinions may be challenged, but this will stimulate you to come up with new ideas. If you keep an open mind you’ll no doubt learn new things about yourself and the world around you.

You’ll also continue to improve your social skills and find it easy to chat with new people. This might naturally result in new friendships or even romance!

No. 7 – Try something new every week

Commit to trying a new thing every week for a year. These things don’t have to be difficult challenges. You could try new foods, a new route to work, read a different genre of book, paint a picture, learn a language, take a train to somewhere you haven’t yet visited – anything at all – as long as you haven’t done it before!

Start by making a list of all the things you’d like to do or try – whether they are small or large, possible or improbable. No limits. You don’t have to create your list in one day either. See it as a work in progress to come up with 52 things you’d like to achieve.

Set a date to start – 1st January would be good – and get going. Use a diary to record your tasks and post to social media each day that you achieve something new!

If you fail to complete an item on your list, don’t worry – but at least make the effort to try.

Before you know it you’ll find that it’s easy to accept and achieve new challenges in your life. You will have successfully developed a personal growth mindset without too much mental effort!

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No. 8 – Enjoy the experience

We often say “it’s the journey not the destination” that’s important. When traveling, it’s all the little things that happen along the way and the people you meet that make the journey worthwhile.

The same can be said for any new challenge in life. It’s the overall experience that fulfills you, not necessarily just the final result. If you take on this way of thinking you will have much more fun along the way and a lot less stress and pressure to achieve the end result.

Make it easy to say yes!

If you learn to develop your personal growth mindset and accept new challenges then you’ll find it easy to say YES to new opportunities.

If you’re offered a job that stretches your abilities, you’ll be less likely to say no. You’ll think seriously about giving it a try. If you are invited on a travel adventure there’s more of a possibility you’ll actually make it happen.

All of this will lead to you living a happy, positive and fulfilling life in a way that satisfies you first and then the people around you!

Is there a perfect time to start?

Anytime is good to start improving your mindset but now is particularly perfect because it will soon be the start of a new year. This is a time when we generally feel naturally motivated to make positive changes in our lives.

Start putting plans in place now, make your list of challenges and be ready to start on January 1st.

Honestly, if you begin to embrace change and challenge, you’ll discover quickly how confident and happy this makes you feel.

Move forward into 2016 feeling positive, motivated and happy about your life!

 

 

 

 

House Sitting Websites Compared

Which house sitting website is best?

Updated Dec 2019
Exclusive House Sitting discounts available on this page – see below

House sitting websites compared – If you are new to house sitting or pet sitting, then you’ve probably discovered that you’ll need to subscribe to a website to get access to assignments.

So, which house sitting website should I choose?

platforms montage - Which house sitting website is best?

We compare house sitting websites and detail the best services provided. We review the top 5 international house sitting platforms and give links to some of the country specific sites in popular countries like the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

  • Trusted House Sitters
  • Nomador
  • House Carers
  • Mind My House
  • House Sit Match

Without doubt Trusted House Sitters is the largest and most popular international house sitting website, with a wide range of assignments in countries around the world.

HOUSE SITTING WEBSITES COMPARED

All of the subscription costs are shown in USD $ unless indicated


www.TrustedHouseSitters.com

Operated Since: 2010
Price: $119 USD per year (special 25% discount offer – see link below)
Average Active House Sits: 1500 – 2000
Countries: International
Photo Upload: Yes 13
Video Upload: Yes
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: Yes (3 different levels of check available)
Facebook Group: trustedhousesitters
Twitter Page: housesitting

TrustedHouseSitters is the largest and most well known of the international house sitting websites. You will find house sits from all over the world, but they are particularly strong in Europe, Australia and the USA.

They have the most house sitting assignments to choose from. Although they are the most expensive, the huge choice will increase your chances of selection. Home owners are charged the same rate as house sitters for membership – this means that home owners are generally committed to the assignments they list, and less likely to be “testing” the water as can happen on some sites where home owners list adverts for free. If you want to join as both a house sitter and a home owner, the combined subscription is $149.00.

This website is also run as a professional business with a team of 26+ people including a 24/7 customer care team. The website has been improved and updated time and time again over the years.

There are a number of helpful filters, including the option to select house sits that are “family friendly”.

A possible downside for the “newbie” house sitter is that it might be more difficult to get on to the house sitting “ladder” due to the number of members. Make sure you set up “email alerts” and apply to house sits as soon as possible. Spend some time creating a stand out profile and video. Our advice would be to select an additional regional site to increase your chances of selection until you get established.

Definitely one to have at the top of your list. Some of our best house sits have been found through this platform!

We are pleased to announce that we have partnered with TrustedHousesitters to offer readers of House Sitting Magazine and website a special 25% discount.


www.Nomador.com

Operated Since: 2014
Price: USD $ 89 year / $ 35 qtr
Average Active House Sits: 500 – 1000
Countries: International, specialize France & Europe
Photo Upload: Yes
Video Upload: No
Reference Upload: Endorsements and badges (no external references)
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: Yes
Facebook Group: nomador.community
Twitter Page: Nomador_Com

Nomador is newer to the scene but is already gaining ground on the three other most popular sites. This site was originally operated as a French house sitting site called Ilidor. Its French connection means there are still a lot of house sits in France, but the business is now truly global. So, international registrations are becoming much more prolific. We found the site a little more difficult to navigate in terms of pre-registration browsing, but once signed up it is full of great tools and helpful advice for house sitters and home owners alike..

The website’s modern design has a unique trust-based identity upload area for passports, driving licenses and other forms of ID. This identity check provides extra reassurance for homeowners. Your uploaded information is not shared and it is disposed of once the verification is complete.

Nomador also has a unique “Stopover” feature where home owners can register to offer free accommodation to members in-between house sits, or simply to build friendships. They also have a filter for assignments that are suitable for persons with reduced mobility. The ethos of the platform is to grow the sharing economy and build “community” – we think they have really succeeded with this!

The rate is the same for both home owners and house sitters. There is also a “Discovery Option” available FREE OF CHARGE which allows new house sitters to apply for up to 3 assignments. This free option extends to home owners too, but with some restrictions.


www.HouseCarers.com

Operated Since: 2000
Price: USD $ 50 year (free for home owners) (special 10% discount for House Sitting Magazine)
Average Active House Sits: 300-400
Countries: International
Photo Upload: Yes (14 images)
Video Upload: Yes
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: Being introduced (2017)
Facebook Group: housecarers
Twitter Page: housecarers

HouseCarers is another long-standing, highly rated international site, with listings in countries around the world. Definitely worth considering, and the website has had a major overhaul so the user interface is much easier to use and with more features than before.

They have a limited FREE TRIAL although you can’t upload photographs or contact home owners. You will get daily alerts so it could be worth a try just to see what you get offered. There is no charge for home owners on this site.

We secured our first long term sit of 2016 with HouseCarers. We looked after a beautiful luxury property in Australia, with a pool and a fabulous view! We were very happy with their service and the ease of use of the website.

We’ve also negotiated a special 10% discount for house sitters – click here of on the image below.

House Carers Discount


www.HouseSitMatch.com

Operated Since: 2013
Price: GBP £ 35 / £ 75 (basic and premium plans)
Average Active House Sits: up to 50
Countries: International but good for UK
Photo Upload: Yes – 2 on basic / 7 on premium
Video Upload: Yes – on premium plan
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: No
Facebook Group: housesitmatch
Twitter Page: housesitmatch

HouseSitMatch is another relative newcomer to the house sitting scene. Initially the site focused on house sits in the UK and Australia but new countries are being added all the time. Their strength in Europe is currently in the UK and Spain.

They don’t have so many house sitting assignments, but founder Lamia Walker, offers a very personal service and their current ratio of home owners to house sitters is only 1:1.5, so your chances of securing a house sit assignment are much higher.

The premium subscription is worth the extra money as you can load more pictures and a video. The website offers lots of great resources, has a new member chat facility and we’ve heard that this is a good website to contact if you are interested in family house sits.

Home owners pay the same as house sitters. There are often special offers in the Facebook group, so it’s worth checking there if you are thinking of joining.

We will be definitely be trying out House Sit Match when we return to Europe.


www.MindMyHouse.com

Operated Since: 2005
Price: USD $ 20 year (Free for homeowners)
Average Active House Sits: 200
Countries: International
Photo Upload: Yes
Video Upload: No
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: No
Facebook Group: not active since 2013 – use twitter
Twitter Page: MindMyHouse1

This is another good international website that gets regularly updated and improved. The site is inexpensive to join at USD $20 a year and so we would suggest it should be added to your top three as a matter of course. You’ve nothing to lose really at this price!

It has a good messaging system and a great search system with a useful map locator. There’s lots of relevant information to help you get started and they have some good downloadable resources. Home owners join for free.


COUNTRY SPECIFIC HOUSE SITTING WEBSITES

Not all house sitting sites cover international assignments. Some prefer to focus on one particular country, such as the UK, or a region such as Australia & New Zealand.

If you are planning to house sit in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand or Mexico, then you might find it beneficial to also subscribe to one of these more regional websites.

We’ve always found that HouseSittersUK has worked very well for us when we’ve been looking for sites in the UK, and I think if we were looking in Australia, we would definitely look to sign up to a similar site there The “House Sitters” network has sites in a number of countries, but you do have to sign up to each one which can be expensive if you are an international sitter.

Remember that many home owners will have signed up to the larger international sites as well, so you need to weigh up whether you think it’s worth it.

House sitting websites in Australia (including Tasmania)

Australia is a great place to house sit. Many Aussies love to travel and usually for extended periods. This means properties are available throughout the year in some great and often interesting locations and there are more country specific websites here than in most other countries.

If you are an Australian looking to house sit primarily in your home countries then one of more of these sites are worth subscribing to and we would definitely recommend: www.aussiehousesitters.com

If you are planning to spend an extended period of time in Australia house sitting long term, then we would also suggest you sign up to an Australian specific website.

However, if you have subscribed to House Carers and Trusted House Sitters you will have a large selection of Australian assignments available to you. We suggest you browse the sites of your international subscriptions first, and compare to your country specific selection to see what sort of duplication of assignments exists.

http://housesittingtasmania.com.au/

www.happyhousesitters.com.au

www.aussiehousesitters.com.au

www.mindahome.com.au

And remember that www.housecarers.com are based in Australia, so whilst an international site they have a lot of experience of Aussie house sits and feature many.

House sitting websites in New Zealand

www.housesitters.co.nz/

www.kiwihousesitters.co.nz

House Sitting websites in the USA & Canada

Given the size of America and the number of house sitting opportunities that exist, there are very few country specific house sitting websites available. Although an international site, you will find that TrustedHousesitters has a lot of USA sits available.

This is probably why House Sitters America do so well. They charge only $30 a year for anywhere in the USA. Some sites charge by zones or states so this really is a good deal. The website runs and operates easily using the same format as House Sitters UK, a company we’ve had great personal success with.

Update March 2017 House Sitters Canada is the newest addition to the world’s largest network of regional House Sitter sites. For a limited period of time they are offering FREE membership while they build their database of members.

www.HouseSittersAmerica.com

https://www.housesitterscanada.com/

House Sitting websites in the UK

House sitting in the UK is extremely popular and there are two great country specific websites. We are subscribed to House Sitters UK and I find their website really easy to navigate.

We had instant success when we joined up, finding two consecutive house sits within just a few weeks. They have a great instant messaging system, cost only £20 for a year and currently have over 100 assignments listed.

Again, as with Australia, you should compare how many of these assignments are featured on the international websites if you are only looking to house sit temporarily in the UK.

www.HouseSittersUK.co.uk
www.MindaHome.co.uk

House Sitting websites in Mexico

www.housesitmexico.com/

With an influx of expats from America and Canada, Mexico is becoming a popular choice for house sitting and assignments are increasing all the time. Destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, Merida and the Yucatan in general, offer year round opportunities.

To help facilitate the growing demand, HouseSitMexico has just been relaunched (2016) with a smart new interface, and the option to select different regions within this large country.

They charge $39 USD for 3 months membership, or $79 USD for a year. Rates are the same for home owners and house sitters. If you are both, there is NO additional charge. Once a member you can use either service.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

House Sitting Magazine – The ultimate lifestyle magazine

House sitting magazine is an unbiased free online publication that is available to download as an Apple or Android app version, or if you don’t have a mobile device, you can read a simple PDF version on your computer. You’ll find lots of informative articles about how to get started in house sitting. Download Issue 1 for the best “getting started” articles or go to the resources page on the website.

 

Of course house sitting isn’t just about free accommodation. There are responsibilities that are an important part of the relationship between home owners and sitters. These should never be taken lightly. This course guides you through the process of becoming a professional house and pet sitter, ensuring that the experience is win-win-win – for you, the home owner and the pets!

Or watch our video introduction here:

House Sitting – Introduction to becoming a successful international house sitter

Join our Facebook Group

Join our House Sitting Magazine Facebook Group where you can discuss all sorts of topics.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/HouseSittingMagazine/

We hope you’ve found this “House Sitting Websites Compared” article helpful – message us if you have any questions – we’d love to help you get started!

 

House Sitting in the UK

It was tough leaving the USA and even tougher selling the RV, our home for six months while we traveled around the southern states. But now we were back in England looking forward to house sitting in Reading.

I had grown up close by, so it was interesting to see how Reading had developed from my memory of a dingy, soulless town into a vibrant, modern city.

We were looking after an apartment that overlooked a park and the River Thames, just a short walk across the bridge to the city center. We had no car but we really didn’t need one here as the we could almost see the train station from our balcony!

This is one of those house sits that nearly didn’t happen. We were scheduled to look after Karen’s country home and her dogs for three weeks while she traveled. But a personal issue meant that she had to cancel and so no longer needed a sitter. However, she knew that we were flying in from the US and that it was too short notice for us to easily secure another assignment, and so she offered up her second property that was in the process of being sold.

Our house sitting home in Reading
Our house sitting home in Reading

This is what’s so lovely about the house sitting community. On the whole, and I believe because no money changes hands, everything is handled on the basis of trust and respect. People don’t want to let each other down, and Karen was amazing in this respect. When we arrived at the apartment, she’d even stocked up the fridge for us and put the heating on. What great hospitality.

So what exactly is house sitting?

House Sitting is a trend that’s become extremely popular over the last few years. It’s now a recognized alternative to a regular vacation and a great accommodation option for longer term travel.

Some people (and we’re almost in this category), house sit as a way of life. It’s an inexpensive way to visit and live temporarily in different countries and cultures round the world.

Sunny morning on the River Thames
Sunny morning on the River Thames

Instead of leaving a house vacant, home owners use house sitters to care for their property, possessions and pets. This can be anything from a few days to a few months, or even longer. By registering on international house sitting websites such as Trusted House Sitters, you can choose properties all over the world to stay in free of charge!

Continue reading House Sitting in the UK

Hiking across the Grand Canyon

Whenever the Grand Canyon is shown in the UK, as a tourist destination, it is promoted alongside Las Vegas, suggesting that the two American locations sit side by side on the Nevada/Arizona border. I was so sure that a visit to the Grand Canyon would be just a short coach trip from the gambling capital of the world that it came as quite a shock to discover the south rim of the Grand Canyon was actually a 270 mile drive away!

Backpacking Grand CanyonIt was even more of a surprise to find that a trip from the south rim to the north rim was a five hour trip and a further 220 miles! Traveling in a 34ft RV that managed only 5-8 miles a gallon, meant that some serious planning was necessary to ensure we didn’t blow our entire fuel budget visiting just one National Park!

As we headed through the massive Indian Reservations to the eastern end of the canyon, we considered our options. We really wanted to visit both south and north rims, but I’d also hoped to fit in a visit to “Sin City”, to gamble some cash at the poker tables! Still for now, we needed to concentrate on keeping our large oversized motor-home safe as we negotiated the steep windy roads up through the stunning Kaibab National Forest.

When we finally drove into the entrance of park, I expected to see the canyon ahead of me. But it was soon apparent that there were still a good few miles of driving before we would reach the Desert View area of the canyon at the eastern edge of the canyon. However, it was well worth a preamble.

The RVAfter parking the RV we found ourselves just a short walk from the unprotected edge of what was one of the most awe inspiring views I have ever encountered. A vast wilderness encompassing 277 river miles (446km), extending up to 18 miles across to the north rim, and a mile deep to the Colorado River. This view really does take your breath away, plunging you into a deep, silent meditation as you try to comprehend the two billion years of geological history that stretches before you.

As the second most visited National Park in America, around five million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, many of whom do no more than take a brief tour of the Mather Point Visitor Centre. They head in droves to the protected edges, pose for their “selfie”, or share cameras with other visitors as they try to capture their silhouettes against this famous backdrop. But there is so much more to do here and we were in no rush to leave this park. It was an easy decision to bypass Las Vegas and save this city for another visit.

Desert View Grand CanyonWe checked in easily at the Desert View campsite (7438ft), which is run on a first come, first served basis and provides 50 sites. If you arrive early in the morning you have a better chance of securing a good spot, and we were soon settled into a secluded site that would be home for the next few days.

Unlike Mather, there is no shuttle bus service at this end of the park. This means a car or bicycles are a necessity if you want to explore all the viewpoints. However, there are not nearly as many people, and you are much more likely to find a quiet spot on the edge of the canyon where you can watch the spectacular sunsets. We made this even more romantic by buying a bottle of wine, and some snacks from the well-stocked store to enjoy the hour spent gazing into and across the canyon.

If you are lucky as we were, you may see an electric storm way off in the distance, and be able to watch lightning zigzagging across the night sky. Of course, lightning close by results in a dramatic evacuation – electric storms at this height and exposure are the main cause of death in America’s National Parks. Just look for the scarred trees that litter the rim to see the power that is unleashed!

Sunset at Grand CanyonWe spent the next morning exploring the Desert View visitor area and the prominent Desert View Water Tower. Built in 1932 and designed by architect Mary Colter, it was constructed in the style of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau. Along with the Kolb brothers, Mary Colter is a notable contributor to the park’s history and we found the easiest way to find out more about her legacy was to attend a ranger talk.

Every evening the park rangers take turns to bring life to the history, culture and geology of the park. Sat in a small ampitheatre overlooking the rim, we spent the pre-sunset hour listening to tales of adventure, daring, struggle, toil, survival and death. The rangers really do work hard to passionately share their own love of the Grand Canyon and I was soon experiencing the strength of emotion that this wilderness bestows on its visitors.

We spent one of our days cycling to both Navajo Point and Lipan Point. Again there were relatively few people along the route and we were able to clamber across the rocks for more accessible views of the Colorado River. This end of the park offers more unprotected access, but extreme care should be taken if you venture beyond the safe areas. A steep uphill climb took us on to the Tusayan Museum where we were given a glimpse into Pueblo Indian life in the Grand Canyon some 800 years ago. A self-guided trail leads through the adjacent Tusayan Ruins which gives some insight into what was once a thriving Puebloan community.

DSC03687After a few days exploring all that we could at Desert View, we traveled west 25 miles to the Grand Canyon Village at Mather Point. We hoped to get a last minute camping slot in what is by contrast, one of the most difficult campsites to find space in. People book months ahead and unless you can be flexible, it is a risk to just turn up without a booking. We were prepared to travel out of the park if necessary, but were fortunate that a cancellation had just been registered and our next RV campsite was secured.

How different it is at Mather Point, the central hub of the Grand Canyon. Here you will find all the lodgings, restaurants, administrative offices, and any number of safe rim trails, museums and other cultural, historical, and geological sites. After the relative peace of Desert View, Mather was quite a shock. We were stunned by the sheer number of people visiting from all over the world. But, it was reassuring to see that the “village” was well spaced out over a large area with trees and green areas masking the “tourist” nature of this site. In fact, it is situated over such a large area that a free shuttle bus service is in operation to ensure that you can get to all the different viewpoints and trails, easily and quickly.

Another option is to hire a mountain bike, but be warned – some of the roads are a little steep! There is a new cycle route down to Tusayan which we explored, arriving just in time to watch the stunning IMAX film that shows many of the inaccessible views of the canyon and Colorado River. It was a downhill ride for about 8 miles so we opted for the shuttle bus back to avoid the long uphill return cycle! If you can’t find accommodation in the park, Tusayan provides further options. However, the shuttle does close at the end of summer, so check dates and times before booking.

DSC03730It is from the central village that the famous Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails meander down steeply to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. These trails are not for the fainthearted or ill-equipped hiker. In fact, you are advised to only tackle a short 3 mile out and back trek, as the steep descent and subsequent ascent is more than a lot of people can comfortably manage. It is quite fun to see the excited, relaxed faces on the way down, replaced by exhausted, pain filled expressions as they return in the 90 degree heat! I have to admit that, as fit as I was at this point of our travels, I found the steep uphill climb from Indian Garden a considerable challenge!

We packed in as many of the view points as we could during our three days, walking and cycling along the rim and making full use of the shuttle service. Our original plan had been to stay at Phantom, the famous ranch hidden deep at the bottom of the canyon, and close to the equally famous Colorado River. However, we discovered that this also required advance booking, up to a year ahead, and so it seemed extremely unlikely we would get a last minute cancellation on the dates that we wanted.

The more research we did, the more the idea of back-backing into the canyon began to appeal to us both. We had the time and we could be flexible. We would have to apply for last minute cancellation permits, and that might mean waiting a few days. The more we studied the trails, the more adventurous we became. Until finally, we decided that we would travel around to the North Rim after first visiting Bryce and Zion National Parks.

DSC04184This would allow us to build up our fitness while hiking trails in these mountain parks, before tackling the 45 mile hike from North to South Rim and then after a couple of nights rest, back from the South Rim to the North. Only 1% of visitors venture across the canyon and even less attempt the return trip. But we wanted to stretch our capabilities and spend as much time as we could deep within this wilderness landscape.

Our plan took shape. The summer weather meant we could travel lightly. Just a lightweight tent, some cooking gear, food, and a sleeping bag – all provided inexpensively through a visit to Walmart. In fact all our equipment cost less than one night at in a shared dormitory at Phantom Ranch.

We left Grand Canyon excited, knowing that within just three weeks we would be parked up at the North Rim contemplating a once in a lifetime adventure. The north rim is much quieter because of its remote location. It was a long drive from Zion National Park to the north entrance. It was also a lot cooler due to its height at 8500ft. We were assured by the campsite hosts that the temperature at the bottom of the canyon would still be close to a challenging 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

We arrived early at the permit office and collected our queue number. It wasn’t long before we were sat discussing our route with a qualified ranger. She had a cancellation the next day but only had space at Phantom campsite for 2 nights, not for Indian Garden where we had planned to spend our second night. However, she convinced us that a two night stop after the long 14 mile trek down would give us plenty of recovery time. It would also give us time to explore the riverbanks and the shorter trails along the Colorado River.

DSC03794We set off in the early morning shade, on a trail that was almost deserted once we had passed the three mile marker. The track hugged the side of the canyon walls, and required steady footing as the fall off the narrow path was far and long. The landscape changed constantly as we descended deeper, and the canyon revealed a beautiful sequence of rock layers which provide a unique window on time. We stopped for a break at the Cottonwood campsite and picked out a great site for our return trip. The sun was hot by this stage and the final eight miles to Phantom seemed endless as we followed a stream down towards the riverbed.

When we finally saw the sign for Phantom, after a long 14 mile hike we were pretty exhausted. We were longing to set down our backpacks and rest our weary feet and aching backs in the ranch restaurant before setting up camp. Tiredness made the rest of the day a blur and I don’t think I have ever been so keen to get into a tent and fall asleep!

Phantom RanchThe Ranger was right – a day of rest was very welcome after the strenuous hike and we enjoyed sitting on the banks of the Colorado River soaking up the sun before rising early the next day to start the 8 mile ascent back up the Bright Angel Trail to Mather Point. By the time we reached the south rim we felt like seasoned Grand Canyoners and were proud of our achievement. We spent two days resting before descending back down the Kaibab Trail, again to camp at Phantom. We then took two days to walk back out to the north rim spending a stormy night at Cottonwood camp.

DSC04191It is hard to explain the sublime delight of spending time in the Grand Canyon, and we have already started exploring more adventurous hikes along some of the less used trails. This is a special place that promotes a special sense of belonging and I would urge everyone who is thinking of visiting to put this high on their priority list. It was one of the most awe inspiring experiences of my life and one that I would happily revisit at any time.

For more information about park opening times, campsites, hotels and hiking permits, visit: http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

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Working off-grid: Is there such a thing as too remote?

Remote working opens up a world of exciting opportunities – and I really do mean world. With the latest technological advances in the realm of communication, borders are no longer barriers.  In some situations it is now possible to work remotely from absolutely anywhere…

For many people the term remote working suggests a small office space at home, or a co-working space that provides an alternative working environment. It is a workspace that allows them to apply focus away from the traditional company office. But today’s modern inter-connected world allows the true entrepreneur to dream and achieve on a much bigger scale. Let me tell you about my remote workspace, to give an example of what is really possible when you start to live and work on your own terms.

I live with my partner on a small two acre island off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Our home is completely ‘off-grid’. We have no connection to mains electricity or water. Solar cells and a bank of batteries provide our power and rainwater collection …….

Read the full article on Virgin Entrepreneur here:

http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/working-off-grid-is-there-such-a-thing-as-too-remote

MAKING A BIG LIFE CHANGE IS PRETTY SCARY ….

regretI don’t know who wrote this quote but it certainly resonates with me.

Making a big life change is scary – I should know, I’ve made enough of them. I’ve given up secure jobs to travel, I’ve extracted myself from failing relationships, and I’ve lived in several different countries around the world, including the island in the picture above. But the scariness is short lived. I’ve discovered that the fear I imagine is far worse than the reality of the experience.

Change for me is liberating. I like nothing more than the slightly “edgy” feeling of embarking on a new adventure, of stepping outside my comfort zone – it makes me feel alive!

Of course, I’m not suggesting life is all about relentless, perpetual change. There have been many times when I have been settled, content and taken time to enjoy a particular pastime or environment. But I am suggesting that living in any sort of long term compromise is bad for the soul!

As kids, most of us are naturally explorative. We are pioneers and adventurers! But the older we get, the harder it is to step out of our comfort zone, regardless of any desire to do so. It takes a concerted effort and a lot of support! The more “security” we have, the more “insecure” we seem to become and for some this can create a feeling of being trapped and unhappy.

We all get bored from time to time – that is why we have created so many activities and pastimes to fill our lives. We need continual stimulation to feel positive and inspired. But occasionally we become more restless and recognize that a bigger change or challenge is needed to rekindle our spirit of adventure.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a big change or a small change – any change is better than none if you feel unhappy or restless with your life. Much will depend on your circumstances, your personality and your financial situation, but these should not be constraints. There are ways around all situations with some “out of the box” thinking and general resourcefulness.

Learning to set and accomplish goals can be an important part of making successful life changes. Writing down your goals is also very important – it shows a sense of commitment and makes a statement of intent.

If you are ready to make a change in your life, start by making a short list, just 2 or 3 things you’d like to be different. Then work out a feasible plan to make these changes happen. Stay out of your imagination and keep everything very practical. Set a completion date and mark this on a calendar. Tell as many people as possible and talk to your family and friends. The more support you have the easier it will be to follow through.

Of course there will be some people who will want to convince you not to follow your dreams – but remember they are usually the ones who are too scared to make similar changes in their own lives.

Stay strong, and keep yourself focused on what is important to you – you will be an inspiration to others and you may find yourself living your lifestyle of choice sooner than you thought possible!

No regrets!

A day at Dameisha Beach, Shenzhen

We live in Shenzhen, southern China, and from our home we gaze across Sea World in Shekou, towards Hong Kong. There are no beaches to be found here, but to the east of Shenzhen, around 12km from the centre you will find yourself in the district of Yantian. The coastline stretches for 19km with beaches, mountains, islands and reefs and this is also the closest weekend getaway for locals and visiting tourists.

Yantian district was established in 1998 and it is connected to the urban area of Shenzhen by highways and expressways that offer a quick connection by car. For tourists it’s possible to take the J1 bus all the way from Sea World on a route that meanders through Nanshan, Futian, Luohu and on to Dameisha, where you disembark at the central bus station. It takes around one and a half hours, probably much longer in rush hour and at holidays, but it’s a cheap option for tourists and locals alike.

Colourful shops on the way to the beach
Colourful shops on the way to the beach

“Soft sand and limpid sea water”

I was sceptical about visiting Dameisha, but we were keen to see for ourselves whether the beach lived up to the Shenzhen tourist brochure’s claim of having the “longest beech (sic), soft sands and limpid (?) sea water”.

We’d seen the news reports of 160,000 people crammed onto this beach during Spring Festival, and heard locals talk of an alarm that sounds when more than 50,000 people frequent the beach on busy spring and summer weekends. So we opted to visit on a quieter Monday morning.

It was an overcast day, a little stormy with dark skies but the sun was warm enough to attract a steady stream of visitors, and we followed the small procession down through the town to the sea front.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but as usual in China I was surprised. I felt as if I had been transported back to 1970s England as we passed by shop fronts full of beach paraphernalia including a mix of large floats, buckets and spades, bikinis and summer hats.

A walk around town
A walk around town

Dameisha is not a small coastal village, but a large sprawling town. It has an older, more typically Chinese area that leads to a modern mall alongside an equally modern marina with large hotels, including a Sheraton resort style property.

Sheraton-Dameisha-ResortWe ventured into a couple of smaller hotels to check out the overnight rates but were told they couldn’t accommodate tourists. This is not because they don’t want foreigners staying in their hotels.

For anyone staying overnight in China you have to be registered by the hotel at a local police station. Some hotels simply haven’t got the licence to enable them to do this. Don’t ever take it personally. There are plenty of hotels where you will be able to make a reservation, but don’t leave it to the last minute at busy times!

IMG_20150525_130241The coastal road is lined with trees and you cannot see directly to the seafront, but we found our way to the beach entrance at the more western end of town.

The entrance is masked with barriers and for a moment we thought we would need to pay as is common at some other beaches. By watching other visitors we realised these are the “people counters” used to monitor the number of people entering, and that no payment is in fact required at Dameisha.

IMG_20150525_123536OK, if you are used to five star luxury and deserted beaches then you will be disappointed. But by English standards, it really isn’t that bad. The sand is beautifully soft, and despite warnings from locals, the sea looked clean. At least there wasn’t a flotilla of rubbish as I thought there might be. In fact, there were waste bins at regular intervals and everything looked extremely organised.

Dotted along the beach were lifeguards overseeing their own small areas of netted sea for safe swimming. There are activities including diving, (off a small island that can be seen from the beach), jet skis and even paragliding.

Safe swimming
Safe swimming

Beach angel sculptures

Far in the distance we could make out some unusual sculptures rising off the beach and we made our way along to investigate. Large angel-like figures rose out of the sand providing an interesting photo opportunity.

According to TravelChinaGuide.com – “these sculptures “depict the aspirations for a better life for the “drifting generation” – the young people who had unstable jobs and insecure living conditions during the 1940s to 1980s. Now the sculptures have become a symbol of happiness.”

IMG_20150525_125413We ourselves “drifted” to the back of the beach and were surprised to see rows of lockers. What a great idea – it’s always a problem on a busy beach as to what to do with your possessions. This solves the problem in a safe and practical way. There were also changing rooms and toilets, although I can’t vouch for their cleanliness when there are more than 50,000 people on the beach!

Security lockers at the back of the beach area
Security lockers at the back of the beach area

The clouds were gathering and the sky darkened ominously, so we wandered back to the local restaurants, most offering a varied selection of fish and seafood.

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Seafood restaurant at the west end of town
Seafood restaurants at the west end of town

Here you can select live fish from the stacked aquariums and eat a freshly cooked meal.

Live seafood and fish on show
Live seafood and fish on show

We made it into a busy restaurant just before the heavens opened and sat undercover watching the street scenes as we ate our lunch. As we were due to fly out to Abu Dhabi the next day, we steered clear of the seafood and opted for a tasty tofu and vegetable lunch – just to be on the safe side!

Lunch at Dameisha
Lunch at Dameisha

There’s enough to do here for a day – a few activities, sunbathing, shopping and a walk around the town, but if you want to venture into a less crowded area I would suggest going a little further along the coastline to Xiaomeisha beach. It’s smaller and less busy, with an entrance fee of 30 Yuan. Camping is a popular activity here and you can rent a tent or take your own.

If you have children you can also visit Xiaomeisha Sea World  to provide some variety. You could also visit Wutong Mountain, a popular hiking spot, before arriving at Dameisha.

Dapeng Penninsula

Map of the Dapeng Penninsula (courtesy of Shenzhen Party
Map of the Dapeng Penninsula (courtesy of Shenzhen Party)

However, I have higher hopes for the Dapeng Penninsula, further to the east, which as yet we haven’t visited. Here I am told you can hike, visit smaller coves and even the historic Dapeng Fortress, built in 1394.

This is a relatively undeveloped area, by Chinese standards and you will find seafood restaurants in Nanao, as well as small bed and breakfast type establishments at Jiaochangwei. These small inns were formerly homes of fishermen and local families. They are much more characterful and many have been updated along the lines of small western boutique hotels.

Dapeng Ancient Fortress
Dapeng Ancient Fortress

As with most places in China you will no doubt hear both good and bad reports about this stretch of coastline, but we found it a pleasant escape from city life and look forward to exploring it further.

For more information take a look at some of these links:

Sheraton Hotel Resort – Dameisha Beach – www.StarwoodHotels.com

Xichong Surfing Beach, Dapeng – Secret Spot Café and B&B – http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1558106/let-it-rip-surfs-shenzhen

Dapeng Fortress – http://www.szcchina.com/blog/da-peng-old-fortress-shenzhen.html

Getting around Shenzhenhttp://www.saporedicina.com/english/getting-around-shenzhen/

How to survive a Chinese spa

I’d heard a lot about spas here in Shenzhen and how different they were to western versions, and I was keen to see how they compared. One of my students offered to take us to D-Club, a luxury spa in the Futian district and it really was an experience unlike any other!

Read the story of how our day unfolded here:

http://www.saporedicina.com/english/luxury-chinese-spa-experience/

Lovin’ Bloglovin’

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I’ve been wondering lately how to manage all the interesting blogs and information that I read. It seems that we all love to write and share our experiences. But as it becomes more and more easy to create stylish information based websites, I find myself drawn to so many articles.

And the problem is that I wander.

I wander through all the links and find inevitably that I’ve lost the original article I was so interested in reading! I guess I’ve been so busy getting lost deep within layers of internet searches that I haven’t had time to find Bloglovin’

After dallying briefly with Feedly I sort of gave up – but thanks to a great travel blog I was linked to last night I finally found Bloglovin’

So far so good – and here I am now “claiming my blog”. I was instructed to write a new blog and insert the relevant code but none of my latest blog posts are ready. So as I’m an impatient girl, I’ve written this short entry to test that it works!

For anyone reading these few short paragraphs, please, please take time to look at my “real” articles! I’m a global traveller living with my partner, Ian Usher, and partaking in a lifestyle adventure that I hope will see me through the rest of my life!

Two years ago Ian and I began travelling the world after a chance meeting in London. DivergingRoads.com tells our story as we meander happily through our lifestyle adventure, finding ways to make a living while experiencing as many cultures as possible.

I hope you find some inspiration here to live your life exactly as you want to.

More coming very soon!

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