Tag Archives: Life Change

5 Practical Reasons to House Sit (not one is a holiday!)

House and Pet Setting is a great way to find free accommodation, but it’s not only about traveling the world or taking vacations.

There are a number of other practical reasons why house sitting might be an option worth considering at some time in your life when your circumstances change.

Here are my top five suggestions:

Becoming an Expat

We don’t have to make huge, life changing decisions and long term commitments when services like house sitting allow us to test the water and acclimatise more gradually.

So, if you’re thinking of either temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of your citizenship, then house sitting gives you a great way to orientate yourself in a new environment.

It’s particularly difficult when relocating abroad to be sure that you’ve picked the best district to live in. If you organise a few consecutive house sits, you can compare the options and you’ll have immediate contacts. They might be able to give you invaluable advice about the best and safest residential areas.

House sitting is becoming popular around the world in many new previously unavailable countries. If there’s an expat community, there will likely be a house sitting community to cater for home owners who take extended trips home to visit family and friends.

Relocating to a new town or city

So you want a change of scene – a new town, city or maybe even a rural location. It’s stressful enough upping sticks and moving, so why add to the stress by rushing headlong into a long term property rental or house purchase before you know exactly what your new location can offer?

Signing up for a house sitting assignment will give you the opportunity to live in different parts of the town or city of your choice, so that you get to experience what there is on offer before committing long term.

But what about your stuff? Well remember that your accommodation will be free while house sitting so you’ll be able to afford to put your possessions into local storage. It’s likely that some of your utility bills and Wifi could also be free for a while.

If you have a dog to look after this will be a great way to meet the locals. My experience is that if you are walking a dog people will often stop and talk to you!

Completing a large project

Are you writing a book, creating a new online business, writing a dissertation, studying online or attending a long term course? Sometimes it becomes difficult to maintain focus in a familiar environment. It’s all too easy to pop round to the neighbours, invite friends over or simply cosy up on the sofa to watch a movie.

A great way to rekindle your enthusiasm and focus on a long term project is to settle into a new environment, away from the distractions of home.

This can be expensive if you turn to traditional options such as hotels and holiday rental properties. House sitting can give you the opportunity to take care of a property for an extended period of time, so that you can work on your project uninterrupted.

Lifestyle Living as a Global or Digital Nomad

There’s a growing community of people that have chosen to live a mobile, international lifestyle, travelling from one country to another without a permanent home or job.

My partner Ian and I belong to this category and we use house sitting almost exclusively as a way of experiencing different countries and cultures while making our living working remotely on the internet. It’s a liberating lifestyle and we are more than happy to give back to the house sitting community by offering our services to look after people’s properties, possessions and pets.

If you are considering opting out of mainstream society to become a global or digital nomad, then house sitting is a great way of finding free temporary accommodation within a homely environment.

Relationship breakdown

When a relationship or marriage breaks down you may find yourself in a difficult situation where both parties have no option but to continue living in one property together while trying to sell it.

When tensions are running high, it’s good to separate yourself from the situation. This gives you both the chance to evaluate the most practical options without continuing arguments or fallouts.

If one of you moves out to a local house sit, then it gives you the breathing space to deal with all the practical and legal issues, without the further expense of a rental property.

Of course you need to be of a sane mindset – house and pet sitting is a responsibility and you certainly don’t want conflicts to transfer from home to the house sit!


House sitting offers flexible options for living – if you want to find out more please check out our other articles. A great place to start is our website comparison that will help you get started, by subscribing to the best sites!

Goodbye to America and goodbye to our RV

Our US road trip is sadly at an end!

We’ll soon be the previous owners of this wonderful 1998 Fleetwood Pace Arrow motorhome. It has just passed 81,000 miles – a low average of around 5,000 miles per year. We bought this vehicle at PPL in Houston six months ago and have just enjoyed an amazing trip of a lifetime. We’ve driven over 5,000 miles and have lived full time in the RV for the whole six months.DSC04310

Our journey is just coming to an end, but if you are considering buying an RV, this article contains some information that might help you with your buying decision. Whatever type of RV you decide to buy, we hope you too get to experience life on the road in the same fine style we did.

Original Specification and add-ons

Our vehicle came with all the original paperwork and maintenance records going right back to the day it was bought as a brand new vehicle. The original owners paid for all of the optional extra add ons, which made it a very high specification model.

•    Awning made by Coleman Faulkner
•    Power roof vents
•    Extra TV in the bedroom
•    Dual air conditioning system
•    Powered hydraulic leveling jacks
•    Remote electric mirrors
•    Rear vision camera system
•    Higher quality interior trim

On comparing this model with some of the other vehicles of a similar age and type, we found everything to be a very high quality and finish. The value of the extras alone totaled $12,000 in 1998. The original price paid for this vehicle with all the add-ons was over $77,000!

Ian’s favorites

“With previous experience of driving big trucks (in the mines in the outback of Australia), I have tended to do most of the driving on any narrower or trickier roads. I am also the one who usually parks the vehicle wherever we stay for the night. However, Vanessa, after very little practice, has learned to drive the RV with ease and confidence.

The back-up camera is a great assistance. You can set it to just come on when you select reverse gear, or you can have it on all the time, so the image doesn’t go off when you come out of reverse gear – this is often a big help when positioning the vehicle at a fuel pump.

DSC04008But above all, my favorite feature is the leveling jacks system. Once parked in place, from the driver’s seat you can simply set the vehicle level using the power jacks and the spirit level on the engine hood.

Many times at campsites we watched people with blocks of wood or plastic wedges, setting them under the wheels, guessing the level of the vehicle, before driving up onto these precarious platforms. They would often repeat the operation over and over until they got it right.  See picture above. No fun in cold or muddy conditions.

The power jacks are quicker, safer, and so convenient. You don’t even need to get out of the RV if it is raining – just level-up from the driver’s seat when you park, then put the kettle on!”

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Vanessa’s favorites

“We took a long time to decide on this particular RV. I really liked how well looked after it was. In comparison to many others, there were no smells of stale tobacco, damp or other odors. However, one of the main things that influenced me was the design of the bathroom.

I liked that you could close two doors to create a large bathroom giving complete privacy in that area. Or you could close just one door to make a large en-suite bathroom. With hanging space in two additional wardrobes it is a good practical use of space. But the toilet does have a door and is enclosed for privacy.
Image00017The whole bathroom area dries out very quickly because of this open design, so it never has that damp musty smell that many smaller bathrooms acquire.

The bathroom sink is easily accessible too – if the kitchen sink is full or in use, you can still refill the kettle, or rinse something off in this extra sink.
DSC02498I also like the kitchen area. The fridge is a decent size, and there’s an oven too, not just a microwave, as you’ll see in many older RVs. If you can’t run the generator (campground restrictions), the option is there to use the gas oven. There’s a microwave too, of course. The finish on the table and counter tops is lovely. In fact the whole RV is very well finished and I really like the window blinds with their day and night options.

IMG_1437The vehicle always felt very secure when we locked up at night. The windows are pretty high and we could double-lock the door. We checked and with the night blinds down, no one could see in. This really has been a lovely cozy home for the last six months and I will miss this nomadic lifestyle.”

Maintenance

During our six months of ownership we had only one major problem to deal with, when the radiator sprung a leak. It was the original 1998 radiator, so it had done very well.

This was replaced with a brand new unit at Texas Fleet Maintenance in Austin. They did a great job, and we haven’t had any overheating issues since, even on the steepest grades. We climbed up over 11,000 feet on the I-70 across Colorado from Grand Junction to Denver with no problems at all.

The only other job we had to do is top up the hydraulic fluid for the jacks. It’s an easy job which takes just a few minutes.

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We have lived in this RV through extremes of temperatures from 40 degrees to well over 100 degrees. We have experienced torrential rain and storms with not a single leak to be seen. We’ve used the heating system and the air conditioning extensively and found them both to be more than effective in their respective temperature ranges.

Buying an old vehicle is often considered a risk, but we are very happy with the decision we made. It is, however, important to buy a vehicle that has been used regularly. More problems occur with vehicles that have been in storage for long periods of time. Low mileage doesn’t always mean low maintenance. It’s better to find an RV with slightly higher mileage that has had regular use, regular services and regular system checks.

If you are thinking about buying an older RV – in my opinion don’t hesitate. Use common sense, drive the vehicle, check out all the systems and make sure there is a comprehensive history. Ask lots of questions.

Or you could visit PPL in Houston – we would happily recommend them to anyone. All vehicles are sold on consignment, so there is no pressure to buy. No high powered sales people on your case from the moment you enter the door – as was our experience in some other centers!

Our road trip was a great, once in a lifetime experience and if you follow in our footsteps, you too could soon be eating breakfast, as we did,  on the edge of The Grand Canyon!

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Our Journey

Over the past six months we covered over 5,000 miles and saw some amazing and beautiful parts of the US. We spent a couple of months visiting the lovely state parks of Texas and then traveled west toward and along the border with Mexico.

After a brief visit to Guadalupe Peak on the Texas border, we journeyed on to The Grand Canyon where we spent a couple of weeks exploring both the south and north rims.

Then on to Bryce, Zion and Arches National Parks before finally heading to the higher, cooler mountains and ski towns of Beaver Creek and Vail.

We headed back to Houston before flying to the UK. We met some amazing people along the way and experienced unrivaled hospitality from  the American people. We certainly hope that we might someday experience our “second” trip of a lifetime and find another wonderful Pace Arrow to experience a different area of the US!

Map

From Peckham to Panama

Stepping into a new life

I’ve always embraced change and I love a bit of a challenge, especially if travel is involved. But this was a change I certainly did not see heading my way as it rose on the horizon, swallowed me up and transported me 5,396 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean!

I hadn’t long adjusted to my new life living between my weekend home in South Wales and my weekday house-share in Peckham, South London. I was just settling into a great new job at a trendy design company on the Southbank and looking forward to establishing a new lifestyle in cosmopolitan London. It had changed so much since I had lived there as a child and I fully expected it to be my home for the foreseeable future. This assumption proved to be very wrong!

I met Ian Usher after my house mate Kim offered him our attic room for a couple of nights as he passed through London on his return to Panama. She sent me a text message over the weekend to warn me that there would be “a man in the house” when I returned and not to be alarmed. She also sent me a link to some online information, adding that “Ian has an interesting story – take a look”.

Take a look I did and I discovered that he had become “infamous” between 2008 and 2010 for selling his life on eBay after the breakdown of his marriage, and had then embarked on “100 goals in 100 weeks”. He was now living on a small island in Panama that he had bought with the proceeds of selling his story to Walt Disney Pictures and had, it appeared “found love” once again.

I was slightly overwhelmed by the amount of media coverage (that I had somehow managed to miss at the time) and decided that Mr Ian Usher may have a slightly inflated ego! I made up my mind to take an extra day of holiday, leaving Kim to catch up with her friend unhindered.

However, she soon sent another text to say that both a friend and Ian were going to accompany her to a concert and why didn’t I join them so that Ian didn’t have to sit by himself.

“Who’s playing?” I asked.

“Matchbox Twenty” she replied.

That sealed it for me. I had long wanted to see this American band after watching them perform on an epic edition of “Live from Abbey Road” with The Script and Def Leppard a few years back.

Little did I know that this unplanned meeting was going to be the start of a life changing event and the beginning of a new adventure living in Panama, Central America.

Contrary to my earlier poor judgement, Ian was extremely interesting, engaging and considerate and I instantly enjoyed his company. Although we didn’t get to talk much at the concert we did chat until the small hours of the morning back in Kim’s kitchen long after she (unusually) retired to bed. We had a lot in common it seemed and when I finally retreated to my room, we swapped emails with the promise of staying in touch. This was accompanied by an offer from a slightly inebriated Ian to, “come visit if you get the chance, before I sell the island”.  But, I wasn’t really sure it was a serious invitation after so much wine!

Ian set off to catch a plane early the next morning and I had plenty to occupy me over the coming weeks. But we did stay in touch and were soon emailing each other regularly, until I decided that, yes I would take a trip to Panama to explore further the connection that appeared to be developing between us. Ian had some relationship issues of his own to work through, but when this was resolved I went ahead and booked the flight.

I left London for San Jose, Costa Rica to meet up with Ian for a two week holiday. We enjoyed a couple of days in this vibrant capital city before travelling back to his small off-grid island in Bocas del Toro. I loved this laid back archipelago that was still pretty untouched by mass tourism and quickly adapted to the tropical environment and remote lifestyle.

Ian and I realised quickly that we were good together, and it became clear that I would need to make some drastic changes to my life if I wanted to pursue this flourishing relationship. After a couple of fairly intense and slightly surreal discussions, I made the decision to stay on in Panama. What the heck – if it didn’t work out I could always return to London at a later date. Career plans could be put on hold or adjusted – my own happiness was and is much more important to me. Ian was happy with my choice and I set about making the necessary arrangements.

Like Ian I believe that we only have one life and it needs to be lived fully and without compromise. A few practical challenges would need to be overcome and I was sad that it would be a while before I saw friends and family again. However, I was excited to be acting spontaneously and looking forward to a life with Ian in an environment with new challenges, a new community and new adventures.

And so here I still am a year later and I would encourage anyone who wants to make a drastic change to their life to seriously consider taking that jump. Fear lives in the imagination – the reality of taking action is often very different and much easier. Certainly weigh up the pros and cons, but don’t live your life wishing you’d lived it a different way. One day you will wake up and find it is too late.

Go on – take the first step to living the life of your own dreams!

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