House Sitting Magazine Issue 12: July 2017

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You'll find extra news, reviews and snippets throughout the magazine!

Welcome - Out of Africa Ian Usher

In a BIG Country - Options for Getting Around Australia Ian Usher

House Sitting in Darwin Andrew Redfern

Killer Dingoes on the Prowl Robyn-Lea Schulz

Destination Tasmania Amanda Galati

Pet Photos - 10 Tips for Taking Great Shots Andrea Jordan

Resources - Review of SiteGround Ian Usher

Essential Oils for Travel Toni Fairman

Our Adult Gap Year Jacqueline Lamb

Interview with Ian of HouseCarers Vanessa Anderson

HouseCarers Took My Heart Home to Australia Dr Maureen Murphy

Salt Water Swimming Pools Ian Usher

A House Sitting Love Story Bianca Skye

In the next issue...

OUT OF AFRICA by Ian Usher

Another house sit comes to an end, and it's time to move on again. We have reached the end of almost three months in the African bush, on the beautiful banks of the Boteti River, to the east of Maun in Botswana. As is often the case we find ourselves feeling a mixture of excitement and sadness. We're looking forward to new adventures ahead, but we are sad to be leaving this wonderful part of the world behind. This has been our longest house sit to date, and it has been different to others in that we have got to know our neighbours much better than we usually do. Bruce and Yvonne, immediately next door, have become very good friends. We even got to spend a wonderful weekend with them at their guest lodge way out in the wilderness.

Omogolo Bush Lodges are in a very secluded location, and the first lodge they've built sits on a platform overlooking a waterhole which is kept filled all year round. In the dry season the waterhole is very popular with elephants, as it is one of the few easily accessible water supplies in the area.

Every day elephants come to visit. Some are regulars, some are first time visitors, but word seems to be spreading, and more and more keep arriving. You can sit on the balcony watching, sometimes just one or two big bull males, sometimes larger family groups.

The lodge is right at the water's edge and the clean water piped into the waterhole spills into the pool just beyond the edge of the balcony. The more confident elephants will come almost to the balcony to drink the clean water pumping out of the pipe. If you sit quiet and still they come so close, and are obviously very aware that you are sat close by. The highlight of out weekend was the arrival of a large family group, including tiny babies. At one point we counted 27 elephants in the waterhole. Apparently a couple of days after we left there was a group of over 40 arrived. This has certainly been one of the highlights of our stay here in Botswana, and a true "once-ina-lifetime" experience. If you are interested in finding out more about this special place take a look at: Bruce and Yvonne also have a Botswana travel company and organized another three day excursion for us. Just last weekend we drove further east, out to the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans, where we had a couple of nights of adventure planned.

On the afternoon we arrived we were taken out to the bush where we met with an extended family of meerkats. You may have seen these cute creatures on TV documentaries. They are even more fascinating in real life. The colony we visited were used to seeing humans around, and paid us little notice, going about their daily routine un-interrupted. They even took advantage of Vanessa as a higher lookout point.

Late in the afternoon we were issued our quad bike and rode way out into the middle of a huge salt flat, where we were to spend the night. We were the only two guests on the tour that night, so with just a guide and a cook, we felt like the only people left on Earth. It was utterly silent out there. We cooked under the full moon, and slept on the ground under the stars. It was cold in the morning as we had breakfast, and we wrapped up warm for the ride back to civilisation.

We stayed at Planet Baobab, a wonderful resort built around the most fantastic trees we had ever seen. The baobabs are believed to live around 6,000 years, and the ones at the resort are thought to be between 1,000 and 4,000 years old. Nobody is really sure, as they don't have rings like most trees, and age can only be estimated by measuring their diameter. Our trip was booked through Omogolo Travels Back at our house sit, we are now in the middle of our final clean up, preparing everything for the return of the home owners. They are back in two days, and we head off the next morning. We still have about ten days in Africa, time we set aside for traveling. Our first stop is still in Botswana. A short flight from Maun will take us to Kasane, where we plan a wildlife river cruise. We then cross the border into Zambia and have a couple of days to explore Livingstone and see the spectacular Victoria Falls from the Zambian side of the Zambezi River. From there we cross into Zimbabwe where I'll be celebrating my birthday at Victoria Falls. Then its back to the UK for a quick visit and onward to the next house sit in Barbados.

So, yes, we're sad to be leaving new friends behind, but as always the adventure ahead beckons us forward. We hope you enjoy this month's dose of lifestyle inspiration. Ian and Vanessa (just finishing our current house sit in Maun, Botswana)

IN A BIG COUNTRY Options for getting around Australia by Ian Usher

Until you spend some time driving from A to B in Australia, it really is hard to understand just how big the "Land Down Under" really is. My first trip to the land that was to eventually become my home was over the northern winter of 1998/99. Of course, this time of year is the middle of summer in Australia, and Sydney was basking under bright blue skies when we arrived. We planned to buy a car and drive up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns. On the map it doesn't look too far. We had six weeks and no schedule to keep, and loved the open welcome we received in this wonderfully friendly country. The open road beckoned, and once we made our $600 investment in an old Nissan we headed north.

Australia's east coast is a beautiful place, and we spent long days driving, staying in caravan parks along the way. Each time we looked at the map we marveled at the tiny distance two or three hours of driving had taken us. We were beginning to get a real idea of how far it is from Sydney to Cairns. We eventually arrived in Cairns with time to spare, and sold our car for $800 - a $200 profit. We spent our windfall on diving trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. The following year, after working hard back in the UK to save some more money, we returned to Australia. We bought a car again, this time in Adelaide, for just $200. We spent a fantastic eight weeks exploring the south east of the country, eventually selling the car in Sydney before flying home. And again the distances amazed us. Since those early holidays I have spent seven years living in Perth (2001 to 2008), on the west coast, and have enjoyed several other long distance road trips. Driving up the west coast from Perth to Exmouth takes about two days, driving six hours each day.

And crossing the infamous Nullabor Plain from west to east, where you can find the world's longest straight stretch of road (146.6 km / just over 90 miles), took me almost two weeks although I wasn't in a hurry.

Perth to Sydney is around 4,000 km (2,485 miles) by road, so at a steady 100kph you would need to drive for a solid 40 hours - that's five days, if you drive 8 hours each day!

Australia is BIG So, if you are planning a few house sit assignments Down Under you really do need to consider distances seriously, and plan accordingly. Two sits in Sydney, with a week in between in Perth really is going to involve some logistical challenges. House sitting in Australia: If you are thinking of taking on some assignments in Australia, you'll find our April "Aussie" issue of House Sitting Magazine, very insightful. Check out too our "House Sitting in Australia Getting Started", which is full useful information and links. A direct flight between the two cities takes around four and a half hours. When you factor in travel to and from the airports, check-in time, baggage handling, etc. the trip will probably take around ten hours. You will also cross two time zones, as Sydney is two hours ahead of Perth.

SO, WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS? There are a number of options for traversing the vastness of Australia, including, flying, trains, rental cars, buying a car, hiring a campervan or even car or campervan repositioning. Let's look at these in more detail:

1. Take the plane There are five main airlines that offer flights within Australia:     

Qantas Virgin Australia Jetstar Tigerair Australia Rex (Regional Express Airlines)

Internal flights are not cheap in Australia, or at least not in the way they are within Europe, for example. Jetstar and Tigerair usually offer the cheapest flights, whereas Virgin and Qantas tend to offer higher levels of service. Rex offer a wide variety of regional routes not covered by other airlines, but tend to cost a little more.

As a rough guide, the two cheaper carriers might charge around $130 (AUD) for a one-way flight Perth to Sydney in the middle of the night. Virgin and Qantas may cost around $200 (AUD) for the same route during the day. Rex don't fly the east/west coast to coast route.

2. Take the train Unless you are wealthy and have plenty of time, cross-country trains in Australia will probably not be worth considering. However, with both time and money, Australia's Great Southern Rail offers some iconic railway journeys. As a rough guide, Perth to Sydney takes about 4 days, at an approximate cost of $2,500 to $4,000 (AUD), depending on your sleeper car choice. See our favorite world rail resource The Man in Seat 61 and Great Southern Rail for further details.

3. Self-drive - using your own car If you have your own car then driving is an option, but make sure you factor in enough time to cover sight-seeing, breakdowns, weather issues and other unforeseen circumstances.

Some Australian roads are rougher than others, and careful planning is required. Just some of the considerations:      

Is the vehicle suitable for the journey planned? 4WD is sometimes needed on many outback roads. Is your vehicle adequately maintained? What weather challenges might you meet? Wet and dry seasons in the tropical northern areas of Australia can add all sorts of extra challenges to a journey. Do you know where the roadhouses are? It can be a VERY LONG way between fuel stops. Where will you stay? Camping can be incredibly hot in the summer. Do you have all the emergency gear you might need? In more remote areas you can go for hours, even days without seeing another vehicle. It is not unknown for people to die in the outback when they abandon their broken-down vehicle to look for help.

Once again, it bears repeating, Australia is a BIG place! However, despite the challenges, driving really is the best way to see this huge continent.

4. Self-drive - buying a car Buying a car in Australia varies from state to state. However, if you are planning to spend a few months in Australia and expect to do a few longer trips it can be a very practical and economical proposition. On several occasions I have bought vehicles from other travelers. You can spend a day going around the backpacker hostels, studying the "for sale" notice boards. There is usually a wide range of vehicles on offer. Online sales noticeboard website has plenty of possibilities too. If you find a motivated seller who is flying onward in a day or two you can usually pick up a great bargain. I bought this wonderful little camper in December 2007 for a bargain $2,800, and spent six weeks crossing the country from Perth to Sydney. I sold it for $3800, the profit more than covering the flight back home to Perth. A little bit of mechanical know-how, or a mechanically-minded friend can be a big help when buying second-hand. As always in such situations, buyer beware!

5. Self-drive - renting a car If you don't want to buy a car, or your trip is shorter, then you could rent one. With distances being so great, a one-way rental is common. It is sometimes possible to get a very cheap rate if the rental company wants a vehicle returning to its home base. On my second journey from Perth up the west coast to Esperance I was given a rental car for free, and only had to pay fuel costs. The downside was that I had a two-day time limit, which didn't allow for much sight-seeing on the way. I took a flight back down at the end of the trip. Fuel costs need to be considered too when choosing to drive. Petrol isn't as cheap in Australia as it is in the States, so you will probably spend more in fuel costs than a single flight would cost. Also bear in mind that in more remote locations the price of fuel can be a lot higher than in the cities. However, shared between two or more people the costs are better, and of course you get the bonus of the road trip..

6. Campervan rental In Australia campervans come in all shapes and sizes, from bargain backpacker minivans to super-size luxury RVs. You will see campers wherever you travel in Australia. I bought this Costs vary, but none are super-cheap. Here are a few websites to begin your research:      

7. Buying a campervan? Some companies also offer campervans for sale, with a guaranteed buyback when you are ready to sell. This company offers rentals, sales and buyback options:

8. Campervan repositioning One other interesting possibility, something we would like to try one day, is re-positioning of campervans. Just like the car rental companies, campervan companies often need to move their vehicles around the country to satisfy demand. If you are flexible there are many opportunities to deliver a vehicle across the country. This is most-likely impractical if you have house sit assignments to get to, as getting the exact date and route you need might be difficult. But for a travel adventure between sits it is a great opportunity. Rental costs can be as little as $1 per day, and sometimes there is a fuel allowance too. The downsides?  

Larger campers can be gas-guzzlers. You may have to stick to a tight schedule.

Here are a few websites to begin your research:   

In conclusion, we have always found Australia to be a great house sit location, with many interesting assignments on offer. However, do take the time to do a little planning before accepting back-to-back sits on opposite sides of the country. You may find that you can't get to your next assignment on time! As I said, Australia is BIG.

Interested in house sitting Down Under? HouseCarers also covers many other countries around the world… We have a great 10% off deal this month for HouseCarers membership. Click here

HOUSE SITTING IN DARWIN, AUSTRALIA Heat, storms, cyclones and snakes! by Andrew Redfern (images by Christopher Ojala)

Landing in Darwin in November, the first thing that strikes us is the heat. It is just after midnight and the temperature is still in the high 20’s (greater than 80F). Having come from Sydney where the midday temperature was almost half of Darwin’s midnight reading, it was a shock and took some acclimatizing to. In fact, the first week we were there we thought it was going to be impossible to survive the month we had committed to house sit! Our home was in the suburb of Fannie Bay, nearby to a local café called "The Cool Spot". It was aptly named and a regular haunt as it was air-conditioned. We visited frequently to escape the heat and indulge in a cool drink or nourishing meal. The house we were minding was only air-conditioned upstairs so we set up a spare bedroom as an office and spent many hours there.

Even the cat we were looking after visited us often, and whilst he wasn’t overly affectionate, did appreciate the air-conditioning. The living area (downstairs) had fans only and even watching television at night would have you end up in a lather of sweat.

Build up to breaking point November in Darwin is known as the "build up season" as the city prepares for the big wet and the refreshing rains of the wet season. Each afternoon the clouds would roll in and the humidity levels would rise to breaking point. Then, without a drop of rain the clouds would pass and the heat would drop a few degrees, only to be repeated the next day. We did experience a number of amazing thunderstorms with lightning and drenching rain. Umbrellas or rain coats were useless and even running in the rain proved futile. Watching the locals, they seemed unphased and just continued to amble along, enjoying the cooling rains and temporary relief from the heat. However, once the storm passed, the humidity would rise again and the constant sweating and sweltering continued.

A handover with a difference As part of the handover by the homeowners, we were instructed on what to do in the event of a cyclone. Darwin is famous for Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve in 1974 as it almost wiped the city out with significant loss of life. Many buildings were razed to the ground.

Whilst it wasn’t technically cyclone season during November, it took us by surprise as the owners explained where the "survival kit", including water storage containers, candles and torches, was stored in the event that we would need them. The safest room in the house was the downstairs bathroom as there were no external wind ows and it was almost bunker like. Every time I used that bathroom I thought about having to live in there for a couple of days until the storm passed. Thankfully, our month in Darwin passed without a need to "bunker" down, but it certainly highlighted how diverse a house sit assignment can be, and what needs to be considered by home owners as they hand over their home and pets.

Getting used to the heat Living in such a hot climate, you become acclimatized to the heat and begin planning around the high temperatures, avoiding them wherever possible. Going out early morning or late afternoon meant you could escape the hottest part of the day. One of our quests was to find the best air conditioning in Darwin and our sightseeing trips were determined by the availability of cool air conditioned venues. This included attending the Charles Darwin Film Festival as the whole day event was held in the Entertainment Centre.

Even shopping could cleverly include a few extra minutes in air conditioned comfort. We grew to know the bus timetable by heart and would stand inside the supermarket building, which was beautifully air conditioned, and only exit just in time to catch the bus which was also aircooled. We became members of the casino and visited shopping centres as they provided some respite from the heat. At the end of the month, we declared the "Cotton On" store at Darwin mall as having the best air conditioning and we visited there whenever we went into the city.

The parliament house building (above) is also worthy of mention for both its air conditioning and its very informative free tour and café. It was easy to spend a few hours here learning about the history of the Northern Territory and sipping on a coffee.

Best laid plans can go awry In a cruel blow to our planning, the nearby Parap Swimming Pool was closed for renovations during our visit. It was being rebuilt due to the fact that it wasn’t regulation length for training and competitions. And even though Darwin is surrounded by ocean, it is dangerous to swim as the salt water crocodiles are prevalent, and hungry!

Snakes are also common and one morning on my way to yoga I discovered a brown snake in the middle of the street where we lived. As if the heat wasn’t enough, we also had to deal with deadly animals as well!

A wonderful month in Australia’s Northern capital In Darwin and the Northern Territory in general, these threats to existence are part of life and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this city. The locals, and Australians in general, tend not to focus on the dangers but embrace the elements and get on with life. Whilst some may consider it “The Last Frontier”, it is a city with an interesting history and is significant in terms of its role in World War II, particularly the bombing of Darwin. We had visited previously, during the cooler Winter month of June so our time house sitting provided a different perspective to this north end capital which is closer to Asia than to other Australian cities. We visited the iconic “Deckchair Cinema” and took a day trip to the nearby Tiwi Islands which are fascinating and provide an insight to a living indigenous culture. Local theatre and markets provide much to do and Andrew even managed to become a regular attendee at the local yoga studio.

So, despite what seemed like a month of hell at the beginning, we thoroughly enjoyed our time and would certainly consider future assignments in Darwin, and would encourage anyone thinking about house sitting in this city to "go for it". You can read more about our adventures in Darwin at this link

Andrew & Christopher, known as "Global Wanderers", have been travelling the world together since 2005, visiting many locations including Egypt, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. In May 2016, they discovered house sitting and now travel full-time looking after people’s pets and homes. They enjoy adventure style travel and "living like a local". Christopher is a keen photographer whilst Andrew always seeks out a yoga class. Later this year they will travel to the USA and then Mexico. You can read more about their travels and adventures at: Or find them on Facebook and Instagram


In the Spring of 2012, just one year into my now six year house sitting lifestyle, I accepted a six week sit on a 600 acre property in rural Australia. My responsibilities were to care for three Australian Koolies - a breed I didn't know, but which the owner told me was the original Australian Kelpie. More about the breed: The Australian Kelpie, or simply Kelpie, is a sheep dog successful at herding livestock with little or no guidance. It's a medium-sized dog and comes in a variety of colours. You can read more about the history of "koolies" at his link. My house sit was in TilbaTilba on the NSW far south coast, an area of extraordinary natural beauty. TilbaTilba is a historic town nestled in the fertile foothills of an extinct volcano, then called Mt Dromedary, now known as Mount Gulaga.

City slicker turns country girl! At the time I was looking around to find somewhere to settle outside my hometown of Sydney. Knowing that property along the beautiful "Nature Coast" was cheap-as-chips by Sydney standards, I applied for a sit which would give me the opportunity to "live-like-a-local" for a while, giving me the chance to assess whether I could live there, long term. Before accepting the sit I was told the property was fairly remote, but that there would be people on hand to look out for me. "Scoti the farm hand" came Monday to Friday to tend the cows and sheep which were having calves and lambs. The owner’s 88 (going on 78) year old father, who lived on the adjoining property, was just a "cooee" away, and an ex-husband lived in one of the three houses spread across the property. On arrival the home owner informed me that a few newborn lambs had been killed over the past few nights, and it was thought wild dogs (Dingoes) were the culprits. Rather taken aback and not sure how this impacted me, I was advised that the three Koolies in my care would alert me to the presence of wild dogs by barking. If this happened, whatever time of day or night I was to ring Scoti and he would come out in search of the intruders, armed with his hunting rifle.

The owner remained home the first night for the handover, then the following morning at dawn, drove off across the paddock in her Ute and disappeared into the sunrise. For the non-Australians, a Ute (pronounced Yute), is a "utility vehicle", or in simple terms, a pickup truck!

Dingo alert On the very first night I was home alone, the wild dogs turned up. I’d just put the Koolies in their kennels and gone to bed when they started barking. I jumped up, rushed to the front of the house to listen, and sure enough, I heard howling – an eerie sound which got louder and louder. I’d been asked to listen very carefully to gauge the direction from where the howling was coming. This information would be passed to the National Parks & Wildlife Service Dogger, and he'd know which direction to go looking in order to lay traps the next day. It was past midnight but, as instructed, I rang Scoti and told him what was happening. He gave me further instructions and said he'd be out at dawn to look around.

I was unable to settle for the night, as visions criss-crossed my mind of newborn lambs being torn to shreds by wild dogs as I slept. Perhaps the youngest that I'd been photographing earlier in the day, so cute with their snowy white coats and little black faces. Taking my new responsibilities as a country girl seriously, I was up half the night trying to figure out the direction of the intruders from the dogs' intermittent barks and howls. Suffice to say it was all very different for me, a city slicker. Over the coming week, two Dingoes were trapped and shot. Dingoes are beautiful dogs, much more so than I imagined a wild dog to be, and it was disturbing to see them dead. I said so to Scoti and he told me that because this area of NSW had been in drought for some years, Dingoes were coming closer to the coast in search of food. During Spring, newborn lambs and calves were easy prey. He explained that if the Dingoes were allowed to continue on their killing spree, property owners in the region would suffer the loss of lambs, calves and chickens.

Did the Nature Coast become home? Despite my unusual initiation, I thoroughly enjoyed my six week house sit at TilbaTilba. I reveled in exploring the area with my three new "besties", so beautiful with the lush green hills rolling down from the mountains, to pristine beaches and bays.

I found the people warm, generous spirited and straight talkers. I was sad to leave but treasured the chance to know more about the Koolies. A beautiful breed of dog with a calm, gentle disposition, affectionate, loyal and obedient - they would have defended me to the death. And indeed, one nearly did… but there lies another story. I never did settle on the Nature Coast as, though very beautiful, a few weeks into the sit I began to feel rather isolated. So at the end of the six weeks I returned to a house sit on my home "patch" on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Apart from a few trips up the East Coast of Australia as far as Queensland's Gold Coast, I have enjoyed fabulous house sits in Sydney ever since.

Mount Gulaga If you are visiting the area and interested in hiking Mount Gulaga (elevation 2644 ft) and the Gulaga National Park, visit this website: By all accounts it's not an easy hike (14km 5 hours), but the views from the summit might encourage you to make the trip!

Robyn-Lea Schulz applied for her first house sit in 2011 while deciding "what next?". Six years later she is still house sitting, having cared for plants, pools and pets at over forty residences, mostly in her home-town of Sydney. She has saved tens of thousands of Aussie dollars by living rent and mortgage free in this city where house prices currently rank the second most expensive in the world, second only to Hong Kong. In 2013 Robyn-Lea decided to pay-it-forward and help others experience the freedom feeling that comes from living life on your own terms, made possible by house and pet sitting. Believing the first step to house sitting success is choosing a good house sitting platform, in January 2015 she launched Compare House Sitting - a website dedicated to monitoring and reviewing features, functions and prices of house sitting websites world-wide. You can visit her site at:

DESTINATION TASMANIA Winter at the bottom of the world by Amanda Galati

Some time in early March 2016, my husband Andrew and I decided it was time for a complete life change. We each had our own businesses on the South Coast of NSW, Australia, with Andrew’s requiring a factory space, expensive machinery and big material outlays each month – which always equaled a lot of stress! We had always been interested in the idea of house sitting as we love travel, adore animals and rent-free living was very appealing, but up until this time we had had our own pets. Sadly we lost our two beloved Siberian Huskies within six months of each other in late 2015, and while we were devastated at their passing, we also realized a new sense of freedom had opened up.

So one night as we sat discussing solutions to solve our financial over-commitments (for the umpteenth time!) we knew we had to do something completely different. Coupled with the fact that we felt a huge hole not having animal companionship, it felt like the right time to start our house sitting adventure!

Time for a complete life overhaul That night we made a radical choice – to pack up our life as we knew it and start anew! And so began a three month whirlwind of closing down Andrew’s kitchen business and selling off machinery, selling practically everything from a fully furnished four bedroom home, moving out of a rental property and in with the in-laws for a short while, and getting ourselves set up to house sit with profiles and references. Let’s just say it was an intense few months!

We wanted to start with something familiar Tasmania had long been a favorite holiday destination for us. The tiny island state that sits at the bottom of mainland Australia had been calling us for some time. It felt like the perfect place to start our new life surrounded by everything we love. Pristine world heritage wilderness, breath-taking scenery, mountain hikes aplenty, rolling green farmland everywhere, the world’s cleanest air, and a gourmet food scene enviable the world over.

Problem was it would be late June by the time we had packed up our old life – we would be arriving in Tasmania in the middle of winter! Everyone told us we were crazy. “Why would you visit Tasmania then? It’s soooo cold!” But we actually don’t mind the cold, and besides we might get to see snow! Average temperatures in winter can be anything from below zero to 15 degrees C (25-60 degrees F). As we discovered, many Tasmanians actually like to escape the winter chill during June through August, and will often take extended holidays to head north to warmer weather. This meant that there was a plethora of choice when it came to house sit assignments! We put a lot of effort into setting up our profile, writing about ourselves in huge detail. Having owned pets before, we knew how hard it was to leave them behind when you go away. We were very focused on providing an invaluable service and this came across in our profile, as well as our sincere love of animals.

We were approached by 10 homeowners in 24 hours! Talk about validation that we set up our profile well! It was a real confidence boost for us and also very humbling.

The requests were not from just Tasmanian residents but all over Australia, as we did not limit our availability to just Tasmania on the house sit platforms. We wanted to keep our options open for future travel.

We thought we’d spend two months in Tasmania and then travel to other Australian states.

Know what you want Andrew and I got very clear on exactly what type of house sits we wanted to do. We loved rural life and had property maintenance experience after living on acreages for the past seven years. Farm sits were very appealing to us. We especially adore dogs and we had a lot of experience with handling very active dogs, but really we love all types of animals. We also knew we wanted to explore all over Tasmania and house sit in some very scenic locations, and we didn’t mind traveling to more remote places as we’d have our own car. But probably most importantly to us was that the homeowners loved their pets as much as we’d loved ours! We wanted to look after pets who were valued members of the family so we could lavish them with love. So we decided to apply for rural and semi-rural hobby farm sits. And boy did some places have a menagerie of animals! After multiple phone calls with homeowners, we committed to several sits in various parts of Tasmania.

Welcome to the Apple Isle As we wanted to take our car with us, we booked an overnight trip on the Spirit of Tasmania, which is a large ferry that operates between Melbourne (Victoria) and Devonport (Tasmania) and transports people, cars, trucks and freight across the Bass Strait. We disembarked in the dark at 6.00am, a little bleary eyed after such an early start but were quickly awakened by the crisp winter air. As we drove down the highway watching the sun rising over the farmland, we knew we had made the right choice to come to the Apple Isle (a colloquial name for Tasmania as it grows a lot of Australia’s apple supply). We felt like we were home!

Jumping in the deep end! Our first stop was meeting the homeowners of the second sit we were going to be doing several weeks later in Lilydale, north east Tasmania. They had invited us to stay overnight so they could show us around their farm. It was quite daunting to meet a homeowner for the very first time, knowing that they were entrusting us with their fur-babies. Staying overnight with someone you have also just met was equally uncomfortable!

As we would soon discover though, we needn’t have worried about being uncomfortable. The homeowners made us feel right at home, cooking us a beautiful dinner and we chatted for hours. In fact, we have met some of the friendliest, most hospitable people we have ever known here in Tasmania! Many have since become very good friends. The Lilydale homeowners showed us around their beautiful 10 acre farm and introduced us to the menagerie of animals we would be looking after for three weeks. Six cats, four very active dogs, two horses, three alpacas, three sheep, about twenty chickens, an aviary of birds, goldfish and a peacock! It was a lot to take in, but we knew about all the animals when we applied for the sit and we felt like it would be a great learning experience. Laura, the homeowner, was an animal studies teacher and very knowledgeable about all kinds of animals. She was fascinating to learn from and we felt much more confident after learning some very practical hands-on tips!

It’s a small world in Tasmania! We continued south down the highway for several hours to the stunning Huon Valley, which is 25 minutes south of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. The valley is home to hundreds of apple and cherry orchards, as well as stone fruit, berries, honey and salmon farms. Yum! We were meeting up with the homeowners of our very first sit in Tasmania on the eve o f their departure. Another small hobby farm, this time we would be looking after Sophie the Golden

Retriever, an old cat, three chooks (Aussie for chickens!), three goats and two young steer on a 14 acre property surrounded by mountains. After showing us around and explaining our duties, we sat down to share some drinks and snacks. Soon after, another couple arrived to join us – the sister and brother-in-law of the homeowner. We were going to be staying at their house that evening (again … we’d never met them!), as well as house sitting for them too a few months later. They then informed us that we were all going to a birthday dinner party that night at yet another homeowners place we were going to be looking after! As it turned out, three of the homeowners we were booked to sit for knew each other – two of them actually being best friends! All sits were advertised and applied for independently, but throughout our conversations we all realized the connections. Talk about a small world! We had a fabulous time at the party that night but we were also exhausted and a little overwhelmed! In the space of 48 hours, we had met four different sets of homeowners, stayed at two “strangers” places, driven for over 6 hours, been to a rather rowdy dinner party and eaten wallaby stew for the very first time! But what was very clear to us was that Tasmanians welcome you with open arms and are very proud of their beautiful island home.

Challenges, triumphs and sheer beauty Our supposed two month stay in Tasmania has turned into twelve … so far! We have totally fallen in love and are planning to stay indefinitely. Tasmania is a land of rugged beauty, prolific wildlife, endearing people and an abundance of fresh produce. Sustainable living is a big focus for many and there is a noticeably slower pace of life. We’ve survived the wettest winter in Tasmania’s history, awoken to snow falling on our very first house sit, and even had twin baby lambs named after us who were born while we were at one of our farm sits … “Andy” and “Mandy”! We’ve completed many stunning mountain hikes and driven all over the state – we know the roads better than many locals! We’ve dealt with sick animals, rescued a drenched chicken from a tree during a torrential rainstorm, had a horse jump a fence onto the road, had unexpected Airbnb guests show up at our door late one evening … and the list goes on. But for all the challenges we have experienced while house sitting, the good by far outweighs the bad. Stunning locations, the most adorable animals, the freshest produce, unimaginable hospitality and homeowners who have become like family.

Tasmania – you have our hearts!

Amanda and Andrew Galati are full time house sitters from NSW, Australia. They embarked on their adventure a year ago after deciding it was time for a complete life change once they’d turned 40. What started as a two month stint in Tasmania has turned into a full blown love affair with the Australian island state that they now call home! They particularly love the rural life and look after farms regularly. Amanda is a freelance graphic designer and Andrew is a cabinet-maker. They both love animals with a passion, the outdoors, mountain hikes and photography. They have plans to start a blog on Tassie life, but in the meantime you can con nect with them via Facebook - Amanda Galati - or visit their house sitting profile page at:


1. Turn on your brain first The best advice I ever received was to turn on my brain before turning on my camera! It’s too easy in the digital era to click, click, click and not even think about what you’re doing. Stop and think about why you’re taking the photo. Do you want to capture the scenery and the dog while out walking to showcase your lifestyle? Or do you want to capture that gorgeous sideways tilt that Rover has when a treat appears?

2. Get to know your subject Taking the time to get to know your subject first will pay off. This is especially true if you are taking photos of other people’s pets. Not every animal will like having a camera thrust at them, and some find the lens of a bigger camera downright intimidating - it can look like a big eye staring at them. So get to know them first and then slowly introduce your camera.

3. Make picking up your camera a regular activity Take photos near the animals but not of them. Get them used to you picking up the camera without having it pointed at them. If you are going for a walk, or just outside with the pets, take your camera with you and take photos of the view. The pets will then start to associate your camera with a fun activity. Above all else, be patient.

4. Pick your time You’re not going to have much success taking photos of a cat if it’s their feeding time. The same applies if you mention to a dog that you’re going out for a walk, but then pick up your camera instead. Whatever time of the day, if they’re not interested then don’t push it as you don’t want them to associate the camera with something they don’t like.

5. Get to know your exposure triangle The exposure of a photograph determines how light or dark an image will appear when it’s being captured by your camera. Exposure is made up of 3 camera settings:   

Aperture Shutter Speed ISO

Do you know how ISO, aperture and shutter speed work together? If you want to take better photos then you’ll want to learn this as their combination is the key to a perfectly exposed photo.

6. How to blur the background and keep the pet sharp Aperture is the key here. It’s the size of the opening that the light is coming through. Think of it like a door. If you open a door the size of a cat flap you let in a small amount of light. If you open the front door you get a medium amount of light. If you open up your garage door you get a large amount of light. Your camera operates in the same way as those doors. If you have the aperture wide open you let in a large amount of light. Oddly, a large aperture has a small f-number associated with it e.g. f1.8. While a small aperture has a large f-number associated with it e.g. f22. The size of the aperture decides your depth of field i.e. how blurred your background looks. In this photo (next page) I’ve used a shallow depth of field (large aperture) so that the orange flowers were blurred.

7. How do I capture a photo of action? Shutter speed is your new best friend. The shutter speed refers to how long you allow the light to flood in. Imagine standing at your front door and quickly opening and shutting it. That is the equivalent of a fast shutter speed (great for freezing movement).

If you open the door and then slowly close it you have the equivalent of a slow shutter speed (great for when you want some blur in your image). This photo of Casey and Stella playing in the river used a shutter speed of 1/2000 and an aperture of f5.

8. Catching the right light The best light to use is soft, even light which doesn’t give harsh shadows. You can find the best light in the early morning or the late evening when the sun is low in the sky. Of course, you’re not always going to be able to take photos at that time of the d ay. In that case you can also use areas of open shade to avoid harsh light e.g. under trees or under a covered veranda. Inside can be another good option if you have a large window that light comes through. Given how important the eyes can be in photos we want the eyes to be full of light. Catchlights are the tiny reflections of light in eyes. These make the eyes really come alive. Making sure that you have catchlights is important especially for pets with black or dark grey faces to make their eyes really stand out.

If catchlights aren’t appearing in your photos then you need to seek out more light. The sun was getting high when I took this image so I had the dog stand underneath a stone archway to give him some shade.

9. Where is your focus? When you are shooting still portraits it’s best to use a single focus point so that you know exactly what you are focusing on. If you don’t choose the focus point then your camera will automatically focus on the object that is closest to it. This is usually the pet’s nose! While noses can be gorgeous, most of the time it is the eyes that we want in focus. You also need to keep an eye on your shutter speed. Just because the pet is sitting still doesn’t mean that you can forget your shutter speed because your pet might make slight movements or you might cause the camera to shake. As a general guide, if I was in good light, I wouldn’t want to go below 1/100.

10. Change your angle Do you always take photos from your eye level? Mix it up. When photographing animals I’m usually down on one knee or lying on my stomach to get the photo that I want. When taking photos of animals get down to their level as you get their view of the world.

Andrea Jordan has traveled to over 50 countries and all 7 continents. She put her business in her backpack and is now traveling throughout Latin America, house sitting and volunteering in animal shelters as she goes. She’s a keen dog walker & champion bell-scratcher, but it’s when she picks up her camera that magic happens. She creates stunning images that capture the personalities of the wonderful creatures she cares for. You can see her photos and read about her travel adventures and her business life here:



Are you worried by the "This site is insecure" notices you see on many websites, particularly when you have to login with a username and password? If you are anything like me, you just ignore this and carry on, hoping for the best. However, it is a concern when we hear so much these days about website hacking, identity theft, viruses, and the importance of online security. So, as I was building our new house-sitter social tool, mapahub, I was mystified by my user login section, which looked like this:

My research initially produced more questions than answers:     

Why was this warning now appearing, when I had never had this previously? What is the green lock symbol that some websites have in the address bar? Why do some sites have a yellow lock? What does a grey lock that is open mean? And what on Earth is https?

Eventually I started finding some answers, and a growing understanding. Things are always changing on the internet, and security is a concern for everyone. Internet protocols are moving towards greater security, changing from the standard http:// website addresses, which are unsecured. If a website uses http:// anyone can intercept traffic to and from the page. If you are just browsing then this isn't much of a concern. However, if these websites have a user login, the danger is that a hacker can collect your login info, both your username and password.

Why is this a concern? Well, if you use this same username/password pair for your online banking, it is possible that the hacker can then try a few bank websites with your login details. If he hits your bank jackpot - he is into your account. So, Lesson #1, use a different username and password pair for every important financial login, so if someone does get your details from an insecure website, those details won't work on your financial accounts. Are you lazy about this sort of thing? I have to admit that I'm terrible - same username and password for just about everything from Facebook to my savings account! However, now I understand how easy it is for someone to intercept my details on one website, and use those same details to login to many other sites. I have been making some significant account alterations recently! Because of this danger https://, a secured website protocol, is now becoming standard. In support of this browsers like Firefox will warn you when you are about to login to an insecure site... like ours was. But to operate a secure site you need to have what is called an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. My website hosting company would gladly sell me one. Ah, but I would need one for every website I wanted to make secure. It was going to cost me a fortune, and the certificates would regularly need renewing. More research led me to LetsEncrypt, an open-source project that provides free SSL certificates for all. Great news... except that my website hosting company refuses to support LetsEncrypt. Most of the world's best and biggest website hosts now work closely with LetsEncrypt to ensure a better, more secure internet for all. Only a few are dragging their heels, and d espite many calls to the support department, my host could not confirm that they would ever be supporting free use of LetsEncrypt. They would happily take $10 every three months to maintain the free certificates - that's $10 every quarter per website!! Time to name and shame - come on Hostgator, you can look after your long term valued customers better than that, surely? With a year left on my hosting account it was time to make some decisions, and Hostgator's unhelpful attitude sealed the deal. After five years it was time to move to a new host. More research. One company seemed to rise head-and-shoulders above the others, and had glowing reports for customer service that was way above-and-beyond the call of duty. What's more, they had built-in support for LetsEncrypt at no extra cost. And for the hosting I needed they were even cheaper that Hostgator for an equivalent package. Let me introduce you to SiteGround, my new website hosting company. I set up an account easily and quickly, and started the somewhat laborious task of moving websites one-by-one from Hostgator to SiteGround.

My older sites were easier to do, as they are simple, and I could just upload the files and they worked. But the newer websites built in Wordpress were a little more challenging. I have been onto SiteGround's tech support people several times for things I couldn't figure out. I'm not a Luddite, but I'm not a techie wizard either. Every time the Live Chat assistance was quick and friendly, even chatty. They were marvelous at solving my issues, and within a couple of days I had all my sites on the new server, and every site secured with a new, free SSL certificate. Take a look at the shiny new login page for mapahub here:

Not a security warning notice to be seen anywhere!

Looking for a web hosting company?    

Are you wanting to create your own house sitter profile website? Are you having hosting challenges with your current provider? Do you have a membership site which isn't yet secured? Or do you just want great service at a decent price?

Take a look at SiteGround. You'll be glad you did. I am.


One of the difficulties of travel can be finding good first aid and medical care while in unfamiliar territory; especially for those who prefer to use natural alternatives. Planning ahead and packing the right essential oils can help prepare you for a host of potential issues. So, when I leave home for any kind of travel, I pack a few of my favorite oils in case of emotional upset, physical ailment or just to support me during those long travel days. Essential oils are a natural and gentle way of shifting energy and physical conditions quickly.They have been around for thousands of years and continue to grow in popularity because of their ease of use and effectiveness. They are quite powerful though so it is important to read labels and follow the directions listed.

For example, some are photosensitive and should not be applied before going in the sun. Others need to be diluted before application. I’ve included some basic instructions along with each oil listed below.

Lavender This is my number one oil. Think relaxation and skin issues with lavender. Add 2-5 drops to a bath for relaxation or apply directly to the skin for a sun burn. You can also apply a drop or two to the soles of your feet at bedtime for more restful sleep. To support your body during a fever, combine 2 drops of lavender oil with 2 drops of peppermint oil and 2 ounces of fractionated coconut oil. Just rub on your back, neck and the soles of your feet. Rub this on your abdomen for cramping due to travelers diarrhea or menstrual issues. If that’s not enough, it also repels mosquitoes.

Lemon To support your body when the flu or travelers diarrhea strikes, add 2 drops to a glass of water and drink it to help soothe and detoxify your digestive tract, enhancing immunity.

Lemon oil is anti-bacterial and can be used to sanitize items and even a drop applied to each underarm will freshen you up. It’s also great for removing those annoying stickers from dishes, shoes or anything else. Just rub a single drop over the sticker, let sit for a minute and then scrape it off. Works like magic! Avoid the sun for 12 hours if applying lemon oil topically.

Ginger This is the first oil I choose for motion sickness or any type of queasiness or nausea. Just a sniff of the oil is all that is needed. And, yes, this tastes just like ginger root, but it is very strong so a little goes a long way in cooking. I have used ginger oil to make a great chicken stir-fry. You only need to add a drop or two to the dish.

Peppermint Are headaches your issue? This one works wonders. Just rub a drop or two on the back of your neck.

Peppermint oil is also invigorating and can give you a boost when you are on the road and sleep is not an option. Just sniff it in the bottle or rub a drop into your hands and cup under your nose, carefully avoiding your eyes. Sniffing the oil can also help with nausea. I like to use beadlets (1 drop contained in an edible shell) for fresher breath. A drop in a shot glass with water or the beadlets can also be used for constipation.

Cedarwood Think of this one for sleep issues including when you are trying to get to sleep in a new time zone. Just rub a few drops on the soles of your feet or add a few drops to a diffuser in your bedroom.

Roman Chamomile Just like the tea, this one is very relaxing. It’s great for cranky kids and adults alike. Nothing ruins a great adventure more quickly than a bad mood!

Melaleuca This one is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal making it great for the occasional skin fungus. It can also be applied to cold sores and warts. Just add a drop topically to the affected area. Melaleuca can also be taken orally by adults for cold and flu support. It’s also a great disinfectant to keep on hand.

Oregano Another great oil for immune support is oregano. When using oregano topically, add it to fractionated coconut oil or olive oil (one drop oil to 3 drops carrier oil). It can help with any skin infection. It can be diffused to support your immune system. And, yes, you can add about ½ drop to a plate of olive oil and use it for dipping crusty bread. What’s the point of going on adventures if you can’t eat fabulous food!

Traveling With Your Oils Luckily, essential oils come in 5 and 10 ml bottles, well below the airline limit for liquids. Because they are so light weight, they take up very little room and are so versatile you can easily see why I consider them a "must have" when traveling. For long trips, I take the whole bottle with me. For shorter trips, I take 5/8 dram bottles in the handy padded case pictured above. Remember to use oils that are of very high quality when taking them orally and even when applying topically. Anything that you put on your skin is absorbed very quickly into your bloodstream. Make sure the essential oils are free of all additives. Pure essential oils that are properly extracted do not need help!

When Toni Fairman left the corporate world to stay home and raise her boys, her biggest challenge was figuring out how to feed them a nourishing diet that would properly fuel their growing bodies. She passionately took on the challenge becoming a Nutritional Therapist. She also became a GAPS Certified Practitioner to help those suffering from gut related health issues. She uses food, supplements, detoxification therapies and essential oils to promote health. Additionally, Toni has found that the path to health isn’t only about nutrition, but is also about our emotions and beliefs. She incorporates her special gift for relieving emotional distress, which, as everyone knows, can wreak havoc on someone’s physical health, into her work. In a recent interview with a doctor, she was touted as the "Mary Poppins" of energy work. Toni lives in San Diego with her husband and two sons. For more information, please visit Toni can also be found on Facebook and Youtube.


On April 9, 2017 we became full-time international house sitters! How did we come to this decision? Well, we need to go back about 3 years. We had subscribed to International Living Magazine and were interested to read about places where we could live or retire more cheaply than our home country of Australia. The plan was never to work until retirement age (65 in Australia), so we decided to take "a year off" to try this lifestyle and see how we liked it. We also wanted to see exactly how much it would cost.

A Change of Direction Our initial thoughts were to spend 9 months living cheaply in SE Asia in places like Chiang Mai in Thailand, Penang in Malaysia and Da Nang in Vietnam. Then spend the remaining few months in Europe where the cost of living and travel would be substantially more expensive. But, while we were planning and saving, we came across another article in the same magazine describing house sitting. Glenn had explored home exchange (or house swap) some years earlier, and we'd briefly heard about house sitting but not thought anymore of it. So we investigated further and around the same time a house sitting course by Michael & Yvonne Bauche was advertised in International Living and we signed up for it. Their course provided us with the necessary information we needed to get started in house sitting. It looked interesting and exciting and we felt we had the right attitude to do this. We loved being around animals, so we created a profile, built a website,, and joined both TrustedHousesitters and HouseCarers house sitting platforms.

Our "Gap Year" Begins... It all began early in November 2015. Glenn had to resign from his job. His employer did not provide for such a long absence, but my employer gave me 12 months leave-without-pay, which was fantastic. Our only plan for the first 12 months was to spend the first 3 months in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This location featured regularly in articles as a good, affordable place to live with a good expat community. It certainly lived up to our expectations and we spent nearly 5 months in this city. As newbies to house sitting starting with only personal character references, we were unsure if we'd be selected by any home owners. But after applying for many sits without success, we were very excited when we finally landed our first house sit in Hua Hin, Thailand. We'd be looking after 6 lovely cats. It was a great first experience and from there we were successful in obtaining house sits in Hong Kong, France, Spain and the UK.

...And Then We Were Hooked! After 6 months of back-to-back house sits, we were hooked on this new lifestyle and adventure. Traveling to locations you'd normally not visit as a tourist, making new friends, and caring for animals and their owners homes, suited us perfectly. Mind you, there is work and there are responsibilities involved when house sitting - it’s not just a free holiday. Our sits to date have ranged from caring for one cat, to looking after five King Charles Cavaliers. We've been in rural and city based locations and have loved our experiences. The variety of location keeps everything interesting and our home owners have all been lovely people with beautiful homes and equally gorgeous pets. We returned to Australia mid-October 2016 and had already decided that the "house sitting" lifestyle was what we wanted to pursue. It enabled us to stretch our budget a lot further and travel to fantastic places, meet wonderful people and their beautiful pets. We put together a plan for full-time travel and gave ourselves 6 months to do everything we needed to do.

Saying Goodbye To A Lifetime Of Memories Having previously packed up our house (twice) and put our possessions into long term storage for overseas working assignments, we decided straight away we didn’t want to put any goods into store this time around. After all, this was to be a brand new start and life, so instead we began the huge task of selling, donating and re-homing our possessions. Sadly, Glenn is a hoarder, so this was a mammoth task! Our roof space was full of boxes of "stuff", some of it up to 40 years old. So you can imagine how long this took and how difficult it also was for Glenn to say "goodbye" to a life-time of memories. But we didn’t throw away everything, a box or two of goodies have been stored, and some items were scanned for posterity before they were destroyed. I won’t bore you with all the details except to say, everything takes longer to do than you expect, and the last 72 hours were pretty crazy with little sleep. I worked right up until the last week before we left, leaving the majority of tasks for Glenn. He made a series of short videos over that last 2 months documenting the challenges of that period. They can be found at

Location Independent At Last! Would we have done things differently, "yes" definitely, but we did it! We are now "homeless" or "location independent" and it feels fantastic - so liberating!!! Since April 9 2017, we have been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, house sat in High Wycombe, UK over the Easter break, and spent 5 weeks on two sits in the Costa Del Sol in Southern Spain. We spent a glorious couple of weeks sitting in Provence, France and are now in the UK for another 2 months of sits. We are now booked until the end of October and very happy with our decision, and looking forward to exploring the world, making new friends (both human and animal) and enjoying our new house sitting lifestyle.

Jacqueline, a retired dental nurse, and Glenn, a retired IT Project Manager, have been married for 28 years and have always been passionate about traveling. After "testing the waters" they decided to embrace the roving retiree lifestyle full time. They have rented out their home and sold or given away most of their possessions. Currently they spend 8 months house sitting and 4 months in Chiang Mai, Thailand where Jacqueline volunteers at the local dog rescue shelter. Visit their website at: You can read about their travel adventures here:


Baptism By Fire How did I start in house and pet sitting? In 2010 my house in America was burned to the ground. I stood on the curb of my cul-de-sac and watched as two fire trucks tried to stop the devil from engulfing my new home. I only had the clothes on my back and what I could grab as I ran to safety. Photos of my parents, gone. Trinkets from travels, gone. All that I thought I had, gone. That's when I found out what I really had, instead of the obvious material things in my foreground. That's when I had to step-up and rise above the ashes, material things gone, but life intact. My prayer was a plea and my father lifted me up.

The medics took me to the hospital and then I stayed in a hotel to awaken and realize it wasn't a bad dream, it was real. My friend Anne called my mobile. She had seen it on the news and offered for me to stay in her home to watch her two German Shepherds, while she went on holiday. She said her dogs didn't like most people, but they loved me! She cancelled her plans to put them in a kennel and I stayed with these loving dogs in her mansion nearby. I met with the fire inspector and insurance company at my nearby ashes and rubble. It took six months to rebuild my house, but I would never feel safe there again. I made the home a rental and collected an income. I continued to pet sit in homes locally because I knew the area. I became a minima list, owning only what I needed, and realized there were things I just didn't miss. I found comfort in church, community, connections and yes, the unconditional love of pets.

Why HouseCarers Is My Preferred Pet Sit Profile Home I realized that I couldn't be the first person to pet sit and so looked online for more opportunities. I found and chose this to be my pet sit profile home. Why? Because it was easy to navigate, the screens were intuitive, and when I sent an email, the owner of the website, Ian White, responded quickly. I found a pet sit in my local area at the same time I started a new job, so my life began to

recover. The pet sit was for a couple where the husband had inoperable brain cancer, and they wanted to travel the world to complete his "bucket list". They wanted someone who would care for their pets and gardens for an indefinite period of time. I felt that I not only provided a valuable service by watering the gardens and taking care of the pets, but also helped the couple coordinate repairs on their home, freeing them to do what they wanted - what they needed to do. The location was perfect for this contract job, and I was there for almost 16 months before I got the news. His widow would putting the home on the market and living in their beach property on the coast. I did all I could in their time of need and was told they took comfort in knowing everything was taken care of. Because I was there they could focus on celebrating his life and closure.

Australia Is My Heart's Home I returned to Housecarers to look for another opportunity. The work contract had ended and I now had an online job while still collecting rental income, so I could live anywhere. I wondered why my family had immigrated to America from Ireland - why not Australia? Now I could go anywhere in the world, so finally I decided to go to a place that my heart seemed to already know.

Housecarers is an international pet sitting website and there were many opportunities for me to design my own experience while helping pets and families. There were many opportunities in Australia, but one in particular caught my attention. It was in Canberra, a city I had never heard of, though it is the country's capital. I wrote and the home owner responded. We Skyped and I was able to see the home and two dogs. The couple had exciting travel plans and I would be staying in their home for two months. They had internet so I could still work online.

Creating My Location Independence I am a professor at a major university. The course content is put on a LMS (Learning Management System), and I can use other systems such as Webex and Wimba for lectures or even tutoring. I could go onsite, on campus, about once a month, but I have evolved the position to the point where I can do it all online. The students are techno savvy and also prefer to learn online. I am the "cool" professor because I can work in their world, with their technology! Additionally, I had purchased another property and was collecting more rental income. I live debt free since I paid cash for the properties, so the income was not going toward paying off a mortgage or loan. It was income for me. I also wrote a book and collected royalties. I can live anywhere because my income is location independent.

Anywhere Means Australia To Me! Australia felt so right for me, everything about it felt like home. When I arrived in Australia, I easily made friends; my house sit home was comfortable and convenient for public transportation; I joined the Canberra YMCA and a trivia club; but the people were what made it all worthwhile! The home owners I sat for also have a home in Moruya Heads, and they invited me to stay there with them, taking me to Bateman's Bay and the south coast. Later I would pet sit for them in that home too. The family made me so comfortable and referred friends to my profile on Housecarers, and it wasn't long before I had traveled all over Australia! I found myself in awe on a farm in Glen Alice, NSW, near Capertee, with stunning sunsets in the blue mountains! This family was dealing with the health of an aging parent in another state. I milked the engorged cow and collected eggs from the hens. It reminded me of Ireland and felt like home. At first, I was frightened by the prospect of being so far away from people, and questioned if I could do it. But, as always in Australia, the family was reasonable in their expectations and wrote down everything in a notebook. I arrived early and shadowed them as they did the tasks. I learned about solar energy and composting too.

In Cairns I had a puppy, adorable but demanding. He was so cute and loving that even a mess on the floor was easy to clean and forget with puppy pets and kisses. The family let me stay on a few extra days so I got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, tour Cape Tribulation and visit Port Douglas.

Pet sitting has enabled me to pet sit in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns and remote areas too. I have seen a lot of Australia. Finally I was no long engulfed by memories of my burning home. Instead I was in awe of the beauty of my heart's home, Australia, God's country!

Dr. Maureen Murphy is an Associate Professor at University of Maryland in the United States of America. She has been house sitting since 2010 and enjoys pet sitting not only for the travel possibilities but the humanitarian help of others and love of pets. You can view her Housecarers Profile here:


A swimming pool is a common reason for a home owner to look for a house sitter. Swimming pools need regular care and maintenance, without which a home owner would probably return to a pool of green slime. Caring for a pool is relatively easy once you understand the basics. We covered this in an in depth article in Issue 4 of House Sitting Magazine. However, we have had a couple of questions recently about so-called "salt water pools", and what extra considerations are involved. So first of all, let’s dispel a myth.

Salt water pools aren't really very salty - it isn't like a pool full of seawater. And salt isn't what keeps the pool clean and germ-free. Salt is added to the pool to aid in generating chlorine. And chlorine is what most pools use to keep the water clean and safe. The salt used is sodium chloride, and a piece of additional equipment called a Salt Water Generator (SWG) turns this into chlorine whenever the pool pump runs. Sometimes you may see this referred to as an SWCG - salt water chlorine generator, or an SC - salt cell.

The advantage is that you have to add much less chlorine, a saving on chemicals and maintenance time. A possible disadvantage is that there is one more thing in the system that could potentially go wrong. In terms of maintenance, along with the other routines outlined in our previous article, you also need to test occasionally for salt levels and add more when appropriate. This will happen about once a month or so, depending on the pool and how much use it gets. An SWG makes a pool very easy to maintain, because as you run the pump for an hour or two each day you simply turn on the SWG at the same time. An extra dose of chlorine is then created and added automatically. When the pool is used more you still have to check and maintain chlorine levels, of course. At our house sit in Nicaragua last year the pool there had an SWG, and the the system worked very well. We just put the pump on for an hour or two each day, and added extra chlorine as and when needed.

So to sum up, a SWG makes life with a pool just a little bit easier, and there isn't anything extra to do other than to occasionally do a test for salt levels, and pour some more in if needed. For further reading there is a great article on the PoolSolutions website here:


Let’s be honest, it can get lonely on the road - even if you’re traveling with your best friend or partner. Despite changes of scenery, conversations can get surprisingly dull. Netflix fills the void for a while, but that void inevitably gets bigger. You start questioning your love for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Grace and Frankie” and realize THESE ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE! Real people are important, after all. Human connection is what makes our experiences worthwhile and memorable, regardless of where we are. My boyfriend, Bayka, and I had been on the road for a while, traveling in Thailand and Vietnam. We met a few people along the way, but we struggled to make lasting friendships. We spent our days and nights with each other, mostly talking about the next meal we were going to eat (an important, yet ironically unfulfilling question).

We knew we needed a change, and that's when we were serendipitously introduced to TrustedHousesitters. It was perfect for us - we could be "our homebody selves" while traveling the world!

We then discovered a community of house sitters and home owners, who we eagerly followed (and by that I mean lightly stalked) on social media.

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship... Through Instagram While pet sitting Carlos Broccoli and Julian LeStrange in Kuala Lumpur in May 2016, Paolo and Bianca caught our eye on Instagram. We'd found them through the #trustedhousesitters hashtag and learned that they were house sitting in Asia, too. We feverishly began scrolling through their feed and unashamedly started double tapping. After several weeks of liking and commenting within reason (come on, people, we still have our dignity!), they followed us back! We were getting somewhere. Comments turned into private messages and genuine interest in each other’s lives and travels. Thanks to Instagram, an unlikely friendship between an American, Italian, Kiwi, and South African was born.

As we continued our house sitting adventures in China and India, Paolo and Bianca did the same in Thailand and Malaysia. We always seemed to just narrowly miss each other as we moved around Asia. At the time, Paolo and Bianca were house sitting in Bangkok, so we were finally in the same country at the same time! On a whim, they decided to come up to Chiang Mai for the weekend and meet us. They asked us to recommend a place for dinner, and, oh, the pressure! Bayka and I couldn’t make up our minds on what place to choose because we were lazy homebodies who never went out. We so badly wanted to make a good impression though, since it was our first "house sitting date" after all! I shouldn’t have worried. A few beers and a mediocre Thai dish later, we bonded over our love for house sitting and our ever-so-slight obsession with food! After learning that Paolo's an excellent Italian cook, we spent the following weeks exchanging house sitting stories over home-cooked meals and red wine. We even spent a weekend in Pai together, where we nearly got struck by lightning! (Nothing like a near-death experience to bring you closer together!) Since then we've stayed in touch with them as our house sitting adventures have led us to New Zealand, South Africa, and Tanzania and theirs have led them to Greece, the USA, and back to Southeast Asia. We'll soon be moving to our next sit in Mozambique and then who knows?! Thanks to house sitting, we met this wonderful couple who we now consider close friends and, more recently, business partners.

We are Jess & Bayka, Bianca & Paolo: The four of us have put our collective knowledge and experience as full-time house sitters to good use and created Housesit Hustle, a community to teach other young travelers and digital nomads how to live the house sitting dream. There’s definitely a growing interest in house sitting, so we’ve created Housesit Hustle Pro, our comprehensive course to give aspiring sitters the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to not only get started, but to thrive as house sitters. You can also find us on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated.

Retirement will be one of the topics in next month’s issue of

House Sitting Magazine

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15 August 2017

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