House Sitting Magazine Issue 14: September 2017

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

When Disaster Strikes Ian Usher

7 Tips for Avoiding House Sitting Disasters Vanessa Anderson

Our Nomadic Life - By Land and Sea Tracie Wilson-Boyd

Destination Turkey - Turkish Delights Julie Bryant

Getting Out and About around Fethiye, Turkey Julie Bryant

California - The Berkeley Crop Swap Heather Hope

Where Did All These Digital Nomads Come From? Rafael Ziah Franco

Recipe - Spanish Tortilla Heidi Medina

10 Things I've Learned Since I Started House Sitting Bayka Magendans

Alert! Do Not Take This Sit! Eden Rudin

House Sitting in a Hurricane Betsy Wuebker

Jinxed in New Zealand Andrew Redfern

When The Home Owners Don't Leave! Lisa Marie Tourtellot

Because You Never Know... What's Around the Corner! Mark Greenaway

Bookshelf Review: Find The Right House Sitter: A Homeowner's Guide Yvonne Bauche

In the next issue...


In early 2016 we took a house sitting position in Fiji. We looked after a small boutique resort for two months during the off-season. There were no guests booked in, so the small team of staff had a long list of maintenance tasks to get on with. Our role was to oversee the staff, look after the swimming pool, and care for two bull dogs. Simple. Unfortunately, the weather in the southern hemisphere had different ideas that season, and the sit ended up being far from simple. Cyclone Winston built slowly over a period of days, and after quite a bit of back-and-forth around the region, headed directly for Fiji.

In consultation with both the owners and the managers of the resort we came up with a plan. Important paperwork was packed away in a safe waterproof spot. Electrical items were unplugged. Chairs and tables were secured away, and everything was lashed down as tightly as possible. Once we had prepped the buildings as best as we could we headed out with the two dogs to find a safer location to sit out the coming storm. Winston turned out to be one of the biggest cyclones ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. It utterly devastated some areas of Fiji and the out-lying islands. Our resort fared pretty well. The eye of the storm had been predicted to pass right over our location, but had veered away at the last minute, passing by about 20 miles to the north. We still had a huge clean-up task, and saving the swimming pool from turning green was a bit of a challenge. But with willing staff we soon got on top of things. We even managed to save our neighbors' pool from turning green in their absence - they had headed out to New Zealand for a week or so to avoid the storm.

18 months later, here in Barbados, we felt a certain sense of deja-vu as Tropical Storm Harvey headed right for our little island, where we are currently house sitting a lovely home with one cat (Heidi below) and a swimming pool.

We didn't experience the same wind strength we had in Fiji, but the torrential downpour filled the swimming pool to the brim. Fortunately we had prepared in advance. Our home owners are well prepared for such events, and we'd had a thorough briefing before their departure. On the evening the storm was due to hit we set up the emergency siphon pumps in the pool, and pumped about an inch (2.5cm) of water out. It is a good job we did this in advance, as the pool would have certainly overflowed otherwise. And because the pool sits on the same level as the house, the house itself would have been flooded. When the storm hit around 2am the electricity went out, and we couldn't pump our any more water. We just had to watch the level rise, hoping we wouldn't have to try to stem a serious flood. With millimeters to spare the storm abated, and the electricity came back on. We put the pumps on immediately and pumped about 5 more inches (12cm) of water away, averting disaster. As I'm sure you are aware, Harvey grew to become a Category 4 Hurricane, causing utter devastation in Texas, with rainfall beating all previous records. As I write this, Hurricane Irma has just passed to the north of Barbados, making a direct hit on Barbuda and the Virgin Islands which have been devastated. We're still waiting anxiously to hear from friends who are house sitting there. It looks like Florida is probably going to be the next to face the wrath of this monster. And a glance at the satellite imagery shows yet another storm building behind Irma. Apparently it is going to be a record-breaking hurricane season this year. I know, I know, this all sounds terrible. It's not all doom and gloom in the tropics, even in hurricane season. We have been house sitting in beautiful Barbados for almost five weeks now, and have only had one really wild night. The rest of the time the weather has been gorgeous, and we have enjoyed the beaches and headlands of this lovely island.

I am simply trying to highlight the benefits a home owner enjoys in such locations when they use the services of professional house sitters. At times like this, when home owners are away, and disaster strikes, it is better to have a house sitter on site. When a sitter knows how to prepare for the worst, the outcome will almost always be better than if the property was left empty. And as a house sitter, there is a tremendous satisfaction in knowing that we have saved the owners' property from potential disaster. There is lots more on this topic in this month’s issue of House Sitting - The ultimate lifestyle magazine. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed creating it. Happy travels, and stay safe! Ian and Vanessa (currently house sitting in beautiful Barbados)


Do you ever ask yourself what you would do if something went terribly wrong while house sitting? What would happen if a pet in your care becomes ill or worse? How would you cope if the property was damaged in a hurricane? What would you do if something prevents the owners returning home on time? It's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of your new house sitting adventure and to bypass these important questions. After all they're not likely to happen to you. Or are they?

House sitting provides an amazing lifestyle for both long term travelers and short term vacationers the world over. In 99% of all assignments, the handover of the property and pets back to the home owner is a happy occasion. You may experience the odd hiccup, but nothing too troublesome.

But what about that 1% where something goes terribly wrong? However, as we've just seen in Texas and The Caribbean, as Hurricane Harvey and Irma passed through within a couple of weeks of each other, there are occasional situations where things do go horribly wrong. And even on the sad occasion where a pet becomes sick, injures itself, goes missing or tragically dies, think about how will you cope with this sad and sensitive situation? It’s hard enough when it’s your own pet, but if someone’s beloved animal has been entrusted to your care, the emotions evoked are possibly more extreme. The first thing to realize is it’s not your fault. Tragedy can strike at any time and it could have been during your time at the property or when the owners were home.

That said there are a number of precautions and practical steps you can take when starting your assignment. These will help alleviate any issues that you might encounter in the unlikely case of a house sitting disaster.

1. Carry out a risk assessment It’s a bit like “risk assessment” or "due diligence" in business. If you consider all the things that could possibly go wrong, you'll be mentally prepared. Here are some of the difficult situations you might come across:          

A pet becomes sick or is injured A pet tragically dies through illness, old age or in an accident A pet goes missing A pet attacks you or someone else One pet fights with another pet A broken or leaking pipe floods the property There's an infestation of insects or fleas The owners are delayed, but you have other commitments Expat owners are prevented from coming back into the country Extreme weather or other natural disaster causes damage to the property

Think about what action you could take in each scenario. This might prompt additional questions at the handover.

2. Put together a list of emergency contacts When you start a house or pet sitting assignment, you should get a list of emergency contacts:       

The country's emergency phone line, like 999 in UK The local or preferred vet The local police station A friend or neighbor that could help in an emergency Property Management Company if applicable A family member that could take care of the pets or make decisions in the case of the owners not returning on time. Local evacuation centers if you are in an area where extreme weather, forest fires, or flooding can cause problems.

If using a house sitting contract then check that these numbers have been included and that you have names, as well as numbers. In the absence of the home owners for whatever reason, you should have access to someone who has been briefed and who has authority to make decisions on behalf of the owners. Nobody wants to alarm a home owner at the handover, or make them worried just as they are getting ready to leave. However, it’s always good to discuss what to do in an emergency situation, in case you are unable to make quick and urgent contact while they are away.

3. Assess the probability of extreme weather and natural disasters If you are house sitting in an area that is subject to extreme weather, such as hurricanes in the west, typhoons in the east, tsunamis, flooding, earthquakes or forest fires, it’s a good idea to ask if the owners have had any personal experiences, and if they have any precautions or advice for a worst case scenario. In some areas, there are sirens to warn of extreme weather or tsunamis, or practical procedures for evacuation. Home owners may have storm shutters or window protection hidden away in the garage or basement. It’s easy to forget these questions at handover, so again put them on your checklist if appropriate.

4. Know what to do if a pet goes missing On arrival at the property and especially in the case of cats, ask the owners if the pets ever roam from the property or disappear overnight or even longer. If the answer is yes, it could save a lot of panic by knowing this in advance. I once had a rural semi-feral cat who would happily go off for two or three days at a time before returning for some attention! If a pet does go unexpectedly missing while in your care, then act as you would with your own pets. Check with neighbors, call the local vets to see if they have any unknown injured pets and put notices up in the neighborhood. At handover discuss at what stage home owners would expect you to notify them of any emergency situations.

5. Discuss and prepare for pet health issues If a pet becomes sick or is injured, then it’s common sense to take it immediately to the local vets. However, if you are in a remote location, this needs to be a discussion point at handover. You might also want to discuss with the homeowners about payment. In extreme cases vet’s bills will be high, and whilst I’m sure you would be happy to pay in the case of a sick or injured pet, you simply may not have the resources to do so. If you’ve been entrusted with a sick or elderly pet then the owners should have already mentally prepared themselves for the worst, and prepped you accordingly. It’s rare that someone will leave you with a poorly pet, but we spent time in America with a pooch on his last legs. We had to medicate, prepare special diets and deal with the poor animal’s anxiety issues. The worst situation would be if a pet becomes terminally ill or dies while in your care. Of course you should contact the owners as soon as possible or as instructed at handover. This is why the emergency numbers are so important.

6. Are you skilled in caring for large, aggressive or untrained dogs? There are some dog breeds that require more experience and some that just haven’t been trained as well as one might hope. This is why it is very important to properly assess the animals that will be left in your care, and be honest about your own ability to control or deal with difficult situations. If you don’t have experience with large dogs, for instance, don’t take on an assignment with three powerful Alsatians. Similarly, if you haven't had experience with potentially aggressive dogs, don’t sign up to look after a Doberman. Think about interactions with other dogs – could you control a dog fight? Ask about the dog’s temperament, how he mixes with other dogs on walks. Find out if the dogs have ever bitten a person. Again it will be rare that you’ll encounter a problem – but be prepared. We like to go for a walk with the home owners and the dogs, where we can to see how well they are socialized. It also helps to see how the home owner walks their dog on and off leash. Try to match your experience to the pets, and you shouldn’t encounter any difficulties.

7. Anticipate what you'll do if home owners are delayed If the owners are delayed through sickness, travel issues, bad weather, or other reasons, you'll need to have a back-up plan. You can’t simply leave the pets and move onto your next assignment. But, you might have visa restrictions that mean you can’t stay longer than the agreed time. For this reason it's always advisable not to schedule your last day as the same day your visa expires. We always ensure you have one or even two days spare if we can. This is when it’s important to have a family member or friend that you can call on. Often the home owners themselves will make provisions, but in the case of an emergency situation this might not be possible. You can also call on the services of the house sitting community at House Sitting World on Facebook. There are 14000+ people that might be able to help you find cover in an emergency situation.

If the owners are expats or temporary residents, they might experience a problem returning into the country – again a back-up plan will prevent last minute difficulties. If you’ve discussed this at the outset then there will be no surprises.

Final Tip - Ask for the homeowner's House Sitting Manual Experienced home owners will usually have some sort of “house sitting manual” with all this information readily available, but sometimes the more difficult questions are not covered. So, it is very rare for something to go wrong, but being mentally and physically prepared will add to your professionalism and make the assignment much less stressful should you run into problems.

With all these issues properly catered for you can sit back and enjoy the property the pets and your new temporary location.

Vanessa Anderson is a full time international house sitter and co-publisher of House Sitting The ultimate lifestyle magazine. She and her partner Ian Usher have been traveling the world continuously since 2013, working remotely as online English teachers, and looking after other people's properties and pets. Having sold most of their possessions, Vanessa and Ian prefer the freedom to explore the world, living as locals for extended periods in different countries.

OUR NOMADIC LIFE: By Land & Sea by Tracie Wilson-Boyd How does one end up in a traveling nomadic lifestyle? Well, I had always wanted to travel, but it really wasn't on the cards… until I met a sailor! Before my husband asked me to marry him he asked if I would consider living on a sailboat. I said, "sure", but forgot to ask what size. So now I live with my consequences, on a 36 foot sailboat. But, we're in the Western Caribbean, so I won't complain much.

Testing the waters We left the rat race in 2014 after ten years of planning, saving and frankly, working my husband's butt off, to refit our boat. We wanted out, even if it was only for a few years. I wanted to experience life with all of its people, cultures and wonders. Hubby wanted to sail.

After leaving the States with a very small “booty”, we had to keep the purse strings tight. A little over two years and many nautical miles later we needed to return to refill our stash. But, we knew it was going to be difficult to keep from getting stuck in the world of plenty. So we went back with strict guidelines and plans to stay with family. Our thoughts were to not get too comfortable.

Looking after pets opened new doors While back, I fell into house sitting for a couple of friends who needed to leave their fur babies while they went away for work or vacations. Since we were staying with family and a break was more than appreciated, it really worked for us. It also helped with filling up the "cruising account". Soon these sits opened doors looking after pets for new friends. Steve and I enjoyed being in different places here and there. It was much like cruising as we changed locations often.

The Gypsy and the Sailor During this time away from our boat I'd been thinking of ways to travel to places outside the Caribbean without sailing. I'm more of a Gypsy than a sailor. Plus we always needed to wait out the hurricane season in a safe place.

I began dreaming of road trips and of flying to visit friends we'd met on our travels. Then I recalled a couple we met along our travels who were hanging up their sailing legs for house sitting in countries such as Australia and Asia. My research began on house sitting abroad. It seemed to be a realistic way to travel during hurricane season on a shoestring budget.

Our nomadic lifestyle emerges It wasn't difficult to find several Facebook groups. Within those groups I found several people who had house sat abroad for years and were sharing their experiences and advice. There were also websites that host people looking for house sitters looking for houses to sit for in particular locations. Much like the community of Cruisers there is a whole community of house sitters. House sitting appeared to be a viable option as another way to live a nomadic lifestyle. We may be fooling ourselves, but we seem to be happiest when traveling. Our home is wherever we are together. We don't need the whole house and yard, we prefer variety in our lives. Traveling seems to enhance my senses, almost like a high. Taking in the buzz of new cities or villages. Going through mental lists of what is different or the same. Then soaking up the tranquility of all the natural beauty of the new surroundings. From bird calls to the hum of the traffic, whether that be from boats, cars or people.

The treasure hunt of life Sailing to a new location is like being part of a treasure hunt. You have your map and tourist books and you search for safe anchorage and where you can go ashore. You find a location that has all the essentials like good WiFi, groceries, fuel and perhaps even a little entertainment in the close vicinity. Cruising is a pretty physical way to travel, but it also includes a lot of relaxation in some grand locations. We've had both lovely and exciting experiences. There was one fairly long sail across the Gulf of Mexico - Houston, Texas to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We navigated through oil rigs, endured heavy rain squalls at night, and even managed to get a sheet (rope) stuck in the prop. But by contrast, we also experienced wonderful night skies under a blanket of stars, sparkling luminescence that surrounded the boat, and a pod of porpoises that led us to port.

Learning from our cultural differences The cultures we experienced could be thought poor, but to us they were beautiful, filled with close communities and families, full of love and laughter. All of these things are priceless in the world we currently live in.

It saddens me to watch others go into towns and villages and try to “help”, mostly by pushing "their" ways onto a perfectly functioning culture. I'm not saying everything is functional in those places. Yes, some things do need assistance or reconfiguration, but it's a fine line because you don't want them to lose what we have already lost. There is something to say about not chasing the mighty dollar in favor of close family and community. Of course this is all my opinion, many might disagree with me.

Learn to see the beauty in everything Having the ability to see the beauty in all conditions is a great asset in this lifestyle. Most people would rather stay in their comfort zone with the unrealistic idea that they are “safe”.

When we do go through undesirable or difficult situations we reserve those stories for great laughs. It is amusing to see the expressions on the faces of our family and friends when we tell them these stories, because they don't seem to see the humor in them that we do. One day in Mexico, I walked into a meat market. It was just a small room, with a door open to the street and a pig hanging from the ceiling. Not speaking Spanish fluently, I had to figure out how the process worked to purchase some pork. Being from the States, I use pounds not kilograms. I'm also not very familiar with the cuts of meat and where they are located on the actual pig.

Instead I just used lots of hand gestures and smiles until I got what I was looking to buy. Then I prayed we wouldn't get sick from it hanging in the shop all day, un-refrigerated. However, the meat was delicious and I went back every week for more. We even enjoyed the dogs that roamed the streets with a purpose. Most Americans thought of them as homeless. These dogs weren't without a home, they were simply free - free to roam as we were with no fenced in yards. Like I said, the people in communities were very close, almost like family. These dogs also had a very fine palate, no taste for what we think of as “Dog Treats”.

Saving a street dog That being said about the free roaming dogs, I did once come across a little female pup in Providencia, Colombia that was very sick and abused. This pup had mange and most of the locals were very concerned that they themselves, or their pets would catch it, so they were very cruel to her. She lived at the city boat dock and park, which is where everyone on the island goes for their weekly shopping. Some of the locals were more concerned and fed her, but I didn't realize this until I found the island vet and he came out to treat her. When he arrived many women came out and voiced

their concern, begging him to help her, but they weren't offering payment for his services or for the medications. Fortunately I was. The pup was finally treated and fed, during which time I experienced ridicule from the other sailors and locals for intruding. The sailors felt I was being mean to the dog because they thought she would get used to the food and attention, but eventually I would leave. The locals were warning me that I, or worse our little dog Schooner, could catch mange. I continued to educate them on her condition and worked with the more caring locals, by giving them food and paying for her to be fixed and treated by the vet. By the end of our two month stay she was much healthier and had two adoring parents. She still roams during the day but has a home to return to for food and shelter. I named her "Isla" since she is an island princess.

We have completely enjoyed our experiences abroad and can't wait to add more, whether by land, sea or air. Now we just have to fund it - that's the tricky part! Thankfully this world is ever evolving and as long as you think outside the box everything is possible in some form or other. I don't know what is next for us, but I'm excited to discover what it will be and I know I will grow from it. However, I do believe that house sitting internationally will fit perfectly into our lifestyle.

Tracie and Steve Boyd met back in 2002. Tracie (an educated Sociologist) has always been a gypsy at heart, while Steve was a second generation sailor. Together they spent over ten years planning and saving so that they could one day sail away. After buying and renovating a sailboat they moved aboard in 2010, finally leaving Texas in 2014 to set sail for the Western Caribbean. Now they work when necessary and travel in their home as much as possible, with the belief they should live each day to the fullest. For Tracie and Steve, memories, relationships and love are far more important than "things".

DESTINATION TURKEY - TURKISH DELIGHTS House Sitting in Rural Turkey by Julie Bryant

After visiting Turkey for the second time in 2014, I'd promised myself a return trip when the time was right. So I was delighted this year to be offered a great house sit in a tiny hamlet called Incirkoy, which is set in a beautiful rural area on the outskirts of the quaint mountain village of Uzumlu. This is about 40 minutes inland from the popular tourist resort of Fethiye.

Buddying Up to Share a House Sit In my excitement, I hadn't really given much thought to the amount of work involved in taking care of five dogs, six cats and twenty chickens. Not to mention a large bungalow with sprawling grounds, plunge pool, chicken shed and quad bike. Plus a weather beaten pick-up truck! Once the initial elation began to dissipate, I revisited my list of duties, and began to realize just what a huge commitment I'd made. How on earth was I was going to cope with this sit all on my own! Fortunately I'd quickly built a good rapport with the home owners and they were very receptive to me inviting a friend and newbie house sitter. And so Debra Sophia Magdalene, Founder of Mastery Path Events, agreed to join me on the sit to share the experience… and the immense workload!

Preparing for Our Trip With the house sit agreed it was all systems go to make our preparations. At the time I was busy house sitting my way around Mexico and I kept delaying the booking of my flight to Turkey. This resulted in us paying hugely inflated prices as we hadn't realized the day we were due to fly from the UK was a public holiday. That was certainly an expensive lesson and a reminder to book flights as far in advance as possible! We also needed to organize our Turkish visas, which we did easily online. An e-visa costs $20 US with payment by credit or debit card. You can also apply up to 3 months in advance of your travel date. The Turkish visitor visa is issued on arrival and is valid for multiple stays up to a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period.

An Unexpected Dilemma Shortly after making our travel arrangements, the UK government joined the US in implementing new rules for travelers from certain countries within the Middle East, including Turkey. This new ruling banned passengers from carrying large electrical items in their hand baggage, including laptops and e-readers, when flying from one of the specified regions into the UK or the US. This caused us a few sleepless nights. As digital nomads we are both heavily reliant on our MacBooks to run our businesses. The thought that the tools of our livelihoods may possibly be stolen or damaged in transit, was a risk neither of us had been prepared for. Had these rules been in place when we agreed this house sit, we might well have turned it down. However, we'd made a commitment to the house owners, ourselves and each other, so cancelling wasn't really an option. We decided to carry on as planned and trust that all would be well. Thankfully it was. It's worth noting that since our visit, these rules have been relaxed when flying from the capital of Istanbul to the UK. However, the rules regarding banned items still apply at all other regional airports. Regulations can change at any time, so check online here.

Our Warm Turkish Welcome We were duly collected from Dalaman airport by our home owners, Tom and Linda. After an hour's drive on the motorway in their pick-up truck, we eventually turned off and drove along a never-ending, narrow and bumpy stone track in the dark. Finally the car arrived at the imposing black wrought iron gates in front of the property. We could hear the dogs barking their greeting from the kitchen, from where they eagerly awaited our arrival. Stepping out of the car and looking up into the inky black star lit night we started to get a feel for this amazing location. The valley was encircled by mountains and poppy fields for as far as the eye could see. A bright moon lit up the valley highlighting the twinkling lights of distant houses, and we were filled with gratitude for the magnificence that surrounded us. After a brief introduction to our new canine and feline friends, we deposited our bags in our rooms. Then we were whisked off to the local village for a "welcome to Turkey" supper treat at Tom and Linda's favorite local village restaurant - Cadianda. Looking forward to eating under the stars in the balmy night air, we were surprised to find the evenings were still really chilly. The restaurant was warmed by gas heaters which took the edge off the cold, but we still shivered throughout the entire meal. We hadn't come prepared with any warm clothes!

Getting Orientated The following day, Tom kindly drove us around the local village and into Fethiye town to pick up a week's supply of groceries. Returning to the house, I produced my comprehensive home owner's checklist that Tom and Linda had been reluctant to spend time filling in before we arrived. Looking through the list of unanswered questions, we realized just how many essential details we still needed to work our way through before they departed that evening.


First the dogs… As first time buddy-sitters it took us a few days to settle into our new routine and to decide which of us would undertake the various days' tasks. I was usually the first one up in the morning. My room had no black out curtains and the dawn chorus outside ensured I was up and about bright and early. The early morning cockerels weren't the only sounds we had to attune to. The local dog mafia "communicated" across the valley, barking and howling the entire night. The nocturnal crowing of the cockerels, combined with the sounds of other unidentified creatures, meant sleep became the rarest of luxuries for the following five weeks. Once up and about, and after switching on the filtration pump for the plunge pool, the first job of the day was to let the dogs out. After this we moved their beds from the kitchen to the outside terrace to air, before preparing their breakfast. At this point the dogs could hardly contain their excitement! Outside the dogs trampled over each other in their rush to devour their food... and each other's food when given an opportunity. Only Missy, the lovely old matriarch of the pack, was fed separately out of respect to her age and standing!

… then the cats and chickens Once the dogs were fed and watered, it was the turn of the cats. By this time they'd appeared through the kitchen window meowing for their breakfast. They padded quickly across the worktops eager not to be left out of the food fest. Next it was time to head across the field to the chicken shed, where we were greeted by at least half a dozen escapee chickens who had dug their way under the fence in the night. So much for keeping them locked up safe from marauding predators! Although I had some interesting and painful run-ins with our feathered friends over the following weeks, I always loved the sight of the chickens running towards me in eager anticipation of their first meal of the day. With so many chickens we'd been looking forward to a daily glut of eggs. But, they were hopeless layers and we were lucky if we collected more than three eggs each morning. We later learned that Tom and Linda kept them mainly for their skills in catching and eating scorpions and snakes, rather than for their laying ability.

Almost time for ourselves! Once the animals were fed, it was time to water the garden and clean up the kitchen, then we could prepare our own breakfast. By this point we were starving, having worked for three solid hours!

Breakfast finally over, we usually had a few more domestic chores to complete before either heading into the village for more food supplies, or settling down with our laptops to work on our respective businesses. There would usually be a dog or two fighting us for space on the wooden bench seat we all shared. Debra and I also spent many happy hours sitting on the terrace indulging in creative brain storming and taking time to share our life experiences. Living in such close proximity to someone you don't know that well, provides a steep learning curve for both parties, and it's amazing how much you learn about yourself as a result! At the end of each day as the sun was setting we would repeat the whole feeding performance in reverse.

A walk, who me? You're kidding! You may have noticed our daily routine didn't involve dog walking. This was because the dogs were averse to moving any more than they really needed to. Their only exercise was to compete for food, or to race each other to the gate to bark at passing strangers or the local goat herder! I did attempt to take Mustu, the youngest and fittest member of the canine clan, out for a walk one day, but he tagged along for just a few meters before sitting down and refusing to walk any further. We'd been advised not to walk the dogs, so this was my first and last attempt at canine exercise!

STEPPING BACK IN TIME Our house sit was situated in a very pretty rural location and as we passed the local houses enroute to the village, there were many occasions when it felt like we'd stepped back in time. Turkey is a Muslim country and this is a very traditional area. The majority of women wear headscarves and are completely covered from head to foot. This must be really uncomfortable during the extreme heat of the summer when the temperatures soar above 50 degrees.

The women folk work incredibly hard farming the land, taking care of livestock and growing crops. They also keep the house, cook, clean and take care of the children. By contrast many of the local men spend their days sitting outside the cafe in the village square drinking coffee, playing board games, talking and smoking! We hadn't appreciated until just before our departure, that the month long annual celebration of Ramadan would begin shortly after our arrival. I'd previously lived in the Middle East, and was concerned that the strict rules about not eating or drinking in public between sunrise and sunset would be enforced. Particularly as we were staying in such a devout Muslim region surrounded by mosques and mullahs calling the faithful to prayer every few hours. In fact, 99.8% of the Turkish population are Muslim, with the majority being Sunni Muslims. Despite most of the local people abiding by the rules and observing the fast, they didn't have the same expectations of expats or visitors. If you didn't know any different, it would have been very easy to remain totally oblivious to this, the most important month in the Muslim calendar.

The Key to a Successful Sit - Communication A few times during our sit, we were reminded of the importance of home owners completing their information sheet well ahead of time. Leaving it until house sitters arrive, puts everyone under pressure as last minute packing and travel arrangements take priority. It can be a

challenge to get the home owners full attention as they are understandably distracted by last minute travel preparations. Essential information can easily get left off the list which is exactly what happened on this sit. We were left second guessing what to do when challenges arose, like running out of gas. Gas was actually supplied via portable cylinders and not through the mains, as we'd assumed! Thankfully Debra is a strong lass and she managed to unhook the gas cylinder and "womanhandle" it onto the back of the pick-up truck, so we could go and buy a replacement. I don't know how she did it but when we returned Debra managed to get the even heavier new cylinder up the steps and into the kitchen. Fixing this back onto the gas pipe was another matter entirely though, resulting in a 24 hour wait before I managed to track down a local expat who could help. Over the course of our five week sit a number of other similar challenges occurred. The situation wasn't helped by the fact that despite repeated requests, the house owners hadn't left us an emergency fund. This could have been a real problem if something very expensive needed replacing. Thankfully they had set up a line of credit with the local plumber, as the bathroom toilets malfunctioned on a regular basis!

Expats and Locals - Living Side by Side Talking of expat neighbors, we were amazed to discover that in this small area of less than 14,000 inhabitants, 70% were British. It was an interesting contrast between local ladies in traditional dress sitting in doorways weaving cloth on hand looms, and groups of expats sitting at the bar in shorts and t-shirts enjoying a beer in the sunshine. I never did discover what the locals really thought of their village being invaded by so many Brits, but everyone seemed to get along just fine living side by side. The locals also benefited from the income that the expats brought to their businesses.

Cost Effective Living The Turkish are such friendly people who always had warm smiles for us as we wandered around the village. Often we were invited inside one of the open doorways to partake in some apple tea, fruits and nuts from their gardens, or to sample one of their bootleg wines, sold in recycled plastic bottles for less than $9 US for 2 x litres! Although many things in Turkey are a similar price to the rest of Europe, with some careful budgeting, you can live very cost effectively here, particularly when house sitting and your accommodation costs are free. Debra and I both love to cook so we ate mainly at home using fresh local ingredients. Our average inclusive weekly spend was less than $80 US each, which included all our groceries, public transport back and forth into Fethiye, day trips, an occasional coffee or ice cream, a glass or two of wine or beer and a weekly meal at a restaurant. Plus enough for a few lovely souvenirs for friends and family.

Our Time Draws to a Close The weather gradually heated up during the first couple of weeks and by the end of our sit we were enjoying perfect temperatures. I loved the contrast between time spent embracing life as a local and then playing tourist during our "away days". Sometimes Debra and I enjoyed these trips together, but at other times one of us would stay home to work and keep the dogs company. Our furry and feathered friends were hugely affectionate and it was an absolute delight and privilege to take care of them. By the time Linda (see image above) and Tom returned to an immaculate house and a lovingly prepared home cooked meal, I felt so at home in this beautiful country that I made the intention to return again at the first opportunity!

Julie Bryant has wandered the world as a full time international house and pet sitter for the past two years. Her travels have taken her all around SE Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Mexico. After running a successful event management business in the UK for seven years, she is now transitioning to become a location independent entrepreneur, blogger and digital nomad, creating well-being events and retreats as she travels the world. You can find Julie on Facebook or via her NEW blog: Or her website:


While house sitting in Turkey, our home owners encouraged us to explore the area and we enjoyed a few jaunts into the town of Fethiye, a 45 minute bus ride from the village. Our Turkish neighbor, Naci, was also a great host, taking us into a town on a few occasions and to the stunning beach of Oludeniz. About an hour's drive from Uzulmu, we enjoyed swimming here in the cool waters of the Blue Lagoon while watching paragliders launch themselves into the cloudless blue skies. One of the highlights of our trips to the coast was spending a few wonderful carefree days on a diving boat, run by Aytekin Akcakoca of Divers Delight Fethiye.

We sailed on turquoise seas under blue skies, with the sun beating down and the wind in our hair. On our first trip, Debra went scuba diving while I enjoyed snorkeling in the crystal clear waters, and soaking up the glorious sunshine on the upper deck. As well as being hugely enjoyable, our boat trips were one of our best buys as the prices were so incredibly reasonable. The cost of a day's scuba diving, including 2-3 dives, plus a fabulous freshly prepared lunch with chicken, fish or veggies, was less than $25 US. A day's snorkeling, including lunch, was around $13 US.

MY TOP 10 THINGS TO DO No 1 The Fish Market Head to the fish market in the center of Fethiye and choose your supper from one of the busy stalls. You can sit at one of the many restaurant tables dotted around the market, and enjoy a cold drink while you watch your food being freshly prepared.

No 2 Tea, Wine & Home Produced Nibbles Spend an afternoon sipping tea, tasting wine and enjoying some home produced nibbles with one of the lovely local women in Uzumulu village. Watch as they spin and weave their beautiful cloth, for which they are famous in this area.

No 3 Take a Boat Trip Join one of the many boat trips available from Fethiye harbor and visit some of the beautiful islands. Or join Aytekin's dive boat for a day of snorkeling or scuba diving in the crystal clear waters in the stunning bays along the coast

No 4 Watch Paragliders at Oludeniz (Blue Lagoon) Spend a morning watching the paragliders and relaxing on the pebbled beach at Oludeniz, otherwise known as the Blue Lagoon. Enjoy a dip in the sea before spending the afternoon being pampered at the local Turkish Hammam (steam room).

No 5 Cycle Around the Local Roads Beg, steal or borrow a push bike and cycle along the country roads around Uzumulu where you can admire the beautiful poppy fields. Stop at the pretty houses to chat with the locals and the cheerful old goat herder.

No 6 Hire a Car & Explore the Mountains Hire a car and have an adventure getting lost along the mountainous coastal roads. Every turn reveals another stunning vista that will capture your heart.

No 7 Visit the Kayakoy Ghost Village Take a trip out to the Kayakoy ghost village, which lies a short distance from Fethiye. Treat yourself to lunch at one of the fabulous local restaurants in the village and stop for a camel ride on your way back to town.

No 8 Take a Jeep Safari (with Mud Bath) Experience a fun, wet and wild day by joining one of the very popular jeep safaris where you will finish up in a slimy mud bath. You'll have the time of your life and emerge from the mud looking ten years younger!

No 9 Just "Be" in Nature Pack a picnic, climb a mountain, lay a rug on the ground and simply "be" for the day as you immerse yourself in the delightful wonders of Mother Nature's bountiful gifts

No 10 East Turkish Delight at Fethiye Spice Market Discover the delights of Fethiye's spice market. Spend a happy couple of hours tasting the many different flavors of Turkish Delight and sampling the huge range of fruit flavored teas. All the while enjoying the aromas from the piles of vibrantly colored spices.

Julie Bryant has wandered the world as a full time international house and pet sitter for the past two years. Her travels have taken her all around SE Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Mexico. After running a successful event management business in the UK for seven years, she is now transitioning to become a location independent entrepreneur, blogger and digital nomad, creating well-being events and retreats as she travels the world. You can find Julie on Facebook or via her NEW blog: Or her website:


What we love about Berkeley, California, is that we are always learning something new. Driving down the street, we saw a sign for a "Crop Swap". We weren't sure what that meant but figured it was a market place to trade produce from one's garden. Volkan had recently planted some vegetables but they weren't yet ready to harvest. We did gather some herbs, but that didn't seem like much. So we packed a Tupperware with our homemade dessert of mango, sticky rice, and coconut cream. A little uncertain how a plastic container of imported fruit would be received by diehard organic farmers and locavores, we hoped that they would at least appreciate the sentiment. Locavore - a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.

I nervously told the group that this was my first Crop Swap and as it was early in the season I didn’t have much to harvest. I explained I had supplemented my offerings with my homemade dessert. Much to our relief and delight, our description elicited a number of "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. Each person was then given a playing card from Ace to 5. Those who got an Ace were able to choose first, anything that they wanted from the blanket. We were so proud when the first picker went straight for our mango dessert. It was our turn next as we'd drawn playing card 2.

Approaching the blanket, we saw so many tempting choices. Big juicy Meyer lemons, bright orange edible nasturtium flowers, fragrant bunches of pink flowers in jam jars, broccolini shoots for planting, and tender salad greens. We couldn't resist the basket of peppery arugula, but another woman who'd also drawn a two got to it first. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that she'd only taken half of it. I was glad that I hadn't seen it first because I would have unknowingly taken it all. Very politely she had left enough arugula for a salad for Volkan and I. After each person had their turn to choose, the remaining produce was up for grabs. Instead of it being a free for all, each person gathered a small amount of the produce that appealed to them, leaving enough for everybody to share. To our collection we added bubblegum pink roses, some unusual looking salad greens, a few

nasturtiums, fresh oregano and a handful of fava bean pods which the farmer patiently explained how to cook. As the excitement from the picking died down, I noticed that a trio from the group were serenading us with banjo and violin folk music. What a fitting end to this happy get together, I thought. Finally we left and went home to make our salad for dinner. The greens looked so tantalizing shiny from the dressing with the edible orange flowers perched on top. Volkan said it was the best salad he'd ever eaten!

Heather and Volkan are international house sitters. They have lived all over the world taking care of people's homes and pets. They have had the pleasure of living in the British Virgin Islands, Norway, Tokyo, New Zealand and Paris, just to name a few. Check out their website to learn more about them:


It's arguably silly to think that nomadic lifestyles are a recent development. Nomads have been nomads since we first walked upright. And whether digital, analog, wheeled or not, full time or part time, nowadays nomads are everywhere. Untethered by possessions, living grand adventures, roaming the world. So the better question to ask is, when did "Digital" Nomads happen? And why did all this nomadic hoopla start to become mainstream? Well, the first rule is, I'm not supposed to talk about it. And the second rule is, I'm not supposed to talk about it… But I was "totally" there when it happened.

It was the autumn of 1999. I had just finished the umpteenth iteration of my often interrupted film production schooling in Los Angeles and had landed right back where I started. Hopeful about the future but bound by a full time job I got purely out of necessity, which sucked the creativity right out of me, day after long day. This was the plight of many a film industry "newbie" freelancers. Networking till the wee hours, handing out cards until our fingers bled, waiting for that first call while not having enough cash to survive the dry spells. Hence, the full time soul-sucking job. And as many budding filmmakers would fear to confess, secret hours of despair were spent looking up at our storytelling idols in the warmth of the nearest movie theatre. One of these desperate hours were met by subversive serendipity when the silver screen "talked" to me through the machine gun spray of prose that was David Fincher's masterpiece: Fight Club.

It was inside that darkened corner of the Hollywood landscape that I first saw my despair portrayed magnificently by the twisted character of Tyler Durden. I was not alone, I thought. And damn it, I was going to do something about it! Fight Club, a film adaptation of a 1996 novel by the same name written by American author Chuck Palahniuk, featured the conflict between a generation of young working people and the value system of consumer culture. The film was met with polarizing reviews and low box office. Overtime however, Fight Club became a cult classic and a strong reminder of where an entire generation of working young started to "wake up".

Part of this awakening came in the form of aversion to the syndrome of accumulating goods, fueled by loud and fearless quotes from the film such as: "This is your life and it's ending one moment at a time," "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything" and "The things you own end up owning you."

Thanks to the infectious appeal of Fight Club and our growing discomfort with the status quo, many a Gen Xer suddenly abhorred buying. Possessions in general. Add to that, working a 9 to 5. Anything that made us feel like easy prey to the corporate machine. And so it began. By the eve of the new millennium, I had lost my appetite for things and had replaced it with an insatiable hunger for experiences instead. Unfortunately for me, (and the growing Fight Club cult following) no amount of angst, passion or desire, made it remotely possible to get even close to leaving it all behind for the peace of island living. I had to wait for technology to catch up. A few dreadful work years went by while the dot-com boom was taking the world by storm. By 2005, Amazon was a household name and Facebook was up to a mere six million subscribers. Then YouTube jumps in the scene.

Meanwhile, the last of the millenianls are born Enter the era of the permanently connected generations. Kids born in the 90s and 2000s will never know of a world without internet. Give them a short decade and these "kids" (now in university) are asking the one question I wish had an answer when I was in my twenties: "Why is everyone working in offices? That's weird". A revolution is happening, folks. It is an undeniable fact that many "jobs" traditionally bound by location can now be done from home, just as well as from Timbuktu. We know it, employers know it and most importantly, employees and entrepreneurs know it.

This knowledge is giving rise to the real Fight Club. And Generation Y is doing what Generation X could not: using technology to help build an alternative economy where the principal goal is to share instead of horde.

Share of ourselves. Our time. Our knowledge. Our friendship. Our stuff. My wife and I work in television. And although long term freelancing is common and travel is often done, animation studios like to have their team under one roof. It's tradition! It took us about five years of creative growth and consistently over-delivering in our careers, to produce our own shows (and build a network of believers) so we can now take a year to recharge and "skip a contract" to house/petsit and even work on our additional sources of remote income, if we want.

Location independent lifestyles are popping up all over the place. Some facilitated by corporate and economic change, some by sheer delight of giving it all the finger. I personally believe most nomads just want to live outside the box and cubicle… while listening to their hunter-gatherer instincts. It's only been ten thousand years, after all. Nomads. An ever existing sort of wanderers, explorers and creators looking for a better life, powered since the nineties by digital tech and worldwide connectivity, fueled by their own nonconformity and lit on fire by Fincher's Fight Club. Sounds to me like we're experiencing a renaissance. And we'll totally be there as it happens. Will you?

Rafael Ziah Franco is a Canadian Television Director, Filmmaker and Photographer, hailing from Colombia. He writes about travel, visual storytelling and Digital Nomadism. You can find him on Linkedin and Medium.

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Tortilla Espanola or Tortilla de Patatas I had the honor of learning how to make an authentic Spanish Tortilla from one of our Spanish homeowners, who was kind enough to teach me the art of making this simply delicious dish. Also known as Tortilla Espanola or Tortilla de Patatas, the name varies depending on the region of Spain you're in. Tortilla is pronounced "tor tee ya" The traditional Spanish Tortilla is just eggs, onions and potatoes, but you'll find many variations, including variations with meat, cheese, and vegetables. It really does depend on the whims of the chef serving it. David and I love Spanish Tortillas. Here are our eight reasons why:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

The sweet flavors of the onions and potatoes meld beautifully with the eggs. It's straightforward and easy to make. Makes a great make-ahead dish (can keep up to three days in the fridge). You can easily change the flavors by adding your favorite ingredients (although the traditional one is my personal favorite). Works well hot or cold (traditionally it's served cold). It's good for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner, as well as for food on the go. Your homeowners will love it and be begging for the recipe (ours did). It's deliciously healthy.

So it's for all these reasons that I want to share this recipe for Spanish Tortilla with you this month. Buen apetito!


1 x large sweet onion thinly sliced 3 x medium-size red potatoes thinly sliced 6 x large eggs 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS       

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes, before adding potatoes and more olive oil. Stir together and continue cooking until potatoes are soft. Whisk eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Add the potatoes and onions to the eggs and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil to the pan and pour the mixture in. Cover with a lid and cook until eggs are browning on edge. Using a plate, flip the tortilla and slide back into the pan to finish cooking. Cook to your desired "done-ness" of the eggs. Flip the tortilla out onto a plate and set aside to cool for five to ten minutes before slicing into wedges. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.

Ciao! I'm Heidi Medina, your personal chef for cooking up fresh, tasty recipes. Since 2012, I have been the writer, creator, food photographer and recipe creator for Simply Sophisticated Cooking. I believe eating, drinking, loving, laughing and living well are essential ingredients for a good life. Currently, I’m in the middle of creating the new life/travel site, FlyAwayU, which provides choices for a better quality of life through travel rather than staying chained to society’s norms. Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


It’s Wednesday night. Wednesday night means exorcism night at the church next door to our place. The chanting, ululating, and singing have finally come to an end. Jess has gone to bed, so it’s just me on the couch with a cold bottle of Kilimanjaro Premium Lager and a cheeky Jack Russell Terrier. I’m in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and have been travelling the world full time for 18 months. I feel right at home here even though I’m on a three-month tourist visa that expires in 10 days. Not to worry, though - our onward tickets to Mozambique are booked, and so is our next house sit. This is just another day in my life as a Housesit Hustler.

How did this all start? After years of teaching English in China, my job eventually became digital - as did my burgeoning relationship with Jess (#cyberromance). So after chatting each other up on Skype for a few months, we decided to uproot and move to Chiang Mai, Thailand together. As of today, we’ve lived in nine countries, looked after dozens of pets, and mostly lived rent free. We've been through many ups and downs over the last 18 months and in turn have learned a bunch of things along the way. So without further ado, here are 10 of them!


1. When the weather's hot, drink cold beer. Or any other cold beverage you enjoy. Never forget to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

2. When the weather’s cold, move to a hot place. A sentiment formally only applicable to the incredibly wealthy or retired (or both), house sitting now opens this possibility to mere mortals like Jess and myself. We both earn medium to low incomes by western standards but with free rent, we don’t need more than that to travel the world at will.

3. I waste a lot less money on crap I don’t need when traveling full time because there’s nowhere to put it! This is a big one! Not only have we learned how little we need to have a fulfilling life, but we’re always picking up new ideas and tips along the way by living in other people’s houses.

5. Even though I earn less money traveling full time, I save WAY more because I rarely pay rent or utilities. As full-time house sitters, not only can we make ends meet with less income, we can actually save more than we could previously! Traveling the world full time, living in beautiful houses, and saving more than living in one place. Madness. Sweet, sweet madness.

6. Papaya should only be eaten with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Accept nothing less. If you haven’t tried it like this, please do. It’s great!

7. You don’t need to be a hot-shot/baller/digital nomad/entrepreneur to travel full time. I have a normal job and moderate income and manage just fine. Jess and I both work full-time, 9-5 jobs online. It’s not all freelancing or drop-shipping, people! More and more normal jobs are becoming location independent so you should have a sniff around on Escape the City, Modern-Day Nomads, or the wide range of English training companies that hire teachers remotely.

8. Tanzania has way better Chinese food than New Zealand or South Africa. I lived in China for nine years, so this is quite a significant point for me. Chinese food is a home comfort for me and with increasing Chinese activity all over Africa, I’m feeling right at home in the countries I’ve visited here so far!

9. Africa is a gigantic and extremely diverse continent - don’t broad-brush it! An obvious point, but one that too many people forget! I often get asked the question: "How’s Africa?". Well, I’ve only spent a total of about six months living in two out of 54 of its countries, so how would I know?

10. Last but certainly not least; the importance of animal companionship! This is one of the biggest reasons why we (and I’m sure most of you) house sit. Unfamiliar environments, as exciting and fresh as they are, can also feel isolating and lonely. Having a sweet pet to cuddle up with is both comforting and therapeutic. Don’t you agree?

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.


House sitters venture to unfamiliar locations where they commit to stay and take care of the property and animals on a regular basis. It's not like going on a vacation where if you don't like the location of the hotel, you just head to a new hotel. Nope, sitters arrive and are committed good, bad or otherwise.   

But what about all the "unknowns" that can make the sit more comfortable? What if you could interact with other sitters who have been to that area, or even that exact sit? What if you could get the real scoop on the house sit, the area or even the owners, and know what to expect without the "fear" of having the owner read your interactions and judge you?

That's the reason "For Sitters, By Sitters" was born.

It's a private, sitters only, location focused arena where sitters can have REAL conversations about locations, sits and even warn other sitters of nightmare situations. How many times have you seen conversations in Facebook groups where a house sitter is "dancing around" a negative about a sit? They want advice from other sitters but can't go into full details in fear of the person they're sitting for seeing the problem. Or worse, the home owner might see or hear that they are "venting", which could prompt a bad review. Why can't we, as sitters, help each other in a more direct way? It was after seeing several conversations that just screamed "I need advice" and just days later during a chat with Kate from Vagrants of the World, that all the pieces fell into place to build the solution - We were having our regular "hey, how are you guys?" kind of talk, when Kate received a message from a lady about a horrible house sitting experience in Bulgaria. Kate and Mark had done the same sit previously and only wished they had a way to warn other sitters of what to expect at this regularly posted assignment. Sadly, there was no such mechanism in place at the time, and the new sitter was in dire straits with the situation she was left to deal with. Wouldn't it be nice to know about this information, before you apply for a sit? But it's not all about the bad, what about helpful information? Like what to expect with grocery shopping, public transportation, and paying for a cab. Where expats meet, where the good places are to walk the dogs, and how to find the unknown gems of an area.

Often owners will overlook some of these things that can help make your time more interesting. Not out of neglect, but because they live there, and may forget what the "I just arrived" feeling is like. There are so many aspects of house sitting in a region or even a city, that sitters can share with each other to improve the entire sit experience. This benefits not just you as a sitter, but the owners as well. ForSittersbySitters is setup as a location based platform. You can go look at the specific country, region or state that you're interested in - or even further in some cases. In true "sharing economy" style, the information comes directly from member contributions, so the more you share what you know, the more you help the house sitter community, and it grows from there. To maintain the integrity of the space and to encourage honest conversations, every application is reviewed. Members are verified as sitters before they are given keys to this ultraexclusive house and pet sitter space. So what are you waiting for? We would love to have you join, meet your fellow sitters, interact, share and learn from each other.

As full-time house sitters for several years, Eden and Denny travel the world and are always excited to interact and meet fellow sitters whenever possible. Eden has been an online community manager, in a variety of mediums, for over 10 years and has managed communities for influencers, authors and public speakers, along with several of her own communities. Creating a private platform for house sitters was a natural development. For Sitters By Sitters is a place for factual and in-depth exchange of information to take place in the house and pet sitter community that didn't exist previously.

HOUSE SITTING IN A HURRICANE 5 Things We Learned from Cyclone Winston in Fiji by Betsy Wuebker

What do you learn house sitting in a hurricane which was the strongest cyclone to hit the Southern Hemisphere since record-keeping began? This was to be our third house sit at a hilltop compound on Fiji’s Coral Coast. When we set things up at the close of our second sit for these homeowners, there was some conversation about hurricanes, or cyclones as they’re called in this part of the world. The chances of us winding up house sitting in a hurricane appeared to be fairly remote, we reasoned, although Fiji had been dodging big storm bullets for decades.

We keep coming back to Fiji for this

We’d be arriving in February, during peak cyclone “season” which officially runs between November to April in the South Pacific, although cyclones aren’t unknown at any time of the year. Having lived on Kaua’i during several major storm patterns which threatened to turn into hurricanes, but never really did, we know it’s a roll of the dice. Still, we thought our chances of not house sitting in a hurricane were greater. I mean, what were the odds? This house sit had already baptized us by bushfire on our very first day of international house sitting, so surely that was the limit? Boy, did Cyclone Winston prove us wrong! Prior to writing this article, I reached out to Vanessa Anderson and Ian Usher, fellow travelers who also have considerable experience in international house sitting. The reason? Serendipitously, the four of us had found ourselves doing simultaneous sits within a few miles of each other on Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji’s main islands. While we had wanted to get together within a week or so of arriving, Cyclone Winston messed with our plans!

We keep coming back to Fiji for these two Dobermans, too: Bella and Benny

What We Learned: Previous Experience in Severe Weather Events Can’t Be Underestimated As lifelong Midwesterners, Pete and I are no strangers to severe weather events. When we lived on Kaua’i, we noted the similarities in preparing for a tropical storm event with those you undertake in an approaching blizzard. We’re no strangers to severe weather warnings, either; every spring in the Midwest we’d get tornadoes without fail. These are far more erratic and random in terms of their behavior than a hurricane, which forecasters can predict with comparative accuracy well ahead of time. After a bit more conversation with our homeowners before they left for Australia, we felt casually confident in terms of what preparations might be needed, as well as that they probably wouldn’t be needed at all. Fiji time, right? Vanessa explains where she and Ian were coming from in terms of weather emergency experience:

“We had never experienced a major weather emergency prior to Winston. We’ve lived in Panama where we experienced a few minor earthquakes, and traveled by RV for six months in Texas where we dodged a few extreme weather events, including flash flooding. As long-term international house sitters, it’s always at the back of our minds and so we generally do a risk assessment exercise when taking an assignment in a new country. We were aware that we would be arriving in Fiji during the cyclone season, but never expected to be at the centre of the South Pacific’s strongest ever tropical storm.”

What We Learned: Hurricanes Can Be Just as Unpredictable as Other Storms Weather forecasters in Fiji were watching Winston develop since he was an embryonic tropical depression. His initial track took him traveling in a southeasterly direction, well to our south. We began to watch Nadraki (the personable Fijian weather site) and another site, Windyty, which has a very cool graphic interface with predictives. It appeared as though Winston had passed us by.

Windyty’s still imagery of Cyclone Winston bearing down on Fiji. The individual lines represent gusts. Photo Credit: Fiji Newswire

But then, unpredictably, as though he had decided to do an about face because he missed us on his first pass, Winston turned back, headed straight for Fiji. Initial forecasts had the eye passing right over Sigatoka, where we were.

There was an element of the surreal as we tried to absorb this news. It was so wholly unexpected that everyone in the neighborhood (Korotogo, outside Sigatoka town), and in town was shocked. Preparations began in earnest. As these were made, Nadraki and other experts began to deliver frequent updates, attempting to pinpoint where Winston would make landfall. He, for his part, was developing into a superstorm over the sea to our east, picking up steam and speed. Holy buckets!

Vanessa and Ian were dealing with a somewhat different situation. Like us, they were caring for a couple of dogs, but their main liaison, the couple who was managing the resort, couldn’t offer much: “We were looking after a new boutique resort, Serenity Point, and the resort managers Sue and Lloyd were also new to Fiji – they had only been on the island for six months. There had been a couple of less strong tropical depressions earlier in the year, but nothing as serious as Winston. We did broach the subject, but they had little more advice than to do whatever we needed to stay safe, and to give assurances that the glass in the windows was "cyclone proof". Our concern was that by contrast the doors and the thatched roofs were probably not!” After the first brush with Winston as a severe tropical depression, we breathed a big sigh of relief. It had passed the islands far enough away not to cause a problem.

No one expected it to do an about turn and head straight for Fiji where it was expected to make landfall at Suva *Fiji’s capital city on the southeast side of its main island, Viti Levu]. We had arranged to meet Sue and Lloyd at the airport [which is in Nadi on the opposite side of Viti Levu] to do a luggage change between their flights from Bali to the US, and we had to break the bad news. It seemed that we were now located directly on the predicted track of the biggest storm to ever lash the islands – we needed to make emergency preparations. It was a somber meal that we shared, while discussing the options to secure the property, our safety and of course the safety of Bella and Angus, the two bulldogs we were looking after.

Serenity Point – the Fiji resort where Vanessa and Ian were house sitting. Photo Credit: Vanessa Anderson and Ian Usher

What We Learned: Imagine the Worst and What You Would Do When you’ve been in a severe weather event previously and another one looms, you generally start thinking of “what if” scenarios. If you’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced an extreme weather event, you can still think in the same way. Whether you’re preparing for a blizzard (as we have countless times) or house sitting in a hurricane, there are remarkably similar things to do. You’ll want to think about the possibility of an extended power outage (here in Fiji, they cut the power as Winston approached, and the infrastructure is already frequently subject to outage), so a secondary power source is great to have. Our homeowners have a gas generator, which Pete fired up every once in a while during previous sits to ensure it was in good working order. We figured we had several days, possibly even more than a week if we conserved, worth of enough electricity to keep food – ours and

the dogs’ – properly refrigerated and even frozen, run the lights in the main house for a bit and keep devices charged.

Fiji’s Coral Coast is protected from the open sea by a shallow reef. Its edge is the dark blue line in the photo.

The next thing you need to think about if you’re going to be house sitting in a hurricane is water. Think about water in two ways: use and threat. Again, the situation at our house sit is terrific in that regard. It has its own water catchment and supply, with enormous storage tanks and a supplemented gravity delivery system. (I don’t know if I’m even saying that right.) What it means is that in an extended emergency, we’d still have running water. Barring no damage to the system’s hoses, we’d have sufficient flow to wash dishes, quickly shower, and flush toilets. With the generator, we could even run full strength if we had to. Depending on the answers to these two questions, as well as vulnerabilities in terms of where your property is situated, you think about where you are going to stay while the storm rages.

For us, the answer was easy. We were going to stay put. This house is nestled into the side of a tall hill, high above the rest of the neighborhood, which gives it such exceptional sea and lagoon views. Storm surge and flooding were not going to affect us. Our issue was going to be wind. As Cyclone Winston changed from a Category 3 to a 4, and then to a 5 , we braced for the possibility that wind was coming for us in a very big way.

The main house lower level is protected by a wrap-around veranda. Wooden shutters keep the elements at bay from the interior glass and screen openings.

Because of the house's design – its lower level is protected by a wraparound shuttered verandah system, breezes can still flow through vented screened openings, it is sited so it backs into a slope, glass surfaces are buffered by deep overhangs, it is combination stick and cement built – we were still confident. The biggest threat might be that the roof would blow off. If that were the case, we could still hole up in the main house. We even identified a “safe room” of sorts – an interior crawl space under the stairway, buffered by lots of concrete. We consulted by phone with our homeowners. They were in Queensland, Australia, just as shocked as we were by this (literal) turn of events. “Do whatever you think you need to do,” came the instructions. “We trust you.” We decided we would spend the storm in the main part of the house.

We would sleep on the floor, using the queen mattress from the bed in the guest house where we normally slept. Benny and Bella, the two Doberman watchdogs who sleep on the porch, would come in the house with us. Our homeowners thought this was a good plan. Left unsaid was the fact that we might need the mattress for protection. We finished up preparations by stabilizing protective plywood already installed by the homeowners before they left, installing a semi-permanent wood screen over a large, potentially vulnerable glass window, moving fragile potted orchids into a more protected space, closing louvers in the guest house, and taking some of our more valuable belongings into the main house. A couple of trips into town ensured we had provisions and beer – we hadn’t made all those blizzard runs back in the day to the liquor store and learned nothing! Meanwhile, Vanessa and Ian’s situation required different assessments: “We were fortunate in that the resort owners arrived a couple of days before the storm hit to holiday at the resort with friends, and so we could defer to them on property issues. It was eventually agreed that we should all leave the property and stay in more secure accommodation. Serenity Point is a beachside resort and it was feared that it would not escape severe damage and flooding from sea surge, should Winston remain on its predicted course. After various debates, the property was made as secure as possible. All outside furniture was stacked inside the individual resort rooms, and anything at risk of low level flooding was raised to a higher level. All important business papers were put in waterproof bags, electrical items were unplugged, and we simply applied common sense, doing anything we could think of to minimize loss of property and possessions. Then of course we had to think about longer term issues. Would we have access to drinking water and food after the cyclone? We made sure that we had plenty of water bottles filled and stored so that they couldn’t be damaged or contaminated. Food staples were also hidden away as emergency supplies. It actually took a couple of days with six people involved to make all these preparations. We had to think on our feet – it was a learning curve for us all, especially as we had to consider protection from a business perspective, and to comply with any potential insurance claims.” But there was more for Ian and Vanessa to worry about. Because of their location, they had to prepare to evacuate themselves and the two bulldogs: “Amidst the chaos of securing the property, we also had to consider where we could take the two bulldogs, Angus and Bella, to keep them safe through the storm. Sue and Lloyd had somewhat reluctantly continued with their holiday plans and were now in the US. They had considered canceling their well overdue vacation to see family and friends, but we convinced them this wasn’t necessary. There was nothing extra they could do and we assured them we were not planning to leave the island and abandon our house sitting responsibilities.”

Ian and Vanessa decided they would spend the storm at Outrigger on the Lagoon, a resort which happens to be located right behind us on another part of the same hill. They were using similar reasoning to ours: “The Outrigger was close enough that we could get back to the property if necessary, and it offered secure rooms in a large cyclone-proof concrete block. It was set back from the sea and so not at risk of sea surge. We visited ahead of the storm to check it out, and managed to book a room for a couple of nights. Bella and Angus are trained service dogs, and we were assured by Sue and Lloyd that this enabled them to stay in hotels, travel on air flights etc., without restriction.”

What We Learned: A Category 5 Hurricane is a Fearsome Storm As Cyclone Winston bore down on Fiji, his track shifted northward with the eye predicted to pass between the two main islands, threatening Vanua Levu (the smaller) and northeastern Viti Levu. He was going to have a more indirect effect on us and the capital city of Suva. Other locations, including our favorite town of Savusavu on Vanua Levu, were going to take the direct hit. Just prior to landfall on the little island of Vanua Balavu, Winston intensified to sustained winds of 165mph (270km/h). A weather station there recorded a gust of 190mph (306km/h) before it was destroyed. Incredibly enough, as Winston passed just south of Vanua Levu, he sustained winds of 145mph (230 km/h) for ten minutes and estimated one-minute sustained at a rate of 180mph (285km/h). When he hit the Rakiraki District on our island, he was at peak strength, the only Category 5 and most intense storm ever in Fiji.

Even though our experience was “indirect” with Cyclone Winston, it was frightening enough. Howling and shaking to an otherworldly level, his winds quickly strengthened into forceful gusts and sustained blowing from just after dark at 6pm to well past midnight. The Doberman girls couldn’t believe their luck: they were being allowed inside! Surely this meant they could sleep on our mattress, too! After all, it was right there wasn’t it? After we got that part straightened out – theirs was the floor, thank you very much – they stuck very close by. It was a long, scary evening.

Surprisingly, we slept through a portion of the storm, awakening around 2am because it was suddenly too quiet. Nothing untoward appeared to have occurred from the little we could see, so we awaited daylight to assess. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so smoothly for our friends at the Outrigger: When the manager discovered we had dogs, we were threatened with eviction, just as the storm was beginning to strengthen. Bella was not coping well and was hyperventilating and we were struggling to keep her cool. She was used to sitting in front of a fan most of the day. And despite protracted discussions and pleading with the hotel, they refused under any circumstances to allow us to have the dogs in the room with us. We had seen online that the Outrigger was one of only a few dog-friendly hotels in Fiji – but we didn’t know that they had changed their policy, and no longer allowed dogs in the rooms. This was despite them being registered as service dogs. It seemed that although we had their registration cards, we were not the people requiring service, and so this negated any special dispensation. Something to consider if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

With no chance of now finding alternative accommodation, the manager finally agreed that Bella and Angus could stay if they were left in a service area with the staff overnight. We were permitted to go and settle them before the curfew began, and this enabled us to calm the staff who were understandably a little nervous of these two strange looking pups. In the end the Fijian staff were great – they provided a fan to keep Bella cool, and some bedding and water for the night. They also kept them occupied until we were allowed to return the next day.

What We Learned: In the Aftermath, Count Your Blessings Things were eerily quiet in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, and when it started to get light, we got up and looked around. Amazingly, there was very little discernible damage.

To the north of us, in places such as Rakiraki and Ba – the historic capital in northern Viti Levu, and on Vanua Levu in places like Savusavu, as well as smaller islands, the devastation was rampant. Entire villages were wiped out, flooding was widespread, and 44 people died. Communications were interrupted throughout the nation. We were lucky, our power went miraculously back on within 12 hours. Others waited days. All in all, nearly 55,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, with approximately 40% of Fiji’s population significantly impacted. We didn’t have much cleaning up to do. There was mainly plant debris and the garden structure had failed (as we expected it would, easily put up again). We moved the orchid collection back outside and counted our blessings.

Vanessa and Ian returned to their house sit after curfew was lifted: “Next morning all was calm, but we were unable to leave the hotel due to a nationwide curfew while roads were cleared and power lines made safe. It was almost lunchtime before we were allowed to check out, and we returned to Serenity Point with some trepidation. There were a couple of big trees down, but both had missed the main buildings, falling instead onto the septic tank and garden area. Leaves had been ripped from the trees, forming a green coating over much of the property. The thatch roofs were still intact, but rain had penetrated the rooms and it was quickly apparent that a big clean-up operation would be needed. It took us a week to return the resort to a pre-cyclone condition. We were on generator power for 10 days, and the dogs took a while to resettle. It was impossible to contact the staff as none had the ability to charge their phones, so we spent time driving to small villages to ensure they were all safe. Gradually the staff all returned to help, and were as cheerful as ever despite the devastation that surrounded them. It was especially reassuring for the owners, and Sue and Lloyd as managers, that Serenity Point had survived such a destructive cyclone. We were so much more fortunate than Fijians living on the north of the island, where complete devastation had displaced thousands and killed over 40 people. We had a lot to be thankful for.”

The aftermath of Cyclone Winston at Serenity Point. Photo Credit: Vanessa Anderson and Ian Usher

Shortly after this, we (finally) got together with Vanessa and Ian for dinner. The four of us agreed, we were very lucky indeed. Six weeks later, Cyclone Zena decided to take a swipe at us

on the Coral Coast, but she fizzled out to our south after only a bit of a fuss. She barely made it to Category 3, and that was fine by us. We brought the Dobermans inside just to be safe.

Ian and Vanessa in Fiji

Other Tips and Information for House Sitting in a Hurricane Before you take a house sitting assignment, inquire of your homeowner what sort of specific preparations they typically make if there is a likelihood of severe weather. They should describe the location of the house and any circumstances which would be vulnerabilities in a storm scenario. As well, if there is the possibility you may need to evacuate, what are the protocols and how will you provide for the pets, if any? Be in the know. Identify the best information sources and keep an eye on things as they develop in your region. For island dwellers, this means be geographically aware of where you sit. Even though distances in the South Pacific are large, storms can travel over lots of area with little to impede strengthening. With smaller distances in a region like the Caribbean, you will want to be aware of landfall and trajectory impacts. Familiarize yourself with what the predictable patterns are, and then listen to the recommendations from authorities and neighbors regarding preparation. Don’t stand on bravado. This isn’t the time to be macho or prove your courage by entertaining minimal preparations. If there are legal restrictions such as curfews or other curtailments, they apply to you and everyone else.

Digital nomads Betsy and Pete Wuebker use house sitting as a means to balance expenses and experience destinations in more depth from a local's perspective. Location independent for six years, and now in their third year as full time travelers, the Wuebkers have visited close to 40 countries, and have completed house sits on four continents. Visit them at their travel blog, PassingThru Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest


JINXED IN NEW ZEALAND A comedy of errors in Palmerston North by Andrew Redfern Our house sit in Palmerston North, New Zealand was our third ever house sit and in fact the first house sit we ever secured. We looked after a golden retriever named Rocket whilst his owners, Dennis & Brenda, visited Europe. We were still new to the game of house sitting and learned several valuable lessons in what turned out to be a month of "a comedy of errors".

1. Know who to contact The handover went very smoothly in this lovely home in a great part of town. We stayed with Dennis and Brenda the night before they left and dropped them to the airport the next morning in the car included with the house sit.

On the way home we called into the supermarket to collect a few essentials and it was after shopping that disaster struck! We were unable to re-start the car! No lights! Not even a splutter when turning the key! In Australia we call the NRMA or RACQ but who do we call in New Zealand? Perhaps we could call our home owners, but then it dawned on us that we didn't have their numbers in our phones. In fact, we quickly realized that we didn't even know the address of where we were staying. All the contact and emergency details were sitting on a lovely printed sheet of paper on the kitchen bench back at our house sit. Both of us sat there for a few moments staring straight ahead. Christopher then decided to check under the bonnet. Without touching a thing, he climbed back in and turned the key. It started first go. Talk about dodging a bullet! Over the following week, the car intermittently refused to start. We reported it to Dennis' son who was our emergency contact. He suggested we take it to the local mechanic, who rather surprisingly found nothing wrong! However, after this visit, it did start first go every time and we suspected a loose connection was the cause. First lesson learned – always have emergency contact information with you and take a record of any critical phone numbers the moment you receive them.

2. Be aware of the weather Of the 32 days we stayed in Palmerston North, it rained on 28 of them. We jokingly told Dennis and Brenda we were building the second ark in their backyard. The rain would not have been such a problem, but Rocket had to be walked twice a day – rain, hail or shine! This we dutifully did, donning raincoats and carrying umbrellas, as well as suiting up Rocket in his own rain jacket. As a long haired golden retriever, Rocket could become quite sodden and at times, muddy. We ended up with a trail of towels throughout the house, always coaxing him to walk on them (which he hardly ever did) to prevent extensive carpet vacuuming. August, in Palmerston North, is known for its windy, wild weather and we certainly experienced this during our time there. A few weeks into the sit, we lost the majority of our television channels. Despite re-scanning the TV, we could not get back the missing transmission. One afternoon, when returning from a walk in between the rain showers, I noticed that our antenna was pointing in a different direction to our neighbors – could this be the problem? Had the strong winds blown the antenna around? Finding the ladder and extending it to its full extension, I clambered up on the roof and twisted the antenna around whilst Christopher ran back inside to check the TV reception. Sure enough we were back in action and could now watch more than one channel. Second lesson learned – check the weather of the location you will be house sitting.

3. Google is your friend As part of our daily routine, Christopher would take Rocket out for his nightly toilet stop around 10pm. During this time, I would move Rocket's bed from the lounge room into the bedroom. The whole routine went quite smoothly until one night, once again during a storm, the external electronic gates decided to "play up". The property entrance security gates were large, black and heavy. They were motor operated by either the remote or keypad, and they slid behind each other to open. Christopher left the house with Rocket, punched in the gate code and nothing happened. Then with a crunch and a whirr, one of the gates started to move and the other didn't. This resulted in the gates separating, and as they came apart, one fell towards Christopher and Rocket. Grabbing it with one hand and struggling with Rocket and an umbrella, Christopher called out for help. I was unfortunately unable to hear as the house was double glazed and the rain was pelting down. Gradually Christopher inched the gates back together and continued Rocket's toilet routine, coming back inside looking like a drowned rat. Next morning we set about reconnecting the gate cable which had become unattached. After trying to work out the physics, we turned to Google to look up the user manual for that particular model of gate. And in no time at all we had the job done.

Third lesson learned – look up user manuals online for operating and repair instructions. We have subsequently used this trick to look up manuals for lawn mowers, televisions and many other gadgets and appliances.

Rocket watching TV

4. Every button has a purpose Although we parked in the carport, the house also had a garage, to which the door was not visible from any part of the house. As we were getting used to the house we mistakenly opened the garage door by pressing a key on the car remote that didn't seem to do anything. It wasn't until the next door neighbors phoned to ask why the garage door was up, did we realize what we'd done. Along with setting off the alarm a number of times it certainly was a month of adventure which we look back on now and laugh. We thought we were having all the bad luck, but Dennis and Brenda also had things go wrong during their trip. Brenda fell over and injured herself quite badly on their second day away. All their checked luggage was lost and its whereabouts unknown for over two weeks. In fact, they weren't reunited with their bags until they landed back in New Zealand.

They were very pleased to be home and we certainly learned some valuable lessons and skills as house sitters. One thing this lifestyle teaches you is to be a problem solver and solution finder.

Communication is always the key Despite our month of things going wrong, we have been invited back several times to take care of Rocket but as yet, our schedule has not allowed for this opportunity. We look forward to whatever challenges our return visit may present.

Andrew & Christopher, known as Global Wanderers are currently house sitting in Palm Springs, California, USA. They have been traveling the world together since 2005, visiting many locations including Egypt, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Originally from Sydney, Australia, they discovered house sitting in May 2016 as part of a planned relocation to New Zealand. Rather than "settle down", they now travel full-time looking after people's pets and homes. Enjoying adventure style travel and "living like a local", Christopher is a keen photographer whilst Andrew always seeks out a local yoga class. You can read more about their travels and adventures at: or find them on Facebook or Instagram


I'd like to say we were young and naïve but truth be told, we are middle-aged, and after 30+ years in government service, naïve isn't a word I'd use in describing us. But I've lived in a small town in Alaska all my life, hubby for the better part of his, and in Alaska, people trust. We have to.

An Alaskan island adventure beckons Living in Alaska means you never know when you might need the help of your neighbor – or a random stranger. So to say we were trusting is probably most accurate. We were also fairly new to house sitting and eager to get some experiences under our belt and references on our profiles. Add to that, a sit in a desired area coming on the heels of our current sit seemed perfect.

I looked over the homeowner's ad carefully. It was on an island with two small communities. The pictures showed a nice looking property with a large front yard and a beautiful hilltop view. The ad said there was a lodge that was rented out while they lived in the owner's apartment. They were to be gone several days and there would be no lodge guests. The pets were two indoor/outdoor cats and, while they fostered cats from the local shelter, they didn't think that would be happening when the house sit was scheduled. I applied and we were accepted fairly quickly. Emails were exchanged and armed with actual names and locations, I did some internet research. No red flags appeared and the reviews of the lodge were that it was clean and the owners were great. More emails ensued as we talked about requirements which were pretty standard - caring for the cats and watching out for the property. Next up were phone calls where we got down to specifics, sharing our travel itineraries and other details. We continued to stay in touch and my last contact was the day before we were scheduled to arrive. We reconfirmed we were taking a mid-morning ferry and should arrive in early afternoon.

All is not quite as it should be After a beautiful ferry ride, we followed their directions and found ourselves driving up a very steep, narrow road before parking in front of the garage as instructed. We noticed one of the

big doors was open several inches at the bottom, and leaves and debris were piled up around the opening. But… we didn't think anything of it. One of the homeowners came out of the garage through the smaller man door and, after introductions, began to show us around. The property was two buildings – a larger two story home/lodge and the garage with an apartment on top. We entered the garage and were surprised to find ourselves in an "apartment". Essentially, they had converted the garage, dividing it with a false wall and hanging blankets for sleeping and living spaces. The bathroom was a toilet divided from the living space by a short swinging saloon door (picture everything except your middle section exposed), and the kitchen was a single sink (also used as a bathroom sink), a hot plate and convection/microwave oven. The opening in the garage door we'd seen from the outside was visible from the sleeping area, along with the leaves and debris. It was an odd setup and felt unclean but the toughest part was the smell – like the great unwashed and musty. Back outside, we followed along on a walk down a steep, narrow trail to a barn where a shelter cat was still being fostered and were informed we needed to feed and care for this cat as well. Back at the bigger lodge, we met the second homeowner in a workroom. This room included a shower for us to use and entrance to the rest of the lodge. We never saw the entire building, but in showing us the connected door, we were again surprised, this time to be introduced to guests still in residence.

More unexpected surprises The surprises kept coming. The homeowners said it was fortunate we were there as they needed help lifting an HVAC system, about 500 to 700 pounds and several feet long and square, into place when it was repaired. And then the final surprise – they weren't leaving! Their vacation plans had fallen through when a friend had called the night before and backed out. The night before! While we were still on the mainland! They knew before we'd made the journey and never called us. But all would be well, they said. They were going to move into their RV and we would have the converted garage. And how happy they were that we loved football, as we could all watch the game over dinner. By this point, we were back in the garage and it was obvious that except for sleeping, we would be sharing this space with them since it had the bathroom, their office, and all their things. We would be caring for the cats even though they were still at home. It felt strange - so many things didn't add up - and I could tell hubby was as uncomfortable as I was. I said we'd not eaten and would head into town and grab a bite.

The Great Escape! No sooner than we'd hit that long, winding driveway, we both said, practically simultaneously, that we didn't want to stay there, that something felt off about the whole thing. After lunch, we found a hotel and checked in. Then I made the call, telling them since they didn't need us and we didn't feel comfortable displacing them from their home, we'd made other arrangements for our time on the island. It was an awkward conversation during which one could be heard in the background urging the other to apologize. The relief we felt when it was over was immeasurable. Would it have been the most horrible sit? Probably not. Our motto is "we are nothing if not flexible" so we would have made it work had they actually left. Thankfully, we didn't have to do that. To this day, there are so many questions. Why didn't they call when their plans fell through? The rooms above their garage apartment were empty so why didn't they move into them? Why stay in the RV, planning to share facilities with us? Why were guests still there and how much longer were they staying? Why would we care for their cats when they were home?

What did I learn from this? The same thing I have had to learn over and over again in my life - trust but verify! Make sure you see exactly where you will be sleeping. And don't be afraid to set boundaries. The foster cat I would have been fine with, but helping lift and install an HVAC system and sharing a small space with them – not so much. Get pictures and use Skype or another sort of video calling. Would these have helped in this case? Maybe – but it still wouldn't have solved the fact that they weren't leaving. So finally, be true to yourself. If your gut says go, listen!

Lisa Marie Tourtellot is a lifelong resident of Juneau, the landlocked capital of Alaska. While it will always be home, her serious case of "itchy feet" means she is always planning the next trip, or three. She discovered house sitting when preparing for retirement and convinced hubby, Dan, to give it a try. They enjoy immersive nature, the different pets they've cared for, and time for writing and giving Lisa's camera a workout while on the road. Now they split their time between house sitting and home, where they can be found on their boat, in their garden, or with family. Their profile can be found at TrustedHousesitters and HouseCarers or you can follow their adventures on Lisa's blog: and on Instagram or on Twitter as @JuneauAKGirl

BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW… What's around the corner by Mark Greenaway

In life they say, expect the unexpected. In house sitting, I say EMBRACE the unexpected. By its very nature, house sitting does not attract those who are "change adverse". And although as house sitters we sometimes deal with unexpected challenges, there are other events that go well beyond being "trying at the time”, or inconvenient, or even costly. But, it's often these unscheduled situations that lead to some of the better experiences and stories. Sometimes though, an event happens that is way beyond even this realm, and that is the story I would like to tell you. We retired at 60 so we could explore the world while we were still fit and healthy enough to enjoy life. That was four years ago. Since then we have spent over 20 months traveling and living overseas. Not bad for self-funded retirees.

Earlier this year an opportunity came up to house-sit in the rural Le Marche province of Italy for six weeks. The property was fairly isolated and surrounded by working farms. Part of the deal was to look after the dog, Mack. Although I was happy to live like a local and restrict myself to day trips, my wife wasn't. I asked the owner if they'd be happy for two couples to house sit for them, so we could tag-team and do more side trips. That wasn't a problem for them, and so it was agreed that our friends Paula and Larry would accompany us when we arrived in early May 2017.

Le Marche is not on the tourist track and there are virtually no concessions made for tourists. Very few of the locals speak any English, and a lot speak in dialect. Two weeks into our stay, we drove our friends to a railway station on the coast, so they could go on a side-by-side to Venice. We saw them onto their platform, said our farewells, waved goodbye, and went to enjoy a cup of coffee.

A totally unexpected tragedy Less than a minute later we got a call from Paula, saying that Larry had collapsed. We ran back. About two minutes later the paramedics arrived and we could see things didn't look good. Watching the CPR and defibrillator it became apparent that he was not coming back.

Although diabetic Larry, at 66, was fit and healthy. He'd never had any heart trouble and in fact had just recently passed a heart stress test. It was a complete shock. Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful and harrowing at the best of times. Having it occur completely unexpectedly, in a foreign country where English is rarely spoken, makes it even more traumatic. Dealing with the police, ambulance, hospital, funeral directors and the Embassy was difficult, but made possible with the help of Google Translate on my smart phone. Navigating through the various levels of paperwork and bureaucracy was tedious but not prohibitive. Paula's decision was for Larry to be cremated, his ashes sent home, after which she would arrange a memorial service. Italy, as a Catholic country, doesn't believe in cremation and has very few crematoriums. Luckily, we did find one close by.

What we learned from this tragic event  

    

Have the discussion beforehand about cremation vs burial. Decide what type of service you want if any. Have someone to call on who will come and be with you for comfort and support. That person can also then accompany you back home. We got Paula's daughter to come to Italy to be with her mother. Put Google Translate on your phone, as well as offline language apps, in case you don't have data or a phone signal. Keep a paper trail for everything and never pay cash. This is important for claiming on your travel insurance. Always have travel insurance, even if it the free one with your credit card. Act slowly. Don't make quick decisions especially when you're emotional. Use your embassy - that's what they are there for. Make a nuisance of yourself. Ask questions until you completely understand what is going on.

Resilience - a key attribute On talking with Paula she said Larry would have been extremely annoyed that he missed his holiday, and even more annoyed if we had missed ours because of him. Paula was also insistent that we continue and we did finish our house-sit and the rest of our holiday. It was a bit strange, different from our original plans, but we were determined to enjoy ourselves anyway. Very early on we contacted the home owner and told her what happened. She wanted to drop everything and come back. Having already decided to stay, we told her to stay put also, and that we would finish the sit. She was reluctant, but we convinced her it would be fine. On reflection, resilience is an extremely important attribute for all people to have, but especially when house-sitting. Far from putting us of traveling and house-sitting, this has made us even more determined to seize the day, and enjoy ourselves, because… you never know!

Mark Greenaway was born in Sydney, Australia, but has lived in Canberra for over 45 years. An integral part of his travels involved exploring the foods and wines of the world. He has a background in environmental science, has been a wine judge and also taught cooking classes. Since retiring four years ago at 60, he has traveled and house sat with his wife Deborah, for a total of 20 months. Not bad going at all!

This month's book choice is reviewed by Yvonne Bauche, co-author of Pet Care & First Aid The common sense guide for pet sitters and owners

FIND THE RIGHT HOUSE SITTER A Homeowner's Guide Authored by M.L. Read

There's a plethora of material available for house sitters looking for places to sit, but little specifically for homeowners looking to find the best sitter for them. This is why I'm very happy to give my feedback on this valuable resource. The book is an easy read. It’s rich with valuable and sensible advice culled from years of house sitting. The insights Louise has gained from extensive surveying within the house sitting community, gives her a clear perspective on what both sitters and owners want. It has shown her where problems can occur, enabling her to pinpoint these areas and offer ways to prevent these problems from occurring in the future. This handy guide should be a required read for every homeowner seeking to find, not only a competent sitter, but the sitters who are a perfect fit for them and their specific needs. Each chapter focuses on what homeowners need to know, starting with explaining how house sitting works. How it is of benefit to the owners and then follows up with all the steps needed to attract and interview the perfect sitters. The last chapters focus on how to best prepare for the sitters to ensure that the house sit is a true win-win for both parties. I think an outline of what each chapter is about within the Table of Contents would be useful. For instance rather than just Chapter 1, if the subheading "The house sitters perspective" was shown as well it would be easier for the reader to find the relevant information, especially when revisiting the guide or when writing profiles. This is an excellent guide, logically structured, carefully researched and backed up with real life stories. Both sitters and owners alike can benefit from the knowledge and advice contained herein. Thank you Louise, the knowledge and insights revealed will enable homeowners and sitters alike to have a mutually beneficial house sitting experience. Well done. Find The Right House Sitter: A Homeowner's Guide is available on Amazon for just $2.99

Staying fit and healthy while on the road will be one of the hot topics in next month’s issue of House Sitting Magazine

Available from th

15 Oct 2017

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