House Sitting Magazine Issue 23: December 2018

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

Win-Win-Win! Ian Usher

A Dream, A Purpose Ana Lorite and Sergio Aguilar

Your Favorite House Sitting Cities Collaboration

Extending our Travel Budget, House Sitting in the UK Betsy Ball

Looking After Chickens Vanessa Anderson & Ian Usher

Things to do in Plymouth, UK June Spindloe

Ireland for the Craic Faith Coates

Cathedral Cities of England - Peterborough Sandy Ball

Cathedral Cities of England - Canterbury Misty Lambert

What You Need To Know When Driving in Winter Paul Welch

My AGA Saga Suzannah Arkle

Beginner's Guide to Using Essential Oils Dr Brent Wells

Adventures of a Chalet Slave Alison Keeler

Repeat House Sitting in Gravesend, Kent UK Vanessa Anderson

House Sitting in Belfast Tracey Tullis

A House Sit and a Road Trip, USA Andrew Deagle

In the next issue...

WIN-WIN-WIN by Ian Usher The end of another year is fast approaching, which often brings on a period of review and reflection.   

How has your year been? Did you achieve everything you hoped? What are your plans for next year?

Once again, as Vanessa and I look back over the year we have enjoyed, and the lifestyle that house sitting has enabled us to create, we feel very fortunate.

A year filled with travel, adventure and fun In January we bought a car in Australia and took a summer road trip through the southern part of Western Australia. In March we enjoyed a bit of island-hopping in Thailand, and spent two weeks learning how to sail, gaining our Offshore Skipper qualifications.

Then in August we chartered a yacht in the Caribbean, sailing together around the beautiful islands of St Vincent & The Grenadines...

... and these are just the travel adventures we have fitted in around some wonderful house sits in beautiful locations:     

an olive grove in the beautiful Australian bush a country farmhouse on the outskirts of a small English village a hilltop house in St Vincent with a stunning view of the Caribbean a cottage at the foot of the mountain ranges of North Wales another olive grove in the south of Spain

By the end of December we will have completed 27 house sits in 2018! What a year it has been! And of course, it's all thanks to house sitting.

Home owner liberation! However, every house sitting story has more than one side, and we've spent a lot of time this year looking at how our home owners' lives are improved by the house sitting exchange. We were in Perth in Western Australia at the beginning of the year, where we we fulfilling a promise we had made to friends two years earlier. Looking after their house and pets allowed them to take a long-dreamed-of campervan vacation for 4 weeks in New Zealand.

Back in England in April, we looked after a country property for home owners new to the concept of house sitting. They enjoyed their holiday in Madeira, guilt-free, thrilled that their dogs could stay at home instead of being cooped up at a boarding kennel. Our two sets of home owners in the Caribbean enjoyed trips back home to see friends and family in the UK, Germany and the States, delighted that their properties we occupied and secure, and the pets cared for. After our sailing adventure in the Caribbean we returned to the UK in August, ready to take on a new challenge. We had set ourselves the goal of achieving 52 house sits over a period of 52 weeks. We had several reasons in mind for tackling such a big project. Vanessa and I enjoy a challenge. And this idea sounded like it would be fun. We both like to embrace change. Moving on from one place to the next makes life feel like an ever on-going adventure. We have both enjoyed this aspect of our current challenge very much. But we also knew that by taking on a lot of short house sits we would be able to help a lot of other people enjoy their own adventures and holidays. And this is where we have found our 52sits journey to be so much more fulfilling than we had ever imagined it would be. As I write this we are just beginning our 18th sit of (hopefully!) 52. Several of these sits have been for people who have never used house sitters before. Each of them have said that their lives have been changed by the experience. All have spoken of a new-found freedom. They can now post an assignment on a house sitting platform, choose a suitable sitter from the applicants, and go away on holiday, confident that all is being properly cared for back at home.

No longer trapped One couple told us that they felt "trapped", having built their lives around their pets - 4 dogs, several chickens, lots of fish, and a horse! Before they found out about house sitting, a break of a couple of days was they best they could ever manage... and this involved imposing on friends and family to look after the menagerie of animals. We were their first sitters, and they were a little nervous about the whole idea. But when they returned to a clean house and happy pets they were over the moon. Plans have already been made for future holidays, and we have been booked for a repeat sit. It is so rewarding to be part of creating that sense of liberation for them. One of our sits was for a couple heading off abroad for a beach wedding in The Canary Islands. The two dogs they owned would have meant this dream would have been impossible to achieve if they hadn't discovered house sitting. All our home owners, whether new to the concept, or old hands at the game, have been so positive about their experience with the house sit assignments they have listed, and about the sitters they have met.

Some of our home owners have been using sitters for several years, and can't imagine how they would manage without the freedom that using house sitters gives them.

Of course, there is also a third side to the house sitting exchange, as the pets benefit immeasurably by getting to stay in their homes and maintaining familiar routines. We've found, without exception, that pets very quickly accept us as new temporary carers, and that by maintaining the regular daily patterns they are comfortable with, the stress of the home owner being away is kept to a bare minimum. As we often say, house sitting is a win-win-win - house sitters, home owners and pets all benefit immensely for this exchange. And over the course of a year, we'll get to see this happy exchange of value 52 times. Our challenge began this year on 1st September, so we'll finish on 31st August 2019, one year later. You can follow the journey on our dedicated 52sits website, or use the hashtag #52sits on Facebook and Instagram:

We hope you have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year, and we wish you the best for whatever goals you set for yourselves in the months ahead. Ian and Vanessa (currently house sitting in Surrey, England)

A DREAM, A PURPOSE & THE HOUSE SITTING LIFESTYLE A couple of puppeteers and jugglers from Madrid dreaming "out of the box" by Ana Lorite & Sergio Aguilar In 2011 we created the puppet and circus company Naranjarte, and performed around Spain and all over Europe for six years. However, with an increasing crisis in our country, we realized that we needed a "Plan B" to support ourselves financially. So we graduated in "Primary Education & Geriatric Studies", which we also loved. Since we met in 2010 we dreamed about traveling with our own show around the world. But our stable jobs along with many other obligations and responsibilities, meant we almost accepted that our dream was an imagined ideal we might never achieve. One day, during my English class at school, an eleven year-old girl asked me, "Ana, are you alright?". "Yes," I answered (a bit surprised), "why are you asking?". "You look sad". She replied.

That moment I realized my own stress and problems at work were trespassing into my daily teaching. That very same day my husband and I had a long talk about how we imagined ourselves in the very near future. We no longer wanted to be part of a routine that demanded a centralized and permanent job. We knew our "Plan B" was working financially, but what about our "Plan A"? How could we live and incorporate what we loved and wanted to do? We were passionate about our jobs and dedicated to them, but nevertheless we also missed having the time to grow personally and professionally.

A Project of Education - A Life Purpose We started to design a plan to create an online business for educators, teaching a second language using puppets and a circus. We took courses and did more training so that we could become digital nomads. Finally, we set a date (as every big trip needs a starting point!) and committed to it. Buying the ticket helps a lot to that commitment, right? We had finally designed a plan to make our dream come true. Moreover, we found our real purpose in life.

In September 2017 we took a plane to Finland to start developing our project, "Puppetry and circus: a trip around the world’s schools”, carrying out international research in educational establishment around the world. This is a summary of our investigation in Finland, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand during our first year of world travel (September 2017-September 2018):

Our purpose is now to share an innovative way of teaching through puppets and circus, proving how the magic of both disciplines enables oral communication in a way that other methodologies do not. Usually we spend 2 to 3 days in every school, doing our best to share our knowledge, skills and energy, opening up new ways of learning from other professionals too. We also perform our show in events, markets and festivals. This way we get some extra income while fulfilling our dream. We are sure that this seed will grow while it is shared around the world. At the same time we feel totally fulfilled and rewarded with every experience, in every different culture, among encounters with other puppeteers and in schools around the world.

Why House Sitting? We knew very little about house sitting when we left Spain. I remember reading more thoroughly about this uncommon practice in our home country, on our way to Helsinki airport by bus to take a plane to Indonesia.

It was then we had a "light bulb" moment realizing that house sitting could help us with our project by allowing us to travel more slowly while living all over the world.

We compared and checked different house sitting platforms and finally registered at an international one. It took us six weeks to get our first house sit job. We would realize later how important it is to create a good profile! We took one more step to become professional house sitters. We learnt from others’ expertise and graduated through the House Sitting Academy. Editor's Note: For anyone interested in joining the House Sitting Academy, take a look at this great introductory video by Nat & Jodie. We highly recommend their course which includes a lifetime of weekly mentoring at group "huddles" and the valuable Inner Circle referral group for us, this has paid for our membership time and time again! When we started receiving requests from home owners interested in our profile our minds exploded! We knew that through house sitting we could:     

Visit other countries and areas around the location. Enjoy the company of animals. Be of service to others. Be part of a system based on trust and the sharing economy. Perform in markets and events around the area.

    

Develop our project in schools globally through local community involvement. Write-up the results and outcomes of our research. Do our online work to support our self funded project. Get focused and organized for our next steps. Enjoy the comfort of a home in between traveling.

The "Icing on the Cake" This came about when we got contacted by a Spanish Digital Nomad School (with a huge amount of clients), asking us to develop a course about house sitting for Spanish speakers. This course is to be launched in March 2019 and we feel very excited and honored to share our experiences and our love for house sitting. This way we also hope house sitting will grow in countries where it is not so common (such as those where Spanish is spoken as the primary language). Not only did house sitting open many doors for us and support our dream and purpose, but also it allowed us to enjoy animal love, and put us in contact with home owners who are now our friends today. As a way of exchange (and apart from a meal), we usually offer our show to home owners and friends in the community!

We truly believe it's our duty to make this world a better place by sharing our skills and growing the community.

Your profile, your purpose It's important that your profile talks about what you do, your purpose, who you are and why you love house sitting - we think this is the key for connecting with your ideal home owners. For instance, we realized that 90% percent of our house sit jobs were related to home owners belonging to the arts or educational fields. Our network keeps growing and working for us organically and without much effort! We are embracing this lifestyle and hopefully we can keep making animal and human connections around the world for many years.

Long life to house sitting!

Naranjarte, formed by Ana Lorite and Sergio Aguilar, is a Spanish company that mixes the arts of puppetry and classical circus, offering visual shows that have delighted audiences across the globe on their world tour. Since September 2017 Naranjarte are developing their innovative educational project: "Puppetry and circus: a trip around the world's schools".


Christmas and New Year are the busiest times of the year for home sitting as people all over the world travel to visit family, take vacations, or simply take advantage of the long public holidays to travel abroad. You’ll be spoilt for choice! And remember, in Australia, which is one of the most popular countries for house sitting, it is the height of summer so the opportunities are even greater. In fact, if you are starting out as a house sitter, Australia is a great place to begin as you’ll find many opportunities through a number of different house sitting websites. Some city destinations are very competitive, so be selective when applying to avoid disappointment. Make sure your profile is up-to-date, and you’ve got all your references ready to share with prospective home owners!

Australia aside, you’ll find house sits all over the world in some stunning destinations that might just be out of your reach financially as a tourist! And remember it’s culturally so much nicer to be able to experience a new city as a temporary member of the local community.

Where can I house sit at Christmas? As mentioned, pretty much anywhere, but the popular cities like London, Paris, New York, Sydney etc., do tend to get a LOT of applications per sit. You can try either booking early (we accepted our Christmas sit in London 6 months ago), or leave it until last minute. I’ve just taken a quick look across the major house sitting websites for the dates 17th December to 6th January and there are over 1800 house sits available worldwide! For your inspiration, we’ve asked a number of house sitters to tell us about their favorite Christmas house sitting cities:

House Sitting in Boone, North Carolina, USA by Allan Liwanag – The Practical Saver For me, the best place to house sit during Christmas time is in Boone, North Carolina, USA. While living there through grad school, I’d house sit for those folks who vacationed to warmer places. If you wish for a winter wonderland, it’s the best place to be. During winter time the trees are covered in glistening snow, while houses are well-lit with miles of decorative Christmas lights. You get to see them all because Boone, NC is literally on top of a mountain. Boone, NC is also known for its great ski-resorts, and a lot of tourists go there every year just for that. Visiting Boone during Christmas may mean you’ll pay $200-$300 US per night for a hotel stay. So house sitting during this time isn’t only magical, it saves you a lot of money on accommodation too, leaving you more money in your budget for the authentic food, shopping, restaurants, hiking trails, snow sports, fine arts performances, etc., which will make your Christmas house sit special.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe by Marta Correale of Learning Escapes One of the most beautiful cities in Europe to visit at Christmas is wonderful Amsterdam. We had the chance of looking after a fabulous period home with views over a canal there and this was a real treat. In this touristy city, having a home is a great way to escape the crowds and you may be surprised by how dynamic and varied the city is, even outside of the main tourist sites. Amsterdam has a stunning historical center and it truly sparkles during the festive season. The Light Festival runs from mid-November and the city’s canals get decorated with light installations by artists from all over the world. Something not to be missed. The large area in front of the museums gets its own festive makeover with Christmas stalls and an ice skating rink and you can taste local seasonal foods such as “olienbollens”, a sort of deep friend doughnut, which we first discovered in our neighborhood market. The city is cold in this season but this means that you get better deals on train and flights into the city, which are pricey in summer and spring, when tulip season is in full bloom. There are so many awesome things to do in Amsterdam over Christmas whether you are house sitting solo, as a couple or as a family – check out this guide for much more information.

Brussels, Belgium, Europe By Nicola Rae of SeeNicWander I couldn’t believe my luck when I landed a holiday house sit in Brussels, Belgium – a city known for the world’s greatest frites, chocolate and beer. Brussels in winter is magical, and from December until early January the whole city transforms into a winter wonderland. It’s complete with adorable Christmas markets, mulled wine, fresh fluffy snow, and cobbled streets decorated with lights. Because it is so well connected to the rest of Europe, it is easy to get to Brussels for the holidays. Buses and flights run daily, and you can also score awesome deals from London or Paris using Eurostar Snap. With Eurostar Snap, you choose the day you want to travel and they choose the train. Tickets start as low as 25 euros, a price practically unheard of for European train tickets. Eurostar snap only runs between Paris, London, and Brussels, so take advantage of the discount to spend Christmas in this magical city. You won’t be bored on your holiday house sit in Brussels – you can read about my favorite things to do here. But at Christmas be sure to explore the Christmas markets, the late night museum openings, and the free events happening daily at the Grand Palace. It’s all holiday themed and decorated to the nines.

You won’t go hungry either. As you walk under the strands of twinkling snowflake lanterns, make sure to grab some hot coco (made the real way with an entire stick of chocolate melted in the bottom of your glass and mixed with hot milk) and frites (potato fries) from Friteland (just remember not to go too crazy with all the divine sauce options.) End your wonderland wanderings at the beer-lovers paradise: Delirium. I won’t waste your time telling you that Delirium has an amazing ambiance and is tucked away in a trendy side street that looks alarmingly like Diagon Alley. I’m not even going to mention the fact that every time you walk through those heavy wooden doors, you somehow emerge surrounded by new friends, the ten of you destined for late night frites, no doubt. No. I’ll just tell you this. Delirium has over 3,000 different beers in their humble cafe. Their menu is the size of an Italian Vogue! This holiday season, grab a house sit in Brussels. Soon, you’ll be happily journeying with a discounted train ticket to the place where they’ve mastered frites, chocolate, beer, and holiday magic.

Denver, Colorado, USA by Betsy Wuebker at PassingThru We’ve spent Christmas all over the world but one of our favorite house sit locations is Denver. The “Mile High City” has so much to offer during winter: proximity to mountain outdoor venues, a convenient transportation system, walkable downtown neighborhoods, and a surprisingly mild winter climate. Part of the fun in house sitting is getting to “try on” different lifestyles. In Denver proper, we were urban professionals in the trendy North Capitol Hill area which boasted luxury flats interspersed with hip 19th century heritage housing. This eclectic atmosphere was bolstered by an up and coming restaurant scene, boutique shopping, and specialty grocers. It was a quick Uber to LoDo (Lower Downtown) with tempting venues like Union Station, the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square. While it snowed frequently during our stay, accumulations melted quickly and skies were cheerfully sunny much of the time. Later, we did a second sit in suburban Lakewood, a pleasant community from which we easily accessed the train into the city and enjoyed local hangouts.

Florence, Italy – the not so good city in winter! By Sam Anthony, AlternativeTravelers When we landed a two week house sit in Florence over the holidays, we thought we were in for a magical trip. Unfortunately, our experience was not a good one and opened our eyes to the problem of over-tourism in Italian cities. We discovered again and again that Florence caters to tourists, not its residents. During the low tourist season, the city does massive amounts of construction, with roads torn up, buses rerouted, and large portions of art galleries closed. Since public transportation is so bad in Florence year round, there is a surprising amount of traffic. During the winter there was a thick smog over the city that irritated our lungs more than any other place we’ve been – and we’re city travelers! We like to house sit to experience the local way of life. In Florence, outside of the tourist center we found a neglected and downtrodden city, as funds are used to improve tourist over resident experience. Finally, air travel to Florence over the holidays is much more expensive than the rest of the year, so there is no advantage there. However, there was one Florentine point on which we were impressed – the food, of course! Read more in our guide to eating vegetarian and vegan in Florence.

London, UK By Sarah Hughes, LiveDreamDiscover House Sitting over Christmas has its pros and cons but last year we had a sit in London, England and it was one of the best holiday seasons ever. The home was a small, but beautifully decorated and comfortable apartment with two gorgeous Bengal cats. It was located in a quaint little suburb with charming English pubs and shops right outside our door. Although not right downtown it was just a five minute walk to the underground which had us in central London within 20 minutes. Our little “town” was quite festive itself but once we arrived in the centre of London we were in awe. The streets were buzzing with life and many had incredible light displays hanging above. The windows of the famous shops like Harrods and Harvey Nichols were absolute masterpieces of Christmas scenes, and the old English pubs were serving up mulled wine and playing carols. Then there were the markets! It’s impossible to name everything there is to see in London at Christmastime but be sure not to miss Covent Garden, Borough Market, Carnaby Street, Hamley’s Toy Store, and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. For more ideas click here to read how we spent our days house sitting in London during this festive time.

Milan, Italy By Maura McKenna, TravelKiwis House sitting an apartment in Milan with no furry friends meant we were free to see more of the city in the evenings. Although December can be bitterly cold, I don’t think even a dog would want to move from a warm apartment; we found Milan a great city for Christmas. EasyJet has cheap flights to Milan Malpensa airport as long as you book ahead. It’s then a 45minute bus trip to the city centre. A cheaper option is FlixBus, as the terminal is in the city within easy access of the tram system. Milan is known not only for fashion, but also for the amazing Duomo di Milano (dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity), with its famous Piazza that buzzes with activity, where people shop and browse the small Christmas market full of tantalizing food. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall with its spectacular Swarovski Christmas Tree is beautiful too. But, one Christmas activity not to miss in Milan is an evening in the Piazza. The Mondadori Building balcony hosts an Opera Singer singing carols, with each of the building’s windows displayed as an advent calendar. Each evening a new window is uncovered with a musician accompanying the singer — a unique and special event.

Montreal, Canada by Nat & Jodie, Roaming Income Club After a beachside Xmas house sit cancel on us in December 2016, we had to search for a replacement. To be honest, we were done with feeling sticky after 7 months of humidity in the Caribbean and Central America and welcomed a change in climate. Low and behold, Montreal showed up as an exact gap filler before we needed to start a 4 month long sit in rural Quebec, so we jumped at it! Our bus trip from Granada, Nicaragua across the border into Costa Rica saw us leave a balmy 29 degrees Celsius and arrive into Montreal at -28 degrees Celsius! The flight cost was very reasonable with Air Canada, if memory serves, roughly $230 each. Upon arrival, the first thing we did, despite our home owner meeting us at the airport with hats, scarves and jackets was to run outside and just “FEEL” what that temp is actually like! And it was soooo refreshing! For the first time in months I felt “clean”. Our apartment was near “Place des Arts” right in the city. The snow was piled high on the sidewalks, and everything looked so crisp and colourful with all the Xmas decorations in shop windows and lining the streets. We felt like kids again, so excited to be having our first true “White Christmas”. On Xmas day we cooked up a roast including brussel sprouts drizzled in maple syrup (winner) and around 3pm walked up Mont Royal in the most beautiful light to take happy snaps playing in the snow, to send to family back in Australia. We also experienced the wonderful light show inside of “Complexe des Jardin” and wandered thru the Christmas markets outside. On New Year’s Eve we traipsed with the crowds to Notre Dame and down to the Old Port to watch the midnight fireworks display, that actually could not be videoed due to the iPhone shutting down in the cold temperature! If you are a Southern Hemisphere native, we cannot recommend highly enough experiencing Montreal for the holidays. We loved our two weeks there and thoroughly enjoyed the extreme sub-zero temps – everything is so well catered for that you barely notice the cold!

Christmas in New York City, USA By Kirsty Bartholomew, LostInLandmarks New York City at Christmas is on the wish list of so many house sitters. We managed to tick it off ours when we landed a house sit for a month on Staten Island over the holiday period. What made our stay in the city so much more special was that we had time to really enjoy it without having to cram everything in to just one or two days. With the weather over Christmas being so bitterly cold, it meant that we didn’t have to rush or spend hours traipsing round the outside attractions in order to see it all. We could simply head out, do one thing that interested us, and return to the house when it got too cold. Being on Staten Island meant we were getting the Staten Island Ferry almost daily, but since it was free that wasn’t an issue! It’s actually the one thing I’d recommend doing in NYC as you get the most amazing views of the skyline. We booked our flights early and used points to get the best deal and made sure we didn’t miss out due to it being busy. Public transport for getting around was great at that time of year though and we utilized it often!

Penang, Malaysia by Lori Fowler, AnyWhereNext The island state of Penang, Malaysia is friendly, easy, and inexpensive, and this sit was the icing on the Christmas cake. We hit the newbie house sitter’s trifecta: we were already in the area; we were familiar with the local amenities; and we were available over Christmas. Our sit was only a 20-minute Uber ride to the heart of George Town, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site famous for its street art and historical architecture. And FOOD. Dining out on the fusion of Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisine is like a religion practiced daily by working folks, families, expats, and tourists alike. House Sitting in MalaysiaWe visited Queensbay Mall, Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon Mall to gawk at the over-the-top Christmas displays. This holiday exuberance was surprising, considering Islam is Malaysia’s official religion. However, it exemplifies the friendliness and tolerance—but also the westernization—of this part of Malaysia. We watched giggling teenagers take selfies beside giant snowmen, and entire families pose for photos with Santa. And the malls are open on Christmas Day for non-stop shopping. Getting there: Penang has an international airport, with most flights arriving via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. From the airport it’s a 30- to 40-minute Uber ride to the centre of George Town, or one hour to the beach resort area of Batu Ferringhi. As an added incentive to visit, citizens of several countries can enter Malaysia visa-free and stay for up to three months.

Exploring the riverside in San Antonio, Texas, USA By Vikki Walton – connect with her at San Antonio is a city in Texas in the United States. It’s southern location makes it a great yearround destination with usually mild winters. During the holidays, there’s not a better time to visit the city when millions of lights decorate the ever popular “Riverwalk”. Situated in the heart of downtown, you can stroll along its banks or take a river taxi with guides who share stories about the city and its history. Along the Riverwalk you’ll find all manner of restaurants, as well as the River Center Mall where you can shop for that last minute gift. During the day you can visit the historical mission, the San Antonio de Valero, known more commonly as the Alamo. After visiting the Alamo, walk over to the Menger hotel which touts itself as the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi River. After exploring the lobby and viewing artifacts, take time out to enjoy a bowl of Menger Tortilla Soup followed up by mango ice cream. In the evening, try to catch a show at the beautiful Majestic Theater which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re looking to do something off the touristy beaten path, go explore one of the hundreds of H.E.B’s, the state’s largest grocery chain, where you’ll find all kinds of foodstuffs and other items to carry back with you to remember your San Antonio vacation.

Magical Mexico, Christmas in San Miguel de Allende By Vanessa Anderson, HouseSittingMagazine We spent 8 months traveling and house sitting in Mexico and absolutely loved it. So much so that we returned for two repeat sits in the popular tourist and UNESCO World Heritage centre of San Miguel de Allende (SMA). One of those sits was over Christmas and New Year 2016. Something to remember about SMA is that it’s high! At 1900m it’s much colder in the winter and untypical of what you’d expect in Mexico. You’ll need layers, especially in the early mornings and evenings out of the sun. Homes have drafty nooks and crannies, even with heating. On the plus side, these cooler months meant we could finally get out of the oppressive summer heat and explore the countryside. We found mountain climbs, took long walks in the countryside under clear blue skies, and explored further afield to pueblos such as Mineral de Pozos, Dolores Hidalgo and even the fabulous city of Guanajuato. Christmas in Mexico appears to run throughout much of December and January! The “Posada” processions start from 16th December and culminate in SMA in “Centro” outside the Parroquia (the city’s cathedral) on Christmas Eve, or “Nochebuena”.

Posada in Spanish, means “Inn” or “Lodging” and in the Mexico tradition there are 9 Posadas representing the story of Mary and Joseph looking for somewhere to stay. Each evening a cart is pulled around San Miguel by a couple of donkeys in different parts of the city. You can get the timetable for the Posada routes from the Biblioteca – also our favorite networking centre and coffee shop if we wanted to see what was going on in the city. Someone hosts a Posada party each evening, but you have to be in the know to get an invite! On the final night of Nochebuena we followed the procession down to Centro where the living nativity scene had been set up ready to receive baby Jesus. “Nacimientos” are the more common Christmas decoration and many families have elaborate Nativity scenes in their homes or gardens. Most pueblos, towns and cities have a public nacimiento and the baby Jesus is added on the night of Christmas Eve, with the three kings finding their place on January 5th. The main plaza at the Parroquia was overflowing with people – a mix of locals, tourists and expats, all celebrating by singing carols, watching staged music, eating, drinking, chatting and generally just enjoying this festive evening, in advance of the much quieter Christmas Day. Even if you aren’t religious or find Christmas overdone generally, you can’t fail to be drawn in to the festivities in Mexico – the color, the vibrancy, the food, the smells and of course the mescal or tequila, all conspire to draw you in and you’ll find yourself greeting everyone with a happy “Feliz Navidad” before you know it. If you are in SMA at any time, don’t miss the large Mexican market at the highest part of town on Tuesdays and Sundays – you’ll find local cheeses, fruits and vegetables and all sorts of seasonal produce, and much less expensive than the supermarkets. Getting to SMA takes a bit of planning as there isn’t a local airport (except for private planes), so we found the easiest way to get there was by bus. We used Primera Plus but have also heard that ETN are good too. They provide comfortable transport city to city with plenty of space (around 20 seats per coach) and reclining seats for sleeping. We loved our Christmas and New Year in San Miguel. It was a wonderful opportunity to really absorb the local traditions and practice our Spanish with visiting Mexicans from other parts of the country. You’ll find a large number of people from Mexico City and we found them all keen to chat and exchange travel adventure stories over a tequila or two! The city gets extremely busy over Christmas and New Year and so hotels get booked up very early. House Sitting was the perfect way to experience it – giving us a reprieve when the festivities all became a little too much, but enabling us to wander down and pick and choose the parts of the celebrations that we enjoyed being a part of. For more about all the different Mexican Christmas traditions, have a read of this article.

Feeling the heat in Sydney, Australia By Andrew Redfern, GlobalWanderers Celebrations in Sydney start at the end of November with the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Martin Place, accompanied by a parade and visit from Santa. As Christmas in Sydney is during Summer, the nights and days are warm and the annual Carols in the Domain mean you can sit outdoors on a picnic blanket and sing along to your favorites. In many suburbs, locals decorate their houses with lights, inflatable Santas, reindeer and nativity scenes and there are often competitions for the best lit house. In central Sydney, the windows in David Jones Department Store are a treat for kids of all ages. They often have animated displays of Santa’s workshop or the Twelve Days of Christmas. Throughout December, the lights on St Mary’s Cathedral are spectacular with choir performances nightly. The display is finely tuned to use the features of the Gothic Revival style architecture. Visiting the Sydney Fish Markets on Christmas Eve is a tradition for many, buying prawns and seafood for Christmas Day lunch, which is usually celebrated with family. Oh, and don’t forget the Boxing Day Sales (day after Christmas) which are more akin to a wrestling match rather than a shopping experience!

The Spirit of Christmas in Tepotzlan, Mexico by Doug Dyer, Joyful Travellers House Sitting Tepotzlan MexicoIt was December 2017 and Johanne and I were house sitting in the magical pueblo of Tepotzlan, Mexico. Tiny Tepotzlan with just 14,000 inhabitants is tucked away in mountains of Morelas just south of Mexico City. Foreigner sightings were rare; in fact most days were the only non-locals we would encounter. We knew that Christmas festivities were going to be interesting. The evolution of “el centro” was intriguing to witness. On the day that we arrived, work had just begun on building the 20 foot Christmas tree next to the band shell in town. Every day that we sat in the park, new decorations were added to the public space. The evolution was fascinating. By the time Christmas arrived “el centro” was crammed with nativity scenes and street vendors, it was almost impossible to pass through. Kids of all ages played and laughed while music and colour filled the air. The week leading up to the 25th is when the neighbourhood processions begin. In the early evenings families pulled their chairs out into the streets and settled in under the brightly decorated plazas. The spirit was very lively and for some reason unbeknownst to us everyone had a plastic bag. From the churches came solemn processions that paraded the virgin through the barrio and then back to her resting stop in the church. Then, suddenly the side doors of the church swung open and the true spirit of giving emerged. From the community itself came bags and bags of food, treats, toys and all sorts of novelties. The plastic bags that people brought were now stuffed and overflowing with goodies for all. We never once saw a Santa Claus and the kids were not full of expectations and needs. The humble people of Tepoztlan live the true meaning of the season. It is in the giving and sharing with others where they find happiness.

Unspoiled island living in Tilos, Greece, Europe By Louise Read, HouseSittingWorld Christmas on the Greek island of Tilos is a very quiet event and not only because most of the people don’t speak English. There are very few people on the island, as most leave to visit family. We house sat in a traditional Greek village, built on the side of a mountain with steep stairs and narrow walkways. Capping the mountain is a Knight’s Templar fort which, if you love a challenging hike, offers an amazing view. There are also lots of easy hikes featuring thousands of goats, many small but beautiful chapels dotting the landscape, and it’s also a great place for bird watching as it’s a protected bird sanctuary. You can’t get turkey for Christmas, but you can have awesome pork chops with fresh feta! On Christmas Eve, we were in the house reading and we heard laughter outside. Opening the door, we found three young boys from the village at the gate of the courtyard. When they saw us, they burst into song! They serenaded us with Greek Christmas Carols! A perfect Christmas present!

Enchanted Vienna, Austria, Europe By Katrin Walzl, Moon & Honey Travel Vienna (Wien in German) is the ultimate destination for house sitting during the Christmas season. The city’s festive atmosphere combined with its seasonal offerings makes it a wonderful base for exploration. If you’re lucky, Vienna is carpeted in snow, adding another level of enchantment to one of Europe’s most beautiful capital cities. You can read more about what we love about Vienna here. Vienna takes Christmas celebrations very seriously. Starting in mid-November, Christmas markets (Christkindlmärkte in German) sprout up at iconic sites throughout the city. Definitely visit a few of Vienna’s 17 markets. My favorite one is Weihnachtsmarkt am Spittelberg, a market lined with food vendors along the narrow streets of Spittelberg. I also love the Christmas market at the summer palace Schönbrunn, and the one directly in front of Karlskirche. Try the Raclette Brot, which is baked bread with delicious raclette cheese. And, don’t miss out on the Glühwein, or mulled wine. Important tip: Many Christkindlmärkte close down completely by Christmas Day, so make your rounds before December 25th. Vienna is advantageously located in Central Europe, and is hence well connected with Western and Eastern Europe. The cheapest way to get to Vienna from other European destinations is by bus. I use FlixBus. For example, a bus from Budapest to Vienna costs 9 EUR and the ride from Prague to Vienna costs 16 EUR. If you’re traveling to Vienna by plane, book well in advance.

Happy holidays from us all at House Sitting Magazine You might also enjoy reading: Christmas House Sitting in France Could City House Sitting be your Best Option? House Sitting in Australia – Getting Started House Sitting in Mexico – Getting Started


My husband and I are academia dropouts. We retired from teaching at Tarleton State University in Texas in May 2017, sold our house and most of our stuff, put the remnants in storage, and now travel full time. We spent November to March last year house sitting in the UK and doing Workaway projects. It was AWESOME! Our experiences were all so interesting, and they were sprinkled with unexpected places and people along the way. Planning to spend time in Europe in the fall, we knew we would need to leave the Schengen region so we wouldn’t overstay our visa. The Schengen zone includes most of Europe, and as an American traveling on our US passports, we are allowed to be in Schengen countries for only 90 out of 180 days. The UK is outside the Schengen, so that’s where we decided to go.

Editor's Note: For more information on the Schengen Zone and visas please ensure you contact a knowledgeable website in your home country - or check out this site for more information. Please do not rely on word of mouth information where visas are concerned.

Our First House Sit The first house sit we set up was through TrustedHousesitters. I wanted to find a place where we could be at Christmas where our adult children could join us. Our host was wonderful when I asked her if that would be OK – she even offered to show us where the Christmas decorations were so we could make the season more festive. So that is how we found ourselves in Blandford Forum, Dorset, UK for 3 ½ weeks taking care of 2 wonderful dogs – a Golden Lab and a Springer Spaniel. We also got to take care of their two cats. We had never been to this part of England before so we had great fun exploring the area, usually with the dogs in tow. One day we loaded the dogs up in the car and went to Corfe Castle, the 12th most important castle in England! It was pretty incredible and the dogs were great. We also took the dogs and hiked Hambledon Hill, a terraced hill from the Stone Age in Child Okeford. It was SO windy and cold on top but it was also so much fun! It was super muddy and we were cold, but we had a great time. The dogs had fun too.

We stopped at the local pub, The Baker Arms, for a pint and to warm up. The dogs were totally accepted even with their dirty feet. The owners bought the pub the prior week and had just moved in but they had dog biscuits ready for their four-footed friends. For lunch we moved on to The Saxon Inn, still in the village of Child Okeford. We had a great meal – soup, sausages, cottage pie, curry, pints and Christmas pudding shared by all for dessert.

Our favorite hike with the dogs was to Durdle Door on the Dorset Coast. It was a blustery day. The weather app said it was "dangerously windy" and I believe it! In spite of the weather, we went on the walk and it was absolutely fantastic. The Dorset Coast is beautiful with remarkable rock formations and brilliant waves crashing against the shore. We loved it and the dogs enjoyed it too!

A House Sitting Christmas Away from Home Two days before Christmas we enjoyed lunch at The Langton Arms in Tarrant Monkton and it was SO good. We sat by the fire and had a great meal. The thatched roofs in this village are enchanting. After lunch, we went to the Langton Arms’ butcher and picked up pork we needed for Christmas day. This butcher was incredible. They were closing when we arrived but they were happy to take care of us anyway. He prepared us a special cut and it turned out to be absolutely delicious.

We also went to No. 8 wine shop, a fantastic wine store out in the middle of the country. The Christmas Eve service at Salisbury Cathedral was amazing! We sat in "the quire" and were right beside the choir which was mostly children with a few adult voices. The music was gorgeous. It was a beautiful Evensong service and the church is glorious. After the service, we went to The Anvil in Pimperne and had beer and chips (French fries). We had forgotten to get brown sugar at the store which we desperately needed for our cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

The kind people at the pub rescued us in our moment of need and gave us brown sugar to go!! They were awesome! We went “home” and had smoked salmon and British "pigs in a blanket", which are sausages wrapped in bacon. It doesn’t get much better than that! The cinnamon rolls were terrific the next day. Christmas at our home for the holidays was warm and wonderful! The house had a fabulous kitchen with an AGA, a cast iron range cooker and oven. An AGA is always "on" so you don’t have to wait for it to heat up. We had never heard of an AGA before and were a bit tentative about using it, but it grew on us the longer we were there. We cooked for 3 days straight to prepare for our family Christmas dinner, recreating a fantastic meal we had enjoyed several years earlier at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City. We made pork buns and roast duck. They were quite spectacular, if I do say so myself!

Other Opportunities We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Blandford Forum over the holidays. It was strange to not be "at home" for Christmas but house sitting in the UK turned out to be very special. We enjoyed other house sits and Workaway projects in the UK as well. We worked away on an island in the Thames for a woman who asked us to build shelves and place items on eBay. We also did a Workaway in the Lake District where Greg helped install a kitchen before the family hosted Christmas dinner, while I painted walls and scraped paint off an antique, intricately designed fireplace. Our hiking in the Lake District was some of the best in our year of travel even though in the winter it was getting dark by 4pm in the afternoon. Another Workaway in exchange for room and board, was for The Thatched Cottage (image below) in the New Forest, also in the south of England. We saw ponies and donkeys every day and got to work their terrific gin bar with over 80 different selections.

The Ribble Valley, Lancashire One of our house sits took us to an area where we would never have gone, had it not been for this chance to watch three fine dogs for 10 days. We absolutely loved staying in Wiswell, near Clitheroe, in the beautiful Ribble Valley.

In this area we found Burnes Wine Shop which was fantastic, our favorite pub, The Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton, FreeMasons, an excellent gastropub in an unexpected location, and absolutely the nicest people ever. We drove to York one day and Lancaster another, passing the most spectacular scenery while learning a bit of history along the way. All in all, our time house sitting in the UK has been fantastic. We are looking forward to doing it many times in the years ahead as we continue our travels.

Betsy Ball retired from teaching international business at a university in Texas and now travels full time with her husband. They extend their travel budget by house sitting and volunteering. Their travel business, Euro Travel Coach, creates custom itineraries and tours by design for European destinations. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram

LOOKING AFTER CHICKENS By Vanessa Anderson and Ian Usher

Have you noticed how many people are keeping chickens these days? A house sit almost anywhere in the world could have 3 or 4 laying chickens that fall under your care. Ian and I have looked after chickens in the UK, Australia, Spain and Panama. Since we've been back in the UK this year we've look after more than 20 hens so far, and during our time in Australia we’ve cared for even more. We have a bit of a soft spot for these entertaining birds, having kept our own hens and cockerels, while living on our small island home in Bocas del Toro, Panama. A couple of times we helped prolific mum "Gina" raise her chicks (see opposite). It is so rewarding to see them grow, eventually to become fine roosters, or productive egg-laying hens. Ian was affectionately known as "Chicken Man", because of his fondness for naming them something unheard of among the local indigenous Indian community!

So we are always pleased when we discover that there are chickens to look after at our house sits. Caring for them is second nature to us, but for many, it's an aspect of "pet" care not fully understood. But with a bit of knowledge, and plenty of information from your home owners, you’ll be well prepared. And the eggs you’ll collect will likely be the best you’ve ever tasted! Here are some tips if you find looking after chickens as part of your remit.

Securing chickens at night Keeping the chicken coop safe from night-time predators is a concern for all chicken keepers. Animals like foxes can be a threat whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area. In Australia where chickens (aka "chooks") are often present at a house sit, other predators such as snakes or possums also pose a threat to the coop. So the safest course of action is to shut the chickens away at night, when they return home to roost. Chickens will usually put themselves to bed at dusk, or even just before. So the best time to close up the coop is just after darkness falls. Make sure you've got a good torch for checking that all the birds are in the hen house, and there are no strays hidden around the garden! A quick head count usually confirms that all are present and correct.

As a house sitter looking after chickens, make sure you are shown the chicken coop, where the birds sleep, where they lay their eggs, and all of the different ways of securing the coop and hen house. Ask for clarification about anything you don’t fully understand.

Letting out in the morning Your chickens will need to be let out in the morning, often at first light. Some hen houses have secure internal runs and even doors that open automatically, allowing you a bit of a lie in! However, if you have a cockerel, a lie in is unlikely, as you'll probably find yourself woken early in the morning by their loud piercing calls! An automatic door opener and closer is a bonus, but chickens should still be checked at least once a day to make sure that all is well. They can get sick very quickly and a sick hen is likely to be attacked by the others, so regular inspections are essential. You'll also need to make sure your chickens have fresh food and plenty of water.

Layer Feeds and Protein Make sure your home owners leave good instructions about what to feed, how often and where they usually scatter the feed in the coop or garden.

We've found, especially in the UK, that many owners use a mix of layer feed pellets along with wheat or corn. Layer feeds are designed to provide optimum nutrition for birds laying eggs (“layers”) for consumption. Layer feeds contain about 16% protein and have increased levels of calcium, to aid proper shell development. Layer feeds are usually used starting around 18 weeks of age, or when the first egg is laid, whichever comes first. Before this time grower feed is usually given. Chickens require protein for growth, and to produce their feathers and eggs. Chickens stop laying eggs when they moult, as the protein levels are diverted from egg production to feather production, so this is a time when you might have to adjust the protein levels. We used to feed scraps, but this is generally discouraged now because they can attract rats or other pests. In the UK use of kitchen scraps has now been banned by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs). You may find that food is placed in hopper feeders, or just thrown around the coop. Eggs are made of around 80% protein so if there’s a shortage of protein in the diet, egg laying will be the first thing that your girls cut back on. In winter months in colder climates some less commercial breeds of chicken stop laying as well.

Greens Chickens need a good amount of green food - this might come in the form of grass and weeds. But you might find yourself feeding off-cuts from cabbages, cauliflowers and other green vegetables. We've been to sits where we've also had to feed chopped up lettuce or other greens on a daily basis too. Although you'll often see lettuce supplied, it does have very little nutritional value for hens. It is also worth noting that avocados are poisonous to hens. It really can vary, so just add the topic of chicken feeding routines to your list of questions for the owner at the handover.

Water Many homeowners don’t include information about water in their welcome guides – because it seems obvious and you'll maybe see a number of water containers around the coop. But water is key to the well-being of chickens, so here are a few things you should know. Water needs to be fresh: if you leave it in a container for a few days before replacing, it will start to go stagnant and turn green. Then it becomes full of bacteria and can be harmful. This water is different to drinking fresh rain water out of a muddy pool. Changing water daily or every-other day is easy enough and if you rinse the container out, you can use a small washing up brush to remove any nasty build-up. If you are in a hot country you'll need to keep water in the shade during the day, and possibly top it up more often if there's any evaporation. Chickens can't handle heat well as they don't sweat, so they use drinking water to cool themselves down. If you experience an unexpected heat wave in an otherwise cooler country, and there isn't any natural shade, try to find something that will provide some protection from the sun and add extra water containers with cool water (you can check this periodically). Likewise in extreme cold periods make sure their water isn't frozen in the mornings. Break any ice so that they can get to their much needed water source. Water containers come in many shapes, sizes and designs. Some are galvanised, others plastic.

Cleaning Out Depending on the length of your house sit, you may need to perform some cleaning - both the chicken house and the run will need regular maintenance.

Cleaning the chicken house This is usually a weekly job but once again, ask your home owners, as it might be less or more often. Follow your nose, and if the coop starts to smell of ammonia, a clean-out is well overdue! Ammonia is produced by stale droppings, and will affect your chickens’ delicate respiratory systems. They do most of their droppings at night, so cleaning-out is a job that shouldn’t be neglected. If you keep on top of things and are well organised, it needn’t take very long. You'll need a bucket, shovel, scraper, a brush and some heavy duty rubber gloves. If this is something you'll need to do, ask the homeowners where this is all kept. You can also get advice from them about how often they clean as it will depend on the climate, environment, and season. The weekly clean will involve removing and replacing all the bedding, including in the nestboxes. Any unsoiled nest box material can be re-used on the hen-house floor. Scrape off any dried on droppings from the house including the droppings boards and perches. Sometimes a poultry disinfectant powder is used on damp patches, but in fine weather you can leave all the doors open for a couple of hours for airing. Piles of grey dust (like cigarette ash) are a sign of red mites - and this will need treating. It's good to ask if there have been any problems in the past if you are on a long sit, so you can prepare yourself.

Once cleaning is complete, you can lay fresh nesting material and a layer of bedding. Put the perches and droppings boards back and apply any mite treatment (if applicable). A lot of people swear by "Diatomaceous Earth" for the prevention of red mite.

Cleaning the chicken run If the chickens are in a static run that isn't moved around it can easily become a haven for disease, especially in the droppings, so it's important to regularly clear the chicken poop. This is best done in dry weather when you can rake the droppings more easily. Sometimes the ground below needs to be sanitized - your home owner should inform you about this. I don't like the dust produced, especially in hot seasons in Australia, so a mask could be a good addition to your cleaning regime, if you have any sensitivity. For more information about red mites and lice, this website has a lot of information:

Collect the eggs This might be a once a day or twice a day task. Check with the home owner to see how they store their eggs to keep the oldest eggs used first.

You'll find in the UK and Australia that eggs aren't always refrigerated (depending on season), so don't be shocked to see a bucket full of eggs on the kitchen counter!

Enjoy your chickens In terms of house sitting, there probably isn't much else you would need to know when looking after just a few chickens. It's more about asking the homeowners what needs doing, especially for sits of more than two weeks, and who you can contact in the event of any problems. If you get a glut of eggs, it's also worth asking if there are neighbours that normally take or buy the extras - something easily forgotten at handover. Having fresh daily eggs is such a nice luxury - the taste is so different to shop bought commercially produced eggs - so don't be nervous of looking after chickens… make sure you check the daily routines and just enjoy the experience!

THINGS TO DO IN PLYMOUTH, UK by June Spindloe If you're house sitting in the west country of England, you might enjoy a day out to the vibrant city of Plymouth. Situated in Devon, close to the border with Cornwall, it is known for its maritime heritage and historic Barbican area, where you'll be able to explore the narrow, cobbled streets along the quayside. House sitter, June Spindloe, describes some of the sights and attractions that she enjoyed while house sitting in the city earlier this year in June.

Introduction to Plymouth Plymouth is a large sea port city on the south coast of Devon. As soon as you arrive you become aware of its rich maritime history. The port is on a bay commonly known as "The Sound", where both the rivers Tamar and Plym culminate. The Plymouth Hoe promenade, originally laid out as a park, is at the heart of this city , and has been used since medieval times as a place of recreation.

It's still used for many major events throughout the year. But at any time it is still a wonderful green space to just sit and relax, taking in the amazing views across The Sound. As first time visitors, you realize that the spectacular view across the English Channel from The Hoe has changed little from when local hero Sir Francis Drake first sighted the Spanish Armada during a game of bowls, and left to do battle . Standing at The Hoe (the name means "high ridge") looking out to sea you can also watch a variety of sea vessels. You'll spot car ferries heading to France and Spain, naval frigates, pleasure craft, yachts and fishing boats.

Plymouth Armed Forces Day The day we arrived in Plymouth, we were early for our house sit so we parked up and walked towards the city centre. We soon discovered that we had arrived on Plymouth Armed Forces Day and The Hoe was packed with people. There were exhibitors from the Navy, Army, and the RAF, stretching all along the promenade. There were military vehicles, tanks, helicopters, live music and parades. We couldn’t move for the number of people that were enjoying the day. Plymouth has long associations with the Royal Navy and it now has the largest operational naval base in Western Europe.

The Barbican Waterfront The Barbican waterfront area of the city, with its quaint cobbled streets, was one of our favourite places. You can stroll along the quayside from Sutton Harbour, which was the original port for Plymouth, and still a busy fishing port even today. There's an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars, gift shops and cafes in the Barbican and it's packed full of tourists in the summer with a great atmosphere. Here you'll find the famous "Mayflower Steps", built to commemorate the Pilgrim Fathers leaving for America in 1620. Plymouth is home to a world class university which specializes in marine biology, so the city is also full of students from over 100 different countries, giving it a very international feel.

The Barbican Wharves The wharves are where the harbour cruises and ferries leave on their trips. You can go across to the neighbouring county of Cornwall, or take a cruise along the Tamar River, venturing under the famous "Royal Albert Bridge" built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. We took the "little yellow ferry" across to another one of the city’s landmarks "The Mount Batten Tower" (see image below), one of the original fortifications built to protect Sutton Harbour.

The climb to the top gives you 360 degree views. We took a picnic lunch which included a traditional Cornish pasty. You can easily spend a couple of hours here and it’s well worth the £1.50 ferry fare.

From The Barbican you can walk right back up to The Hoe and take in the view of the iconic Smeaton's Lighthouse, which dominates the landscape. You'll also see the newly renovated Tinside Lido, an outdoor pool originally constructed In Art Deco style, and now considered to be one of the top 10 outdoor swimming venues in Europe.

Out and About in Plymouth It’s really easy to get around Plymouth. We walked many miles each day we were there, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the architecture. Besides its rich maritime history, Plymouth has everything a "Plymothian" or tourist could need, with easy access by road or train, and a great bus service. Plymouth was targeted heavily during World War 2 due to its naval importance and ship building activities and suffered a number of bombing raids. Consequently the city centre was almost completely rebuilt after the war. There are many examples of listed buildings, one being the Palace Theatre with its many nautical features, but which is sadly deteriorating while its future is decided.

Various statues and commemorative plaques are spread all over the city celebrating Sir Frances Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, explorers including Scott of the Antarctic, Darwin and many, many more. We also enjoyed the modern sculptured figures that were scattered around the city and near the university. Drake Circus Centre is a 450,000 square foot shopping mall right in the centre of the city it has a large range of major retail and food outlets. Plymouth is a really Interesting place to visit, it has a great vibe and very friendly, I would highly recommend spending some time here. For more information, local events and activities, take a look at the "Visit Plymouth" website.

You can read more from Canadian house sitter, June Spindloe at her blog:

THE CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR "CRAIC" IN IRELAND by Faith Coates We've been house sitting in Ireland for a few years now and have spent the past 3 Christmas seasons in Dublin, Donegal and Belfast. Celebrating Christmas in another country is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in another culture or atmosphere and get stuck into new traditions and experience things that may well be beyond your own normal. In Ireland, it's all about the "craic", being with family, having fun and simply enjoying the energy of the season. House sitting in Ireland can be difficult. Many sits require transportation of some kind as a lot of Ireland is very rural. In some cases, the homeowner may allow you to use their vehicle, but you must have experience in driving standard (automatic) or stick (manual), as most Irish vehicles are not automatic. Both Dublin and Belfast are well-connected cities and you won't need a vehicle in either city, as both are very walkable and with good local transport links.

Ireland is very family orientated, both in the south and in Northern Ireland. People like to take their time and celebrate well. Like most countries on December 24, virtually everything shuts down on Christmas Eve and then starts up again on December 26 when the sales set in. There are varying traditions for folks living in both Belfast and Dublin that help set the Christmas season. Some of these are very budget friendly (meaning free) and some do have a cost to them. So if you do get a chance to house sit in Ireland here are some of the highlights for you.

The 12 Pubs of Christmas This "tradition" goes back a few years and is celebrated all over Ireland and the UK for that matter. The 12 Pubs of Christmas. It may appear to be a millennial party but in Ireland, everyone joins in for the "craic". Young and old alike you select your ugliest Christmas Jumper (also known as sweater, cardigan or sweatshirt). We are talking jumpers that are simply hideous with lights, velcroed Santa's, real candy canes and the like. The idea is to hike between 12 different pubs in your area and drink a full round in each pub. There are strict rules to abide by when visiting each pub. You can check out the rules here and pick up your jumpers from Deadly Christmas Jumpers here.

The Lights go on in Belfast and Dublin Christmas lights go on in various places around Dublin. The Grafton Street lights switch on around the middle of November. There is usually a special guest and lots of family based entertainment. The lights themselves are simply gorgeous chandeliers and swags designed by the same team that does the lights at the Eiffel Tower. The lights go on in Belfast in a gala celebration at the end of November usually around the third weekend. The streets are shut down all around City Hall and the event includes live music, celebrities and a grand throwing of the switch to light up the town as soon as dark begins to settle in.

Christmas Markets Dublin has been growing its Christmas Markets and you can find details of the events at this link. Belfast is no slouch in the Christmas Market stakes. From the glorious St. George's market with its Twilight Market early in the month or its extended hours that run up to the big day, Belfast is a haven for great markets at Christmas time. The Belfast Christmas Market is returning to the grounds of Belfast City Hall and runs until 22nd December. There will be lots to see, do, drink and eat. You can also check out the Inns Market where you will find all manner of locally made treats and produce to grace your Christmas table.

There's plenty to do all around Belfast with Christmas fare sold in some heritage locations including Castle Ward, an 18th Century house, where you'll also find a number of Christmas activities including a Christmas Trail.

Cathedral Choirs St Patrick's Cathedral is a stunning vaulted cathedral in the heart of Dublin. The Cathedral was founded on what was believed to be the site of the well used by St. Patrick himself. The current cathedral dates from around 1220, where it was built on the remains of an old wooden church. For something truly special at Christmas time, catch a heavenly performance of Christmas carols, held several days before Christmas Eve. Mass of Christmas Night will follow the carols at 10pm, which generally is known as Midnight Mass. In Belfast, the Belfast Harmonic Choir will be showcasing its talents alongside the Ulster Orchestra at Belfast Waterfront. For families there will also be a special performance of The Snowman Family Concert with the Ulster Orchestra and guest soloists. This truly is a magical evening for both kids and adults alike.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town In both Dublin and Belfast, the Christmas Parades kick off the season towards the end of November. Both cities have phenomenal parades taking place usually around noon with Santa and his reindeer at the end of the parade. Santa goes onto take his place in his Grotto so the children can visit with their Christmas lists.

Later in the early part of the evening, a great Lighting of the Lights takes place with celebrities flicking the switches so the cities are illuminated with gorgeous Christmas lights and sparkles.

Taking in a Panto Pantomime is a long-standing tradition in the British Isles and Ireland is no exception. There are usually a few to choose from and they are definitely a "get stuck in" type of entertainment. The audiences are expected to yell, shout warnings and sing along with the action on stage. The Gaiety Panto in Dublin is presenting The Snow Queen, and The Helix this Christmas is presenting Robin Hood. In Belfast, you can see pantos from Jack & The Beanstalk , to Beauty and the Beast and even Peter Pan at the SSE Arena. This city is all out for the families and this traditional British entertainment.

Nativity Scenes An institution in Dublin for over 50 years the Moving Nativity, held at the Apostolate's premises in Parnell Square is a perfect spot for children and adults. The animatronic figures enliven this nativity play that includes over 100 handcrafted figurines and lovely hand painted backdrops and sets that depict "biblical life." This picture is credited to St. Martin's Moving Crib

The Titanic Experience You can't visit Belfast and not visit the waterfront and behold the Titanic Experience. With its interactive special effects, rides, full-scale reconstructions you can uncover the true legend of the ship the world didn't think could sink. The Titanic experience includes a magic step into the Old Curiosity Shop to enter the world of Father Christmas.

Santa's Grotto Belfast also has the very special Santa & Gruffalo's Grotto on the edge of the city. If you don't know who the Gruffalo is then you are too old for this Christmas treat. All the kids know the story of the very clever mouse and the 8ft tall Gruffalo. Join them on their Christmas Journey to the grotto to see Santa. A brilliant way to spend the day in a forest park that features life size statues, a rushing river and beautifully created

New Year in Belfast From fancy dress parties and masquerades in Belfast, to The Heavens and the Deep Blue Sea in Dublin, the cities come alive with theatre, parties, celebrations and brilliant craic.

If you happen to be house sitting in Dublin on New Year's Eve get yourself down to Grafton Street to see Glen Hansard (he wrote and composed the great Irish film Once) busking with other music greats to raise money for the homeless. You may even get lucky and Bono will show up as he has been known to do. The busking usually begins around 7pm. Hang around, keep checking Twitter for the location and join the throngs on this special night. Ireland is a fabulous place to spend Christmas from the jaw dropping scenery to the emphasis on family and fun you couldn't ask for a better place to spend House Sitting.

Faith Coates is fulfilling a life-long dream to retire early and travel the world, Faith is now happily traveling to find the perfect place to settle. After spending a year in a tiny fishing village in the Yucatan, mangling Spanish and writing by the pool, itchy feet struck again and Faith is now house-sitting and traveling in Ireland, the UK and Europe. Read more of Faith's travel articles at her website XYUandBeyond


Peterborough, Peterborough, Peterborough! House sitting is such a great lifestyle. I'm writing this in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, where it's 1°c outside and the autumn colours are wonderful. Earlier this year we were also in Peterborough, Australia, driving along the Great Ocean Road to see "The Twelve Apostles" - coastal erosion rock formations of which there are only 8 remaining! Back in England the A1 north also leads past Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, and this was our local city for a few years when we lived in the UK, and one we return to from time to time. Apparently the name comes from the ancient English meaning "Burgh St Peter".

Multiple Uses Apart from the architecture and the history, one of the things we love about churches and cathedrals specifically in the UK, is that these days they are used as theatres, coffee shops, cinema venues and exhibition spaces, as well as all the usual weddings, christenings, funerals and services. It may seem a bit strange at first, but once you've been to a church decorated as a Jazz Club for a wine and cheese evening, or a showing of the original Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney, but with a live (hilarious) organ music improvisation by David Briggs as the sun is setting… you'll never look back! Image Peterborough Cathedral is one of the finest Norman cathedrals in England. This year the current cathedral building will be 900 years old. According to Wikipedia: "Peterborough Cathedral is known for its imposing Early English Gothic West Front (facade) which, with its three enormous arches, is without architectural precedent and with no direct successor. The appearance is slightly asymmetrical, as one of the two towers that rise from behind the facade was never completed (the tower on the right as one faces the building), but this is only visible from a distance. Founded as a monastic community in 654 AD, it became one of the most significant medieval abbeys in the country, the burial place of two queens and the scene of Civil War upheavals." The ceiling is a marvel - angled mirrors on stands in the nave allow you to “do a selfie” without cricking your neck!

A Royal History As stated, it has a bit of Royal history too. Katharine of Aragon, first wife and queen of Henry VIII, is buried in the monastic church. For this reason many Spaniards know of Peterborough, and in fact when we were living in the Canary Islands which are part of Spain, it became a good conversation starter. Spanish school children regularly visited Katharine's grave and its usual to find a fresh pomegranate fruit placed there (the symbol of Granada). In 2019 one of the first events to take place at Peterborough Cathedral will be the Katharine of Aragon Festival: Friday 25th to Sunday 27th January. Mary, Queen of Scots was buried in the cathedral 5 months after having been executed at nearby Fotheringhay Castle on the orders of Elizabeth 1st.

Peterborough the City Peterborough itself is one of those cities that has a river running through it, the River Nene, and it also has some lovely parks with water related activities. We've been through there on a narrow-boat.

The city has a huge shopping centre with lots of cafes, clothes shops and other stores, including a large John Lewis department store. The shopping centre itself is cleverly linked to old arcades with long standing or artisan shops to entice you in to buy. More information: Here's the website: At the time of writing for instance they have British Astronaut Tim Peake's spacecraft on show there…how cool is that! And here is the Cathedral's Christmas info:

Spanish speaking Brits Abroad, Sandy & Rob, left the UK 6 years ago with 6 suitcases and moved to the Canary Islands until in July 2017 they embraced house sitting as a way of slow travel. They've retired early and set off to explore the world. You can follow their travels at: or on Instagram and you'll find their house sitting profile on TrustedHousesitters

CATHEDRAL CITIES OF ENGLAND: CANTERBURY by Misty Lambert We had a five day window in between house sits in London, when we noticed a new listing on TrustedHousesitters for a last minute sit in Canterbury. Exactly the dates we needed, and featuring an adorable tabby cat. With high speed trains connecting London to Canterbury in 50 minutes, we enthusiastically applied and were accepted by the most inviting host yet. Getting to Canterbury was extremely convenient, as trains leave often from St. Pancras Station. There are no less than 125 trains a day from London to Canterbury, including high speed direct and slower trains that can take up to two hours. When you step off of the train, you are pretty much right in the heart of the city! Our host happened to be a ten minute walk from the station, and a ten minute walk back into the city. The city has plenty of buses to get around, as well as taxis if you are staying further out. But, if you are close to the center then walking is easy and pleasant.

I would love to come back to Canterbury on a dog sit, as it is a gorgeous place to explore with a variety of lovely walks. Canterbury is an enchanting city with winding cobblestone lanes, charming coffee shops to work from, and a variety of unique boutiques and restaurants.

It is the infamous cathedral town of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", now a university town with its narrow streets full of both students and tourists, as well as an occasional modern pilgrim making the slow trek to the medieval centre by foot. When we weren’t sipping tea with the sweet tabby cat and making meals with the delicious eggplants and other vegetables grown in the lovely English garden of our host, we found plenty to do in the city.

Oh, How To Whittle Away Time Canterbury is rich with history and culture, and if exploring old churches before ending the day in an English pub is your idea of a perfect day, then you're in for a treat. The city is home to many prominent historical structures, as well as boasting more pubs per square meter than all of Britain! The most popular and can’t miss site is Canterbury Cathedral, dating back to 597 and the destination of the pilgrimages. Here you can explore the crypts, marvel at the stained glass

windows, and explore the gardens and ruins nearby. Be sure not to miss the stunning Christchurch Gate. Check here for entry fees and opening times. St. Martin’s Church is the oldest in England and all of the English speaking world that is still in operation, with a 14th and 15th Century style Renaissance Mass still performed today. The church is surrounded by ancient graves, and there is a nice view of the town and the Canterbury Cathedral tower from the top of the hill. You can find the church just outside of the city center, an easy stroll. It's impossible to miss the castle tower gate entrance to the west of the town. The West Gate is a medieval gatehouse that is the largest surviving city gate in all of England, with historical roots reaching into Roman times. Not everyone realizes that you can climb this tower, as it is home to a few fascinating museum exhibits, an escape room game, and arguably the best view of Canterbury center. Afterwards you can parch your thirst with a craft cocktail at The Pound on the entrance level, an atmospheric lounge set within the former 1830 city jail, jailer's house and 1907 police station. There are of course a number of tourist trap attractions that pay homage to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but we chose the slightly alternative excursion of visiting the pub sharing the same name. When we walked in, we were greeted by a toasty fire, a couple of pints of ale, and an intimate, haunting performance of Irish music. You can find Canterbury Tales Pub tucked around a bend at 12 The Friars.

The River Stour The historically important River Stour meanders through Canterbury, and a popular activity is a leisurely punt ride down the river. You’ll glide along gorgeous gardens and medieval buildings, and possibly out beyond into the countryside. The tours are various lengths, and you'll find different operators just outside of the Westgate towers, or inside the city center.

Out & About In Kent If you are in the city long enough, the surrounding area of Kent offers some delightful day trips! The sleepy seaside resort town of Margate, the stunning chalk stacks and rock formations of Botany Bay, as well as the famous white cliffs of Dover are among the many possibilities. We took a day to explore some of these coastal villages, and vowed to return on another house sit in the near future. An easy possibility, with a standing open invitation from our original Canterbury host.

Misty Lambert is a gal with dreams, finding creative ways to fulfill her grandest goal of seeing the world. An animal lover since as early as she can remember, pet sitting is one way she can both explore new places, and get her daily dose of furry cuddles. You can catch some of her adventures on Instagram

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN DRIVING IN WINTER When winter holiday travel is at stake, airports and air travel often receive most of the attention. However, the truth is that most people who travel during winter, simply pack up their luggage in cars and drive to their desired destination. Before embarking on a journey, drivers should perform some routine maintenance and look at country or state/county laws that could mean they will need to adjust their manner of driving. This is especially important for house sitters who may be in a new country, driving on a different side of the road, driving unfamiliar cars and in unknown conditions. Some simple research and preparation will help smooth the way for a stress free journey.

This is what you need to know before hitting the road Before you embark on a long drive, you should be sure to have had sufficient sleep, as well as a good meal or snack. Caffeine-rich beverages are not necessarily the best way to remain alert while driving. While you'll probably feel more alert immediately after drinking caffeine, the effects will recede with time, and you might lose your concentration even when you are awake.

It's advisable to take short stops every few hours even if you still feel alert. You could have a snack, enjoy some fresh air and walk around to stretch your muscles. And if need be, take a quick nap as well. If possible, try to share the driving responsibilities with another person. This will allow you to watch each other's backs when driving and enable each of you to take a nap without stopping. If you're traveling alone, turn on your radio or play some music, and keep your window open. It's advisable to refrain from using cruise control if driving during the night because having to maintain concentration to monitor your speed, will also help you stay alert. And if you need to pull over, make sure you are well away from the main road. You should never park in the breakdown lane or hard shoulder lane unless it is an emergency. Check for service areas, or rest areas along the way before you set off. You should also be familiar with the laws along the route you are using regarding cell phone use when driving. While cell phone use could be acceptable in one country, it may be illegal elsewhere, and as they say, ignorance is no defense. While it could be legal to converse on your cell phone when driving, it is always safer to use a hands-free device. Check online for the driving laws, emergency procedures and accident reporting in the country you are visiting. Before setting off, make sure all essential maintenance is carried out. It is advisable that you:    

Replace the wiper blades Check tread depth and the tire pressure Refill your windshield washer reservoir Perform a battery test

Even when you feel you are a bit behind on your to-do list, be sure to have every aspect taken care of. Do not leave your gate without a brake check or oil change as well, especially if you've been ignoring those.

Prepare an emergency traveling kit Your winter emergency kit must have jump start cables, a first aid kit, snow brush, and an ice scraper. Additionally, you should carry:         

Cat litter, traction mats or sand A small spade Blankets, hats, and gloves Warning triangles or flares and flashlights with fresh batteries Paper towels or shop rags Non perishable snack bars and drinking water Warm clothing Basic hand tools A mobile phone charger

Map Your Route Make sure you are well-versed with the route to your destination and an alternative navigation route as well. Brace yourself for traffic and busy roads. You could use your smartphone to check for heavy traffic in the direction you are heading. If don't like driving in traffic, it's best that you leave late in the evening or at dawn when traffic is lighter.

Keep an eye on the weather You should be conversant with the conditions you will be driving through and not just the weather at your destination or where you are leaving. You might have to meander mountain passes before you get to your destination. You could check your favorite weather news or weather prediction site for some insight into the current weather forecasts and conditions. If you are driving in snow, make sure you have snow chains. In some countries these are compulsory in snowy conditions.

Polish up on your winter driving techniques It's advisable to increase your average following distance from the usual three or four seconds to eight or ten seconds. Avoid skidding by applying the gas gentle to gain momentum. Most important of all, just be patient and avoid distraction

Secure your belongings The holiday season is a prime period for thieves, and a car packed with items in plain view will naturally attract them. To prevent yourself from being a tempting target, put all your luggage in a covered storage area like the boot or trunk.

Keep your kids occupied and safe Use DVDs, games, books or anything else that could keep your kids occupied and to prevent them from distracting the driver. Remember that your kids will need snacks and you might need to make several toilet stops along the way. Parents are also reminded to make sure that their kids are buckled in the vehicle using seat belts, booster seats or safety seats depending on their age, weight, and height.

Take a breather every 100 miles or two hours Adults require some rest as well. Having some periodic breaks during your travel with help you remain alert when you are on the highway. If you prepare in advance for your winter driving, you'll have less surprises along the way and a much more enjoyable journey. Bon voyage!

Since being involved in an accident in 2009, Paul Welch has been an active advocate of safe driving. He often attends seminars related to his advocacy. He is also interested in cars and all things automotive.

MY AGA SAGA by Suzannah Arkle

AGAs to me are up there with other British greats like thatched cottages, country pubs and cream teas. But I have never really been on first name terms with one until now. Okay I have boiled a kettle on my sister-in-law’s very posh pale blue one, but as for cooking an entire meal, no. So rocking up to our first house-sit in Devon and finding one lurking in the kitchen was quite a moment. Being an intrepid Aussie, I donned my apron, listened to the homeowner’s advice and had my sister-in-law on speed dial, just in case.

What is an AGA? An AGA is an English range cooker, they can be powered by either electricity, gas or oil. In the old days they were coal driven.

Why is an AGA so wonderful? Well, for me, it is that they are always on and always hot. There is nothing nicer on a chilly English day than leaning back and warming yourself on the AGA. This also makes them a favourite with the animals of the family. In both of our AGA house-sits the dogs have had their beds close. And of course it heats the entire kitchen making it the true centre of the home.

Hot, hotter, hottest! Now for the fun bit, cooking on one. You cannot regulate the temperature on either the hotplates or the ovens. Yup, that’s what I said! Instead you have a "boiling plate" and a "simmering plate". You have a "roasting oven" and a "simmering oven" and on the big four oven AGAs you also have a "baking oven" and a "plate warming oven". Confused? Don’t be, you very quickly get the hang of it. One other point of note is that any cooking smells from the ovens disappear up the flue. So no telling if your meal is cooked by the smell. A timer or a good memory are essential to avoid cremations!

Where to start? Well as I said, my first experience with an AGA was boiling a kettle on the boiling plate. This is not any old kettle mind, this is a special AGA kettle, in fact any old saucepans will not work on your AGA. You either need to invest in the special AGA range or very good quality heavy based cookware will do. The Le Creuset you got as a wedding present from your rich aunt is fine but not your bargain range of saucepans! Yup, she has expensive tastes, does your AGA. Once you have boiled your AGA kettle and made a nice cup of tea and calmed yourself we can move on to tackling the ovens. I must confess I cheated here, no not my sister-in-law on speed dial, but Mary Berry’s AGA Cookbook. This book I found on the shelf in both of my AGA house-sits and it soon became my best friend. I have never watched Mary on "The Great British Bake Off" but I am a fan just from her wonderfully calm writing style. One fun AGA accessory is the toaster. This looks like a large wire ping pong bat, and to make toast with it you place the bread inside it and then put it on the boiling plate and close the lid. But stay close it doesn’t take long!

My Personal Tips So here is my own personal summary of the ovens. To cook a roast (my favourite meal) use the bottom shelf of the roasting oven. Let me point out here that unlike normal ovens the bottom of the oven is hotter than the top. Yes, I know, confusing. Use the top of the same oven for your roasties (potatoes). Also use this oven for Mary’s own recipe scones, they are utterly delicious. The simmering oven is ideal for finishing off those casseroles you started on the boiling plate and just needs to simmer for an hour. Or rich fruitcakes that need to cook for several hours. Likewise the simmering plate is ideal for simmering dishes you started on the boiling plate, or for dishes that require gentler heat. I cannot tell you with great confidence how to bake a normal cake in an AGA because I haven’t attempted it. On the two oven AGA it is a complicated affair using an AGA Cake Baker. This is large saucepan with a rack on which the cake tin sits before you lower it into the saucepan, don the lid and put it in the roasting oven. Of course if you have a four oven AGA, you will have a baking oven especially for baking and Bob’s your uncle!

Caring for and cleaning an AGA Here's a useful link to learn more about caring for an AGA while on a house-sit:

Drying and airing clothes One final reason to adore the AGA is it is wonderful for airing clothes. And as one of our homeowners proudly told me, if you fold your T-shirts neatly and place them on the closed lid, the creases will fall out and you won’t need to iron them! I didn’t have the heart to say after 6 months travelling in Asia, we had long given up ironing T-shirts!

Now I have mastered the AGA, I hope that the rest of our house-sits in the UK will have one so I can perfect my skills! You'll find lots more information and instructional videos like this one at:

James and Suzannah Arkle are a couple on the wrong side of 50 who are hopelessly addicted to travel. The mere whiff of aviation fuel gets them excited. In 2017 they decided to up sticks; sell their rural property and business in Australia and travel full time. How long will that be for? well James says three years, Suzannah says two years, so who knows! Follow their adventures at their blog: A Couple of Grey Hairs or on Instagram

BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO USING ESSENTIAL OILS For Headaches and Migraines by Dr Brent Wells

So you've tried every headache cure out there. Drinking more water, using cold compresses, sipping ginger tea, doing yoga… the list goes on and on. But have you tried essential oils? For some they may seem like a daring option, but in reality, science now backs up the health benefits of using essential oils for headaches and migraines. Essential oils are a natural, scientifically-based choice that could relieve your next headache. Once you know the benefits of different oils, how to apply them and other must-knows, you'll be well on your way to a headache-free day.

What Are Essential Oils? No, they are not exotic and no, they are not incense. Essential oils are simply the natural liquids distilled from plants that retain their original scent. You may be thinking of perfumes or flavoring, but essential oils go beyond these common uses. These oils can interact with various areas of your body to reduce pain, stress, etc.

How Do I use Essential Oils? Essential oils are easy-to-use, but must be properly applied:  

Essential oils should never be ingested. Typically, they're inhaled or applied topically to the skin, but only after being diluted. They should never be applied directly to the skin without being diluted first.

If you're not sure whether to inhale essential oils or apply them topically to the skin, keep in mind that both methods will give you the main effect of the oil. In general, inhaling the oil will make it become absorbed by the body's bloodstream faster than being applied topically. On the other hand, when the diluted oil is applied to the skin, it takes longer to enter the bloodstream, but will better serve the area applied.

Common Mistakes When Using Essential Oils Essential oils should be used responsibly. Make sure to consider your medical conditions before trying them. If you're pregnant, have asthma or allergies, or other medical conditions, check with a doctor before trying essential oils. In addition, we can't stress this enough, don't forget to dilute essential oils before applying them topically. Especially when you're first trying an essential oil, it's important to have a high dilution ratio to avoid any effects or reactions. You can dilute essential oils with other carrier oils including coconut, almond and vegetables oils. A good general rule is 1 drop of essential oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil. Editor's Note: There's been some concern recently about how using essential oils in diffusers can be extremely harmful to pets, with cats being particularly susceptible to reactions. Please talk to your vet or research online if you have any concerns, and be mindful of this if using essential oils while house and pet sitting.

Top 4 Essential Oils for Headaches There are a myriad of different essential oils that you can use to relieve a headache or migraine. Every oil has different properties and can be used effectively depending on the type of headache or migraine you're experiencing. Below, we'll give an overview of the top essential oils and their ideal application.

1. Peppermint Peppermint essential oil has been heavily studied as having a relieving effect on headaches. One study has linked its "cooling" property to increased blood flow and muscle relaxation. Because of the link to muscle relief, it's especially useful for a tension headache. Example application: Try applying it topically to your temples and forehead, as suggested by practitioner Toni Fairman. Don't forget to dilute it first!

2. Eucalyptus Eucalyptus is another great choice for headaches. It has anti-inflammatory and auto-immune boosting properties, which makes it ideal for sinus headaches or those originating from bacterial infections. Example application: A good way to take eucalyptus is to add the essential oil to your next hot bath. The combination of the eucalyptus and the steam will have a maximum effect on your sinuses.

3. Lavender Lavender is an excellent "catch-all" essential oil that is best known for relaxation and stress relief. Not only is it a good antibacterial, but it's also an immune-booster. Because it has a sedative effect, it's also commonly used to help you get to sleep. This essential oil is good for any headache, or to use after a stressful day at work. Example application: After work or at night, try making a compress for your forehead with water and a few drops of lavender.

4. Rosemary Rosemary is a great option to improve circulation, and is shown to be good for relieving fatigue and killing pain. It may also have a positive effect on memory. It's great for any migraine or cluster headache, or any headache that involves moderate to intense pain. Example application: Try adding rosemary to a home diffuser to inhale it for 45 minutes or so for relief.

How Else Can I Use Essential Oils? You can enjoy essential oils in several different forms, as mentioned above.

1. With a Diffuser This is one of the most popular ways to inhale essential oils. You can purchase a diffuser for your home or car, which will release the essential oil over the course of 45 minutes to an hour. Or, if you prefer you can apply a few drops to a cotton ball or tissue and breathe in the essential oil that way. Please see above note about the potential dangers of using diffusers around pets.

2. Apply Topically Remember that to apply essential oils to the skin, you must dilute them first using a carrier oil (such as coconut, almond and vegetables oils). After this is done, press the oil against your temples or forehead for best results. You can also have essential oils rubbed into your skin during a massage, which will relax your muscles at the same time. For example, according to massage therapy experts, essential oils can be incorporated into massage therapy treatment for maximum results.

3. Take a Bath or Apply a Compress Taking a bath with about 6-8 drops of essential oils can be a relaxing way to receive the properties of the essential oil. In addition, you can use a compress, soaked with cold water and a few drops, in order to get stress relief.

Side Effects and Other Must-Knows Remember that you may experience side effects when using essential oils. Be sure to use smaller amounts at first to see what your reaction may be. If you experience any side effects such as rashes, blistering and/or any allergic reactions, stop using and consult your doctor. If used topically, the oils should always be diluted. If diffused, they should not be inhaled for longer than an hour. Essential oils can be beneficial for relieving your next headache, but should be used in moderation.

Have Fun with Essential Oils Essential oils are an enjoyable and scientifically-based option for alleviating headaches. Make sure you test which oils are best for you, and with what amounts. Use a trial-and-error approach for the different methods and make the most of the various essential oil properties and stay headache-free.

Dr Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. His goal is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

ADVENTURES OF A CHALET SLAVE by Ali Keeler & Denis French

We are Australians but both of us were born in the UK so we have dual citizenship. While this means that we cannot be elected to the Federal Parliament of Australia (though funnily enough it doesn't matter in state or local governments!), it does give us the right to work freely in the UK and the EU. Although what will happen after BREXIT is anyone's guess! Switzerland, while not in the EU, allows EU citizens to work there with a work permit. I am explaining all of this first so that non EU citizens know that it would probably NOT be an option for them. The UK has a youth work visa in place for Australian citizens and these visas allow Australians under 30 to work in the EU and we met quite a few youngsters who were working in the Alps at the same time as we were. I have no knowledge of the rights of other countries youth to work in the UK but I'm sure other Commonwealth countries could have the same agreements – best to check yourself though!

"Chalet Slaves" in the making! We moved to the UK in March 2003 with a view to staying for about 18 months. Initially we both had jobs in the NHS (National Health Service) hospital system and we spent a very pleasant summer in Huntingdon, near Cambridge. It became apparent very quickly that we did not really want to spend the winter in Blighty, so we were looking for alternatives, and someone said we would make great "Chalet Slaves". After an explanation was forthcoming about what this actually was, the idea had been planted and we ran with it. The term "Chalet Slave" came from a TV show, made about British ski companies operating in the Alps, and the people who ran the chalets for them, mostly young couples without much of a clue about life!

A busy week in the life of... The jobs involve cooking breakfast and dinner for guests and cleaning the rooms. You usually work as a couple, although some smaller chalets with eight or less guests could be run by a single person. Work is six days a week with one day off.

Saturday is "changeover day" where you are expected to work all day, saying goodbye to one group of guests in the morning, cleaning the whole chalet thoroughly during the day and welcoming a new group in the evening with dinner. Other days you can finish off the mornings work by 10 or 11am and head off on the ski slopes until 5pm when the lifts close. Back to work about 6pm, serve dinner and eat with the guests and clean up afterwards, all while drinking copious quantities of chalet wine and the odd gin and tonic offered by kind guests.

Don't expect to get rich... except in experience The season is usually 20 weeks long. The pay is poor (back in 2003/4 it was about £100 per week), but you get your accommodation, meals, lift pass and free ski hire for the season. Kind of cost neutral if you spend your wages on dinner on your day off and drinks and lunches through the week. They withhold 5% of your wages until the end of the season... you only get that 5% if you stay until the end. Mid season recruitment is usually not as thorough and we found the calibre of people who came in late in the season were badly trained and not up to much! We did a little Googling and found all sorts of job options for the following winter. It was only June, but they all recruit early if they can. We went off to an interview with a company who were trying to recruit a lot of "older" couples who they considered would give better quality service to guests.

This is totally true, but in return these couples require a better quality of accommodation which is not always available. We got lucky in our first season with an apartment at the rear of our chalet, however some colleagues were given a hotel room above a disco which thumped until the wee small hours. They left by New Year as they couldn't stand not being able to sleep!

Settling in... Our first chalet was in Morgins, a small Swiss village right on the border with France and part of the Porte du Soleil ski area. We stuck it out for the five months and on the whole enjoyed the experience, and improved our skiing skills big time. We made lifelong friends, including the couple who left very early, who we still see 15 years later. Two years later we decided to try it again. It was later in the year when we started looking so recruitment was already done, but we knew from experience that positions are often up for grabs last minute or early in the season when people up and leave. A company called Ski Beat got back to us with a place in a new resort in La Rosiere, in France, but with a ski area going across the border into Italy. They had left the recruiting until the last minute as they weren't sure if the chalet would be ready in time. As it turned out, it wasn't ready, but we still started with everyone else in the training week and then spent the first couple of weeks in the chalet, cleaning up after the builders and putting in the furniture! Not an ideal start! When I say chalet, this was actually one building which was six separate chalets with staff quarters on the bottom floor. This time we were the only "mature" couple in the mix with everyone else being under 30. This age group tend to party hard and they would keep us awake until the early hours as they came home from the pubs and continued to party at home. This wore pretty thin after a while so we resigned, deciding that the 5% wasn't worth the agony of no sleep. We said that if another position became vacant they were welcome to contact us. No less than 15 minutes after we resigned, we had a new offer in Peisey Village in the Les Arc/La Plagne ski area. This was a chalet away from the bustle with our own flat a couple of minutes walk away – perfect! We whiled away the rest of the season, enjoying the peace and tranquillity in a bigger and much better ski area.

Making life easier and other considerations While not absolutely necessary, having your own car is an advantage so that you can "get away" on your day off. You will need snow tires or chains on this car. You also have to make sure there is somewhere you can park in the resort. If you drive on motorways in Switzerland you need a yearly pass on your windscreen. Guests can leave generous tips when they leave, but others don't. You'll find not all guests are as easy going as others... but you only have to put up with them until Saturday! Some companies host school groups, so during those weeks we were filled up with extra beds and lots of children. We also had to provide them with a packed lunch to take on the slopes.

So, it's not without it's perils, there are ups and downs and things can go wrong... hey, it's a bit like house sitting in that respect! But we do look back at both of these experiences fondly and don't discount doing it again in the future. We would certainly be more fussy with any position we were offered, particularly in regards to accommodation, which for us needs to be private and quiet. However, if you are young and carefree you probably won't care if you are bunking in with the noisy lot or living above the village disco! All in all, it's a great experience for anyone who enjoys skiing or snowboarding and a great way to spend a whole season improving your snow skills. Editor's note: Don't forget if you've had experience of skiing chalet work or any other travel hospitality skills, these are great to add to your profile or personal house sitting website! You could even get a reference from an employer to add to your character reviews!

REPEAT HOUSE SITTING In Gravesend, Kent, UK by Vanessa Anderson We were really happy to be back in Gravesend house sitting and looking after Marley for sit number 2 of our 52 sits. Marley is a cat with attitude… and his own Facebook Group! Gravesend is situated on the River Thames, to the east of London in the county of Kent – we could easily walk down to the ferry that crosses the river to Tilbury Docks. I can honestly say Gravesend would never have been on my list of UK destinations to visit. However, it's turned out to be full of so much history, and we have really enjoyed both its close proximity to London and the Kent and Sussex countryside, as well as the local area itself.

Prime isn't always best It's very easy to be attracted to the prime London sits, but position yourself just outside in the suburbs and you'll find less competition, and potentially much easier access to road and rail networks, with the possibility of hopping on a train or a bus to explore London central.

Remember there's a congestion charge too if you are thinking of driving into the central zone – worth checking that out here: It's pricey at GBP £11.50 per day, with hefty fines if you forget to pay it! On this topic it's also worth remembering that if you pass through the Dartford Crossing on the M25, you'll also have to pay a toll online. It's only £2.50 but… the fine for not going online and paying within 24 hours is £70, and it's easily forgotten… I know !

The most regal of cats We love all our house sit pets, but Marley is a favourite because he's so regal – it's like looking after royalty. It's just the way he looks at you! He's very easy to take care of and an endless source of entertainment as he guards his territory (with such seriousness), from arch rival Sid! Last time we visited in winter and didn't see much of the garden, but the remnants of the hot UK summer meant we were still wearing t-shirts in October, and enjoying an amazing crop of grapes. Haven't seen as many that tasted as sweet since my garden in Southern Spain.

What are the benefits of repeat sits? Obviously the best part of a repeat sit is getting to see the pets again, and hopefully again and again! But there are other more practical issues that make repeats nice to add into the mix of house sits.

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The need for a longer handover is often eliminated, as everything has been covered, you've hopefully got all your notes and a record of the sit details, and so you can either arrive and enjoy time with the home owner (if they've become friends), or arrive and settle quickly into a familiar routine. The pets settle much more quickly, especially if they remember you and the time between sits isn't a long period. You can relax more quickly – I sometimes think it's a bit like “coming home” – the same feeling you get if you return to the same vacation home and you know where to find things, how the systems work, etc. You can spend more time enjoying the local neighbourhood as you've already done all the research needed – pubs, vets, restaurants, sights and so on. Appliances and technology in the property are all familiar. It can be the start of longer term friendships with home owners.

Disadvantages of repeat house sits There aren't many disadvantages that we can think of, but one would be a feeling of obligation towards home owners, especially if you take a regular repeat and then decide to go travelling for a year or two! This is where it's important to always keep your home owners in the loop regarding your future plans, then there's no shock or disappointment later. For some, repeat sits take away the element of excitement and joy of exploring a new area of the world, something us travellers particularly enjoy, so a mix of repeats and new sits might be a good balance. Of course, the sadder part of repeat sits is possibly experiencing the deterioration of health of older pets, and even worse, their passing.

What to do and see in and around Gravesend We had just bought our small Citroen Berlingo van for our year of house sitting, and it was in for a major service, so we took to finding things to see by foot. Here are a few of our favourites:

Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara This is one of the largest Sikh Gurdwara Temples in Europe. We came across it on a walk along the edge of the Thames, when we spotted the magnificent temple roof in the distance. It was quickly located on the map and what a surprise when we approached the entrance!

We found out after that it's possible to visit, free head scarves are handed out on entry, and apparently you can get a delicious vegetarian meal for free as well. Unaware of this at the time, we simply took some photos, but we've got this as top of our list for our next visit next summer!

Panic Rooms We did one of the most difficult escape rooms when we first did this house sit last year. Panic or escape rooms were new to us, but it seems they are all over the world. There are several dotted around Gravesend, and they are regularly changed. Again, no time this sit, but it's nice to know that we can do this on our third repeat! For more information check out this link.

New Tavern Fort & Tunnels This was an unexpected surprise for us, not in as much the artillery fort itself, but certainly the underground tunnels which provided a fascinating step back in time. The fort was originally designed to defend London against any enemy fleet advancing up the Thames River. It dates mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries, and is very well-preserved. It remained in use for defensive purposes until the Second World War with the added installation of anti-aircraft guns.

The tunnels and magazines of the New Tavern Fort are open on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from April until the end of September. Entry is just £1 per person. They are normally staffed by the volunteers from Thames Defence Heritage, who look after the site, working in conjunction with the Council. There is parking adjacent to the site.

The Chantry, Old Tavern Fort Located within the same grounds as the New Tavern Fort is Gravesend's oldest building which used to be a 14th century chapel and then later a tavern. The volunteers are really helpful, there's a free self guided audio, and you'll learn a lot about the history of the local area across several centuries. The Chantry is only open weekends and bank holidays April to September 12noon – 5pm

Gravesend Nuclear Bunker Another surprise. Without a car we began an online search on Google Maps for local monuments and sights. In a local park I spotted a nuclear bunker and so we took a walk to see what this was all about.

We found the entrance and a little bit of info, but it was only when visiting the Old Tavern Fort that we discovered you can book for a tour at certain times of the year. There are thirteen rooms that you can visit, which include the communications rooms and sleeping quarters. The bunker was recently refurbished and it's all laid out exactly as it would have been at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s. The bunker can be found close to the main entrance of Woodlands Park and you can park on Dashwood Road nearby. For details of the tours check events at the Visit Gravesend website: Tickets are only £5 for adults and £3 for children – again on our list for next time!

Tilbury Ferry, Fort and Docks At the bottom of the High Street in Gravesend, you'll find a ferry that crosses the Thames Estuary from where you can walk to Tilbury Fort. We weren't able to do this as we hadn't realized the ferry didn't run on Sundays, our last day. All other days of the week the ferry runs every half an hour – timetable here This is a good way to get to the station across the river for a trip to Southend-on-Sea – an iconic British seaside town, if you like that sort of thing!

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London When we got our car back we decided to take a trip into east London to re-visit Greenwich park and the observatory. Neither of us had visited since childhood so it was a little trip down memory lane. I was in awe of the amazing view across London, most of the new buildings of course, didn't exist when I was a young kid! The observatory is fascinating, although expensive. As we'd visited before we chose to take a quick look in the shop and take advantage of the free entry from inside, up to the telescope area. Then we spent our time walking around the park, looking out for the parakeets that now dominate the area, before going to the National Maritime Museum down the hill. This is free to enter, as are most of the UK's museums. Only privately run concerns like the observatory and planetarium make a charge.

Around Greenwich I found the National Maritime Museum fascinating, and there much more to see around that area with a bit more time. You can visit the Cutty Sark, The Queen's House and Old Royal Naval College or even browse nearby Greenwich market. We took a quick look at the free exhibits in the Peter Harrison Planetarium next to the observatory, but have done our fair share of planetarium shows now around the world, so skipped this.

You can go further afield to the O2 arena, and from close to there you can take a walk in the tunnel that traverses under the Thames. We only had a few hours so need a return visit, but really enjoyed the short time spent in this area of London. If you are world-schooling your kids, there's so much to educate, engage and enthrall. This is just the tip of the iceberg really. From Gravesend you can take the fast train into London for more central sight-seeing, you can visit the cathedral city of Canterbury (see article in this issue), the coastal towns of Whitstable, Dover and Folkestone. We aren't big shoppers, but if you are then you'll find Bluewater, a destination shopping mall, featuring department stores, fashion shops, lakeside dining and a cinema, just a short drive away.

Is a car necessary? A car really helps, but there's a great public transport network across the region, and as we found while our car was out of action, everything we needed could be done on foot too. Having a car enabled us to meet up with other house sitting friends also in the area - we use the house sitter meetup app for arranging these - just $12 for a whole year of friendships! You can try it free for one month as well (no credit card details required). So the moral of this story is… don't discount the house sitting locations that sound less glamorous, you may find a bit of a hidden treasure instead!


House sitting opportunities often lead my family to places we'd never dreamed of visiting. We remember them all fondly and are so glad a house sitting opportunity introduced us to the lovely cities and off the beaten track - little towns we're now so glad we got to know. All of those destinations evoked a curiosity and a bit of excitement because of the unknown. But one invited even more interest and anticipation - Belfast, Northern Ireland. Best known for "The Troubles" during the 1970's and 80's. Belfast, during that time of intense conflict was designated one of the world's most dangerous cities. In more recent years Belfast has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, the city is considered one of the safest in the UK! When we saw the sit we remembered the struggles and violence in Belfast we'd seen on the news long ago but also remembered all of the great things we'd been seeing and hearing about the city recently.

We applied for the assignment because we wanted to see the transformation with our own eyes. Belfast did not disappoint! Here's all the incredible stuff we saw and did house sitting in Belfast.

Getting to and around We were traveling and house sitting throughout Wales and England when we landed the assignment. All told for the six weeks we spent in the UK including our sit in Belfast we spent and average of $55 a day for our family of three! To get to Belfast we opted to take a train to Liverpool and jump on a ferry to arrive in the city. Doing so was cheaper than flying and we got to see a lot more of England choosing to travel this way. Train travel can be expensive in England but we found booking in advance online and checking and to compare pricing and book our tickets made it a lot more affordable. We didn't have the use of a car in Belfast so we took public transportation. Doing so was easy but somewhat expensive. Buying round trip family all day tickets made our trips cheaper. Belfast is a small delightfully compact city so we found taking one bus to the center and walking to everything we wanted to see and do then one bus home was easy and enjoyable. All told for the ferry, public transportation, and three cabs we took during our three week stay we spent $200.

Fun things locals do The best thing we did was to arrive 2 days before our house sit was to start. We decided to do this to attend a huge cultural event in the city, Belfast's Culture Night! Booking a hotel during this time would have been really expensive so we decided to book a room in a highly rated Airbnb hosts home. Doing so was the best thing we did because we learned the best places that locals in Belfast love! Here's where we visited thanks to our awesome Airbnb host, David.

St. Georges Market David was a vendor at St. Georges Market, an award winning UK market and one of Belfast's oldest attractions. The market happens every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There are so many awesome food vendors, produce growers, fish retailers, and local crafters at this market! The atmosphere is amazing; live music, delicious smells, and an energizing buzz of chatting locals, tourists, and vendors. While this market is a tourist attraction the delicious fare you can buy from food vendors is really quite cheap! There's a huge variety of local specialties to enjoy. We always had a hard time deciding what to eat but loved grabbing a cheap, delicious lunch at the market whenever we could.

Happy Hour in Belfast Belfast is full of pubs! It felt like one was always within easy walking distance where ever we were in the city. This made it hard to decide on the best place for us to grab a pint! David recommended his favorite pub, The Morning Star, and told us about happy hour in Belfast. Many pubs offer nice discounts on pints and cocktails during certain hours of the day-usually late afternoon to early evening. We enjoyed some delicious beers at great discounts during happy hour, between 5-7pm Monday through Friday at The Morning Star pub!

The Incredible Urban Parks

Belfast has a great variety of urban parks, but two came highly recommended by locals so we had to check them out. The first one we visited was the Botanic Gardens, and important venue for concerts, festivals, and other local events in the city. As luck would have it a free festival was happening the day we decided to visit! The park is an important part of Belfast's Victorian heritage. It was established in the 1820's in response to public interest in botany and horticulture.The park contained exotic trees and impressive plant collections from around the world, some of which can still be seen there today. The Ulster Museum is located inside the park. Admission is free and it's loaded with a treasure trove of Northern Ireland's past and present stories and other incredible collections. We enjoyed seeing the dinosaurs and mummies and learning more about "The Troubles" inside this beautiful museum.

The second park was recommended to us by the homeowners we were house sitting for. Belvoir Forest Park is an incredible urban expanse of towering trees and miles of trails. Literally a forest within the city, we spent hours exploring and searching for local wildlife in the park, including the two dogs we were house sitting!

Unmissable Tourist Attractions Belfast has so much history and Northern Ireland is loaded with incredible natural beauty it was hard to narrow down the things we wanted to see and do there. Great value for money is always a priority for us when it comes to visiting tourist venues. Here's our list of tourist attractions that were free or worth every penny and shouldn't be missed.

Victoria Square Shopping Center While this mall is the biggest and brightest in Northern Ireland, we didn't visit it to shop. We went to check out the view from it's massive sparkling glass observation dome! The four level shopping mall houses over 70 shops and many great restaurants and cafes but we're not much for shopping or mall food. The real highlights are the historic Jaffe Fountain and The Dome! The view from the observation deck is spectacular. You can see every part of Belfast! Make sure you connect with the resident expert Gerry. He offers free information about the important places in and around Belfast that can be seen from The Dome.

The Titanic Quarter The Titanic quarter is a huge waterfront attraction buzzing with a riverside entertainment district, historic maritime landmarks, and the world's most extensive Titanic themed museum. Built on the site where the RMS Titanic was actually designed and built, a visit to this area is an absolute must!

Giants Causeway Tour Visiting the Giant's Causeway was a priority for us. Being the only Unesco World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland and one of Ireland's most stunning landscapes this was our favorite experience by far! There are lots of tour providers that run tours from Belfast. We chose an all day tour to get to stop and see other attractions along the Causeway route.

Our Overall Impression of House Sitting in Belfast We loved house sitting in Belfast. The lovely people, the rich culture, the incredible things to see and do made this house sit one of our favorites. We'd give house sitting in Belfast a 9 out of 10. The only things that prevented it from being a 10 were the prices for public transit and for eating out. Both were among the highest costs of anywhere else we've travelled. House sitting, visiting the local favorites recommended by our Airbnb host, David and the homeowners, and eating in helped us do a lot of incredible things and still keep our costs low. All told, we spent an average of $47 a day during our three week stay in Belfast.

Rob and Tracey travel full-time with their young son house sitting along the way. They explore the world looking for amazing low-cost destinations where they can live well for less. They share travel tips and advice to make destinations more affordable for travelers on their blog, the Expat Experiment.

A HOUSE SIT & ROAD TRIP, USA by Andrew Deagle

Iconic movies have been made about road trips. Long running family tales of adventures gone wrong have been told about them.To say nothing about that small scar from a paper cut that has morphed, to being savaged by a feral squirrel. Road trips will rekindle in everyone those long lost memories from our childhood, even if you were just going to Grandpa and Grandmas place for a visit. A road trip in our family always brings up a Griswold's comparison and hoots of laughter around the kitchen table. My dad is the quintessential father figure in the driver's seat cracking the one liners. Mum playing the straight man in the passenger seat keeping dad in line, saying "Stu….the children". In the background the unruly kids farting, belching and saying "are we there yet?!!" Such great memories from those long never ending road trips. Sooner or later we have all experienced our own version of a Griswold trip to Wally World. Carolyn and I joined the ranks of house and pet sitters in August 2018.

We have jumped in whole hog, selling our unit on the beach, our lovely car and pretty much all of our possessions to be able to finance full-time house sitting. Crazy you say!!! Maybe, would be the response. But after years of working to make the banks rich and doing that dirty word… WORK. Definitely no, would be our final response. How much worse could it be? After all, if we have a year off and travel the world, experience new things, meet new people and oh yeah, take some road trips along the way. If we then have to come back and start over again, well, so be it. We have now completed two house sits in Australia and nearly completed a month long sit in Colorado in the USA. Our next house sit is in Wisconsin three weeks away, so what to do? You got it - take a Road Trip! As Clark Griswold says: "Getting there is half the fun". But Carolyn my wife would say: "The other half is planning it"

All good road trips require decent planning! With house sitting we have a plan of where we would like to sit and when. Therefore, we spend time researching house sitting websites to find sits we believe to be a good fit for us. Then we

apply and hopefully arrange a Skype video call with the home owners, after which, fingers crossed, we get that house sit. Planning your road trip is no different. Hence the basic structure of where and when, is always a wonderful place to begin. Twenty one days was our allotted road trip to reach Madison, Wisconsin from Loveland, Colorado. Thus, having our basic frame work I could next fill in our itinerary. The must see places to incorporate into our trip were Denver, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone NP, Mount Rushmore and Le Claire. In addition, we needed to allow days for travel, time to sight see and for any unforeseen situations must be considered. Having now organized, what I believed would be a great road trip I enter the data it into a excel spreadsheet. Tweaking it to cater for the distance needed to travel versus time to relax and enjoy the trip, I must admit, took a considerable amount of time. Even though this took over a week to fine tune and get the finalized itinerary, it would be worth it in the long run. Adding to this I have also incorporated a list of sights to visit within our major stops. Hopefully this will cover most, if not all of the things we wish to do and see. Benjamin Franklin said: "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!"

What has our road trip got in store for us? We are now 16 days into our road trip and what an adventure we are having. We have seen some truly amazing sights, that fill our soul with pure joy as we sit in awe of God's wonderful creation. Photography is a major passion and to capture the Grand Tetons in all its splendor was one of the highlights of our road trip. The featured image above was captured there, just one of many. Equally important to the majestic scenery, has been the array of wildlife we have encountered along our travels. Creatures that we Aussies have only seen in movies, TV, pictures or zoos. To actually observe them in their natural habit has been exhilarating to say the least. Bears have been the number one creature on our list and though not exactly in their native surroundings, seeing them in a nature park was pretty close. The image below was taken at Bear Country USA just outside Rapid City South Dakota.

When Issues Arise Having travelled well over 4800 kms (3000 miles) so far and planning to the best of our abilities there was always a chance that something may go astray and of course it did. Believing I had considered all the places we wanted to visit, two notable spots I had completely forgotten about. This is where allowing for any unforeseen issues in our plan saved my butt.

I had missed Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument and Devils Tower in my original travel plan. They added considerably more travel time in between 2 legs of our road trip. But as I had allowed for this we could easily accommodate this extra travel. The other dilemma we came up against was the weather, which as we all know can be very unpredictable. Mount Rushmore was a priority point to see, and I had allocated three days in Rapid City to relax and see the surrounding sights. The day we arrived the weather decided to give us a glimpse of what we could expect over the coming winter in the USA and Europe. Day 1 we went up to Mount Rushmore and we couldn't see anything because of the snow and mist. Day 2 the weather deteriorated, no chance of seeing anything. Day 3 last chance to see it, but I knew in the back of my mind we could actually extend our stay in Rapid City 2 more days if needed. I had made the next few travelling days only very small mileage trips. So, we could stay and then just drive a big day if needed, but lucky for us we had a small window where the snow and mist cleared and hallelujah we saw the Presidents. As a result of our preparation we were able to easily adjust our trip to overcome the problems that had arisen. "Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn't mean to take." – Angela N. Blount

This quote was so apt for us. On our penultimate day we had no idea of what sights were around to visit, therefore I typed into the Navman "places to see" and one popped up. We were surprised, as neither of us knew this spot even existed, let alone that it was in the vicinity, but we were excited to go and visit it. Can you guess where the picture on the next page is from? This famous quote might help: "If you build it, he will come" You would be correct if you said, "Field of Dreams". This movie has now become sort of a theme for our life as house sitters... especially when Ray hears the voice again and it says: "Go the distance". How many times in your life have you started a journey, but due to life's distractions, never finished. As house sitters this can happen due to many circumstances - having difficulties getting sits, losing your passion or any number of other issues that hinder you from going the distance. Balance is the key.

Balance for House Sitters We are loving house sitting as a way of life and we hope it becomes our way of life permanently. The joys and no doubt some lows will come. There will also be times when we just need a break to rejuvenate our souls. Finding a balance is a crucial part of the life of a house and pet sitter, and being able to discover a way to revitalize yourself is of upmost importance. Carolyn and I love to travel so our way to refresh is to do road trips. This current road trip has been wonderful to just slow down and smell the roses. As Jaime Lyn says: ‘'Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.'' Now that our road trip is approaching its end, we look forward to our new house sit in Madison and bonding with the 2 dogs we are to take care of, for 10 days. With a fresh outlook and renewed enthusiasm our road trip has provided us that balance we all so richly deserve. Our motto "Travel Is Sweet" (Dream It, Experience It, Treasure It), is ringing true in our lives.

Carolyn and Andrew Deagle are from the beautiful Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. They fell in love with travel back in 2004, and set out in 2018 to travel the world on a nine month trip, house and pet sitting as they experience new destinations. You can read more about their adventures at their website Travel is Sweet, follow them on the Facebook Page or see their stunning travel pictures on Instagram

The next issue of House Sitting Magazine will be available from 15th February 2019

The small print Reproduction - Reproduction in whole or part without written permission of the publishers is prohibited. Disclaimer - Information provided in this publication is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. It should not be used as travel, lifestyle, financial or legal advice. You should always consult with your qualified and licensed professional practitioner. The publisher accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained within this publication. The publisher expressly disclaims responsibility for any adverse effect that may result from the use and application of the information contained in this magazine. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries when making decisions affecting their interests. Publishers - The opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publishers. House Sitting - The ultimate lifestyle magazine is published by Ian Usher and Vanessa Anderson. Email: The publishers assume no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Copyright 2018 by Ian Usher. All rights reserved. Affiliate disclaimer - Our website and apps do contain links to affiliates via advertisements and these are financial relationships. If you choose to apply for any service or product through an affiliate link we may be compensated by way of a small commission. This should never negatively affect the price that you pay for the product or service. House Sitting Magazine offers a FREE subscription service, and we use affiliate sales to ensure that our subscriptions remains free. They help us to fund the production of this magazine to the house sitting community. We will always try to link only to information we have tried or used ourselves, and that we think you will find beneficial and good value. It is your choice, as with any advertisement, whether to obtain further information or make a purchase.

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