House Sitting Magazine: Issue 31 April 2020

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

Welcome to a new world Ian Usher

Staying ahead of a pandemic in 80 days Louise Vachon

Today I saw butterflies Vanessa Anderson

How to keep pets engaged during lockdown John Woods

The future has not been written Ian Usher

Surviving relationship meltdown during lockdown Nicky Mackenzie

Swimming in a sea of swirling emotions Jenny Lincoln

Rest, relax and reset Andrew Redfern

The future of travel and house sitting Vanessa Anderson & Ian Usher

YouTube video discussion - Travel post-COVID19 Hosted by Travatical

Coming full circle Nicki Conti

Spicing up our retirement Beverly Belury

In the next issue...


Two months ago, on 15th Feb 2020, we published issue 30 of House Sitting Magazine. Who could have predicted our world would have changed so much since then? Vanessa and I suspected the coronavirus was going to impact our lives in some way, as we'd been following progress in China and other countries since late January. But we didn't foresee the huge changes which have been thrust upon us all over the past 60 days. I imagine that everyone reading this issue of the magazine will have had to make significant changes to their plans, or adjust their lifestyle in some major ways. We all have. Life for us all right now probably looks very different to the plans we had for our future just a couple of short months ago.

These huge changes make publishing this issue of the magazine a very different experience to the previous issue. The uncertainty around what the future holds for travel and house sitting makes it difficult to decide what content to include. Obviously we want to help our readers keep abreast of current developments, and also to be able to have some ideas about how the future may turn out. Therefore we've changed the focus of this issue to a degree, in order to factor in events unfolding around us. We have a few articles from our readers about how they are dealing with our "new normal", as well as a couple of articles looking forward, hoping to shed some light on how our chosen lifestyles may be impacted. We've tried to keep the tone as upbeat and positive as possible, but we also want to maintain a realistic view at the same time, so some of the articles may not paint such a rosy picture of the future as we would all wish for. I sincerely hope that we're wrong with some of the more dire predictions. Vanessa and I have had to return to work as online English teachers, as we now renting accommodation, and obviously don't know how long we may have to continue to do so.

Therefore, we're going to have less time to devote to the magazine, so have decided to make a (hopefully) temporary change to our publishing schedule. We're going to change to a once-every-3-months model for a while, as we go through a period when there will be a lot less travel and house sitting. This means we'll have time to settle back

into our work routine and secure our financial position before we get to work on the next issue, which we now plan for 15th July 2020. We really don't like to do this, but we all have to make sacrifices at times in order to deal with the challenges life sends our way. We hope you enjoy this out-of-the-ordinary edition of the magazine, and we would love to hear your thoughts on the current situation, and future possible outcomes. We are sure that as flexible and resilient house sitters, you're coping admirably with any challenges you are facing, and we wish you all the best for the difficulties and changes ahead. For additional support and information, our active and engaged Facebook group is a great resource: Finally, we also hope we get the chance to meet up somewhere in the world, sometime soon. Take care and stay safe. Ian and Vanessa April 2020 (currently renting a tiny home in (a very quiet and empty) Cornwall, UK)

Staying ahead of the pandemic in 80 days by Louise & Martin Vachon

PLAN A - 2020 IN ASIA 2019 was our first full year as nomads. We visited 13 countries and enjoyed many house sits along the way, but despite it being an amazing year, we felt we needed to slow down. So, during a quiet Christmas sit in Dubai, we decide to have a more relaxed 2020 with less commitments, booking our onward fights just before changing countries to meet entry requirements.

Sri Lanka We fly into Sri Lanka for New Year's Eve, with onward tickets to Bali for a six-week house sit. Our plan is to head east until we reach Japan, where we have a summer house sit during the Olympics. We will spend fall in Europe, before heading to Australia for our winter, followed by

New Zealand in early 2021 for the Americas Cup. Our only firm booking is Japan, the rest is totally flexible. Day 1 (31 Dec 2019) - The World Health Organization (WHO) is notified by China about an unusual pneumonia that is affecting people in the city of Wuhan. Day 12 (11 Jan 2020) - As we travel along the south coast of Sri Lanka, we read new headlines about the newly identified coronavirus every morning. We are now tuned in and a bit concerned! We book onward tickets from Bali to Cebu Island in the Philippines for March, where we will spend at least a month and meet up with a house sitting friend. Day 26 (25 Jan 2020) - After an overnight flight to Bali we settle directly into our house sit, a lovely villa with the sweetest dog. Since arriving, the news is now something we check several times a day as China has now restricted the movement of 56 million people. Major tourist attractions such as The Great Wall, and Disneyland Shanghai are closed, while Japan and Thailand now have also reported their first coronavirus cases.

PLAN B We are offered a house sit in the Philippines, so we now plan to stay on for 60 days. Beyond that we start to consider other options, as heading deeper into Asia now seems too risky. Our first choice is to explore India, then return to Europe for the summer. But, if the virus spreads to India, are we comfortable with the health care available? Maybe not, so perhaps straight back to the Middle East, then Europe. We are still in a wait-and-see posture.

Day 31 (30 Jan 2020) - Today the WHO declares a global emergency, and Nicky Mackenzie from Above Us Only Skies shares the John Hopkins University database which tracks the virus in real time. This helps guide our decisions over the next few months. The house sitting community is paying particular attention to this outbreak, as much as we are. Sadly we also start noticing on Facebook, posts about this being an overreaction, and we hope people will soon take this more seriously. We begin reaching out to our friends abroad to check in and see how they are doing. The responses are shocking and involve cancelled plans, talk of borders closing, and fear - we are all bracing for what's coming. Day 33 (1 Feb 2020) - It is time to prepare for what looks likely to become a global pandemic. We are very concerned at how quickly the virus is spreading, so while we wait for our visa extension in Bali, I search the pharmacies for supplies. At first I check the western drug stores, but find everything sold out. Then I check a local pharmacy and find a box of N95 masks at an unbelievable price (which I pay), along with hand sanitizer, vitamin C, Paracetamol, and cough drops - our suitcases will be bulging. Day 38 (6 Feb 2020) - Stories of the Diamond Princess quarantined in Japan are stealing the news spotlight, so we check in with our homeowners. Japan is starting to react, all school field trips have been cancelled, and in the Philippines they have several cases and one death. But, here in Bali life seems quite normal. Day 57 (25 Feb 2020) - Both our Philippine and Japan sits are cancelled. In Japan, schools are no longer open, and many borders are closing. Our Philippine homeowners have had all their flights cancelled. Our plans are now open, but all thoughts of Europe and the Middle East are gone, as Iran, Italy, and the rest of Europe are reporting cases of the virus, which is now officially called COVID-19. Our Bali homeowner offers us another sit to replace our time in the Philippines, so we check with our visa expeditor and find that the Balinese visas we have, cannot be extended. We must leave in three weeks, so we continue on with our Philippine plan. Day 60 (28 Feb 2020) - Our homeowner comes home in a week from South Africa, and we are a little nervous, even though there are no cases reported there, she will spend a lot of time in airports. It feels odd to be concerned about embracing other travellers, but we are the ones moving this virus around. Iran is being hit hard, with a very high death toll, and the Middle East and elsewhere are closing borders. Our plan is still to spend our last two weeks exploring Bali, but we are paying close attention to developments in the Philippines, and it is not looking good. We apply for Australian visas as a backup, but are notified that we will require a full medical before processing, so we book the first available date at their approved location. Day 64 (3 Mar 2020) - We attend an upscale hospital in Kuta for our Australian medicals. It has a tiny waiting area with COVID-19 posters prominently displayed. There are a few people looking unwell and coughing into masks, so we choose to sit on chairs in another room. Day 68 (7 Mar 2020) - Still without visas, we leave our house sit and head north by car, then catch a boat out to West Bali National Park for some recreational diving, but our anxiety is growing. We know we need to leave Bali soon and our options are getting narrower by the day as borders close and flights are refused entry. The Philippines has not closed its borders yet, but

all flights into Manilla are cancelled and they are locking down, so we know this is no longer an option. We leave our flights in place and wait on our visas to Australia.

Day 72 (12 Mar 2020) – Yesterday, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. We move to Tulamben for more diving on the USAT Liberty Wreck, but really we don't do any exploring we dive and eat alone in the restaurant with tables full of Australians doing the same thing. We all chat across to each other but no one suggests moving closer together! We are getting nervous now as Martin's visa has arrived but mine has not. I use $30 in cell phone minutes to connect with the visa office in Australia, but my minutes barely get me off hold and I am cut off. Armed with another $70 worth of minutes, I try again, and this time I am successful at finding out there was a problem with my file. Somehow I had created two applications, but with them both now merged, I hope my visa will be processed quickly. However, Australia is all over the news with its COVID-19 response, so it may now be too late to get a visa through. Day 73 (13 Mar 2020) - We are due to move to Ubud, and our Bali visas will expire in seven days, so we check one more time to see if emergency visa extensions are possible. They are not, and instead we apply for an NZeTA and purchase flight tickets to New Zealand for the next day. With borders closing all around us, we are not comfortable waiting any longer.

PLAN C – NEW ZEALAND Day 74 (Mar 14 2020) - While waiting for our driver to take us to the airport, other guests tell us from a distance that the border to New Zealand closed last night. We cannot find

information online to support this, so we proceed with our plan, and after purchasing onward tickets to Canada at the airline check-in counter, all goes just fine.

A return to Dubai is now off limits too

All our bookings in Bali were non-refundable, yet Airbnb and gave us full refunds. Sadly Agoda did not. Our flight to Cebu was cancelled in the end, and we should get a refund, but our onward tickets through Expedia to Canada could not be cancelled or changed because we were not able to get through to them, but we are optimistic when the rush is over they will respond.

NO MORE PLANS Day 78 (Mar 18 2020) – Once in New Zealand, my Australian visa arrives and we are notified we can now also extend our Balinese visas. We finally have access to the news on TV, and the world seems to be coming apart. Our Prime Minister tells Canadians to return home now, and our family and friends echo his sentiments. A friend sends us information which suggests we may no longer be covered outside Canada for any COVID-19 related illness, following the declaration of a global pandemic. If we require medical attention it could easily be more than we can afford.

BACK TO CANADA Day 79 (Mar 19 2020) - I secure a flight through Los Angeles to Vancouver, maybe one of the last ones out. The flight is overbooked but we get on and the American Airlines staff even

manage to move our seats together. The atmosphere on the plane is one of both relief and anxiety. Almost no one was supposed to be on this flight. Some had been told it was cancelled and then recalled, many on the plane are sick, and all are trying to hide it. We are all trying to get home before the borders close, maybe for a long time. Our stop in Los Angeles is quick, and there is no sign of COVID-19 here, no masks, no temperature checks. Only one question is asked – "Do you have a fever and a cough?" Day 80 (Mar 20 2020) - Arriving in Vancouver is a different story, Canada is all about COVID-19, signs everywhere, and while the airport is busy, physical distancing is visible. The skytrain is empty. We sit alone with our luggage and when we reach the ferry, it's the same story. All services are cancelled. We sit in a corner far away from everyone and eat our trail mix. In Victoria, upon exiting the terminal, the buses are waiting and we are directed to the back door - no contact with the driver, no fares required - just sit alone in the back and ride straight to our Airbnb. That's where we will stay for at least the next 14 days. We wish everyone health and comfort during these frightening times and hope you are all safe and settled. Stay virtually close to your family, friends, and online communities. It's important to reach out to those in need or feeling isolated, and to help them where you can. These times will bring out the best in all of us!

Louise Vachon and her husband Martin are from Victoria, Canada. They retired young to spend more time travelling after full careers in the Canadian Military. Since becoming house sitters in 2013, they love the sense of community, and all the wonderful pets they get to spend time with. You can find tales of their adventures on their website at and on their Facebook page.


Our daily exercise routine under lock-down version 1, involves a short four minute walk from our temporary home to the cliff tops overlooking the south Cornwall coast, with long walks along the coastal path. It was a very different outlook just a week ago.

Before lockdown Not long before lock-down in the UK, we finished the last of our house sits before the travel industry slowly started to fall apart, airlines stopped flying, forthcoming house sits were cancelled, and the inevitable happened‌ we became homeless. It wasn't a total shock. Our lifestyle meant, since setting out as full-time nomads seven years ago, that we'd been used to anticipating potential Plan B's. In this case, we headed to my mum's, only to discover the government would shortly be isolating the over 70's and more strictly those with vulnerabilities. Along with that came the stark realization that staying with mum long term would mean compromising her and her friend who has underlying health issues.

Time for Plan C! Mum lives in a retirement area in Somerset, along with a huge vacation industry comprising holiday homes, parks and caravan clubs. Easy we thought‌ let's just drive around the region and see if someone would rent us a temporary home. Surely there will be someone keen to recoup some money on their holiday home investment and help us out at the same time. We would then be close to help out if family needed us. We didn't allow for the fact, that whilst we had been preparing for Covid-19 to arrive in the UK, most of the country was still in denial. As part of a global travel community, we'd been watching since friends in China went on lockdown in January, and other countries around the world scrambled to deal with and close down the spread of this new virus. With a government down-playing both the severity and the urgency of action, it was clear many people thought they'd still be holidaying at Easter. Bookings were still in play with just a few rare cancellations, prices were as high as ever and out of our reach. The problem was compounded by many of the park homes being privately owned. It would be difficult to track down individual owners and find someone willing to accept that the holiday season was shortly to be stopped in its tracks, and see the mutual benefit of our offer of a lower monthly rental. With no sign of help in sight locally, we looked further afield by contacting Facebook groups supporting local second home owners, caravan parks, and Airbnb owners. Still no joy - a few offers, but not within our limited budget - Easter was still on most people's mind. I think it was like the idea of cancelling Christmas, of course Easter bookings would happen!

Help from the community While all of this was going on, we were aware of the growing unease in our House Sitting Community Support Group in Facebook, as sitters and home owners all over the world came to the realization that sits and travel plans were going to be cancelled. This would leave a huge community stranded in countries around the world, or even homeless. Like us, many were sensing the urgency and need to find somewhere temporarily to live. Nomads and house sitters around the world had the same concern‌ what if we had to quarantine ourselves or self-isolate with symptoms? We needed a home fast. There was reluctance in both of us to reach out to our community and friends when everyone had their own stresses to deal with, but I am so glad that we did. Through a friend in the US, we were able to secure a small, but lovely annex to a home in a tiny coastal village in the deepest south west. A place we could rent where we could live separately from the very generous owners who were willing to help by providing a longer term rental.

Sadly it's a long way from either of our mothers, but we are able to make sure that they are cared for online and locally in their communities. As both are over 80 and pretty much in total self isolation, we wouldn't be able to visit them - they need to stay home and safe. The sadness of this isolation from families hit us hard, but we could support them online, and help where possible to set up deliveries (actually providing much harder in reality), and check in regularly. My mum is set up with messenger and checks in with me every morning to let me know how she is! Within a few days in the UK, we had gone from receiving vague social distancing advice, to a more severe lock-down. It wasn't enough to convince all people to stay home, and now the police are being deployed to make sure those who still don't seem to understand or care about the risk, are kept off the streets. Who knows what's next, but I'm sure our lockdown will get more restrictive.

Normal doesn't exist for now Through all this we felt the best way we could give back was to keep our community forum running on Facebook and help people connect to find places to stay, and provide a place where members could get some comfort as anxiety levels soared among us. Fortunately, we have the most amazing team of moderators, based in different regions of the world, and they all pulled together to keep spirits up, provide relevant resources and advisories, and provide the much needed support we, as virtual friends, needed behind the scenes. Working flat out, answering messages and trying to stay on top of situations changing by the hour, kept us distracted. But I noticed a subtle underlying anxiety that I just couldn't shift. My mind kept saying, 'tomorrow the anxiety will have passed and things will be normal again'. It hit hard, when one evening I came to the realization that this was NOT going to be the case. Normal doesn't really exist for any of us at the moment. I recognized the feelings and the emotions. Having lost dad quite suddenly almost a year earlier to the day, I became aware that this sense of foreboding was all too familiar. This was confirmed by reading some of the accounts of healthcare workers in China and Italy. These brave souls are enduring a far worse situation than we could ever imagine. I'm at a loss as to how to show gratitude to the people working on the front-line. But to a lesser degree we are all suffering. We are seeing our lives change, the prospect of months of separation from family and friends, loss of freedom, fears around death, our own and of family members, loss of financial stability and jobs. It's like having every bad stressor arrive in your life all at the same time. This continual anxiety has now been likened by psychologists as experiencing never ending grief. I cry a lot at the moment and know others that do so too - the daily death tolls in the UK and Europe have made it hard not to. It's important to let that in. What we and maybe you are feeling, in whatever form it's taking, isn't bad, it certainly isn't wrong, and it's not a "pull yourself together" moment.

But it can be managed in all but the worst of cases. I'm not experienced in this field, but I've found a lot of information online to help. It's important to say too, that while this isn't the case for everyone, but everyone should be mindful that people around them may be affected and experiencing mental health problems in some form or other. These feelings of anxiousness come as a result of continuous uncertainty, lack of cohesive direction from our governments, and fear for our families and friends and the whole of humanity.

Don't underestimate the stress That's a shit load of stress for any one of us to deal with! It's really not to be under-estimated. On top of this we've all had to come to terms with information and restrictions changing, sometimes by the hour, and we all have different acceptance strategies and tolerances. Or even denial. Ian wrote about this here, if you'd like to read more on this topic.

A huge unsolvable puzzle Author and blogger, Chris Guillebeau sent out an email and in it he quoted a comment from someone called 'Andrew' on his Facebook page‌ "There's a 1,000 piece puzzle. On one side is a map of the world, on the other is a picture of you. Trying to solve the puzzle for the world is almost impossible. Solving the puzzle for you is simpler, and achievable. By solving the puzzle for you, the world's solution also comes through." I can see now I've been trying to solve the problem for the world over the last week or so, and my levels of anxiety were through the roof. I'd gone from being calm, sensible and acting with a fairly level head, to absolute rage overnight at the people who were flouting the advisories to stay at home. I couldn't understand why they couldn't see the damage they were doing, putting our loved ones and health workers at risk. It was important to let this rage out and have my say, but now I'm heeding the wise advice in the puzzle analogy and looking at the smaller picture, not the overwhelming global scenario.

Creating space for compassion I'm giving space to people struggling with acceptance, and seeing just what a huge, unprecedented task this is to manage world-wide. I'm trying to focus each day on the positive actions and the coming together of people in unity, that have emerged from this catastrophe. Helping our families and loved ones, friends, the members of our house sitting community and those in our local environment is our primary focus. That's enough for now. So today, when I walked along the cliff top, I saw butterflies, as they danced across the sky in beautiful harmony. I saw butterflies because I've allowed some space and at least for today, a little calm into my life. There is a feeling of a little certainty in our routines as we settle into our personal version of lock-down. But I am well aware that this moment of space and peace could be shattered at any moment with more bad news, so it's to be treasured. Sadly this isn't going away anytime soon, and the world may not be quite the same for some while. We all need to take care of ourselves, and that way we can help take care of other. Please follow the advice to stay home and save lives. It's not that difficult to do. The sooner we get this virus contained, the sooner we might be able to resume our lives with at least a little more freedom in our home countries. Stay positive and stay safe ‌ we have an awesome house sitting community and we look forward to seeing you all out there again one day soon.

Vanessa, together with her partner Ian have, since 2016, been publishers of House Sitting Magazine, a free online publication for the global house sitting community. Alongside the magazine they provide a range of resources and courses where you can discover more about house sitting and how to live a nomadic lifestyle. As global travelers who have been house sitting full-time in countries all over the world for the past seven years, they are currently hunkered down back in the UK to ride-out the pandemic.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR PET ENGAGED DURING LOCKDOWN by John Woods With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many pet parents around the globe have found themselves overwhelmed by the lockdown restrictions. Although the rules of isolation vary from government to government, and country to country, many pet owners have been allowed only one walk with their pets during the day, which calls for some improvised home-based entertainment. If you've been looking for engaging and quality ways to occupy yourself and your pet, here are some simple ideas to help you pass the time and creatively enrich your lockdown days.

Compensate for the lack of walks Dog owners understand the struggle. If you live in a flat, you've probably walked your dog at least three times a day (possibly even more) before the lockdown. Luckily, there are ways to help your pooch overcome the lack of physical activity and bathroom breaks.

Puppy owners may find this more difficult as puppies tend to be extremely energetic, active, and need toilet breaks every two hours. To help your little rascal deal with the "zoomies", you can try out a puppy playpen in your flat, which you can fill in with toys, chewing ropes, blankets, and even put a potty training pad there. In many countries it's still possible to get deliveries online of pet products. A playpen will keep your pup occupied and allow it to move around freely without making any mess around your flat. It also gives the dog a sense of privacy, as their playpen becomes their own space to keep. To make up for the lost cardio workouts, using a treadmill (if you have one) is an excellent way to exercise dogs, especially large breeds like German Shepherds> or giant breeds like the Afghan Hound. It may take a few tries for them to get the hang of it, but eventually, your dog will take a liking to treadmill exercising.

Utilize toys and pet accessories Now is the time to make good use of all the squeaky and chewing toys you've got lying around. You can also improvise by turning some household items, like string, bouncy balls, and boxes, into engaging pet playthings. Cats in particular love boxes. So long as they're safe and not a choking hazard. Cats generally enjoy chasing and tossing things around. Also, anything suitable for scratching and climbing on is welcome. You can attach a shuttlecock on a string or yarn and swing it around. The classic red laser pointer or flashlight dot is always fun for a cat to chase and stimulate their prey drive. When enclosed, dogs mostly enjoy activities that involve fetching, catching, and tugging. Use an old cloth, a rubber pull toy, or a rope and play "Tug of War". This is a multi-engaging activity that not only keeps your dog busy but also provides mental and physical enrichment if done correctly. ] A good idea is to pick a toy or item that will only be used for this game. You can also control the dog's tugging instinct by teaching a release command, like "stop," or "drop it."

Be creative with games A lockdown is a perfect time to utilize your creativity and take up something fun for both the family and the pet. Agility training games, such as a DIY obstacle course, can easily be set indoors or in your garden. If you have children, this could be a great family activity to keep everyone occupied and entertained. Obstacle courses are fantastic for hamsters and mice but are fun enough for cats and dogs too. Use some cones, chairs, plastic containers, or baskets to make jumping, tunnel and weaving obstacles, ramps, and partitions. You can even let your kids compete with the pet, or keep your pet's score, etc. This is also a good time to get your kids more involved in caring for your pets if they haven't been part of the feeding or exercise routines.

Simple games like hide-and-seek and fetch are also great to get the adrenaline rushing. Make sure to reward your dog with a treat when it finds you or successfully brings back a toy or an item.

Don't forget the need for mental stimulation Mind-stimulating activities can be just as tiring as physical. You can play search games with your pets, like a scavenger hunt for animals. Hide some delicious treats around the house and let the dog or cat find its way around. You can also play the shell game by hiding a reward under one of the three cups, then move them around and let the dog guess where the treat is. What's more, you can use the spare time you have to catch up with training. You could start with this very effective FREE course from Doggy Dan, a well-known dog trainer from New Zealand. A simple paw shake is a good command to start with, or you can upgrade the "fetch" game by naming some toys and teaching the dog to retrieve them by memorizing the names. Although cats are generally more self-sufficient and stubborn, there are ways to teach them some cute tricks. For example, clicker training showed to be a useful training technique that basically works on the principle of conditioning with treats, constant repetition, then teaching the animal to perform a command by responding to a click sound.

Remember to look on the bright side There are always both positive and negative sides of a situation. The same goes for this pandemic crisis. You can decide to lament over the good days spent outdoors, or you can fuel your creative mind and optimize the free time you have on your hands to make everything easier for the whole family. When it comes to pets, their mood will mostly depend on how you, as the owner, handle them and stimulate their mind and body. Therefore, use these nifty ideas to turn the lockdown into a positive experience.

John Woods is the Founder of All Things Dogs and leads the editorial team as an Editor in Chief. John has also volunteered at multiple animal shelters, where he gained firsthand experience of rehabilitation and force-free positive reinforcement training methods.

THE FUTURE HAS NOT BEEN WRITTEN by Ian Usher The man's face is haggard from fatigue, as he holds the woman's wrist tight and looks deep into her eyes, forcing her to pay attention, desperate to get his message through to her. "Listen and understand. [It] is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever..." For Sarah Connor, in the 1984 movie The Terminator, this is the moment she finally begins to believe what Kyle Reese it telling her. She begins the process of acceptance of what is to come.

Listen and understand... This is the point we are at in the current crisis playing out across the world today as coronavirus continues to grow, and death counts continue to rise in many countries. Those battling to save lives under incredibly difficult conditions as medical supplies run low, and ventilators are desperately sought, need us to listen. They are desperate for us to understand. Their message: We're still a long way from this being over.

But at the same time political pressure is pushing many countries to begin the discussion of when they can relax the lockdown rules and travel restrictions in order to "open up the economy". At the moment there is no real certainty about how (or even if) this will work. Many of us will now face a significant challenge in coming to terms with this new world reality. And a huge part of the difficulty in adjusting is that we just don't know how long our lives are going to be impacted by this crisis. Adjusting to any changing situation, especially one involving a huge element of the unknown, can be very similar to dealing with grief. We have to go through a series of emotions before we reach a level of true acceptance that allows us to think clearly again, and make decisions based on reason and planning, rather than fear.

The six stages of awareness I'm going to quickly paraphrase a great article by Chris Martenson in which he outlines "The 6 Stages of Awareness":

Stage 1) Denial In the early days of the international spread of the pandemic many people simply refused to believe that the virus would have any significant impact on them. Everything, they argued, was being blown out of all proportion. Anyone who made any sort of prediction about a terrible future was being "alarmist", or was already "panicking".

Take a look at the words and actions of one particular president... you know who I mean... who in the early stages of the spread of the virus, believed, and stated publicly several times, the numbers would drop to zero, and the virus would simply "go away". Now there is little denial about the impact the virus will have, but there is a great deal of wishful thinking about a "V-shaped economic recovery" and a quick return to normal. I believe that this is another level of denial, and that things are going to be very different for a long time into the future. See our "Future of travel and house sitting" article here.

Stage 2) Anger At this stage of awareness people will become more aggressive in their denouncement of those trying to sound the alarm. They just don't want to hear about it. This is when even those confident in their dire predictions for the future might decide to stay silent. Anger often manifests itself in the form of ridicule from those not yet ready to accept what is obvious to others.

Stage 3) Bargaining In this stage, as the anger fades, we try to convince ourselves that all will be OK. We're house sitters, we'll always have somewhere to stay. Flights will be back in the air soon, the government will help by bailing out the airlines. Our pension fund will be protected.

Stage 4) Fear Fear is a very natural instinct, and has helped keep our species alive over the millennia. But it can also be debilitating, reducing us to a state where we are unable to make rational decisions. Maybe we rush out and buy as many toilet rolls as we can get our hands on, simply because others are doing so. We don't think clearly in a state of fear.

Stage 5) Depression At some point most people will pass through the "We're all doomed!" stage. The reaction we have is to wonder if there is any point in trying to do anything at all to help ourselves. This is the most important stage to get through as quickly as possible, because is serves us no purpose at all. Fear can at least jolt us in to some sort of action. Depression just stops us in our tracks.

Stage 6) Acceptance Finally you will accept that, yes, this situation is real, yes, the future is uncertain, and yes, there is plenty you can do to help yourself and your loved ones. This is when you will be able to think clearly again, and make the decisions you need to make in order to deal with the situation. At that point you'll be able to take decisive action, or be prepared to do so when the opportunity presents itself.

A new reality Vanessa and I began our process of acceptance at the end of January, when a newsletter I receive regularly alerted me to a small viral outbreak growing in Wuhan, China. I was initially interested, as Vanessa and I lived in China for a year in 2015, but I soon became concerned as I learned more about the nature of the virus. Since 24th January Vanessa I have watched Dr. Chris Martenson's daily video updates as the virus began to spread. Chris has been level-headed and realistic. Yet in the early stages he was often ridiculed as a fear-monger. However, watching his calm, informative, thought-provoking videos helped us make our own decisions about what we needed to do to prepare, both mentally and in practical terms. It feels like Vanessa and I had a period of 6 or 7 weeks to adjust to the idea that the virus was coming, and accept its impact was going to be huge. We passed through both the denial and bargaining stages, but seemed to skip the anger. We experienced a bit of fear, and on occasion we've both felt a bit down too. We're currently on Plan D, or is it perhaps Plan E? We had to quickly re-think plans when a UK lockdown was fast approaching, but our earlier acceptance meant we were in good shape to make quick, informed decisions Now we're trying to develop acceptance of the idea that things aren't going back to "normal" any time soon. We're keeping an eye on developments, and we often talk through possible choices we may have to make, possible changes we may have to deal with, and possible opportunities that might come our way. Once again we feel we are approaching full acceptance of this new reality, and that we are prepared to deal with a future which will most likely be very different to the past. Everybody deals with emotions differently. Some will pass through the 6 stages of acceptance quickly, some will get mired in their anger or fear, and it will take longer to reach a true understanding of the new reality. At times you will find yourself returning to an earlier stage, maybe becoming angry again, or feeling the fear return. This is all natural, but as time progresses you'll find yourself spending more time in stage 6, and will be able to cope with whatever challenges are thrown at you from a position of strength, rather than a place of fear or denial. That's when you can begin to help others reach this point too. We're all going to need to help each other through these stages as the world continues to change around us. Some of you reading this will already be well on the way to fully comprehending the situation, and for those of us who are, it is our duty to help the others to move through to full acceptance as quickly as possible.

I'm also sure some of you reading this will think I'm just another person who is "panicking", and will brand me a fear-monger. Of course things are going to go back to normal, you think, and everything is going to be just the same as before. I truly hope you are right.

The future has not been written In the final scene of The Terminator (1984), Sarah Connor has completed her journey to acceptance of the dark future that lies ahead. "What did he say?" she asks the garage attendant, after a little boy says something in Spanish to her. "He says there's a storm coming," the attendant replies. Sarah pauses in calm contemplation, gazing at the darkening horizon, and finally replies... "I know."

Sarah Connor completely accepts there is a dark and unknown future ahead, but also knows, from one of the key tag lines from the Terminator franchise, that "the future has not been written". In terms of our own future, we are off the edge of the map now, and have no idea what comes next. But I think we can be pretty confident that the next few years will completely different to the last few years. We all need to be adaptable and flexible, and work on accepting that change has been thrust upon us. And we need to help each other through those changes and challenges that lie ahead of us.


"Many of you will fall asleep vowing that the very first thing you'll do as soon as lockdown is over is file for divorce." This was possibly the only line in the compelling article, written by Francesca Melandri on her experience during this COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, that made me smile. Not because divorce is anything to smile about you understand, but because, when we began our journey as travel nomads over five years ago, that's exactly how I felt on too many times to count. I'm sure Ian, my husband, felt the same way too. Living together 24/7 as we are being asked to do now, to help flatten the curve of this virus, is an art. And I'm not being smug when I say that. It takes patience, love, devotion, organisation and the foresight to hide all the sharp knives when things get really tough! "How do you manage being with each other all day every day"?

Even before Covid-19 took hold, it was still the question we got asked the most. Let's face it, we went from having full-time jobs where we hardly ever saw each other (when weekends were spent cooking, cleaning and seeing friends and family), to travelling full time and being with each other every hour of every day! It was pretty much from one extreme to another. Sound familiar? But maybe we've just been in training for this COVID-19 outbreak for the last five years! Whilst some people are already at the end of their tether, for us, being placed on lockdown whilst house sitting here in France, has simply been business as usual. Being stuck in one place with your family right now might be your idea of heaven, but it isn't that way for everyone. So here are a few tips on how you can get through these difficult times, and remain socially responsible‌ and that means, no escaping into the wider world!

Create structure in your day It's been proven that structuring your day improves your mental health. Building a routine keeps you grounded. It provides comfort, a sense of the familiar, and can reduce stress. For those working from home, you'll already have something akin to a structure already planned for you. For those new to remote working, you're going to feel a whole lot better if you have mini "goals" to achieve daily, believe me.

These goals can be something you to do together as a couple, or on your own. Just don't forget to schedule times to periodically reconnect with each other!

Divvy out the daily chores As well as structuring your day, it will definitely help to stick as close to your pre-virus routine as you can. No fighting over who is going to escape to do the supermarket shop! But seriously, trying to retain a semblance of normality during lockdown is important, so divide the chores between you and the rest of the family (if you have them around) and make that the backbone of your day. The key here is to play to each other's strengths. Take the chores each of you enjoy doing, or that are best at. I'm the best cook (sorry Ian) - unless we're talking curry and then the spicemeister comes into his own. But I also enjoy it, so for us, it's a given that I'll take on the culinary duties. Just don't ask me to wash the dishes afterwards!

Laughter is the best medicine Charlie Chaplin once quipped, "A day without laughter is a day wasted." And that's certainly the way we see it too. If you let the fact that you're effectively incarcerated get to you, then there's a good chance you'll take it out on each other. So learn to see the funny side of these enforced situations. We're British and have a natural ability to laugh at ourselves - and of course, others when they deserve it. Ian comes from a part of England that's renowned for its humour. And I admit that I do have a tendency to take myself rather seriously at times. His answer is, whenever appropriate, to take the piss. But this is not a one way street. The banter goes both ways! Organising online catch-ups with friends and family is great fun and a way to inject that laughter into your lives. Everyone is in the same boat, so there's plenty of gallows humour going around right now. And there's no excuse to say that you don't have the time. Having a laugh is what we do best. It's a key component of our relationships - with each other, our friends, and our family. If we didn't joke and have a bit of banter with them, life would soon get boring. We managed to have an impromptu dinner party the other night with some friends of ours, thanks to the medium of FaceTime! With the added bonus that they couldn't drink our wine!

Stake out your territory OK I'm going to use the "U" word. This virus is unprecedented. And so, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

You need to stake a claim on part of the house you're sharing for yourself. If you're going to escape this crisis without murdering each other, you'll need your own space. Hiding in the closet is not a long term solution!

I cannot stress how important this is to me. As the eldest of four children, I absolutely cherish peace and quiet. I actively seek it out and prefer to work in silence. Ian, on the other hand, likes to listen to music, which can become a problem for me. I spend more time grumbling like an old bag about his choice of music than I do concentrating on what I'm doing. Another reason to create your own space... and to seek out those noise-cancelling headphones you've been promising to treat yourself to! Deciding where each of you are going to work, research or simply idle your time away during "alone times" is the easy part. Sticking to it is the toughie. As a rule of thumb, try not to go and plonk yourself next to your significant other and begin a conversation about a certain World Leader's latest deranged ramblings,. Especially when she's finally got around to Google translating the instructions for a recipe she picked up in Peru. If you're working from home, this is even more important. No-one on a conference call needs to see your partner flouncing past in their tighty whities, do they?!

Take it slow The great thing about social isolation is you can move to the beat of your own drum. If you want a duvet day, there's literally nothing stopping you. If you want to stay in your jammies all day, why not? If you want to use this time to have a long promised clear out of unnecessary "stuff", or to redecorate your house (having had the foresight to buy the materials before lockdown) then do it! These are strange times. It's going to take you a while to find your own rhythm, so be kind to yourself. You'll figure out what works for you soon enough.

Exercise With social distancing comes social responsibility. We are not supposed to be interacting with each other outside our households. Gyms‌ those hallowed palaces of sweat, are closed. And, for many of us, our daily walks or hikes have been curtailed due to government restrictions. Even cycling has been banned here in France, a tough call for what is arguably the world's biggest cycling nation.

Ian figured out his exercise routine early on in our journey. He devised a routine which is a mixture of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and resistance band work. But, there are plenty of classes popping up online. Joe Wickes (aka The Body Coach) on YouTube, has transformed himself into the UK's PE teacher for the benefit of school kids and their parents. Or you'll find a number of 30-day exercise challenge apps if you need motivation to keep you in the zone. Whatever your normal routine, see if you can replicate it at home. Exercise can be great fun, and extremely beneficial to your mental health - especially if you're lucky enough to be able to do it outdoors.

Take some "me time" Naturally we are talking about physical health a lot at the moment, but mental health is just as, if not more important. And finding that "me time" is something many of us struggle with. During all of this upheaval, it's easy to lose yourself and put everyone else and their needs first. Worrying about older parents who won't do as they're told, or kids and grandkids who are struggling to balance home education with the pressures of working from home. It's easy to lose sight of your own basic needs. The simplest way to find that much needed time, is to build it into your daily routine. It doesn't need to be a big deal, but it is SO very important. It can be something as simple as drinking your cup of tea in the morning without interruption, meditating, reading a book, exercising, or cooking. These are all great ways to take quality time for yourself, where you very specifically meet your own needs.

This isn't being selfish. When you are living in such close proximity to others, it's absolutely necessary. Give yourself that gift.

Don't forget to communicate, you're a team Whether you like it or not, you're in this together. There's nowhere to run to if you need to let off steam. So, if something is bothering you, you need to communicate it, because letting those little frustrations build up is not advisable. By the same token, choose your battles wisely. Does it really matter if she's left her dirty cup in the sink for you to wash up? I can guarantee, you are going to get on each other's very last nerve. In fact, I believe that rage hoovering is quite the thing nowadays. So find an appropriate outlet and let it go. Remember‌ the lawyers' office is closed and the neighbours are all at home watching you. There's not a chance you can dig a six-foot hole in the garden and not be detected! Patience is a virtue!

Nicky Mackenzie is one half of Above Us Only Skies, a world travel blog for travelers, would-be travelers and anybody else with a curious interest in ditching the routine and exploring our planet. She’s been traveling since 2015 with her husband Ian, backpacking, house sitting and road tripping their way, slowly around the world. And, at just under five feet fall, she remains in search of that magical growth serum. Has a theory that stretching out on a tropical beach for hours on end might just do the trick. Deluded. Check out their website at or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


It's easy to get lost in a sea of swirling emotions. Especially when our lives shift beyond recognition and we're forced to face potential loss in the form of friends, family, freedom, liberties, health, wellness, money, plans and opportunities. We have to navigate what I call the 5 D's - different, difficult, discomfort, doubt and disappointment. Each of these has powerful emotions attached to them. Different - When life as we know it changes completely, we often feel alienated and alone in our new situation and circumstances. Difficult - Things become instantly more difficult when our free will choice is taken away from us. You may love spending time alone by choice, but when it is imposed upon you, it can become a difficult matter, because you feel you are being forced. When things become difficult we often become more self conscious, critical of ourselves and very judgmental.

Discomfort - When things are taken away from us, we are ousted from our "comfort zones" and into our "courage zones". There is a multiplier effect when this happens across all areas of our lives - mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, financially, vocationally and with family. This deep discomfort can shift us into a space of fear and vulnerability. Doubt - When we feel fear our higher order thinking gets shut down. So our ability to make logical decisions diminishes. Our vision literally narrows as our nervous system prepares us to take flight. So options and opportunities fade out of view. We retreat into a space of insecurity and indecisiveness. This can lead to poor decision making, especially in respect of what we are feeding ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. Disappointment - So many wonderful travel plans and opportunities have been cancelled. Friends, families and financial opportunities are under threat. These disappointments can be debilitating, leaving us disillusioned and / or devastated. The 5 D's can have a mob affect, they often hang out together. The result is that we get overwhelmed by powerful emotions which can derail us. This leaves us feeling immobilised on the couch, bingeing on snacks, alcohol and Netflix!

How do we manage our way out of this? 1 Become Aware - Understanding what is going on inside of you makes things less scary. It is also the first step to regaining control of your thoughts and feelings.

2 Befriend Your EMotions - EMotions are just “Energy in Motion� which is why they are called "EMotions". They are the language of the "metaphysical body", meaning, it is how your heart, mind body and soul communicates. If you shut down or stifle your EMotions there is no way for all the parts of you to recalibrate and realign. 3 Adopt Soft Eyes - Try not to judge your EMotions as good or bad. Remember they are just energy in motion. When we judge our EMotions we fuel them. So they will last longer! 4 Curiosity Trumps Judgement - If you keep falling into judgement ... get curious. Curiosity is an invitation to see things differently. It gives you a different perspective or lens to view the situation you are in. This leads you away from judgement ... right or wrong, good or bad. 5 Witness Your EMotions - Like your thoughts, EMotions are like guests in a hotel. They come and they go! Some are easy to deal with, while others can be a little unruly! Either way, don't get attached to them. They are not you ... they are just passing on through! 6 Be Authentic - The best thing you can do is be authentic with your emotions. If you feel sad be OK with feeling sad. Don't put on a mask and pretend you are something different. Allow yourself to feel the Emotion, free from all judgement. 7 Feel It To Free It - Given that EMotions are "Energy in Motion", they need to move. This means you need to feel them to free them. Express them to release them. Find a quiet space and allow yourself to feel the emotion. Don't run the story attached to the EMotion ... just feel it ... free of judgement. Then express it to release it ... verbally, in writing, through song, dance, exercise, yoga ... whatever feels right for you. 8 Get out of your head and into your heart - The key to all these steps is doing them from your HEARTSPACE and not from your HEADSPACE. When you are in your head or your mind, you are evaluating, justifying and judging. All these build a narrative or story and this makes the emotion enduring. It fuels it and feeds it. When you work from your heartspace you feel the pure energy of the EMotion and this allows it to pass on through.

Jenny Lincoln helps people break free from past failures, fear, doubt and procrastination, so that they can live their full potential. A full time nomad, she travels around the world, writing, speaking and coaching leaders and achievers on how to move past their self imposed limitations. Her coaching and online programs give people the confidence and capability to step from their comfort zones into their courage zones so they can live the lives they were born to lead. You can download her new FREE 30 Days of Gratitude eJournal via Facebook or Instagram

REST, RELAX & RESET: WORKING THROUGH A CRISIS The innate skills of house sitters by Andrew Redfern

Over the past few weeks, most house sitters have been thrown into chaos as sits have been cancelled and travel plans thwarted, and many of us have had to scramble to find a place to stay. However, as things begin to settle, being a house sitter is an advantage in the current climate as the world changes drastically daily or even hourly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our house sitting lives up to this point have, in a way, been preparing us for circumstances such as these. Our skills and approach to life can put us ahead of the game as we navigate uncharted territories. Our skill-sets and outlook can and will be a great asset. What then are the characteristics of a house sitter that are useful in a crisis situation?

Adaptability When house sitting, our lives change every few weeks or months, so we are used to adapting and adjusting to our new environs. Admittedly, we now may be in the same place for extended periods but as circumstances change around us, we have the ability (and experience) to adapt to this change and modify our lives accordingly. Getting used to shopping differently or in a new supermarket is part of our regular lives so the current imposed restrictions are just part of our ever changing lives and we have the experience to roll with it.

Problem solving Solving problems in new homes and locations is part of our every day, sometimes even in languages other than our native tongue. As things change regularly, employing our usual approach of gathering information, making an informed decision and then acting can be a great way to "weather the storm". In fact, as we are essentially grounded, some of our more pressing problems have disappeared completely. Finding the cheapest way from A to B, or where we are going to stay when we don't have a sit, just aren't considerations now. But in the same way we do our due diligence before accepting a sit, that skill can now be useful in determining our everyday lives as we consider a range of possibilities before taking informed action. And don't forget, this action can also include taking no action at all.

Resilience The house sitting lifestyle has its ups and downs and we know that everything doesn't always go our way or to plan. This resilience, where we pick ourselves up again can help us through this difficult time. We have an understanding that this won't last forever so if we just hang in there, our lives will no doubt return to some semblance of normality. The concept of a "Plan B" (or even "Plan C") is not uncommon, as we are used to uncertainty. Just as if we are on a less than desirable sit, we know that unpleasantness will pass and we can endure uncomfortable times – for a while at least.

Technical knowledge As many grapple with Zoom and setting up home offices, for us, communicating digitally is our norm. In fact, online is usually our preferred mode of operation. We are familiar with bandwidth requirements and (usually) understand gigabits and megabits. Really, there is no transition for us, when the rest of the world is catching up to our way of doing things. In fact, we can even be a resource and help others who may be struggling. Embrace your geekiness!

Opportunist As house sitters, we never know where our life may take us or where our next house sitting gig may come from. This change in plans is another chance to seize opportunities, whether that be reconnecting physically with family, sorting out the storage space, or in our case, taking the chance to do some renovations on our rental apartment. Do you have paperwork or business affairs you've wanted to get in order, or a book you've always wanted to write – now is the time. Carpe Diem!

Appreciate downtime One benefit of the current situation, now we are settled, is that we can take advantage of the downtime and reset our lives. Perhaps we will have time to finally learn that new skill, take up a new hobby or even get our blog posts up to date. As we currently don't have to constantly be on our devices looking for and applying for our next sits, we can enjoy an afternoon nap, partake in regular cocktail hours, do an extra long yoga practice, read a book, or whatever it is that allows us to fully relax. A house sitters routine often already includes these activities, sometimes regarded as luxury pursuits. Now they are becoming the norm and reality of almost everyone.

Community driven One thing that new house sitters soon discover is the wonderful community that exists around this lifestyle. Connecting online with others is a key component of that. This means we already have a network of people to talk to, ask questions of, and even video chat with to keep grounded.

We understand the importance of connection and in these times of social distancing there are still things we can do to build our communities, both physical and virtual. Inventive ways of connecting such as virtual lunches and online trivia games show we are determined to not be isolated. As we settle in to new physical communities we can also be a support network to each other and those around us. An elderly neighbour may need some shopping done, a person working from home may appreciate their pet being walked, or even sharing your experiences with an anxious friend can all be extremely useful to those in times of need. And don't forget the homeowners we have already sat for and those we will hopefully sit for in the future. Maintaining communication with owners is an important part of community building. Our experience has been that owners who have had to cancel are still keen for us to sit for them in the future. As we have already established international connections, it is also a good way to find out what is happening "on the ground" in various countries around the world. It has been very heartening to receive emails from owners, past and future who are keen to know what we are doing and how we are adjusting to a new normal. Even some of our social media followers have reached out to find out what full time international travellers do in times like these.

Minimalist by nature Living with only a few of life's luxuries is part of the house sitting lifestyle, so there may be no transition required to continue this minimalist way of living. As we see people panic buying and hoarding, our experience has shown us that we only need to buy what is necessary and we can make do with what we have. For those of us who live out of our suitcases, we have all the clothes we need anyhow and can put down roots wherever required – not much has changed. Admittedly we may have the additional expense of rent but we no longer have travel costs or accommodation expenses between sits. Our eating out expenses will also be curtailed as we eat more simple meals at home, including finding creative ways to use leftovers – meat fritters anyone?

A changing world I think we all recognise that the world has changed and house sitting in the future may be a little different. During our house sitting lives we have loved the possibility of adventure and change so the coming months and years will be no different. The Chinese meaning for the word crisis is "danger at a point of juncture." So whilst we live in challenging times, it also indicates that it is a turning point. Hopefully that will ultimately mean positive changes for our world. As house sitters we are well positioned to contribute to this positive change. So rest, relax, reset and as we emerge from the crisis in the months ahead may we embrace the opportunities that will no doubt come our way. As house sitters we are well positioned to

navigate these changes and use them constructively to hopefully bring about greater world peace and harmony. You've got this – hang in there!

This article was originally published on and is reproduced here with permission.

Andrew & Christopher, known as Global Wanderers have been adventure travelling together since 2004 and house sitting full time internationally since 2016. You can keep up with their adventures at their website, or via Facebook and Instragram @globalwanderersoz

THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL & HOUSE SITTING by Ian Usher & Vanessa Anderson

It's hard to believe it's little over a month since international travel changed beyond any comprehension, as the world slowly closed down and globalization took a step backwards. It just goes to show how in the blink of an eye, our lives can be dramatically altered. Travellers have had to adapt quickly to ever changing travel restrictions, government advisories, and news about social distancing and hygiene measures. For a while it seemed like every day we awoke to new guidelines that clamped right down on our freedom of movement around the world. It really has been like waking up as an extra in the movie Contagion. Slowly though, as airlines have reduced their flights, borders have closed, and lock-downs are now the new norm for many of us, we've finally regained at least a little consistency in our lives. There is now some space to contemplate and consider what all this means to the future of our travel-based lifestyles.

Most of what follows in this article is merely our opinion of where our uncertain future might lead us, and how things might unfold. You may have a different opinion, and you may be right. We're all just guessing for now.

Factors for consideration 1) The virus This new coronavirus is obviously one of the first things to consider as we contemplate when we may be able to return to a lifestyle resembling anything like we had before. Our "return to normal" does depend on how successful the containment measures are worldwide. At the moment, with about half of the world's population under some sort of lockdown or restrictions on travel, the goal is to "flatten the curve" - to reduce the number of infections in order to prevent health systems becoming overwhelmed. There are early signs of success, with encouraging reports from some countries that are "past the peak", where numbers of new infections and deaths are beginning to drop or level off. But we mustn't confuse this reduction in numbers with the idea that the worst is behind us. This reduction only indicates that these tough restrictive measures are having an effect. Lifting the controls too soon carries the serious risk of unleashing the virus once again, allowing numbers to grow once more in an exponential manner. So rather than thinking this will all be over in a few short weeks, it seems much more realistic to expect restrictions on freedom of movement to be a part of our lives for a significant period of time. There are only two practical ways we regain our complete freedom, and both are a long way off: 1. An effective vaccine is created, or 2. We reach "herd immunity" Let's take a quick look at both of these, as the timescale of any outcome has a direct impact on everything else in our lives over the coming months, or years. Production of an effective vaccine The timescale of "12 to 18 months" has become a commonly quoted estimate for producing a vaccine. It's important to remember that at 12 months, this would be a world record. 18 months is a good estimate if things go well, including testing. It's been touted so much in the press that people have now simply assumed that we WILL have this vaccine in 18 months, but it could well be longer than this too. Successful worldwide distribution of will also depend on each country having the funding and ability to produce and administer a vaccine successfully to at least 80% of their population.

This is a world where we haven't been able to produce enough masks and other PPE equipment to protect our healthcare workers and general population! We suspect some countries will be able to benefit from a vaccine much more quickly than others. The other big hope – herd immunity When enough people have been infected by the virus and have recovered, it is hoped they will be immune to further infection, no longer spreading the virus to others. At current levels of testing it is very hard to know how far along this course we are, but early studies suggest we have a long way to go. It is still unconfirmed that having the virus once confers complete immunity, or whether it is possible to be re-infected. Remember, the common cold is also a coronavirus. In conclusion then, restrictions are probably going to be a part of our lives for at least the next year or so, possibly longer.

2) Border controls As the virus spreads across the world, countries are affected at different times, to varying degrees. For example in April now, Europe and the USA are in the middle of the raging storm, battling to control numbers and dealing with huge daily death tolls.

By comparison, Australia and New Zealand are currently dealing with much smaller numbers, and aren't facing the health system overwhelm that is such a concern for places like the UK. If countries like Australia and New Zealand have closed their borders early enough, and implemented lockdown restrictions in time, they may just be able to keep things under control. However, they are unlikely to open their borders any time soon as this could open them up to an influx of potential new cases from Europe or the USA. In fact Australia only yesterday (12th April) reported that their citizens should be expecting "to see much more of their own country" when restrictions are eased, as it could be a long time before borders are opened to the rest of the world. You can read more about that here: From this article: "Australians will have to wait until the end of this year or beyond to restart overseas travel... Travel restrictions could be eased within states if efforts to slow the spread of the virus succeed in the months ahead, but travel across state borders and outside Australia will face tough bans for the longer term." Each country will have their own ideas on how best to protect themselves, and these ideas are likely to involve lots of restrictions.

3) Personal attitude Many people suggest they will be keen to resume their travel lifestyle again if freedom of movement returns. However, it is possible there will also be a significant proportion of people who won't feel so at ease travelling by airplane, or be as comfortable using other forms of public transport because continuing with social distancing will be difficult. It is also looking increasingly possible that all travel will involve the wearing of masks, as it does in many Asian countries. This crisis is going to change how many of us think and act. These new habits are going to impact many of our personal choices. Just for starters:     

Would you be comfortable booking a cruise just because they have some great deals on offer? How far ahead will you book flights, and would you be concerned about potential financial failure of the airline? Would you prefer to work online as much as possible in future? Will you still be comfortable eating in a restaurant, if they open for business again? Do you think you may need to save more funds for future potential problems, and to give yourself more resilient Plan B options?

We will all have our own personal responses to this crisis, and how we decide to act going forward. Current ideas for your own personal plans will obviously revolve around how you imagine this all plays out. As we write this article, many countries are already discussing "opening up" and "getting the economy going".    

How do you think this will go? Will we soon be back to "business as usual"? Will we experience "a V-shaped recovery", or will there be a slow climb return to "normal"? Could governmental decisions plunge us into a 1930's-style financial depression? Are we ultimately looking at a new travel reality?

We increasingly think that the short- to mid-term outlook for travel and house sitting is pretty bleak. While we really hope to be wrong about this, with everything currently weighed up, it does look more and more likely that things will be very different moving forward. Long-term is anyone's guess right now...

4) The travel (and entertainment) industry in general There are currently so many unknowns right now that everything that follows is pure conjecture. It is, however, based on A LOT of reading and online research. After all, we've had quite a bit of spare time on our hands! What we've found is that most research simply produces more in the way of questions than answers:     

 

Will airlines survive, receive government bailouts, or go under financially? Can governments continue to support all vulnerable companies for an unknown duration? How will cruise lines, rail companies and bus networks return to normal operation and under what conditions? Will we require "immunity passports" or a "certificate of travel" as suggested by the UK and France? How will hotels return to normal operation, running restaurants and bars with necessary social distancing, cleaning accommodation rooms and bathrooms to the required hygiene levels? Will Airbnb hosts be happy to allow strangers in to their homes without a vaccine in place? What about the future of entertainment – sports events, concerts, other large events, theatres and cinemas?

So much of travel revolves around restaurants, bars and tourist attractions. How will they begin to operate with the necessary safety measures in place? Many restaurants run on short margins, needing a high turnover of customers to make them financially viable. If social distancing and masks continue to be required, tables may be limited with more spacing required, as we've seen in some food malls in Asia. How do you even eat if masks are mandatory in public places? There are just so many things to be considered. For further thoughts on the future of travel, you might also like to read this recent article by Ian Mackenzie of Above Us Only Skies: COVID19 - What next for travel.

How will COVID-19 impact house sitting? House sitting runs hand in hand with travel and so there's no doubt that how we respond to travel over the next few years will have a profound effect on the way house sitting recovers and changes. This is a key question for us and many others. People will not completely stop travelling. But international travel will undoubtedly take a significant period of time to recover.

If home owners decide to reduce, or even cancel, some of their travel plans, there will be less house sits posted on the house sitting platforms. This decision not to travel might even be forced upon home owners by travel restrictions, financial circumstances, or simply because of their personal attitude towards hygiene and safety. Similarly, it might be that some house sitters and retirees decide to take a break, settle for a while in their previously rented out homes, opting for some short to medium term security while they see how things pan out. That could conversely result in less competition for sits. Even if people are able to travel overseas for emergency or work reasons, there will be potential considerations we've not had to really think much about when we were able to experience cross-border travel freedom. Think what might happen should you travel overseas and inadvertently contract the virus. It's highly possible the virus will re-emerge in hot-spots, as happened in northern Italy. Will you need to quarantine yourself on return? Could all this result in house sitters needing to stay longer than expected, impacting forward travel plans, booked tickets and insurance cover? This could also work detrimentally in reverse. House sitters may themselves get ill and need to self isolate beyond the length of the house sit.

What this means to full-time sitters For full-timers, it's possible that back-to-back sits will be more difficult for a while and we may have to allow longer breaks between sits to cover unexpected delays. This means Plan B's and C's, along with emergency backup funds for alternative accommodation, will be even more important when organizing travel and sits. Those who house sit with mobile homes or vans are likely to benefit in the short-term, especially in countries that have more space for larger vehicles, such as Australia, New Zealand and rural parts of the US.

Declaring your travel and medical history We've already heard of home owners asking for more details about a house sitter's travel history (up to the point where lock-downs prevented movement). Questions were asked about travel from badly affected countries and potential risk that they might be asymptomatic as a result. So in the future, it might be that you'll be asked if you've had Covid-19, been in contact with anyone that has, or have responsibility for vulnerable family that might require you to leave suddenly. There is a lot of talk at the moment about having some sort of app or certification that will demonstrate that you've had the virus, tested negative, or ultimately had a vaccine (once developed), which will provide a solution to this.

Social impact on handovers The handover and sometimes the hand-back are often very social events for us. A time to get to know our homeowners, and the pets we are caring for. Will this change? We might initially find people less likely to entertain sitters before they travel. And sitters might want to leave before home owners return from their travels, especially if it involves an area where the virus hasn't been eradicated.

Adaptability and resilience We are a pretty adaptable community. Our skill-sets generally include both the resilience to cope with changing situations, and the ability to adapt, sometimes quickly, when necessary. For many of us long term house sitters, dealing with the isolation of lock-down hasn't posed too much of a problem. We are very used to planning ahead, remaining socially isolated and stocking up on food when transport is limited. We will simply need to assess the possible changes to the way in which house sitting reemerges once restrictions are finally eased. And this may be a staged process, and different depending on your citizenship, or where you are currently located in the world.

More domestic sits House sitting will no doubt be much more localised, especially in the first year or so. As people are prevented from travelling internationally until a vaccine is produced, vacations are much more likely to take place in the home country. It's possible that self-catering accommodation will become even more popular and acceptable to many. Vacationers will have control of the cleaning process, hygiene and cooking (where restaurant access may be less available than before in the initial phase of re-opening).

We also think there might be a resurgence of outdoor, nature type holidays‌ camping, holiday parks, boating holidays, glamping, motorhome roadtrips, etc. These are the types of holidays where many take their dogs along with them, so this again could result in less need for house sitters until people feel more confident, or are able to travel overseas.

Popular house sitting countries will thrive Those countries that have traditionally been very open to house sitting should thrive. There are plenty of options for travel within the USA, Canada, NZ, Australia, the UK etc. Europe may be off-limits for a while as each country currently has their own views on border restrictions. We are watching this carefully, especially as Brexit comes into play at the end of the year for us Brits.

As staycations become all the rage for a while, opportunities for house sits in individual countries should increase again, and possibly strengthen.

Less long term sits Competition for long term sits is likely to increase. With less opportunity to travel extensively across borders, longer trips may be out of the question for a while, unless someone is spending time at a second home, or family property in another country or area.

A rise in the number of short term sits One thing we haven't talked about, and no-one can really know for sure at this stage, is the financial fallout. Will people save their money rather than take multiple vacations each year, while they build their financial security again? There may just be less money around for a while for holidays and travel, which could result in shorter, less expensive holiday options in home countries.

Being pro-active now There are more questions than answers at the moment, but we know from experience that being prepared and thinking through the possible scenarios, generally sets you up to take action positively and pro-actively once house sits do open up again.

So what can you do to prepare for the comeback? Communication, as always, will be an important part of the house sitting process. Contact prior home owners in the country where you are sheltering, and see how they are faring. Reassure them that you are available whenever they are ready to travel, and that you are following all the practical guidelines for staying safe and healthy. Think about which platforms will serve you best moving forward. It might be time to try out and support a country-based website, where they exist. Become part of a strong house sitting community in a country where home-based travel will most likely continue. Take this time out to ramp up your profile, update the text, the photos etc., so that you are ready to make applications once travel freedom is reinstated, however, restricted that might initially be. Whatever happens, we believe house sitting will still exist but it's going to take time for home owners to think about and trust the system again, allowing for any new health guidelines that need to be considered. Our plan is to keep a close eye on how things develop over the coming months, and in to next year, and to adjust expectations accordingly. Because the shape of our "new normal" is anybody's guess right now... What do you think?

Some of you know that Ian Usher recently joined a panel of travel bloggers to discuss: The Future of Travel in a Post Covid World. The discussion was hosted by Tony Argyle from Travatical and joined by top travel blogger Barbara Weibel from Hole in the Donut Cultural Travels and Duncan Dempster-Smith from To Travel Too. Topics ranged from how travel will look in the future, whether there's still a place for cruising, what house sitting will look like moving forward, as well as current and future travel issues, such as types of accommodation and how they will meet health and hygiene issues. If you were unable to join the discussion, it is a fascinating talk, and you can watch the replay of the presentation here:


In May 2018, all hell broke out and our home, belongings, and entire neighborhood were engulfed in lava from the volcanic eruption of the Kilauea Volcano on the Island of Hawaii. We were not unaware of living in a volcanic zone, and like most residents close by, we accepted the possibility of an eruption. I don't think either one of us considered the risk as higher than we had faced living in California, having experienced both earthquakes and fires more than once. Unlike earthquakes and tornadoes, which occur with little to no warning and frankly really scare me, Kilauea has a history of very slow-moving eruptions that provide plenty of time to evacuate. There is a saying about Kilauea "you can out-run the lava at a brisk walk". During the 1980's the community of Kalapana moved an entire church out of the way of the slow-moving lava. Just a few years ago folks sat out on their lawn chairs, waiting for the lava to arrive in Pahoa Village, just like waiting for a parade. Thankfully, on that occasion, it stopped before entering the town.

As the latest eruption was slowly progressing, we were experiencing a multitude of daily earthquakes. They were mostly small, but now and then there were some good shakes. Then we had a 6.9 and I decided it was time to prepare by taking things down off shelves and walls and putting them into boxes.

Our house before

I was finding the idea of what to pack pretty overwhelming, it was just too much stuff. So, I came up with the idea that we should go around the house and mark things that were most important with blue painters tape. This way if/when the time came to evacuate we could leave without having to make major decisions about possessions. It seemed smart at the time, and developed into a somewhat insightful look into what we were actually attached to. Not surprisingly we didn't always agree. Our conversation which started with "Make sure you mark that antique such and such", turned into something like "Really, that's what you're taking?" As it turned out, just a few days later Kilauea surprised us all, including the volcanologist, unexpectedly bursting out with very fast-moving lava which made a right-hand turn and with no warning headed straight for our home.

After the eruption

We had almost no time to evacuate and ended up with only about 4 boxes and some miscellaneous items. It was a very intense and devastating time, but after a while you realize you can only sit on the floor and cry for so long, eventually you have to get up and move along. Our decision came when we hit the road as international house sitters. An idea that was presented to us by a couple we met at a guest house in Cuba some years ago. It was a brief encounter and we really didn't get to know them, but it turned out they had just started an online house sitting magazine. As you may have guessed by now, it was Vanessa and Ian. Our plan slowly formed as we took shelter at a friend's house, rented a small storage unit for our few possessions, and got on a plane. We have been traveling ever since. Recently we came back to Hawaii and had a chance to look at our remaining possessions. It was sad, funny, and somewhat ironic as we took stock of what we had chosen to save. What was most notable when looking though our boxes a year and a half later, is that we really could not remember why we picked one item and not another.

Why did I pack one single souvenir maraca? My grandparents had bought them while on a trip to Cuba, they had the word Cuba and the date written on them.

The date also happened to coincide with the last year that Americans were able to use Cuba as their party playground. It was also the year I was born. We were surprised about things we had packed and not remembered, and disappointed when we thought we had saved something we hadn't. It was all so random. When we later asked our neighbours what they had saved in the last minutes, most of them said the same thing, it was all a bunch of random stuff. Our advice is to save or pass on to other family members things you cannot replace. The most difficult losses were all linked to family‌ a love letter, a photo of long-gone ancestors, your grandmother's ring, all those things you can never buy again. It's likely you will forget so many of the things you had, once you stop seeing them, and will not miss stuff nearly as much as people. So don't worry too much. Life is full of risk and we cannot know how it might change tomorrow or even later today. We decided we cannot live every day worried about the "what-ifs". As important as our tangible possessions may seem when we hold and cherish them, reliving their significance, our most important possessions are the intangible ones. Although that maraca does give me a chuckle when I see it !

UPDATE APRIL 2020 I wrote this story sometime before the coronavirus pandemic started, and since then so much has changed in a short space of time. We are now on what I call our plan C . After thankfully deciding not to get on our flight to Egypt in March, we thought it better to just stay in California awhile longer. House sit options were cancelling as fast as we could apply, to the point where we realized even if we did find a good option it would probably cancel at the last minute. Thankfully we decided to leave California just before it went on lockdown and we headed back to Hawaii to buy a house (one we had decided not to buy a few months earlier so we could travel for longer). We got back to Hawaii just before the state-wide lockdown and 14 day mandatory quarantine for all visitors and returning residents. Now we are settling in after a month of scrambling to find places to stay while also trying to keep isolated . Now we have at least a two year commitment here before we’ll be returning to house sitting. But the even crazier part of the story is the house we are buying is our neighbour’s and right across the road from our house that we lost to Lava in 2018 which started us on our house sitting journey in the beginning. We’ve come full circle!

Nicki Conti and Sevyn Galambos are a couple from the Big Island of Hawaii who lost everything in 2018 to the devastating eruption of Kilauea Volcano. This prompted a lifestyle of travel and house sitting as they discovered the healing powers of the pets they were caring for around the world. Covid-19 has changed their direction for the moment, but they look forward to returning to the house sitting lifestyle when they can. You will find their profile on TrustedHousesitters


Suddenly retirement was upon us. Our accountant had finally given the thumbs up. As far as he was concerned we had enough money to move into the "after career" stage of life. Great! Time to crack a bottle of champagne. We could now enjoy the enviable stage of retirement that we had casually dreamed about for years. But surprisingly we were not prepared. We were really clear as to what we didn't want to spend our time doing, but not so clear as to what we did want. John, my husband, saw his days in retirement as days without work. And I saw retirement as a chance to live it up doing a bunch of stuff that I had put off. Travel was the biggest of my heart's desires and now we had the time and money to take it on. The looming question was how would we design our life of travel so it fit our very different personalities, and our finances. We tried cruising, touring with a group and on our own. It just wasn't the experience we were looking for.

Little did we know that traveling the world while caring for the pets of others was going to be the answer for both John and me. The unexpected surprise was it also juiced up our relationship and our zest for life. Here are some of the reasons why:

The joy of pets John and I both love pets - just about any kind, except reptiles. We've cared for dogs, cats, horses, goats, birds, chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, alpacas and fish! Life now involves walking, grooming, hugging, feeding - everything that goes with spending time with furry, fin or feathered babies. Caring for the pets of others gives us the joy of pets in our lives while we explore the world. The pets may be temporary, but we create real relationships that are emotional - happy, funny and sad - just as though they were part of our own family.

Comfort of a home Traveling the world supported by the comfort of a home is stabilizing. With sitting areas, full sized kitchens, washers, greenhouses and gardens, and fireplaces. Sometimes even surprises such as cookbook libraries, ocean front windows, breath-taking art, indoor gyms and lap pools. We are awed by the privilege of relaxing in a home.

A pleasant nights' sleep and a satisfying meal, an easy chair and a good WiFi connection are the few gems that help us stay energized for the pets and for the next day of surprises and exploration.

Cultural submersion (in a fun and inescapable way) Being surrounded by people who speak a different language is just a nibble of a new culture. We are nudged to experience everyday life like locals, when using an Italian coffee maker, steeping tea in a proper teapot in the proper way, cooking in a cast iron AGA oven, air drying clothes on an outdoor line, or over the heating registers (radiators), shopping for food (every country has their own way for customers to pick and pay for veggies), and wearing "Wellies" (Wellington Boots) to get through the mud. We did draw the line when it came to using the iron. Yes, in England irons are prolific, however we did not iron the sheets, or crease our jeans!

Villages "off the beaten track" Most of our destinations are NOT found in travel books or through Rick Steve or the latest article on the HOT destinations of the year.

Our joy in travel (as we have found), is not to try to seek out the oldest church, or the most significant museum or other historical sight. For us, going to the local butcher, to the produce market, pub or book store where we can chat with the locals, and discuss what is important to them - this is what gives us lasting pleasure when traveling. Our days are dotted with attending local events, visiting neighbors, taking courses, cooking together and jamming at the local pub.

Slowing down to absorb the culture We have found that walking is our favorite way to get to know a place. When we have dogs to tend to we can be out and about for hours each day. It gives us time to notice, to absorb the day and the sights and sounds and enjoy the pets. We like to stay in places for weeks or ideally a month. We like to travel without the frantic urgency of "having to see it all". Our discovery is that we prefer to see less and spend more time just enjoying and investigating where we are, experiencing simple pleasures slowly. Through trial and error we have been able to fine-tune our preferred style of travel.

Adapting can be fun and age reversing Nothing is the same, everything is different. How you drive, what you drive, is not what we thought. We have become more patient, more observant, more creative.

Turning on an oven or TV, buying veggies, crossing the street, locking a door, fulfilling medical needs, using footpaths, it is all different in just about every place. To know what we need to do to adapt, we have to stay in the present. It is a workout for our grey matter to observe, ask questions and communicate. Effective communication is paying attention to whether we are being understood, and knowing that we are understanding what is being said. Basically, our minds are more active with far less time spent "numbing out" on auto pilot. We find we are less judgmental, we talk less and are learning more. We try more without knowing how it will be, risking the possibility of not liking it, and are more in touch with who we are at this time in our lives than ever before.

Did anyone expect this? Adapting to a COVID-19 epidemic was not, however, something we expected. But, we have found that our travels have prepared us well for this situation. Self quarantine, entertaining oneself (without turning on the TV), isolation and social distancing have not been that difficult for us. Given the nature of what we do, hygiene is already a part of our lives. Constantly cleaning surfaces, especially on public transportation, as well as at “home�, and frequently washing our hands and clothes, is something we practice rigorously.

It’s a “job requirement” and after 4 years of full time pet sitting, it has become second nature. Who knew that our lifestyle would help us deal with this virus without it ruffling our feathers. So, through all these fun and crazy experiences we have while pet sitting, we are accumulating a reservoir of new experiences, memories to share, new conversations, and we are expanding our creativity and feelings. There's a new appreciation for each other and the most unexpected delightful surprise, is that we are falling in love all over again. Pet sitting has given us the opportunity to discover ourselves, our relationship and a wonderful way to travel as we explore this beautiful planet!

Bev and John Belury claim Arizona as their home, but have spent only a couple of months there over the last few years, as they are now full time international pet sitters. They have two daughters and five grand kids outside of Boston and had a black pug. In a previous life they were corporate executives and entrepreneurs. Follow their pet sitting escapades on their Blog, on Facebook or Instagram

The next issue of House Sitting Magazine will be available from 15th July 2020

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