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8 vlogs & blogs about lifestyle that inspire us in 2021

8 vlogs & blogs about lifestyle that inspire us in 2021

We’re asked frequently who we love to watch/read online, so we had a think about our faves in 2021 and have compiled our top 8 vlogs and blogs about lifestyle for you right here!

If you were following us back in 2020, you’ll know we had started to make positive strides on our video work. We documented the ins and outs of house and pet sitting around the world and showcased many beautiful destinations.

It was a pleasure and a privilege.

Sadly, it all came to an end. But we know that many of you reading this have also been impacted by all that the COVID pandemic has shut down. Not a great time to be a content creator in the travel business.

All of the time and learning we put into our content hasn’t gone astray though, and it’s for this reason we love to find vlogs and blogs about lifestyle that keep us coming back for more. There’s been a few standouts for us in 2021.

Here are our favourites in case you’re in need of a little fresh inspiration too.

8 vlogs and blogs about lifestyle that keep us inspired in 2021 🙂

 

For travel inspo:

📽 LeAw Leave Everything and Wander: Luca & Sara

We stumbled across this travel blogging couple by accident, but we just love their content. Sara and Luca are Italian, and they are so so cute. Their channel features an enviable line-up of destinations and experiences, and we have been making our way through their travel playlist.

Most recently, the pair were showcasing the delights on offer in their home country, Italy, where they ended up laying low during the worst of COVID.

Sara and Luca are authentic and likeable. Their video production is terrific too, and includes stunning drone shots, great editing, and soundtrack. The pair also publish a beautiful blog and are all over social media.

If you, like us, are wanderlusting like crazy to set foot back into a dazzling Italian landscape, take a ride with these two in their travel van, Luigi, and get inspired about where to go to next.

 

Island life (our fave island)

📽 Dwayne Muffin in Ibiza

We make no secret of the fact we are huge fans of the island of Ibiza in Spain. In fact, it maddens us that people who have never been to Ibiza have a preconception of what the island is.

Sure, there’s partying (hell yeah); but there’s a magical and mysterious side to this place too.

Dwayne is an English lad living the dream and actually residing and working in Ibiza full time. While the pandemic has hit his business hard – along with many in tourist destinations like Ibiza and its neighbouring Balearic Islands – Dwayne has taken the opportunity to give regular vlogging a go. And hey, are we grateful! If we can’t be there, we’ll wander around the bars and the beaches and boats here on YouTube, living vicariously through Dwayne.

Thanks to his time on the island living and working with the locals, he also gets some cool behind the scenes glimpses into venues and events that most of us wouldn’t.

A great channel if you’re a fan of Ibiza (or think you might be one day).

 

Expat entrepreneur life

Mike Thurston

We first stumbled across Mike’s channel when he filmed his 2020 summer in Ibiza. Man, were we jealous. All the pretty shots and the pretty people and pretty places. Jealous.

But we moved past that to see that actually, we wanted in on more of this vicarious adventuring.

Mike has an enviable life brimming with travel, a successful business, a new fitness app, and plenty of time at the gym. To be fair, he does work hard (on his business and abs) but he seems like a nice guy with fun friends… who wouldn’t get motivated through watching?

He’s just spent another highly enviable summer in Ibiza and has returned to his adopted home of Dubai to get to work again. It’s glossy and fun – count us in.

 

Manifesting and LOA

📽 Mary Kate

Want to shift your mindset to improve your circumstances?

Believe you can manifest the best things in life?

Me too!

While there are hundreds of manifesting and Law of Attraction content creators and mentors out there, for some reason this year I’ve really been drawn to Mary Kate’s channel.

She’s passionate and interesting, yet humble and not over the top like some other names in this space are. I just like her vibe and I think she’s doing a great job at influencing in this space.

Her training and meditations are helpful too. I’d say her work would resonate mostly with women under the age of 45, but if you’re into the topics she covers, take a look and see for yourself.

 

Fashion and beauty

📽 Busbee Style

I’ve got to say, I’m super behind the times following YouTubers for fashion and beauty content. I’m a ‘magazines’ girl of old. But, I somehow stumbled across Erin Busbee’s channel and have been hooked ever since.

A former TV news reporter turned stylist and fashion content creator, Erin’s approach is engaging and honest, not to mention really informative. I had to leave my entire wardrobe of clothes, accessories and shoes behind in England, and my enthusiasm to start again in a hot climate that I do not enjoy as much as I do one with four seasons was seriously lacking.

But, Erin’s helped make shopping fun again!

She’s got a great blog and Instagram you can follow too.

Currently she and her family are taking time out from life and work at home in the USA to live in Spain. Another reason why I think Erin is just too cool.

 

Puppy love (and training!)

📽 Zac George

Call it a midlife crisis, or more like a COVID crisis, but we went and got a puppy!

What?

Yep, we decided that after years of being without a dog – stalking dogs in the street and on the Tube in London, saying hello to everyone else’s dog and generally wanting nothing more than a dog – this little man arrived 👇

 

Now, he had a lot to live up to. Our last dog, Harry, a blue cattle dog, was a prince among dogs. He was beloved by all – even non-dog people. The best dog ever.

London – named after our much-loved adopted home in England, is a West Highland Terrier. When he was a puppy, we’d frequently change the ‘terrier’ to terror. Wow. Puppies might be cute but there’s an evil streak in there 😉

Which brings us to Zak’s channel. We got obsessed with this personable dog trainer’s channel before the puppy ‘arrived’ and during his first few months. Everything on routine and crate training and all in between was spot on.

This channel is a great one if you’re looking for actionable advice on all sorts of dog behavioural challenges and training. It’s also great if you’re quite simply, a dog person. We do owe Zak a debt of gratitude for getting this far with the cheeky Westie though. 

 

Travel and content creation

Two of our favourite channels for content creation and travel follow:

📽 Lost LeBlanc

Stunning filming, editing, locations and great advice on content creation: we love this channel.

Christian (Lost LeBlanc) is literally living the dream. His ‘about’ profile says:

“QUIT my job to travel the world. This is my story of unconditionally pursuing my passion for filmmaking and travel.”

You see why we’re in, right?

 

📽 TopJaw

These guys create awesome productions from locations we love in the UK and Europe. More enviably, they focus on food and drink!

Each location is brimming with dozens of great places to eat through all day long. We started keeping a bucket list based on their recommendations but gave up – there’s too many.

We’ll come back to it when we hit the northern hemisphere once again.

A great, lively and channel – easy to binge.

 

Who are your favourite content creators? Let us know in the comments! 

 

Finding hope in uncertain times

Finding hope in uncertain times

I’ve been living in fear and anger lately, without much hope in uncertain times. We’ve had to leave our home in the UK, only to be treated like we don’t belong ‘back home’ in Australia. We couldn’t say goodbye to any of our friends or even to our life of the past six years – just had to jump on a plane and hope for the best. It’s been very sh!t.

COVID-19 has impacted a lot of people in many terrible ways. Some people don’t understand, they remain lucky and unscathed; the most they have to complain about is that the gym is closed. Others find themselves in situations where they can’t see sick or dying family in hospital or at home. Cooper and I had our lives torn away from us, and I haven’t seen light or hope, if I’m honest. Grief.

Finding hope in uncertain times

I know I don’t want to live like this. So, as we sit in mandatory 14 day isolation in a hotel in Australia, I’m finally getting to a point where I feel like I want to make the best of it. Acceptance.

This has been many weeks coming though. If you’ve followed the stories on this blog, you’ll know we’re now in our fifth week of isolation.

We got caught in Italy when lock-down was announced on 10 March.

Then we witnessed the health crisis unfold in the UK, although we were watching from a distance in our beautiful little corner of Bedfordshire with our friends Andy and Helen who we met through house sitting adventures.

 

Hope and acceptance amidst impossible decisions

We found ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. If we stayed in the UK, we did have accommodation and I had employment. But, Australia is harder and harder to access now (closed borders, very few international flights in), family is here and we seem less affected by Coronavirus (so far). Is it a better bet? After what we’ve witnessed, we worry that many here are too complacent – that Coronavirus will explode after Easter. I hope that prediction is wrong.

A friend recently gave me some advice about dealing with impossible decisions. She said, “sometimes you just have to make the choice, commit to it and make it work“.

Now that we’re here, we’ll make the best of it, even if ‘it’ means taking things month at a time.

There’s also a school of thought that my friend Leanne (publisher of Get it Magazine) and I have been focusing on. Time is something we have gained through Coronavirus isolation. Read our April Get it e-news for our tips on the ways you can use your time to improve your business and your life 😄

We have to hold onto this 👇

“Now more than ever, hope can actually become our power source.” -Deepak Chopra

 

Finding hope in uncertain (and isolated) times: our fave tools

No matter what’s going on in your life, in the end, hope comes from within. And it’s something we have to practice accessing – we can’t take it for granted. (just like you shouldn’t take your time, fresh air, fresh food, nice bed, and HEALTH for granted – think about that today 🙏).

So, from within the confines of our forced lock-down in Australia, here’s what we’re leaning on:

Hope in Uncertain Times, 21 day meditation experience (FREE on the app at time of publishing)

Gratitude practices

– Yoga – we love Adriene and Benji on YouTube

Home fitness classes including Barre, Pilates and Boxing on Popsugar Fitness TV

– Positive social media, like content coming from pages like this one from our friend Madonna Williams of Zen Soul Life

– Gabby Bernstein’s ‘Miracles Now’ card deck

Finding hope in uncertain times - Gabby Bernstein Miracles Now cards are helping our sanity

Find out more about what we are and importantly, are NOT doing, in this post about managing Coronavirus anxiety.

 

Helpful advice

Throughout this disaster that we know will end, although no end is in sight, I know more than just Cooper and I have retreated ‘home’. A wise friend and lifestyle coach Linda Stewart-Brown, reminded me that going back to your roots isn’t a bad thing, and to not feel like I’m peddling backwards. She says:

There are some things that need clearing up and finalising, in one way or another. Doing this, one step back, as you might see it, also means the next step is definitely forward! A strategic retreat and then transformation and clarification to be able to move ahead more quickly and with greater success. It is difficult to see right now, however, in 18 months, or less, this will all be 20/20 hindsight for which you will be very grateful.

 

I learnt a little something in this mental health and life coaching training too, that talks about a nice evening ritual. The course mentors encourage us to visualise our future at night. If you’ve got a partner, talk about it before bed. No worries if you’re on your own – pull out your journal and write as if you’re in that future moment.

Feel the health, travel, fun, freedom and abundance that’s on the way.

 

We hope you’re doing ok in these uncertain times. Let us know in the comments about your experiences, or find us on social media to say hi. We’re in isolation, after all – happy for your company 😉

And if you have any helpful ideas or resources to share, do feel free to link them below.

Expat blogger changing tack

Expat blogger changing tack

It’s with a heavy heart that this proud expat blogger writes one of her last posts from our adopted home of England. London has been such a wonderful adventure. It’s not been without ups and downs, laughter, tears and lessons.

But, we’ve lived our motto here: life is about experiences.

Expat blogger – future uncertainty

I had wanted so very much to settle in England. We’ve produced plenty of blogs for expats and travellers here on Travel Live Learn. And as a reader on this site – to you I say thank you 🙏 I am grateful.

As an ‘expert’ expat blogger, I started out getting together guides on living and working in London. Cooper developed our videos too, that showcase fun, travel and tips. We’ve been lucky to be recognised for content on this site with a couple of awards, and have covered wonderful destinations while living over here.

As I look over it all now, I have to admit to fighting back tears. It’s hard to let go of one life and go back to another – or start yet again. That’s risk we take though, forging a space for ourselves in a new country. You either get to stay or one day must leave. But we must not forget: life is about experiences.

Difficult decisions for expats all over the world

We’re at the end of March 2020 and as I type, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the face of the planet. It was completely unexpected, and it certainly is not discriminating in who is impacted. The world has been dealing with this public health crisis since January, although then most people outside of China where the disease originated, never predicted the impact that’s unfolding.

I type this while on ‘self-isolation’ in the English countryside. We were lucky to get out of Italy when things shifted from ‘manageable’ to ‘catastrophic’ overnight on 10 March. Cooper and I found it very difficult to get a flight out to leave.

Just as we made it back to England though, lock-downs and strict measures were imposed. With the threat of airline closures and restricted international flights, it feels like we’re heading back to the days where travel was far less accessible and much more expensive. The UK has already seen one major airline go into receivership over the past week. Which other airlines will follow?

As we come to the end of our work sabbatical which was covered in major media, I fear our story about inspired action is turning into one of retreat, back to ‘our’ official corner of the world. We are set to renew visas for the UK in July, but with so much uncertainty around the future, I am sad to say it seems like that that dream will no longer become a reality. As these shocking events continue to sweep the globe, I doubt very much we are the only travellers, digital nomads and expats forced to reconsider our paths. Borders are closing. People are worried. The tourism industry and way we travel will look different on the other side.

Expat blogger changing tack - leaving England our home - how does it feel to leave somewhere you love behind

How it feels to leave ‘home’

As I type this I remember the little things about life in the UK. Old church bells chiming. Work bus commutes when I’d to listen to new music that would become the soundtrack to special moments. My favourite walk around London Fields where I’d feel so happy sometimes I’d almost burst. Dog spotting on the tube; identifying wonderful old buildings amongst innovative new ones. Swifty at Wembley! Swifty at BST Hyde Park, for that matter 💕

I remember ‘stairwell lunches’ with my friends when we’d laugh so much and be told off for being too jovial; and impromptu after-work pub runs that would last ’til 11:30pm mid-week, with the sun just down not long before that. Just ‘popping over’ to France, or Spain, or Italy on the train or plane. Pride, festivals, fairy lights and Christmas markets, dining in igloos by the Thames, fireworks night, bank holidays spent in the park and at the loveliest markets in the world.

Only in London.

There were moments I helped people get through tough times. They became my good friends. And other times when people here would show up for me, just as I needed them. I call them too, my best friends. Sunny park days in summer – oh the joy of sunshine 😀! And snow days of course – always gleeful for an Aussie in London. We made a mark, got a special invite to Buckingham Palace, covered royal weddings, and mostly just enjoyed life in the big, mad, historical, beautiful, wonderful city that London is. I’m sad [understatement] to leave. This has been our home. It is a home of ours.

But after six years, and because of this pandemic and situation, the best version of a ‘goodbye’ we could do with all our friends – our UK family – was on WhatsApp.

What to do when the world is ending

Maybe a bit dramatic, but you’d agree if you saw Heathrow as we did today – like an eerie mall, all closed down, lifeless – another planet. As an expat blogger who now needs to find a new niche and start another life, you get where I’m coming from, I hope. Everyone has been impacted by this, and will be for months, if not years to come.

But we’ve been hit hard.

Our life as we embraced it was ripped away today.

We’re working on new projects already though, like this venture into wellness travel (podcast launching soon); but when can those who value travel, safely and freely travel again?

We left here once before and I consoled myself with the idea of bringing adventure back home. I’d spoken to another expat friend too and discovered there is a mourning process around leaving somewhere you love, somewhere you’ve invested heart and soul into. Having two homes – I’ve always maintained – is a blessing and a curse.

Is Coronavirus impacting your plans as a digital nomad, expat or traveller - read about how we're approaching it

Coming to terms with change

This time when we leave the UK, I don’t know, maybe it’s for good? That’s not how we feel right now though. This is a ‘trial’ separation 😉

Are we really better off ‘at home’ in Australia? The government certainly isn’t treating us as equals.

We know we’re lucky to have options, and family and friends who are happy to see us (and we to see them). But, I’m only at a ‘2’ on the change curve, which you can probably guess from the tone of this post – in a state of disruption I’m feeling anger and fear.

We’ve had a hell of a ride the past few weeks, and use every moment as an opportunity to try and choose our thoughts again.

👉We’ll continue to seek hope in uncertain times 💕

 

It all goes too quickly, is the old lesson. Wasn’t it just yesterday we arrived back mid-2014, to pick up where we left off in 2011? Isn’t it all so delicate, just hanging by a thin thread that can break at any time. Like now.

If you’re impacted by the fallout of borders closing or difficult circumstances brought about by being based in another country, being a digital nomad, or the change that’s been thrust upon you now, let us know about your experience in the comments. We’d also love for you to join us in our Facebook group – come say hi today!

 

How to deal with anxiety around Coronavirus + travel

How to deal with anxiety around Coronavirus + travel

By anyone’s standards, we’re living in troubling times. Coronavirus messaging is overwhelming, from the media, governments, employers and family members – how to deal with anxiety of it all then?

With very few details to go on, the only consistent message we had for months was to keep our hands clean and off our faces. Then hand sanitiser sold out! (well, except for the packs of six small bottles that you could buy on Amazon for the bargain price of £75 😠).

Travel plans are out the window and some of us face a very real threat of being separated from family, friends and the future we’d planned because the world is closed, indefinitely.

How to deal with anxiety around Coronavirus

The exceptional pace at which events have unfolded since January 2020 means people are living in fear. Unexpected lock-downs began in China, then Italy which we got caught up in. People worry about empty supermarket shelves, closed international borders and economic collapse.

All of this came out of nowhere. Our travel trends never predicted this in the plan. It’s new, and it’s upsetting.

I know you are stressed. Me too!

Friends have messaged me in tears. Fellow travel writers and bloggers have contacted us to ask, ‘what are you guys doing next?’ Another friend has been stuck on a cruise ship for over 25 days – no port will accept the passengers! If someone walks past and coughs, panic wells inside of us all. Our biggest international airlines have simply stopped flying indefinitely. The business landscape is changing, and many people are without work. It’s madness.

Social isolation is enforced globally, including here in the UK. We’re keeping our distance from other humans. Pubs are shut – it’s bad. That would be a joke if it weren’t for all the other businesses that have closed too. Hotels, restaurants, events, tours, even the famous summer festival Glastonbury has been cancelled, in what would have been its 50th year! Will summer destinations like Ibiza – heavily reliant on seasonal tourism – even be able to open this year?

I would have thought it was all a bit of a crazy media frenzy, if we’d not experienced all of it directly. Unfortunately, it’s all true.

It’s time to admit we’re in trouble when ‘wartime’ rhetoric is invoked, but admittedly I’d drawn these parallels already.

Coronavirus anxiety has been following Cooper and I for a while, from before our trip to Italy where we were set to attend the TBEX conference, here in the UK and in Australia.

The situation for digital nomads and the Coronavirus pandemic - what to do next

The situation for digital nomads and the Coronavirus pandemic

Last August Cooper and I set off on a grand adventure. For the first time in our lives we let work be a secondary concern. On a house sitting sabbatical adventure (that made international headlines) we had a world of opportunity at our fingertips. We’ve embraced a house sitting and digital nomad lifestyle – like thousands and thousands of others. This lifestyle has been accessible and easy for years now. Living a laptop lifestyle and all of that.

But what happens when you have plans to travel, live and work in different countries, but now deal with anxiety around what’s [not] on offer? The Coronavirus outbreak means for many of us that we need to return home before we want or intended to. When will we be free to travel again? It’s estimated that most airlines will be bankrupt by the end of May 2020. A staggering and saddening thought.

I remember the days when there was no competition and there’s no way an average family of four could fly from one city in Australia to another. We had to drive. I imagine it was the same in Europe. Now we flit from the UK to Spain on a whim. Well, at least we could do that three months ago.

Currently we’re in the UK where we have residency, thankfully for a little while yet. We were going to apply for indefinite leave to remain visas this year and stay. But we want to be at home in Australia too. How can we get there when all flights are cancelled? We are without a flat because we’ve been travelling. It feels like our options get slimmer by the day. Where’s safest in terms of wellbeing and the economy? No one knows from one day to the next.

Anxiety and stress: dealing with Coronavirus and an uncertain future

Whether you’re in a precarious situation like us, uncertain of the future; or, you’re feeling down, worried and downright isolated working from home for the foreseeable future, it’s easy to get caught up in the worry mindset. Oh yeah, I get that. There are people trapped in foreign countries right now, with no money or accommodation. Cruise ships with ill passengers being denied entry to ports. Sick with worry – that’s no way to live.

Author and spiritual teacher, Gabby Bernstein, shared very helpful tips that I’ve passed around to friends who are caught up in Coronavirus anxiety. In this blog, she talks about how to claim back a good night’s sleep, and about taking responsibility for your own thoughts. It’s worth a read.

How to deal with anxiety - our own experience

How to deal with anxiety – our own experience

Our ‘new normal’ includes:

  • limiting the amount of news and social media we’re consuming.
  • breathing! (don’t forget to do it).
  • we use ‘spare’ or ‘locked-in’ time to focus on creative projects, like our upcoming wellness travel podcast launch (perhaps timely, given the world’s predicament) – it’s called ‘Exhale’ which is referencing, appropriately, remembering to breathe!
  • taking the time to reevaluate what’s working in our business – getting prepared and positioned to be available when things pick up again and new opportunities arise out of such significant change.
  • acknowledging when things get too much and giving ourselves a break – there have been some tense moments over the past few weeks and it’s led to emotional and physical burnout for both of us.
  • looking for opportunities to laugh and live in the moment.
  • Keep the faith: our tips on finding hope in uncertain times are here
  • Yoga postures! See a tip from our friend Flavia Munn in the clip below, or here on Instagram.

 

 

Be present

As I write this, we’re safe at a house sit in the Bedfordshire countryside with our pups Maise and Mole and horses Haze and Roo. Cooper and I went into a 14 day self isolation after returning from Italy, and fortunately we are ok. Our biggest issue is sourcing groceries, but the kindness of neighbours has meant that strangers bring us food and check on us. Beautiful 💕

There are changes happening around us every single day, and we are practising the art of allowing and letting go of the plans we simply can’t make under the circumstances. We have a few options to consider, but are taking this day at a time. It’s taken some time to get to this head space though, to be able to write even this piece in a calm and collected manner. Tears and depression have presented. I’m a ‘planner’ by nature, and right now I can’t plan. It’s tough, but we’re all in it together regardless of status, race or colour. It’s like a disaster movie and we’re all playing a part.

Moving forward

There’s people I work with who hate the term ‘moving forward’, but I this it’s appropriate here and hope we can do it soon. Let’s pray the airlines keep running; that lost jobs are found again; and that we can continue to travel in the direction in which we’re called.

I hope wherever you are that you feel safe and connected, despite enforced social distancing. This too shall pass. And, it’s an opportunity to think about your future and how you’ll embrace change on the other side.

If you have tips or stories on how you’re going through all of this, let us know in the comments or on social media.

Coronavirus Italy lock-down: personal experience

Coronavirus Italy lock-down: personal experience

Have you ever wanted to go home after a holiday? Nah, us either, except for this past week when the Coronavirus Italy lock-down was announced without warning. We had legitimate fears we’d be stuck in Sicily for the month to come. Maybe longer, the way things are looking now! Things have been anxious and stressful, to say the least. And as I reflect on the events that unfolded, I’m sad to say things have only gotten worse.

Just a year ago, we were on one of the best trips of our lives. We enjoyed a train journey across the country, taking in Milan, Lake Como, Verona and Venice.

It was magical, and I hope to return again soon.

 

Coronavirus Italy lock-down

For now, Italy has been hit HARD by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the country is a no-go zone. Usually it’s teeming with tourists. On the morning of 10 March, we woke up in our Airbnb in Catania, Sicily, at 6am to discover that late the evening before, the government had announced extreme measures – all of Italy was on lock-down. A terrible way to start your day!

Coronavirus – an infectious disease that attacks lungs and airways as well as other vital organs if you’re suffering from underlining health conditions – had been sweeping through the north of Italy. When we chose to continue with our trip to the south of Italy – Sicily – that area was clear. Several major centres in the north had already been quarantined which had been the strategy for China where COVID-19 originated. But just a few days before when we stepped onto a plane, our destination was fine.

Certainly, there were signs of trouble on 8 March. Our flight was only about a quarter full. But we had nowhere else to be that week, and figured we would go catch up with some friends who were also headed to Catania – a few ‘TBEX survivors’ who still turned up for a travel media conference that has been (at time of publishing) postponed.

Coronavirus lock-down in Italy and around the world

Panic response vs managing a crisis

If we’d only seen the messaging the evening before, we might have got out on a flight to the UK easily on Tuesday 10 March. It had been our back-up plan – if things escalated, we’d just get on a flight straight away. But from 6am until 6pm both Cooper and I were on our computers and on phones, trying to get out.

Things looked bright around 8am when we finally got a flight from Catania to neighbouring Malta. We figured Malta was a good choice, we know the place well. I transferred our Easyjet flight from Catania (set for Saturday 14 March) to take us from Malta to London the next day. We incurred some hefty fees but that was ok, it was time to leave.

Something told me to keep an eye on the Catania airport departures board. It felt like the response from our accommodation on the ground in Malta was fearful. Malta is close to Italy, and it’s a small island. If Coronavirus infiltrates, they’d find it hard to manage. I was liaising with the manager of the airport accommodation on WhatsApp when I spotted about 9.30am: our flight status had gone from grey (‘scheduled’) to red – cancelled.

Distress kicked in from that point. Everything was cancelled, more and more as the minutes went by. We love travel. But the feeling of being trapped is unnerving. Our family in Australia were getting worried too. They called and tried to help – which was appreciated, but added to our anxiety.

In my view, with so many people trying to urgently get back to their country of residence, governments and airlines in the area made bad decisions – panicked choices that amplified the problems and the region’s collective fears.

Bad practice by airlines in a time of heightened anxiety

After this, we spent the day trying to book flights on numerous airlines to many different destinations. The threats from the media and government warnings kept mounting: we would be locked in and all flights grounded within 48 hours. Although, many, many flights were simply cancelled that same day. Countries were closing their borders to anyone coming from Italy. It felt like we didn’t have a chance!

BUT, airfares continued to sell. Oh, and many airlines simply shut off their customer service call lines and social media messaging function too. No contact, many charges and much stress. We’d get to the payment section and the bill would tally on our credit card – our flight tickets wouldn’t process though. We encountered ‘errors’. Only to try again and discover the flight prices had been hiked up significantly. Very bad practice in a time of much stress. Some university students we met later on told us stories of how they simply had no more credit to keep booking under these circumstances, and they’re still in Italy.

It seems that if you continued to book, you eventually won a lottery seat on a flight out – but he/she who paid the highest price won a spot on the escape route. By 5pm I was in tears, Cooper was stressed (he’s NEVER stressed), and we didn’t know what to do.

Small gestures and good people

Through all of this though, our encounters with kindness were amplified. The manager of this small airport hotel in Malta was ever so kind, assuring me he’d not hesitate to issue a refund, despite booking.com stating the fee was non-refundable. He stuck to his word, and the money came back.

Similarly, our Catania Airbnb host made us feel safe and offered help to contact embassies and get food. He also told us that he’d help us with accommodation if we got stuck.

These gestures – from operators who will suffer financially as part of this global disaster – were really appreciated in stressful times.

We were also in contact with our house sit in England – one we were returning to after sitting for them in Bedfordshire last year. (They run a beautiful B&B here too, if you want to visit when things are back to normal!) 👇

Due to the unprecedented situation, we suggested they might want to look for last-minute sitters. Instead of doing this though, our host spent time looking for flights that might just get us out of Italy and back to the UK via a European destination.

We’d tried a few of these routes, but Andy at our house sit found one on Ryanair via a cool city in the Netherlands that we’d never heard of, Eindhoven.

As it turned out, Andy’s suggestion that we chose to book (despite the stress of mounting credit card fees and the necessity of an overnight connection stay) totally saved us. This flight was one of the last two flights out of Sicily on 12 March. Nothing is set to leave until mid-April, or beyond. When we landed in Eindhoven, everyone cheered!

Coronavirus Italy lock-down experience - just up the road from where we were in Sicily

Lock-down in Catania

We were really lucky to get out after a couple of days. Wow, were those days fraught with anxiety. To get groceries or necessities, we had to line up one at a time outside stores. Lock-down got crazy and scary. Masks and gloves were essential. The image above is from an area near us in Catania – deserted. The feature image at the top is from Catania’s famous and usually thriving fish markets. Again, now all closed indefinitely.

One shop after another gradually closed, store-owners aware they were shutting their doors indefinitely. How will they pay the bills? Can this country recover? Life’s already tough for many.

Sleep was hard because each hour the rules changed, not just in Italy but around Europe and the world. Borders closed, transport was restricted and people started hoarding food.

The aftermath

There was no guarantee our flight would depart. Every half hour on the 12th, we obsessively checked but it remained green: good to go at 5:15pm.

Travellers in Catania worried about whether they should try to leave and risk potentially spreading the virus at home or passing on to ‘at risk’ relatives. We would face a 14 day self quarantine if we got into the UK, but that was ok by us – we were headed to a regional area anyway. As residents in England, we chose to pursue a location where we can access healthcare (although perhaps a dubious notion now that hospitals are overwhelmed).

We worried for friends (like Jason and his mum 👇) who appeared to be entirely stuck in Catania. They were even asked to leave their Airbnb with nowhere to go!

I had transferred our original Easyjet tickets back to the Saturday flight out (at more expense), but it was cancelled too.

We felt sick, despite the sunny days in Catania which would otherwise be a joy. Our time was spent indoors except for going out to get a bit of food. The streets were dead. A few cafes were open, but not for many more days, I’d guess. The experience took me to the height of anxiety. We’re still waiting for refunds from airlines that I’m not sure will come – perhaps they’ll go into receivership before processing. I never imagined I’d want to leave Italy, ever! But during those days, we very much did want to get out, back to a ‘home’ base.

The future?

Since we left Italy, thousands of people have died due to COVID-19, and thousands more are ill, without access to oxygen or healthcare. The situation there is now worse than it is in China. The system in Italy is not coping. Other European nations are in a similar situation, and the UK harbours legitimate concerns about the future too.

Conversations have moved from ‘this is just a flu’, to, ‘you really should talk about final arrangements with your family should the worst happen’.

They say there’s reasons to find hope within this chaos. This is how things unfolded in Sicily and elsewhere 👇🙌

😪

Now we are on lock-down in the UK (but so far virus free 🤞). We’re trying our best to deal with the anxiety associated with an uncertain future – here’s our personal tips on that.

I don’t know if things are ok though, or what’s around the corner.

No one really does.

 

 

House sitting UK: 6 lessons learnt (and ‘must dos’ for YOU)

House sitting UK: 6 lessons learnt (and ‘must dos’ for YOU)

It’s been over six months since we set off on our house sitting UK adventure. We’ve explored terrific destinations in the UK through house sitting, including London, Northampton, the Cotswolds, Bedfordshire and soon Devon and the Sussex coast.

We’ve loved house sitting in the UK, and we’ve also been to Malta, France and Ireland.

House sitting UK: 6 lessons learnt

Leave the toilet seat down!

You hear stories about dogs drinking out of the toilet, right? One night we were sound asleep but awoken at 1am.

“Can you hear a noise, is that an intruder?” I asked panicked (but still tucked into bed)

“I’m not sure… do you think I should check?” asks Cooper, as we hear again… what is that?

“Slurp, slurp, slurp…” 😆

Our beautiful shepherd, Luna, couldn’t be bothered going downstairs to her bowl. Our lesson? Close the toilet lid! It’s true – dogs DO drink from the toilet.

Luna in Northampton on our dog sit where we learnt a house and pet sitting lesson...

Never forget poo bags

We find poo bags in all or pockets now. It’s pretty funny. The bags always come in handy, of course. But what about the one occasion you forget to take them?

In Northampton we had simply popped out to the corner store. When I was inside gathering supplies, Cooper was walking Luna (pictured above) around the block and having a little play with her. You guessed it – she chose this very time to do her business.

And it was no small matter!

Cooper scrounged around to find cardboard and resources to clean up after Luna, but it wasn’t pretty, oh no.

Hence, poo bags in every pocket since that time.

 

Watch what your dog eats

I’m sorry, this seems to have turned into a post about toilets and dogs’ business. You see, we took care of another gorgeous pup, Teal. A Springer Spaniel – about the best behaved and most affectionate creature you’d ever meet. But Teal has a secret.

Teal eats poo. In the depths of fields around the Cotswolds, this innocent pooch will grab a ‘snack’ the second you turn away. At first I thought Cooper was exaggerating because he spotted this, er, behaviour first. I didn’t believe him. Not our lovely Teal.

However, when I turned around after being engaged in conversation with a fellow dog walker, I saw it. Oh Teal. Perhaps he needed some nutrients that are in there?

Whatever the case, we were reminded that dogs are like kids. Keep an eye on them at all times 🐶

 

👉Find out how we got started pet sitting in London

Be mindful of how you’re using treats

We took care of a precious little old man called Monty. He was such a beautiful old soul. A 15 year old Jack Russell, for the most part he was super easy to look after. Except he suffered major senior separation anxiety.

When we arrived he seemed ok, but once his parents left he wouldn’t leave his bed or hid under theirs. It broke our hearts. We kept an eye on him over the 12 hours to come, and we even called TrustedHousesitters pet line for guidance to make sure we were doing all the right things, which we were.

For anxiety, we’ve discovered we need to give dogs in this scenario their space. It’s beneficial for them to be in their own home. If they are not sleeping or eating, then you should contact a vet. One thing we had going for us was that Monty liked his food. We used this to try and coax him to love us 💖 We even got him downstairs by laying out a cheese trail – his favourite treat.

After a while though, we realised we were using treats in the wrong way – we were reinforcing his behaviour to stay in his bed or hide from us. We’d give him treats for it! Instead, we switched it around – gave him treats for coming to us and we got him outside on walks which cheered him right up. Our lesson: consider what kind of behaviour you’re rewarding with treats, or are you giving them to make you feel better?

We’ve shared more on this in our video guides 👇

 

Close doors and check where your pets can go

House sitting in the UK brought many lessons our way. When we took care of Blue, a senior Lurcher doggie in London, we’d been told where in the house he could go. It was pretty much everywhere except the bedrooms. What we didn’t realise is that’s exactly where he’d try to go. Some of the door handles weren’t shut properly and we discovered this after he went missing twice. Blue managed to break into the rooms, have a nap on his siblings’ beds but then got locked in, bless him!

Our Luna in Northampton was known to break into the fridge and eat all the meat, so we had to lock the door to the kitchen if we went out. Luna’s also actually unlocked the front door to go in search of her family 💕 So, we needed to deadbolt it for her own safety from the busy street outside.

A special mention must go to Harley in Dublin who knew how to follow you into the toilet, jump up on the sink and drink water while you wash your hands. His mum said that is entirely his father’s fault for teaching him 🤣

 

Learn to share your personal space

 

 

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Polly and Darcy ☝ haven’t been the only babies to want in on our private space. Pretty much all dogs and cats, once they get to know you, will want to be with you – or on top of you, in bed with you…

But you know what – that’s the bit we love the most. If you don’t, then this gig probably isn’t for you.

 

 

Find out more practical tips about house and pet sitting as you travel the world: subscribe to our newsletter for a FREE guide on how you can travel the world house and pet sitting. 

And of course – questions/comments are appreciated below 😸