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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🐶
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?
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 🤣
‘Digital nomad lifestyle’, for most of us who resonate with the term, means travelling + working. It sounds fun, and yeah it is. But it’s easy to fall into ‘holiday mode’, which means no income! Cooper and I have discovered that routine is critical when trying to maintain a healthy nomad lifestyle. Falling out of a routine means you can quite easily become demotivated. Hence, ‘holiday mode’, which doesn’t pay for this way of life consistently.
A few weeks back we realised our routine (or lack thereof) was letting us down. Over the past few months we’ve been refining a digital nomad routine that fits with our lifestyle, so we re-implemented the plan.
👉🏻this content has been updated in 2022 and published on our podcast Freedom and Four Paws. Listen here
Maybe some of these tips will resonate with you too.
Nomad lifestyle: 7 tips for an effective work/life travel routine
Plan daily, keep a diary
When you’re travelling and working on the road you need to be super organised. Use a diary! We plan our days in advance and share a Google calendar which tracks the work Cooper and I do together as well as individual workloads. We plan it all in, can see when it’s coming up, and try to stick to the times we’ve set. Quite often we will also plan time in for daily exercise or getting out and about.
Depending on where you are, your daily routines can fluctuate. A group of full time digital nomads have shared insight into how they manage their routine, on the Becoming a Digital Nomad blog.
Project plan within your week
We don’t just plan our days in advance, but our weeks too. Blocks of time are planned into our diary for project work. For example, we might have a three hour period marked as ‘website development’. We break that down into sections, so within that time frame we might want to achieve finding a new theme for the website and editing the copy on the home page. If we get those tasks completed in that time frame, we’ve achieved our goal for that day.
It’s very easy to plan a chunk of time for ‘a project’ but get distracted and overwhelmed on where to start, then not to anything of any real substance! But, if you plan smaller tasks into a larger section of time, you’re more likely to complete the priorities you’ve set for yourself.
Cooper and I catch up each morning to see where we’re up to and to reschedule anything that didn’t get done the day before. There’s obviously the need to be flexible if something more urgent needs to be prioritised.
Nomad lifestyle requires planning around disruption
Travelling between house sits or new locations means we lose work time. That’s totally fine, but we have come to accept that we need to give time to cleaning, packing, moving.
We used to plan work into our travel time (e.g. work on the train or plane), but it never gets done between being tired or having no space/internet/power. We now look ahead at what’s coming up and don’t schedule real chunks of work into that time.
Consequently, if Wednesday becomes our Saturday for the week, or we need to work on the weekend because we had some ‘days off’ during the week, so be it. But it’s in our diary. See points one and two.
Be accountable to someone else
We’ve made a deal to keep each other accountable. Diary alerts, alarms, nagging each other works. I’m pretty good at organising things, but Cooper’s better and making us stick to time. So, we work as a team to make our routine work to time.
If you don’t have a partner to do this, find other ways. You can appoint an accountability buddy who also runs their own business or freelances; connect on social media to prompt and encourage each other. Find meetups with other intrepid solo travellers, work at a coworking space or visit coworking cafes so there’s others with the same mindset around you.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
To stay out of holiday mode, stick to a sleep routine too. Science says that it’s far better for our health and wellbeing to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even if it’s your ‘day off’.
It’s important to step away from work. Maintain your work/life balance. We hear about this in the corporate world but it’s just as important when you’re working for yourself. And don’t mistake ‘travel’ for ‘holidays’.
There is a huge difference between being on a holiday, and travelling while we’re working.
Don’t get me wrong – we love that our office landscape changes frequently, and that we can explore new cultures and make new friends along the way. That’s fantastic! But we are trying to run a business and as anyone who works for themselves knows, that’s a seven days a week gig, and rarely 9am to 5pm.
It’s for this reason we do have to make sure we exercise, do Yoga, meditate. House and pet sitting keeps us in check though, because there’s always a dog who needs attention, walkies, ball time and love.
Keep in mind too, that if your body is telling you to take a break – re-prioritise – and do so! You’ve got the control over your time. The Morning Maryjolaine blog makes some nice points on this. See FOMO vs JOMO.
Switch off each night
For your mental health and wellbeing – switch your devices off at least an hour before bed. No social, no emails – step away from the machine, my digital nomad friends!
Got any other tips or questions? Let us know in the comments.
There’s four main types of house sitting jobs in the UK that might be suitable for you, depending on whether you want to travel, stay locally and take care of animals or not.
House sitting jobs UK
No matter where you live in the UK, there are house sits nearby. We were based in London when we first decided to sign up to TrustedHousesitters, with a view to using the service for long-term travel. The site makes use of reviews, which help home and pet owners make a decision on who sits for them.
Being new users, we applied for local house sits in London. This gave us experience and the chance to build our reviews.
Plus, sitting locally offers a change of scenery and makes it possible to explore new neighbourhoods. Win/win!
If you’re on TrustedHousesitters, you can set up an alert with your availability and preferred location, and apply as new sits are published. Often home owners prefer someone who lives locally, believing them to be more reliable than someone who may be travelling through.
There’s plenty of short term house and pet sitting opportunities available in the UK. This is especially true if you’re around during key holiday times, like Easter, summer (August/September) and Christmas. By short term, we mean about two weeks.
Applying for a short term house sit in the UK means you can take a trip to a different part of the country and not have to worry about accommodation. This is a cost-effective way to travel.
Keep an eye out for daily alerts from TrustedHousesitters and apply for dates and locations that appeal to you as soon as you spot them.
Tip: if a sit already has over ten applicants, feel free to put your hand up for it. But, why not take it as a sign and apply for somewhere else instead? Go with the flow and be open to new experiences and destinations.
We consider long term to be over two weeks. There are house and pet sits in the UK (and beyond, of course – house sitting Ireland is on our itinerary) that range anywhere from two weeks to a month, two months and even six months. Over the next few months, Cooper and I plan to ‘slow travel’ and explore the digital nomad lifestyle. We want to take our time in destinations. With that in mind, we specifically applied for longer term sits.
For us, long term sits are an excellent opportunity to ‘live’ somewhere new, and we can get into a routine for working and setting up our digital business. It’s also more cost-effective for us to stay in one place for two to four weeks.
There’s a wide range of sits in the UK, from country to city house sits, some that require a car, and others where you’re fine to walk everywhere (our preference). Our first long stay UK sit was in Northampton, which was ideal for our needs.
Before you commit to a long term sit, make sure you’re comfortable that all the facilities at the sit fit your needs, along with transport being appropriate for you, and that you have supermarkets or other preferred amenities around. You should also be certain that you will happily stay there for that long. Outside of an actual family emergency like a death in the family, you should never back out of a sit you’ve committed to because that majorly upsets the plans of the people you’ve agreed to sit for.
With animals or without
The best part of TrustedHousesitters for us is the opportunity to travel and take care of dogs. We LOVE dogs and are happy to spend all our time with our little charges, ensuring they’re as happy with us as they are with their own family.
If you’re using TrustedHousesitters, or any similar sites, you can filter searches by animal, to look for cat sits, horse sits, reptile sits… the list is endless. You can also opt to sit without any animals.
Only ever commit to a sit that you have experience for or that you’re willing to give a loving go to, especially if animals are involved.
Our experience so far has been that anyone using a service like TrustedHousesitters has the same attitude as us: they’re loving animal people, kind and open to meeting new friends from all walks of life.
Hopefully this has inspired you to get out and travel, whether it’s in your own backyard, or further afield. Comments and questions always appreciated – drop us a line below.
Cooper and I have signed up to TrustedHousesitters – click the link if you’d like to know more or join the service too.
Working, travelling, and staying fit: how to manage wellbeing for self employed? It is possible, but you need to be mindful about it.
For digital nomads with wanderlust in their veins, health sometimes takes the backseat as we try to wrangle our lifestyle and stay on top of career goals. There’s constant challenges – where to stay and work, and how to make money!
Wellbeing for self employed: the simple trick
Being exposed to different climates and environments can take its toll if we aren’t careful. Wellbeing for self employed and digital nomads means keeping fit. But, this can be hard because we usually don’t stick to one place long enough to invest in a gym membership.
What can we do if we want a toned, healthy body that we’re proud of?
It’s simple, we can walk.
Walking burns a ton of calories
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, we need least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. If you break this up into small chunks, it means you can exercise for 30 minutes five times a week and get the full benefits. But you need moderate to high-intensity kind of aerobics to pull it off.
Walking offers just the kind of cardio you need — easy to do, and even easier to modify depending on your time and level of physical fitness. If you keep a leisurely pace, you can burn around 70 calories per mile. The more you increase your speed, the more you can burn. If you walk at a brisk pace, you can burn anywhere from 300-400 calories an hour.
Here’s a calculator that can help you count the calories. If you want more accurate results, you can always use a pedometer or a Fitbit bracelet that will measure everything.
If you’re quite out of shape right now, walking is a great idea because it allows you to start things at your own pace. You can then slowly increase intensity as you grow stronger and get more stamina. You might even be forced into walking as you globe-trot if you choose a style of travel like house and pet sitting.
Walking has a lot of health benefits
Walking doesn’t just burn calories, it also speeds up your metabolism. Even your passive metabolic rate can rise. This means that when you’re resting, you’re still using more energy than before, and your body starts melting fat quicker.
Hiking destinations are perfect for digital nomads
Want a surefire way to make yourself stick to an exercise regimen and finally get in shape? Take a hiking trip.
For a digital nomad, this can be a great experience that provides the perfect opportunity to blog about something extremely interesting. It also means you’re taking a big step for your health and you won’t be making any more excuses.
There are plenty of options to choose from, like the short and fun Inca Trail, to the memorable Camino de Santiago that can take up to a month to finish. The Camino is renowned for being a deeply transformative experience that lets you experience Spain the way you never have before. It’s very good for people who plan to work the entire time because you’ll generally have internet access for most of the hike.
If you really aren’t a fan of hiking, city breaks are the next best alternative. Sightseeing often means you have to cover a lot of ground on foot. Since you are too busy looking at said sights, you will not even notice how many miles you are covering.
If the main reason you’re not in good shape is that you find the whole idea of exercise kind of dull, then walking is a great choice for you.
It’s easy to multitask as you stroll. Put headphones on and listen to your favourite soundtrack, audiobook, or podcast, or take your camera with you and get some work done for your blog. You can take some stunning photos while you explore the city you’re currently in.
This option is perfect for a digital nomad or the self-employed who need unique and interesting ways to capture a journey, whether it’s in your backyard or further afield.
If your life is too hectic, organising a specific time when you can go and take a walk each day can help immensely. If you want, you can use a walking exercise as a rest from work. Determine a schedule that lets you work a few hours non-stop, but then take a half an hour hike to clear your head, get your focus back, and get inspired again.
Enjoy the ease of walking! This simple aerobic exercise can help you get in shape, and if you’re a digital nomad who craves to be inspired, it also offers you the opportunity to further indulge your wanderlust by exploring every destination on foot.
About the author:
Rebecca Brown is a translator by day, and a traveller mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.
As I write, I’m house sitting in London. I’m in the loveliest of places we could never afford in the north of the city. A few minutes up the road is Alexandra Palace!
I’m gazing upon the prettiest of gardens that you’d not imagine to be in central London. Rain is coming down hard outside, and all is quiet. Well, except for Alexa pumping out choice House tunes, perfect for a Friday after lunch.
There’s a sleeping dog next to me. His name is Blue, and he’s a short-haired lurcher. Blue’s family are on the other side of the country for a special wedding, and chose us for their London house and dog sit this weekend.
House sitting London: how did we get here?
Let’s rewind to the beginning of the year for a bit of context. Cooper and I decided to pursue a different direction which you’ll be reading a lot about from August 2019. Some hints were given on the blog when we started posting about digital nomad tips and tricks.
In fact, we are taking off on an epic nomad, dog-loving adventure – house and pet sitting across the UK and Europe while we work on this blog and other freelance projects.
We joined TrustedHousesitters, which requires its users to have reviews based on things like reliability and trustworthiness. (We’ll share more about these house sitting services in future posts.)
In order to increase our reviews before we travel long-term, we chose to apply for house sitting London gigs.
House sitting in London (that is, locally to where we live), meant we could:
improve our rating on the house sitting service for London and beyond, and increase our chances of being chosen for sits
gain more house sitting experience that we can take on the road
spend time with dogs (most importantly!) 💛
In March our house sitting London journey began. I meant to write more about it because it’s not so much the places we stay that’s appealing, but the dogs we meet. Time has escaped me up until now. Still, better late than never 🐕
Dog sitting: the best part about house sitting!
We chose to embark upon this new style of travel, starting with our house sitting London experience, because it is certainly a cost-effective way of securing accommodation.
But the bonus for us – if not the driving motivator – is the fact we get to spend time with dogs 💕 I say to people that we’re turning from ‘crazy dog people’ into ‘craziER dog people’. We’re totally going to own it.
For dog-lovers, this lifestyle is the ultimate, especially if you’re not in a position to have a dog yourself, and you’re keen to travel as we are.
House and dog sitting has given us the chance to experience different types of dogs and their personalities.
For the love of dogs
Our first dog sit
Our ‘first’ were Polly and Darcy, two cheeky Westies. Darcy is an old soul and a gentleman of 11 years young. Polly is two years old, and the ring-leader in all things barking and chasing. Gosh we loved them. We’re heading back for a second sit for these little pooches soon which is pawesome.
This pair have such funny characteristics – one being the race out to the backyard every couple of hours to ‘check for a fox’ (that was there once). Polly will rouse Darcy from slumber to pursue this task, and next thing their little paws are racing along the wooden floor boards and the dance at the back door begins until Cooper or I let them outside.
They were great off the lead at the parklands up the road, and showed me that most dogs are happy to come back even if they’re not yours!
During TV time, we were surprised to learn the lengths of their affection, as Darcy jumped up onto the sofa and then up again onto the back of it, to sit leaning into our shoulders. Polly would make herself comfortable between Cooper and I on the couch. One big happy (temporary) family. 😂
But then came George and Milly. Yes, we fell in love with these two as well, but for different reasons. George is an old soul who certainly still loves adventures but his back legs have had enough and so Cooper learnt to walk George on a harness. We’d take he and his younger adopted mate, Milly, over to beautiful Hampstead Heath for a walk around the path that they’re familiar with. People would stop to make way for George, and the dog-lovers would give us a smile as if to say, ‘how lovely, bless his little cottons socks’.
Milly had a tough time when she was a baby, being mistreated by her original owners. Don’t get us started. She won the lottery with the mums she ended up with though, two inspiring women who it was an absolute privilege to meet!
This sit helped us grow as dog carers. When Milly and George’s parents left for their travels, there was an hour or two where we needed to get acquainted. Usually we’d take a dog on a walk to help them settle with us as new humans in their space. I was on my own for the first few hours of this sit and couldn’t walk George. It was Milly, George and me, sussing each other out. Milly seemed a little anxious without her mums, and I was a bit anxious worrying that the dogs seemed worried.
Cooper arrived though, we went on an adventure to the park, had some food and everyone settled. By the end of this weekend sit, we got an understanding of George’s barks and sounds telling us what he wanted. Milly would demand to be massaged on her head by pawing our legs and insisting we ‘continue’. How amazing to communicate with dogs like this.
Anxiety, walks and weather
Now I’m with Blue, waiting for Cooper to get in from his day at work. Blue was super happy to welcome me into his home. However, about an hour into the sit, he disappeared. I thought I’d lost him! He was hiding in the laundry room in the dark.
Fortunately I figured out it wasn’t due to me, but rather, his mum had said he is fearful of storms. There was one overhead, so we waited it out together. Blue isn’t fond of rain, or the heat, but I discovered Blue likes hugs and treats, which will do us until things are better outside and we can find adventure together.
He also likes sleeping. And he’s been doing just that while I write this piece.
Five dogs in, and I’m in love with each one – all with their different sizes, quirks, personalities, sounds, interests, affectionate traits and backgrounds.
House sitting – what’s next?
In mid-August we’re heading off on our own adventure, and we’re going to share it with you here! We’ve been asked by so many people how we got into house sitting – it seems like something you’d only see in a movie. We’re going to test it out though, and share everything with you, so you can do it too.
This lifestyle is ideal for us right now because we:
Want to travel and see new places and don’t really mind where we end up
Intend to work on our digital business so we just need to be somewhere there’s good WiFi
Enjoy meeting new people, learning new stories and cultures, and this seems like a perfect opportunity to do all that!
We hope you’ll join us for more stories as the months go by. If you’re interested to find out more about how to travel the world house-sitting, drop us a line in the comments.
As mentioned, Cooper and I have signed up to TrustedHousesitters – click the link if you’d like to know more or join the service too!
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper: we know life's short, and we're here to encourage you to make the most of it! We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. Our hottest content topics here are pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be. Join our community of over 11,000 like-minded adventurers - find out more by signing up for the mailing list and our Facebook Group. Find us on YouTube too. NEW podcast now live: search 'Freedom and Four Paws' on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or your fave podcast service provider.