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!
Situated only 90 minutes from Melbourne discover unlimited coastlines and seaside villages, lavishing wildlife and an array of family attractions on Phillip Island.
The breathtaking natural beauty is perfect for everyone looking for the perfect holiday vacation.
The most popular attraction here is the penguin parade. Other attractions include koala and bird sanctuaries, remarkable rock formations, historic homesteads and fine pottery shops. Sports activities here include surfing, sailing, fishing, tennis, golf and bowling.
The penguin parade at Phillip Island is an amazing natural spectacle. Every day at Summerland Beach, hundreds of little penguins waddle from the waters of Bass Strait to their burrows in the sand.
They have been doing this for many years for all seasons. On shore, the penguins spend their time preening themselves. Visitors watch them from raised boardwalks from the many penguin tours to Philip Island. Read more about a day in the life of penguins and tourists on Philip Island here, where Peter Dann comments:
“I can see quite clearly that tourism has been crucial in the protection of this colony and the visitors are playing an important role in the conservation of Phillip Island.”
Seal Rocks is located at the western end of the Phillip Island.
At Sea Rocks, you can find Australia’s largest colony of fur seals. There are about 6,000 seals indulging in activities such as playing in the surf, resting in the sun or feeding their pups on the rocks.
The peak of the breeding season is around early December; hence, it is best to watch these fur seals during this time. Visitors can watch these fur seals through telescopes in the kiosk on the top of the cliff at Point Grant.
Alternatively, they can join an organised trip to view these fur seals. There is also a large koala colony on Phillip Island.
Phillip Island has a few fantastic beaches. Cape Woolamai, with its wild surf and red cliffs, offers fine walking trails, great surfing and good bird watching.
There are some sheltered beaches on the north side. You can view Australia’s native fauna at the Koala Conservation Centre. The main town, Cowes, is located on the north coast.
In this place, you can find sheltered beaches, pubs, cafes, resorts and hotels. It is a peaceful town where you can enjoy swimming, eating and relaxing.
There is fine seafood served by restaurants. Cowes served as a tourist centre on the island.
During summer, when the number of visitors is at its peak, you can find the place extremely packed with holidaymakers and tourists.
Phillip Island is an interesting place to visit. Particularly, you can have a unique opportunity to view the amazing penguin parade.
Besides this, you can enjoy viewing fur seals, koalas, birds and Australia’s native fauna.
There are plenty of exciting activities for you to do here.
Apart from sightseeing, you can enjoy many kinds of sports activities. Explore the hidden treasures of nature that will forever be an exclusive experience you’ll ever find!
Tokyo is fascinating, cool and colourful. It’s the most populous city of Japan and is officially called Tokyo Metropolis; founded in 1943 by merging Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo.
Generally Tokyo is mentioned as a city but it is administered as a ‘metropolitan prefecture’ – that is, both city and prefecture.
The city administers 23 special wards of Tokyo – which consists of the place formerly known as the City of Tokyo – and 39 municipalities in the western part of the prefecture.
Tokyo City was ranked first by TripAdviser in terms of “overall travel experience” and it also holds the first position in different categories like “nightlife, shopping, public transportation and cleanliness of streets”.
Despite a massive population, people of Tokyo are extremely polite, and it is considered one of the safest cities in the world which makes it even more pleasurable to visit.
Well-known for being technologically advanced, Tokyo is also rich in cultural heritage and people still value traditions and constructs of their civilisation.
With so much to experience, it’s difficult to know where to begin – here is a starting list of eleven places to visit in Tokyo – a city that will inevitably end up as one of your favourite destinations in the world.
11 places to visit in Tokyo
Situated in Asakusa, this is the largest and oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo and a spot of attraction for most of the locals and foreigners interested in Buddhism or different religions of the world.
The temple is associated with Guan yin, the goddess of mercy and was formerly associated with the Tendai sect which gained independence after World War 2.
Nakamise is the oldest shopping centre in Japan and it is located near Sensoji.
There’s a huge paper lantern here, painted red and black to show thundercloud and lightning, and visitors enjoy browsing the different stalls that sell local souvenirs and snacks.
A Shinto temple dedicated to emperor Meiji and his wife Shoken. The temple has its own rituals to pay tribute to the emperor and to make wishes if one has any.
Rituals include a half bow when entering and leaving the temple, washing your left hand and right hand then left hand again and rinsing your mouth.
At the main shrine building if you want to make a wish, bow and clap twice, make a wish and then bow again.
Imperial Palace and East Garden
Imperial palace (pictured above) is the residence of the Emperor of Japan and it reflects the political history of Japan.
This palace is not open to the public except on two days which are New Year’s greetings day and the emperor’s birthday (2 January and 23 December respectively). On these two days, imperial figures make public appearances on the balcony.
The imperial gardens are the part of the inner palace and are open to the public.
Tsukiji Fish Market
This is the largest wholesale market of seafood in the whole world. It manages more than 400 categories of sea animals from cheap species to expensive ones, from tiny sardines to 400kg tunas!
The most interesting part of this market is the tuna auction which can be seen in the early hours of the day in two shifts. You’ll need to purchase tickets and they are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
If you want to experience the tuna auction it is advisable to stay near Giza so that you can get a cheap cab early in the morning because no trains are operating at this time. If you are looking for other travel discounts then check out Groupon deals.
The 634m Tokyo tower is the tallest tower in Japan and is used for television and radio broadcast across the Shinto region.
It comprises of two parts which are the Tembo deck and Tembo gallery, and there’s a shopping centre at the base.
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
A popular park of 115 acres and based on the films produced by Walt Disney, this was also the first Disney theme park outside of United States.
Tokyo Disneysea is the world’s fourth most visited park, inspired by the myths and stories of Disneyland, this park is based on seven ports of call: Mediterranean Harbour, Mystery Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, post-Discovery and American Waterfront.
This is often called the ‘sleepless town’. The name Kabukicho comes from the desire to build a theatre named Kabuki here back in in 1940.
The theatre was never built because of financial reasons but the name stuck and Kabuki-Cho is a place with lots of hotels, dance clubs and bars; famous for its entertainment spots and Red-Light District.
One of the high-end fashion centres in Japan and famous for its costly real estate, Ginza also boasts many of the five-star hotels and entertainment centres of Tokyo.
On weekends the roads are filled with flowing traffic, while in the daytime it is a haven for pedestrians.
A shrine dedicated to those who died for a cause and for the emperor of Japan.
This shrine is also famous for a poem written by Emperor Meiji when he visited the shrine in 1874, the lines are:
“I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino.”
This is one of the most touching and inspiring real-life stories in the world, and is particularly poignant for ‘dog people’.
Hidesaburō Ueno took in this dog as a pet and every day, loyal Hachiko greeted his owner on a nearby train station when he returned from work.
One day Ueno died unexpectedly because of a cerebral haemorrhage. He never came home.
Hachiko waited nine years in the same place for his master to come back, with friends and passers-by in the busy city often stopping with food for the dog.
Eventually, Hachiko became a symbol of loyalty and faithfulness and ended up with his statue being erected in the middle of the bustling city.
Do you have Tokyo tips to share? Please add them in the comments section below…
The school holidays are fast approaching and no doubt you’re already planning a trip with the family – but this begs the question: pet hotel, or what else to do with the fur child?
Cooper and I have had dogs most of our lives. We know that they all have different personalities and cope in varying ways outside of our company. Also, we learnt lessons from the years spent as younger, less experienced dog owners, on what is good or not so good for pets when we are absent.
Pet hotel, in home sitting or take them with you? Questions to ask yourself about your pooch:
Does my dog have problems with unfamiliar people or surroundings?
Does my dog get along well with other dogs?
How long is reasonable to leave my dog at home on his/her own for (keeping in mind, they are social creatures)?
How much exercise does my dog need, even if we’re travelling/on holidays?
The answers to these questions take you some way to deciding on what you need to arrange for your four-legged friend(s) when planning your own break away.
Pet hotel and dog-friendly accommodation: can you take your dog with you?
Of course, one option is to take your pooch with you and this requires a lot of planning. The main things to keep in mind are to book dog friendly accommodation and to choose a travel destination that best fits your dog’s breed. It might not be ideal to go hiking with a dachshund, for example. But a hotel that allows dogs (dog hotel) is perfect.
You also have to think about if you will travel by car or plane (and the high costs of the latter). Both in the car and on a plane, the dog should be in a dog crate. It will take time for your dog to get used to staying in a crate over an extended period of time, which means you have to train him/her before you go on a holiday. Travelling can mean a lot of stress for your pooch if it’s not facilitated in the right way.
Not everything that is expensive is the best option. A boarding kennel is one of the most expensive and usually least ideal options to consider (I personally have had both wonderful and terrible experiences, and it truly depends on whether the establishment is run by genuine, caring ‘dog people’ or not).
Your dog is in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and won’t get a lot of individual attention, because the sitter-to-dog ratio can be as low as 1:100. The dogs often sleep and stay in small cages. A positive however, is that your dog has a lot of friends to play with when in the running yard (assuming there is one – which there should be).
Friends and family
This might be the best and most trustworthy option (shout out to our family in Cairns – you know who you are). Your dog is already familiar with the people and surroundings, this means less stress when you’re away.
If your dog stays with friends or family, make sure they have their favourite toy and/or dog bed. We’d also leave something that smelled like us (eg. an old t-shirt). It only makes sense that your dog stays there if your friend or family member is at home often enough to take care of the pooch and has fun doing it.
Your dog can also stay at your home and someone comes to feed and walk him/her every day, but keep in mind that dogs can break things, tip over their water bowl, get hurt or very anxious if left alone for extended periods of time.
In-home dog sitting
When your dog feels uncomfortable being in unfamiliar surroundings for a long period of time this is a good option, as long as it’s something you are happy with too.
A dog sitter will come and live in your house for the time you’re on holiday. There are many options advertised in local newspapers and online, but you’ll want to be satisfied with references before leaving someone the keys to your home.
A great alternative for dogs that need that extra level of TLC, and easy to find thanks to the internet. Dog sitters are mostly passionate ‘dog people’ who currently own a dog, or who have had a dog in the past but cannot make the long-term commitment.
As you can meet the minder prior to committing, you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing your dog is in good hands. There’s plenty of services we are aware of, like Borrow My Doggy in the UK, or FindADogMinder.com.au in Australia, where you can even choose the kind of property your prefer for your pooch to hang out at, and all minders are insured and screened too.
Do you have tips, thoughts or suggestions on caring for dogs while you’re on holidays? We’re passionate dog people so would love to hear from you… leave a note in the comments below.
Dog tired? There are plenty of options for pet friendly travel in Australia. Wotif.com has shared some ideas with us for holidays to get tails wagging.
Image by thekarmapolice, Flickr creative commons tinyurl.com/pk5ltek
NSW – Carool Tailwaggers Rainforest Retreat
Escape to (3.5 star – self rated) Tailwaggers Rainforest Retreat with your four-legged friend. Relax in a self-contained cabin with a fenced yard purrfect for your pet and take advantage of the nearby walking trails. Linen is included for pets as well and there’s even a dedicated hydrobath to wash your pet.
VIC – Rutherglen Must Love Dogs B&B
Dog lovers should head to (4.5 star – self rated) Must Love Dogs B&B. Get spoilt with treats and chocolates for all guests and take advantage of free pet sitting.
WA – Albany Emu Beach Chalets
Pack your doggy or kitty bag and head to (3 star – AAA rated) Emu Beach Chalets for a pet-friendly break. Spread out in a self-contained chalet surrounded by bushland, just steps away from the beach.
QLD – Mooloolaba Saltwater Villas
Pamper your four-legged friend with a holiday at (3.5 star – self rated) Saltwater Villas. Kick up your feet/paws and relax in a waterfront villa with pet sitting, a day spa, water sports, pool and spa – it could be your next purrfect holiday.
SA – Robe Arches Spa Apartments and Complex
Get cosy with your plus one and four-legged friend in the Patsy Ryan Cottage at (4 star – AAA rated) Arches Spa Apartments and Complex. Settle into the 1850’s style cottage complete with a country kitchen and two bedrooms.
VIC – Mildura Emaroo Cottages Mildura
There’s no need to leave your pet behind when you stay at the (4 star – self rated) Emaroo Cottage Mildura. Pets are charged at AU$30 per stay.
TAS – Cambridge Riversdale Estate Cottages
Stay in a self-catering cottage at this (4.5 star – self rated) private vineyard and olive grove estate located only 15 minutes from Hobart CBD. Pets are charged from AU$10 per pet per night.
TOP PET TRAVEL TIPS
Image by Nathan Rupert, Flickr creative commons tinyurl.com/o4wb9uo
Wotif.com’s Product Director, Donna Rodios, shares tips for a stress-free holiday with a pet in tow…
“Remember pets can be susceptible to car sickness, especially on longer journeys, so it’s wise to avoid a big meal before you hit the road and definitely don’t give them anything new or exotic. Unlike one respondent who fed tuna to their dog the night before a long journey – needless to say it wasn’t a very pleasant car trip.”
“When flying, dogs and cats have to travel in a cage which meets the airline’s guidelines so make sure you check their requirements.”
“If your pet isn’t familiar with a cage, it pays to prepare them by placing them in one overnight in the lead up to your trip and reward them with treats for a job well done. That way they’re less likely to throw a wobbly when you check them in.
“It’s always a good idea to pack some of your pet’s home comforts so they feel as comfortable as possible in their new environment – remember they can be fussy so letting them eat out of their own bowl is a good way to help them settle.”
It’s no secret Cooper and I are passionate dog lovers. Our family members know not to be too upset when we say we miss our dog, Harry, more than anything. We pat unsuspecting (but generally enthusiastic) dogs whenever we get the chance – on the train, in a park, at the pub…
We were of course first in as the doors at Earl’s Court’s vast convention centre swung open for the annual Discover Dogs in London event, held each November (although a location change is in store for the 2015 event, I believe).
Discover Dogs in London
Discover Dogs in London is a two-day spectacular brimming with dog shows, agility demonstrations, over 200 breeds being showcased, and pet suppliers sharing their wares. We also got to meet awe-inspiring dogs who work in search and rescue, hospitals, and those dogs helping people who are sick and with special needs, everything ranging from sight and hearing loss to rare illnesses.
I was most moved by one pair of pups we met – a totally blind dog and his companion dog who basically mentors and guides him everywhere. So beautiful. Too bad more humans don’t behave like dogs, eh!
Additionally, I was amazed to happen across some VERY extraordinary dogs from Medical Detection Dogs UK. These dogs are recruited from all places including shelters and breeders. They are trained in a number of specialised ways – some are medical alert assistance dogs that help people with complex health conditions but who have no awareness of an impending life-threatening attack. Others are cancer detection dogs, increasingly being relied upon to assist scientists and medical professionals to detect and understand various forms of cancers. These dogs excel in such areas because of their heightened and honed sense of smell. Utterly fantastic – take a look at their website if this interests you too – medicaldetectiondogs.co.uk.
We love this event and highly recommend it if you’re a dog person and/or you want to introduce your family to the wonders of man’s (and woman’s) best friend. On again next year – more at discoverdogs.org.uk (admission fee does apply although children under 12 go free).
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper, and here we share our advice and stories about expat living in the UK; pet and house sitting around the world; wellness travel and creative living, no matter where on the planet you are. We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for 20 years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. We hope you find value in our content. Please do connect by leaving a comment or find us on social media.