5 ways to make the most of off grid travel + house sitting

5 ways to make the most of off grid travel + house sitting

Off grid house sitting and travel is becoming a popular way of life for many. Let’s face it, most of  us want to switch off from the craziness of the world today. Living off grid is also an opportunity to practice a more sustainable way of living. When we had the chance to chat to Annemarie – an Aussie based in South America and living this lifestyle, we jumped at the chance.


Off grid house sitting and travel – living the dream?

In this episode of Freedom and Four Paws, we meet Annemarie, an Australian who has been slow travelling through Central and South America for the past few years. Annemarie offers wonderful tales of travels and friends made along the way. And, she shares excellent advice on what it takes to survive and thrive living off the grid. 

If you’re wondering what the off-grid lifestyle looks like, Annemarie says it is a dream for her. BUT it’s probably not for everyone. That’s where house sitting is a great chance to dip your toes in to see if it is for you.


Getting into off-grid living

Annemarie’s initiation to off the grid living came about by chance.

A friend asked her to come to Costa Rica to help him set up an off the grid art eco events centre on his permaculture farm. Her off-grid experience there lasted seven months where she quickly learned what it takes to survive.

By definition, off-grid living usually means you’re relying on your own energy and water supplies. It also comes with nurturing your own food and learning to truly appreciate all living things around you. An attractive proposition for many of us!

To become accustomed to jungle life, like in Annemarie’s case, you need to be able to cope with isolation, be good with your hands, calm and adaptable.

“You are off grid. There’s no shop, there’s no letter box, there isn’t anything,” explains Annemarie.

Find out more by watching her interview – click to play above



How to find house sits while travelling off-grid

Annemarie uses TrustedHousesitters, but like some of our other Freedom and Four Paws guests including Nicky who travels with her dog, and this family of four house sitters, has also built a reputation and now has people contacting her for sits.

Annemarie shares that it’s important to continue to develop and foster relationships with locals where you live too – often leads come in that way.

Additionally, join community groups in your area, on and offline. Let people know what you do – tell them you do house sitting and people will soon reach out to you. “House sitters are in demand everywhere,” Annemarie tells us.


Annemarie’s top house sitting and off-grid travel tips

Anne Marie’s biggest tip to finding work and getting involved in the community is through WhatsApp.

She tells us that in many countries, including South and Central America, many businesses don’t have a website, they utilise WhatsApp

A few key ways to finding work on the road: 

  • Join community groups in the region – network and get to know people
  • Groups (including online like Facebook, or offline in networks) are the best way to find out anything
  • Tell people what you do – you can’t sell a secret
  • Engage, develop relationships and opportunities open up!


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Freedom and Four Paws

Join us on our podcasting adventures as we hear inspiring stories from amazing people traveling the world. They’re living their best life, often with their pets in tow!

More advice from Freedom and Four Paws: House Sitting in a Foreign Language Destination, and Slow Travel: 9 Years on the Road House Sitting


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Tourism trends 2020: wellness and fitness

Tourism trends 2020: wellness and fitness

With greater numbers of Brits embracing a healthy lifestyle, it’s no surprise the tourism trends for 2020 and beyond are all about wellness tourism. Wellness retreats and fitness-based trips are an increasingly popular choice for holiday-goers looking to de-stress, rejuvenate, get inspired or achieve weight loss.

Experts from the diverse range of travel companies exhibiting and some of the expert speakers from Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show, the UK’s leading and longest-running travel event, have shared their recommendations.

Here’s their pick of what’s happening across tourism trends now.


Tourism trends 2020 means more of us are hiking the world's most beautiful rainforests like here in South America


Talking tourism trends 2020

Lares and Inca Trail Trek

Michael Witt from Kusa Treks, tells us that as far as tourism trends go:

“We offer a variety of fitness-based itineraries that enable our clients to improve their physical strength while also giving back to the communities of Peru.

An example of this is our Lares and Inca Trail Trek, which combines two incredible hikes into one. The Lares Trek takes visitors to remote villages in the Andes where they will hike 15 miles over two days, reaching an altitude of 15,000 ft!

You’ll then have the opportunity to donate school supplies and toys to local villages where they will share meals and play games.

The third day is spent hiking 8 miles on the world-famous Inca Trail, during the hike, our guide leads everyone on a trail restoration project.

Finally, on Day 4, the group will reach Machu Picchu, where holidaymakers will have a professionally guided tour of one of the World Wonders.”

Go hiking in Peru and boost your physical and spiritual wellness

Sacred Valley Yoga Retreat

Michael Witt continues:

“This trip offers an escape to a beautiful lodge deep in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. At the lodge visitors are led by professional instructors through various yoga and fitness classes during their stay. In between classes clients can choose from various “volunteer” activities that benefit the surrounding area and communities, or they can choose to take short tours of the surrounding area.

These tours include horseback riding, paragliding, ATV tours, day hikes and more. Throughout the trip, fabulous meals are served with a range of healthy and nutritious snacks and supplements to help aid fitness.”

Tourism trends 2020 will see more people flock to yoga experiences

SwaSwara in Gokarana

Vimal Matthew, Head of Operations at Authentic India Tours, says:

“The SwaSwara in Gokarana wellness retreat is located on the pristine Om Beach.

Crafted in colours of the Earth, and in harmony with the land that nurtures her, SwaSwara is designed for holistic and transformational experiences; a space where the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and Yoga embrace you to rejuvenate body and spirit.

The programmes here blend the healing powers of Ayurveda, yoga, meditation and art to offer a rejuvenating holiday experience.

The goal is to offer a life plan for the ‘reconstruction’ of mind and body to bring about balance and harmony within.”


Kalari Kovilakom

Vimal Matthew continues:

“Kalari Kovilakom is located near Kollangode in the Palghat District of Kerala by the majestic Western Ghat mountain ranges. The 200-year-old palace of Ayurveda is certified and accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare (NABH) so that history meets natural tranquillity.

The treatments provided are strictly according to the tenets of ancient Ayurveda. CGH Earth took over the reins of this palace and converted it into a traditional Ayurvedic healing facility, while keeping its historic legacy intact.

Kalari Kovilakom is set within the palace grounds of the old Vengunad kingdom and offers 19 well-appointed suites with modern amenities and a clinic with 12 treatment rooms. The living spaces and gardens here complement the healing process, with their nurturing and warm environment.”

Cocooning in the forests of Finland are a big tourism trend for 2020

Arctic Cocooning

Linda Harris at Scott Dunn, says of upcoming tourism trends:

“An increasing demand for alternative and boundary pushing wellness practices sees Scott Dunn offering tailormade tours to lesser-known parts of Finnish and Swedish Lapland.

Arctic Cocooning sees guests become immersed in the Finnish Forests, wrapped in an insulated cocoon and soothed by the gentle swaying of the trees and pure Arctic air. A specialist guide takes guests through mindful breathing practices that leave them feeling de-stressed and motivated.”

Swedish Lapland

Linda Harris adds:

“In Swedish Lapland, Scott Dunn will feature the highly anticipated Arctic Bath hotel.

Set within an extraordinary timber structure, which floats in the middle of the Lule River, guests will experience Arctic Wellness rituals with a giant ice-bath at its core. Guest activities will be tailored to explore the pristine natural surroundings under the Northern Lights.”

Cycling holidays are ever more popular as a wellness travel escape

Exodus Walking and Cycling Holidays

Jenny Cox, Product Manager at Exodus, says:

“Exploring destinations under your own steam, on foot or by pedal power is not only low impact on the environment but it enables you to escape the crowds and reach places where vehicles can’t.



On a walking holiday you can venture where there are no roads and often limited signs of civilisation. Breathe in the fresh air, disconnect from the modern world, and take in the natural beauty of the landscapes around you. It may sound like an oxymoron but I always find active holidays more restful: think ‘active body, restful mind’.

After burning all those calories in the great outdoors you’ll be sure to have a contented night’s sleep.

At Exodus Travels, we offer walking and trekking holidays across the globe at a range of activity levels, so whatever your budget or fitness level, there’s a trip for you.

Enjoy home-made picnics on our week-long Walking in Mallorca Holiday, sleep under star-strewn skies in Jordan on our Petra & Wadi Rum Desert Trek, camp in Central Asia’s celestial mountains on our Challenging Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Gorge Trek, or take on a summit and lay your claim to the ‘roof of Africa’ on one of our Kilimanjaro climbing routes!”

Tourism trends 2020 explore the rainforests in the Carrebean

Caribbean Island Walking – Dominica

Caroline Phillips, Product Manager for Walking & Trekking at Explore Travels, says:

“Discover the rainforests, mountains and hot springs of the Caribbean’s ‘Nature Island’ on this unique trip. Hike to the Boiling Lake, one of the world’s largest hot springs, swim in Middleham Falls and walk the Syndicate nature trail.

Explore’s first walking tour in the Caribbean, this trip covers most of the island, taking in coastlines, volcanoes and colourful hillside houses.”


The best places to visit in Mexico

The best places to visit in Mexico


Already pining for your next holiday? Why not head out over to Mexico and check out some of the amazing places you can visit in the central American nation.

Four of the best places to visit in Mexico


If you’re looking for a historic ambience when it comes to your holiday locales, why not check out Merida?

This spot is also known as ‘real Mexico’ and provides people with a blend of old and new.

A beach is located near the city, which serves as an excellent destination for people wanting to get a break from the slightly more chaotic scenes of the central town.

History buffs will love the 17th Century cathedral which can be found in the middle of the region – constructed from Mayan brick.




Cancun is the premium name when it comes to exotic beach locations in Mexico, but a nearby neighbour which is often overlooked comes in the form of the town of Zipolite.

As a sleepy little spot with just a few hundred inhabitants, the area is considered to be a fantastic alternative for people looking to avoid the mass hustle and bustle of larger resorts.

If you’re really ambitious you can even take a stroll through a couple of sandy spots which are really ‘out there’ (as in, they don’t require you to necessarily wear clothes).



Chichén Itzá

This Mayan temple is one of the wonders of the ancient world; standing as one of the few largely intact remnants of a long-forgotten culture.

The name literally translates to ‘at the mouth of the wall of Itza’, and serves up a fantastic blend of different styles through separate Mayan time periods.

Tours of the area also available, with a series of guides on hand to transport back to the ancient world of Mexico.




Coba is similar to Chichén Itzá in the sense it plays host to a series of fantastic Mayan architecture, but also offers a more modern approach for people who aren’t solely concerned with history.

Snorkelling and zip-lining is also available in the area, as well as guided tours of caves which have gone long untouched by humans.

Again, like any good set of historic landmarks, tours are widely available for anyone looking to visit. 



Be sure to add one of these amazing locations to your itinerary for your Mexico travel planning! You certainly won’t be disappointed.


Image credits (via Flickr creative commons):

  • Coba – Jason Ramos
  • Chichén Itzá – Paul Simpson
  • Zipolite – Carlos Adampol Galindo
  • Merida and feature image by Jorge Andrés Paparoni Bruzual
Vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures (circa early ’70s)

Vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures (circa early ’70s)

My parents were explorers – avid travellers who were among the original backpackers. They were contemporaries of the Wheelers (founders of Lonely Planet). Although explored varying routes right throughout Africa, South America and Asia. In the ’70s, my parents scored jobs with Encounter Overland (EO), one of the early companies to specialise in international and off-the-beaten-track adventure travel.

Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com lion

EO’s HQ was based in London, although my parents joined the party in South Africa. It doesn’t exist now, but there are plenty of people who had great adventures (or misadventures) on board EO’s famous overlander trucks during its operational period (late ’60s to late ’90s as far as I understand).

Two of the trips my dad, John, and mum, June, embarked upon were some of the very first to mark the Encounter Overland trails through Africa and South America, and would subsequently determine the itinerary for future expeditions.

Travel adventures: Encounter Overland

On Googling “Encounter Overland” I discovered blogs from travellers who toured with EO, and a couple mention “disasters” like dirt flying up at them on the trucks, or getting bogged. These are not disasters. Nearly being thrown in jail as an innocent is. Being held up at gunpoint at border crossings, trapped below landslides, or stalked by rhinoceros’ when you’ve been deliberately left at a camp in the middle of nowhere in Africa, these are “disasters”. And just a tiny insight into the many enthralling stories shared with me as I grew up.

I can confidently say however, that I don’t think anyone on board would trade the experiences – even the scary ones (well, maybe they would trade the examples I’ve mentioned above, but I hope you see my point). In the end, it’s travel – a life-changing adventure.

Some of the places these crews visited 40 odd years ago aren’t even accessible to the average traveller now. Pretty amazing.

I appreciate that EO is in the hearts of many the world over, because of the friends made on these tours – through good, bad, terrifying and exhilarating times. The intriguing local people met, and remote, wonderful, awe-inspiring sights witnessed too, are a reward that lasts a lifetime, and a reason we continue to pursue travel and associated experiences to this day.

Travel Live Learn

For as long as my brother and I can remember, we thought images to accompany our parents’ travel tales hadn’t survived years of humid tropical North Queensland summers.

Fortunately mum has diaries, a good memory and the ability to tell an engaging yarn, so our imaginations did the rest. I’d say these stories mark the origins of my personal interest in travel and adventure.

Recently though, some photos (slides, actually), were discovered by my parents, and for the first time in my lifetime – thanks to modern photo technology accessible at home – we’ve been able to view these images which could be scanned into a computer and colour-corrected (we used PaintShop Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Picasa and SnapSeed).

Here are some of my favourites from the Vintage Travel Photography Encounter Overland Adventures collection.

A few are a little marked but it adds to their character, don’t you think?

If you like these, the full set (over 100 we’ve restored to date), featuring people, places, animals and architecture across most continents, is featured on our Encounter Overland Vintage Photography tumblr blog.

Vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures

Original photography by “my” globe trekkers, John & June Blinco.

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com South America

Mum, making friends in South America

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Marakesh

The streets of Marakesh

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Bolivia

Life in Bolivia

Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com Turkey

On the road in Turkey

Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com India


Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Durban

Dancers in Durban

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com camping above Cusco

Camping above Cusco

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com vintage London

“Vintage” London (Earl’s Court?)

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

EO on the road

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Mont Aux Sources, Drakensburg Ranges, South Africa

Mont Aux Sources, Drakensburg Ranges, South Africa

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com vintage travel

Classic camping, UK

Want more vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures? View the entire gallery here. Additionally, here’s a blog that mentions a vintage EO adventure late ’60s/early ’70s including an original promotional poster and images.

And if you were part of the crew or you’re a little nostalgic for all that was, you can connect here with others who are keeping the spirit of EO alive. Drop us a line in the comments, and you will want to take a look at Lance Thomas’ site about Encounter Overland.


As always, I’d love to hear from you – please do drop me a line in the comments below.


Travel adventures: Guest traveller profile – Kim Shields on Peru

Travel adventures: Guest traveller profile – Kim Shields on Peru

Another day, another guest interview, and tonight I’m excited to offer some insights into one that is definitely on my own ‘to do’ list, PERU. Simply *amazing*.


Name: Kim Shields
Occupation: Teacher
Age: 33
Destination: Peru

What’s so cool about this place? Peru is filled with amazing scenery, people and wildlife. Every town and city has an interesting history to tell. My husband and I travelled with Intrepid on the Highlights of Peru trip. It took us from the city of Lima to Pisco, the Nazca, Araquipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, Picchu, Aguas Calientes and the Amazon Jungle.

Why did you decide to go? Peru seemed to offer everything we wanted in a trip. I love the outdoors, love wildlife and love seeing places that are so different from what we have here in Australia. It had the right mix.


Favourite part/experiences of your trip? The trek to Maccha Pichu was the major highlight. Parts of it were hard but I love something that is physically challenging and the reward at the end was worth it. The Amazon Basin was also amazing to see. There is such a vast array of wildlife and magnificent trees that are centuries old. Lake Titicaca was also special. When you see what people can build out of reeds from the lake it blows your mind. With Intrepid we were able to have a homestay with one of the local rural families that reside at Lake Titicaca. They are extremely hard workers and life remains simple and uncomplicated for them. We were treated to a village dance in which we were to dress in the local costumes and also a fantastic game of soccer against the local villagers.


How did you get around? After flying into Lima via Santiago the majority of movement was by bus. Some were big buses and some were small. You can expect that not all buses will be in the best of condition. We had an overnight trip on one where the toilet door wasn’t staying shut and the foulest of smells wafted through the back of the bus. We took a very short flight (filled with many air pockets) from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then back to Lima after returning from the Amazon Jungle. We travelled by boat down the Amazon River to our destination. This was a great way to see the wildlife and surrounds.

What would you recommend other people do? We went sand-boarding in Huacachina, outside Araquipa, and it was fantastic. You arrive at a road-side restaurant with little sand in view. They then whisk you up and over the nearby hill in a sand buggy and it opens up onto this amazing expanse of rolling sand hills. The buggy weaves up and down the sides at great speeds giving all on board a thrilling ride. The board riding is fantastic. I recommend forgetting the trying to stand part (unless you’re a pro) and lying down on the board head first. This was lots of fun. There is also a flashy looking Italian restaurant just off the square in Cuzco that offered a nice break from the local cuisine.


Any accommodation you would recommend? We had no problems at all with any of the accommodation that we stayed in. It was all prearranged by Intrepid and whilst not luxury you know that you will have somewhere to stay that meets the standards of the company and most that travel with them.

Anything you didn’t like about this travel destination? The bus trips are long between the destinations but there is little chance of avoiding this if you want to see all that Peru has to offer. There were parts of the west coast that I would not bother with seeing if I had the trip over again.

An insider’s tip based on your travel experience to this destination? We were lucky but I have heard many stories of people getting gastro on the trek to Macchu Picchu. Be careful with what you consume and hit the chemist for all the electrolytes and gastro stop before you go. You may be unlucky enough to get altitude sickness, especially if you fly straight into the high country. There are apparently some medications you can take but the locals will also advise coca tea which seems to work.

What’s your number one travel tip? Always research the country you are going to. While the world is a wonderful place to explore you need to know where to go and where not to, and how to fit in when you get there.

And your next (ideal) travel destination? I am looking forward to a ski holiday, Canada or Europe.