The unexpected thing that we–two professional writers and editors–have learned over the past 100 days of house- and pet-sitting; is, that we suck at blogging.

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In November of 2017, while discussing where we might want to live, we decided that we didn’t care as long as we were together. After serious contemplation of RVs and Airbnbs, we stumbled into pet sitting when a friend needed someone to take care of her cat over the Thanksgiving holiday and we volunteered. Washington, DC, is right down the road from us in Maryland, yet it was like seeing it for the first time because we were in a different environment, exploring like a resident rather than rushing through like a tourist.

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We began looking online and became hooked on the idea. It was an easy decision to join an international organization since it gave us the most options for US cities as well as other countries around the world. Trusted Housesitters matches people traveling for work and vacation with people willing to care for their cats and dogs; as well as their birds and reptiles, and sometimes poultry and other farm animals. We took the time to create a profile that truly reflects who we are, and had our first six assignments confirmed within a week before we even started packing.

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We have learned that, once you make a sincere intention, unseen forces will arrange for everything you need to fall into place. Our confirmed sits had scheduled themselves back to back to back, almost as if by magic, with just enough of a gap to allow for travel in between. In the past four months, we have driven to big cities like Chicago and Baltimore; historic ones like Savannah, GA and Williamsburg, VA; small towns like Dyke, VA, Landgraff, WV, Brevard, NC, and Huntington, PA; and suburban towns in between like Silver Spring, MD and Reston, VA.

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Our plan was to document our whole adventure; capturing the moments and telling the stories through words and pictures on a weekly basis. But, as you might have noticed from our website, that hasn’t really happened. We’ve been a little better about updating our Facebook page and we still have every intention of updating the blog–our last post was 3 December; the day we left Maryland–but we’ve spent so much time creating new memories that we’ve gotten behind on writing about the old ones.

 

What 100 Days has Taught Us

About the locations

The great attraction of a nomadic lifestyle is the opportunities to explore new places and discover familiar ones all over again. Allowing ourselves to play and look at things with child-like wonder has introduced us to some marvelous experiences.

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We’ve both lived in Maryland for most of our lives, and but we still made a pact to try different places to eat and visit the sites we normally dismiss as for tourists. For example, James hadn’t been to the Paca House in Annapolis and Mia had never visited the historic buildings in Ellicott City. Together, we discovered the Mount Claire mansion in Baltimore, the McKeldin area of Patapsco State Park, and St. Mary’s City, where Maryland was first settled. 

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Outside of our home state, we’ve discovered just how windy Chicago really is; how beautiful the mountains of North Carolina are in the winter fog; and that ice storms can happen in Savannah two days after you go to the beach so you have to wear all of your clothes in the living room. And that people everywhere are friendly, welcoming, and eager to tell you about their hometowns.

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About house sitting

You find out quickly what you like and what you don’t. We love having a ceiling fan in the bedroom; we hate not having a large, clear workspace. Chairs and sofas with good back support are a blessing; very few bathtubs are big enough or deep enough for both of us.

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We’ve saved approximately $15,000 in household expenses over four months because we don’t have to pay for rent, utilities, or internet. Compared to bordering the animal at a kennel for $25 per pet per night, having a sitter is a great benefit for the homeowners also.

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About our hosts

We feel humbled by the level of trust people have shown us. Although we exchange a lot of emails through the Trusted Housesitter website, and usually chat on the phone with each host, it still amazes us that people hand us the keys to their lives so easily.

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Our hosts are also generous. Some have given us gift cards for food or bottles of wine, and most have said, “please eat anything that will go bad”, or, “Help yourself to whatever you’d like.” To a one, they have invited us to make ourselves at home.

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Overall, they are incredibly cool people doing cool things in the world. One host works for FEMA, another is a professor of Peace Studies. We’ve met a pianist; a master gardener, house flippers, a shaman, and a hypnotist.

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All of our hosts have one thing in common–they are readers with interesting books for us to browse. Some hosts have very extensive libraries… Heaven! And, oddly enough, over half of our hosts own copies of The Liliad AND The Odyssey by Homer. 

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About the houses

We don’t snoop. In theory, it’s tempting to peek in the medicine cabinet or bedside tables–especially for creative writers–but we never do. We feel very strongly that the trust we’ve been given is not to be violated, just as we wouldn’t want them looking through our luggage.

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But we do get into daily life in a stranger’s home. Most kitchens aren’t as clean as their owners think they are. We do look through the cupboards for pans and whisks; cumin and olive oil. Some people have every kitchen gadget you can think of and some don’t have a spatula or a sponge.

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If it really matters to you, as it does to us, then travel with your favorite thick, soft, 2-ply bathroom tissue and your own bed pillows so you always have the familiarities of home.

 

 

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About the pets

We do our best to arrange early arrival with the hosts, especially with dog owners. Meeting the four-legged gang while their humans are still home makes the transition easier for the dogs if they see we’ve been accepted.

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To date, we have cared for 18 cats and 10 dogs. Some of them have a few toys, but most of them don’t.  Of those who do, only one dog has played with his squeaky lobster and three of the cats have tumbled around their playset. When we’ve tried to play with them, they don’t seem to know what to do. It’s puzzled us because Mia’s cats had teddy bears and mice of fishing poles; while James’ dogs had a large basket of beef bones and chew toys. 

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Mia has always had cats while James’ household has included multiple cats, bunnies, ferrets, lizards, parrots; and a family of golden retrievers over the years. Because of this, we decided early on that we would not get attached to our charges. Well, that didn’t last very long. Staying objective is no easier on a four-day house sit than it was during a sit that lasted over a month. Especially since James is the Pet Whisperer, who sometimes pretends to get jealous if any of the animals appear to like Mia best.

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There have been 5 or 6 fuzzy buddies who have embedded their spirits with us forever. We may never see most of these animals again; but only because we couldn’t adopt them all like we wanted to. They wouldn’t all fit in the car. We’ll settle for looking at the portraits we’ve taken (See the Pictures page). 

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About ourselves

We have gotten homesick occasionally, so we’ve been sure to look for assignments nearby, or at least made time in our schedule to stop and visit Maryland in between sits. No matter how far you go, it’s always good to be with family and friends again every once in a while.  

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We quickly discovered that we need our own space; within the greater place. Sometimes we can only carve out a section of a kitchen table. Other times we’ve had an entire spare room as an escape. Once we can spread out our craft projects, our computers, and our board games, we’ve been able to feel at home almost immediately.

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Because we are spending 24 hours a day with each other–and for over a month, we were almost the only people we saw at all–we have learned how important mature love and a great sense of humor are. Unlike when we were kids, being in love in our 50s means not sweating the little stuff and not trying to change the other person. It’s us against a problem; never us against each other. At the end of every day, we count our blessings and just laugh at everything else.

How 100 Days Turn into 314

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Since 3 December, we’ve spent all but 11 days sitting for pets and, as of this writing, we are fully booked with housesitting assignments every day until 6 October. That will be day 314. We’re confirmed for Annapolis; Gainesville, VA; Atlanta; Bowling Green, KY; Pittsburgh and an 81-day sit in Charlottesville, VA, with six cats and two dogs for the whole summer.

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Phew! We can’t wait to see where the last quarter of 2018 takes us. LOL

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When we started this adventure, we didn’t talk about scope or duration. We simply trusted that the path would unfold before us and that we would be guided to where we were needed most.  Now here we are–100 days after choosing change over stability, and adventure over putting down roots–house-full, rather than home-less. Most importantly, we have kept our promise to stay present in our own adventure; and to look for the extraordinary in every day and in each other.