Wow! That was quick!
Five years. Half a decade. Where did that go? Where were you five years ago? What was happening in the world?
Well, Britain’s Prince Harry married an American TV actress named Meghan Markle; Donald Trump met Vladimir Putin in Helsinki one minute and Kanye West at an increasingly chaotic White House the next; Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was in deep do-do; and the great Aretha Franklin died.
And the biggest event in my little world? I retired, after a career in the print media that fell only a few months short of 50 years. On August 4, 2018, I walked out of the Herald and Weekly Times building in Melbourne, Australia, after my last shift. What a relief. At last I’d have absolutely nothing to do. A man of leisure. Yeah, right.
By August 30, my partner Kirsty Carter and I had sold and moved out of our beautiful apartment in the centre of Melbourne, sold or given away most of our belongings, had our cats Alvin and Henry adopted out and embarked on our new life.
Where did the next five years go? The answer is lots of places — from Melbourne to South-East Asia, to the UK and Europe, the Middle East, North America and various places around our home country. And we’re still going strong, even despite the intervention of something none of us had heard of five years ago — Covid 19.
The treadmill to everywhere
And to think it all got started on a treadmill.
A couple of months before my retirement, I was trying to pound off a few kilograms in the gym on the 34th floor of our apartment building in Melbourne’s legal precinct. A stunning view of the city’s west spread out below, and I started thinking idly (hallucinating as a result of all that running, maybe?) about our home town again being voted the most liveable city in the world. What were the others in the top 10, and why not visit each of them?
Getting started house sitting
Kirsty and I already had completed a couple of house sits in Melbourne just to get a taste, and when we started discussing my brilliant new idea (I have many), it evolved into what we do now — travel the world caring for other folks’ homes and pets.
Suddenly we found ourselves standing under the Departures sign at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, each with a suitcase emblazoned with a sticker of an Australian flag and the words “Young and Free”.
Well, we were free.
Next stop .... you name it
About 24 hours later we landed in London and our house sitting journey began in earnest.
Here are the countries we’ve visited (not in any particular order): Vietnam, Egypt, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canary Islands, United States and Canada.
We’ve stood and stared at the cranes on the skyline of Bratislava, wondering how different that city will look inside the next decade; checked out the country music scene in Nashville; spotted whales in the Atlantic and the Pacific; been dog sledding and ice fishing; visited Niagara Falls and some of the Great Lakes.
We’ve seen shows in London’s West End; visited towns that inspired Paul Gauguin; seen the Great Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings; had hats blown off into the Mekong and Nile Rivers; been dazzled by the Northern Lights; shopped at fabulous old markets; cheered on at reindeer races; been left almost breathless by great artworks; visited Anne Frank’s home; and much, much more.
In our own country we’ve been to Perth, Western Australia, and up and down the New South Wales Coast. We’ve gotten to know and love Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, and its beautiful Sunshine Coast and had regular sits in Melbourne so we could check in on family and friends. Early in 2024 we will head to New Zealand for a couple of months.
The house sitting life
Along the way we’ve cared for some fabulous homes (and a couple not so fabulous), looked after as many as six cats and five dogs at one time, generally strengthened our love of animals through caring for so many of all shapes, sizes, ages and health conditions, and made some enduring friends among their humans.
We’ve had house sits cancelled at short notice due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control and flights cancelled for seemingly no reason, and learned to ride with those punches without panicking t-o-o much. We’ve endured a pandemic and a flood and even survived (only just) walking across a street in Ho Chi Minh City.
Kiwis, here we come
And there’s a way to go yet. The new riverside apartment we’ve purchased off the plan in our home town, Melbourne, is scheduled for completion in September 2024 and we have house sits booked solidly until then. We are especially looking forward to sampling life with our neighbours in New Zealand for a while.
After that we’ll play it by ear, so to speak, but after five years of house sitting it’s difficult to imagine a life without at least a few sits a year. And there always will be plenty of places we’d like to visit and dogs and cats we’d love to meet.