“Hi, I’m Mark and these two are Kali, the white one, and Darwin, the gray one.” I looked up from petting the wagging fur balls that had run up to me on my way out to the camper. It is so funny how Americans always introduce themselves immediately, as if names are the most important thing during a conversation. Europeans could talk for hours before exchanging names, as I had realized more than once during my backpacking years. My eyes met those of a tall and skinny short-haired man in the doorway. “Hello. I’m Liesbet. My boyfriend Karl and I are staying with Nick for a week to visit San Francisco. Our camper is parked in front of the house.” “Camper? Why are you living in a camper?” I told him exactly why and shared my lifetime travel goals with the excitement I always feel when elaborating on my passion. Before I realized it, an hour had passed. I excused myself, ran towards our home on wheels, grabbed the CD of my favorite Belgian band dEUS and rushed back to Nick’s place. “Where have you been?” Karl asked. “Talking to a neighbor, the one with the fluffy dogs,” I answered, handing the disc over to Nick, who is an amateur disc jockey, interested in all kinds of music.
The weeks had flown by and my relationship with Mark intensified. He would leave the door to his apartment open while at work, so Karl and I could walk his dogs, together with our dog Caesar. And, I could snuggle with Kali and Darwin as much as I wanted. Today, I am not leaving, however. I am here to stay, to move in. To cuddle Kali and Darwin forever. What will Mark say about all this?
This is an excerpt of the memoir I am working on. Mark and I met in an area of Oakland called Rockridge, in November 2004. He loved living there and I enjoyed it as much, when I tossed my existing life with Karl and Caesar through the camper windows and decided to stay – unbeknownst to Mark. Continue reading
Each time Mark and I complete a house sit (or a few weeks later :-)), I write a little overview of our experiences. Our conclusions of previous sits in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida and California can be read here. I am almost a month late with this one – blame the extremely busy times we have had on the East Coast visiting friends, family, doctors and dealing with a bunch of unexpected developments in combination with our usual jobs – but I think most of you will still remember sweet Lola from Sebastopol!
Lola loves balls
Comfy in the car
Pinnacle Gulch Walk
Taylor Mountain hike
Pinnacle Gulch Beach
Not so sure about those cows
Pinnacle Gulch Beach
Mark and I have been living in Sebastopol, California for over two months with precious Lola. As we are packing up and ready to leave the area, I figure it is about time to write a blog about a random day in our lives here as house sitters. I post this feature every time we do a long-term sit, like at the artist-inspired home with parrots and dogs in Kent, CT, the maple farm with Jenny in Heath, MA and our first stay in Northern California, with Herk in the suburbs of Rocklin, CA. And, just for fun, I also wrote about it during our short time in the biggest retirement community of the world, called The Villages, in Florida.
Our days probably look pretty much the same as other forty-somethings with full-time jobs and no children, except for the fact that we don’t have to commute and we fill gaps, late afternoons, evenings and weekends with doggy love and devotion. 🙂 By now, once we are settled in a new place, our routine is pretty straightforward.
You guys coming for our walk?
The yard before spring arrived
Mark and I never go on vacations. We do travel a lot between places with our car, but the last time we had a real holiday together, as in taking a plane to a destination solely for sightseeing or vacationing, was back in… never actually. For me, it must have been when I was still living in Belgium, working as a teacher, before 2003. If you don’t count the city trip I did with my mom to St. Petersburg, Russia a year and a half ago. Yes, we do fly to the East Coast or Belgium once in a while to visit friends and family and we went on a five-day camping trip in 2015, but it is not the same. I hear some of you scoff, when silently mumbling something like “How about those eight years you were sailing in the Caribbean and the South Pacific?” or “What about that yearlong of gallivanting by RV in Central America?” Again: not the same. Leading a certain lifestyle, when working many hours a day at our computers does not equal vacation. 🙂
There are three reasons we never buy a plane ticket to go have fun in a new country. Continue reading
While this past weekend the weather was not as enjoyable as the previous one, Mark, Lola and I still had a nice time together. At least that’s what she told her loved ones in Mexico with the following letter. I couldn’t have phrased it better myself! 🙂
“Hi mom and dad,
I hope you are having a good time in Mexico. While I miss you a lot, I am happy to have remained in my own comfy house. I can lay in my favorite spots, play with my favorite toys, stroll in my favorite yard, bark at my favorite deer, and each time we come back from a car ride or a walk, I am so happy to be home. Sometimes, I don’t even want to leave, because I like it here so much. Last week, when it was so warm, I lagged behind on walks and panted a lot. I can’t believe that these two drag me out into the hills every day! Well, it is kind of nice, but sometimes, I just want to nap.
Grabbing balls at the dog park
(Oakland, CA – February 14th to February 21st, 2017)
A little while ago, Mark and I saw a house sit posting in Oakland, California that sounded just perfect. We still had a little gap to fill between our time in Costa Mesa and our current, two-month house sit in Sebastopol, and the listing we were eyeing promised to be “an oasis” in the middle of the city. Mark and I immediately thought back about the time and place we met, a desirable, pedestrian-friendly area of Oakland called Rockridge. Based on the description of this potential sit, it had to be in a similar area. After our one-week sit in Fairfax, we decided to swing by the place and meet its residents on our way south to visit friends, and then continue on to Costa Mesa.
Following the GPS directions, we arrived at Fruitvale Avenue. “This can’t be right,” Mark mumbled, as we drove along the dirty road with cars haphazardly parked and small stores reminding us of the ones in Central America. Continue reading
When Mark and I found out about a 2.5-week house and pet sit in Southern California, we applied to take care of 7-month-old Jaxx and find warmer weather. The owner chose us for the assignment and soon after, we were on our way to Costa Mesa after visiting some friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. We were to stay in her cozy apartment, in walking distance of many stores and amenities.
For house sit assignments to line up perfectly, house sitters have to be pretty lucky. Finding consecutive house sits in highly desirable locations is pretty rare, unless you are able to secure every sit of your choice and all the dates are flexible. Or, you are in an ideal position where home owners consult with you to see when you are available. That would be the dream of all house sitters: having different owners bombard you with invitations, so you can choose which situation and location works best for you. Unfortunately, home owners are the ones to pick from an array of sitters, since the demand for house and pet sitting jobs is higher than the supply. So, what do we do to fill the gaps between house sits?
The drive west increased our gap with Mark’s family in distance
A few weeks ago, when Mark and I were still taking care of Herk and a pool in Rocklin, CA, we faced housing insecurities for a period of four weeks. After not finding suitable listings, we were getting a tad antsy, only a couple of weeks out. Would we be homeless between our week-long house sit in Fairfax, CA and two-month assignment in Sebastopol, CA? What would we do for four weeks? We couldn’t afford staying in a motel for that long… Luckily, some other options started to appear.
Bay in Laguna Beach
“Do you think I should apply to that two-week house sitting job in Lacey, Washington?” I ask Mark as I am reading through the assignment again.
“Sure. Why not, we don’t have anything else at the moment,” he replies. “We have nothing to lose.”
“OK,” I say. I write a nice letter, explaining why we would be the perfect sitters for their two dogs and hit the submit button, thinking how an 11-hour drive and weather that is even colder than Northern California are not ideal. Continue reading
Since this was a short house sit, I am writing our experiences as a “Completed House Sit” post.
A couple of months ago, Mark and I came across this one-week house sit in Fairfax while living in Rocklin, CA. While the assignment was much shorter than we prefer, Fairfax is an attractive, up-scale town about an hour north of San Francisco, there were a cute dog and chickens involved and the owners happily selected us as their sitters. Then, about a month later, we received the devastating news that 10-year-old dog Xander had unexpectedly passed away (from the same symptoms as our dog Darwin in 2010). We were shocked about the sad event, but considered the impact and how we would feel if this had happened on our watch. It is the nightmare of every pet sitter! The owners still preferred our involvement, to take care of their seven chickens and have a presence in the house. We obliged.
These chickens are pretty and soft!