Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Nomad Sits Atop Houses

When I moved back to Seattle last fall, I needed a place to live. I wanted a place that was inexpensive and that wouldn't lock me into a long-term time commitment, in case I wanted to travel or take advantage of other opportunities that might arise.

I had read that housesitting was a great way for nomadic types to enjoy creature comforts and to be exposed to new surroundings. I thought I'd give it a try!

Housesitting is a win-win arrangement whereby a housesitter lives in a home in exchange for assuming certain responsibilities while a homeowner is away. These responsibilities typically include making a home look "lived in," caring for pets, watering plants, collecting mail, and the such. Hey, I can do that!

How does one go about finding housesitting gigs? I asked friends to spread the word, I created an ad on Craigslist, and I posted profiles on two housesitting websites (HouseCarers.com and HouseSittersAmerica.com).

My profile is featured on HouseCarers.com.

"Business," if you will, has been quite good. I have received gigs from all of these sources. I've been fortunate to be able to schedule back-to-back housesits, and I've even had to turn down a handful of housesitting requests.

There are many benefits to housesitting that compliment my current lifestyle:
  • I am able to live rent-free. (This is especially valuable since I haven't earned a salary for more than a year.)
  • I am able to care for animals and plants. (In my downsizing efforts, I sadly got rid of my houseplants and found a new home for my cats.)
  • I am able to experience living in new environments. (Constantly changing surroundings keeps life spicy!) 

The rent-free thing is pretty great, for obvious reasons. But what's even greater is that I get to care for creatures!

You've likely heard why grandparents love being grandparents -- they get to enjoy the grandkids without the full-time responsibility of parenting. Well, it's the same thing as a housesitter -- I get to enjoy pets without the full-time responsibility of animal parenting.

Take, for example, Tiva. I got to be the human for this adorable Formosan/Lab mix. Tiva was like a brilliant, human child in a doggie costume. She gave high fives. She gave nose bumps. She jumped through hoops. She balanced on a ball. She played hide-and-seek with Mr. Bill and Hooter. Oh, and she rang a little bell when she needed to be let out in the backyard to go potty. Yes, bundles of joy often sport wagging tails!

Tiva.

And there was Magic, a beautiful Maine Coon. Described as a "princess" by her owners, she definitely lived up to her beauty queen reputation. Her furr coat was so soft and luxurious, and she took great pleasure in being pampered with chin and belly rubs. Little did Magic know that she actually made me feel like the princess, loyally serving as my radiator and keeping my feet toasty warm night-after-night.

Magic.

I got to spend five glorious weeks with housemates Sprocket, Mary Jane, and Persephone. Sprocket was a snuggle bunny. He'd place his little paw on my leg, letting me know he was in need of some hugs or some ear scratches.

Sprocket.

Shy little Mary Jane would scuttle around the house, with the most adorable pitter patter sound to her paws and the cutest little bird-like chirps.

Mary Jane.

And there was dear Persephone, a gentle and wise 20-year-old kitty who would love to sit on my lap, even though she struggled with each step she took.

Persephone.

I have become very attached to these furr balls. On the final day of my housesitting gigs that involved petsitting, I've experienced this Freudian "id urge" to hide the animals in my car and to speed away as quickly as possible. Good thing my super-ego has stepped in to kick my id back into line!

As I have moved from house-to-house, it's been fun to experience how different people create "home." For example, I loved looking out the kitchen window to see this very zen koi pond.

The peaceful pond.

I've never had a koi pond. Nor have I had a vacuum cleaner that makes me want to hop out of bed every morning just to clean! Yup, at one house I had the opportunity to use a Dyson DC41 bagless vacuum cleaner. <Insert cat-call here.>

The beloved Dyson DC41 bagless vacuum cleaner.

This is an amazing vacuum cleaner. I practically wanted to make messes -- really big messes -- just so that I could take satisfaction in the vacuum's suction.

Aside from a million other ingenious design aspects, this vacuum pivots atop a ball, which enables the vacuum to be steered in any direction with practically no effort at all. This means that the Dyson can really move. Heck, I even entertained the idea of turning on some music, putting on my little black dress, and going dancin' with this thing.

What I've enjoyed most about housesitting, though, has been exploring the different neighborhoods. I've lived in Seattle for seven years now, but there are so many neighborhoods within the city that I have never explored. So far, my housesitting gigs have involved stays in the Fremont, Beacon Hill, Seward Park, West Seattle, and Wedgwood neighborhoods.

Take, for example, my housesitting gig in the Seward Park neighborhood. My housesit was just a few blocks away from the lovely Seward Park, a forested peninsula that juts out into Lake Washington.

And so I set out to explore the park for the very first time. I had no idea that there was a gorgeous 2.5-mile long path around the perimeter of the park. As I walked along the path at least once a day (and sometimes twice a day), I fell in love with the park!

Just moments before I snapped the below photo from the northwest corner of the peninsula, a hummingbird hovered ten feet above my head as two bald eagles soared from the treetops out over the lake.

A view of downtown from Seward Park.

And on another walk around the park, I caught this breathtaking view of Mount Rainier.

Mount Rainier, as viewed from Seward Park.
(Thank you, Phillip Eiche, for snapping this photo for me.) 

All in all, I am thoroughly enjoying my housesitting experiences. I love settling in the new homes, making new pet friends, exploring new neighborhoods, shopping at different grocery stores, and figuring out new bike routes for visiting friends and running errands.

Although my housesitting experiences thus far have been limited to Seattle, I look forward to expanding my realm. Perhaps I will housesit on one of the islands in the Puget Sound. Perhaps I will housesit in another part of the country. Or perhaps I will housesit in another part of the world!

Yes, I think it'd be pretty sweet to housesit in Australia for a little while, leveraging the housesitting opportunity as a hub for exploring a different lifestyle.

Three cheers for being a nomad! Hip, hip, hooray!


If you're interested in becoming a housesitter or finding a housesitter on HomeCarers.com, please click on the links below:

Click here to become a housesitter.
Click here to find a housesitter.

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