HOUSE SITTERS

Combining travel, work and caring for animals

HOUSE SITTERS

Combining travel, work and caring for animals

How we were inspired to travel

Richard had his first house sitting experience at just 17, when the only reviews to secure a house sitting gig were word of mouth. He started out in a house sitters dream looking after an eco-resort in New Zealand's beautiful South Island. In the following years he developed a bus and truck obsession that first saw him travel Australia for a year living in a van, before converting several buses and even an old refrigerator truck to temporary homes. During his biggest travel adventure to date Richard spent two months cycling through central Europe, sleeping mostly in a tent or splashing out on a hostel dorm when he wanted a treat. Vanessa's tastes are a little more luxurious, but she compromised with glamping, while convincing Richard that Airbnb is a good alternative to hotels.

Travel and a life less ordinary are literally in Richard's blood. As a young teacher his mother went to the Solomon Islands through Volunteer Service Abroad. Upon returning to New Zealand she met Richard's father (also a teacher) who had recently returned from a two year trek though 50 countries. Together they decided to build a boat and sail it around Australia and the Pacific, which they did successfully three years later before returning to New Zealand after conceiving Richard. Not content to live in a cliche house with 2.4 children, after Richard's brother was born they moved to a picturesque beachside hippy community bordering a national park. They lived in a house truck in a settlement with neighbours who practised veganism and installed solar panels before it became mainstream. After building a house themselves they moved to a nearby town and started an organic fruit and vege store. Then in their early 60s when most people consider retirement they choose to move to China for three years to teach English. Even at 73 they recently travelled to Peru and took a boat trip down the Amazon.

Vanessa grew up in a more conventional family. In fact, her mother had never even set foot outside New Zealand until age 50. However, exploring the world fascinated Vanessa from a young age, even in a time long before YouTube, Instgram and travel blogs made it possible to experience a place without ever going there. An older family friend often cared for Vanessa and her brother when their parents attended social or weekend events, and entertained the children with her globe-trotting adventures. Blessed with a wealthy family, she moved to London in the early 1950s as a widow when rations still existed in the city, and lived there for 10 years. She stood among the throngs of bystanders at the queen's coronation, worked as a chauffeur for a rich older couple (an usual job for a woman at the time), and moved to Spain for several months to learn Spanish. After her second husband died suddenly she returned to New Zealand, and eventually became a nanny to children like Vanessa. She travelled all over the world until her late 70s to exotic places like India, China and South America. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday, marking the occasion in her own home with dozens of friends, having only given up driving within the last year. Perhaps her longevity is a lesson in living a fulfilling life on your own terms.

In For more than 20 years Vanessa has aimed to take at least one overseas trip per year, although study, work demands and expensive flights to leave New Zealand prevented this for a year or two. Despite the odd misadventure she mostly has fond memories of these escapes, including 15 months in London, visiting the Colosseum in Rome, lying on beaches in Miami, Phuket and the Cook Islands, and even once winning a two-week eye-opening Intrepid tour to Cambodia.

Vanessa never shied away from solo travel, and would rather travel alone than regret a missed adventure. As a young single woman she travelled to many parts of the world on her own and took hop-on, hop-off buses, walking tours or joined group tours ranging from several hours – two weeks. Often she just explored a city using public transport and google maps as a guide.

While hostels were her accommodation choice in her 20s, but she now prefers hotels, www.airbnb.com and house sitting, and religiously compares reviews and prices on sites like www.tripadvisor.com, www.expedia.com and www.skyscanner.com to get the best bang for her buck. Richard and Vanessa are passionate about leaving behind the 9-5 grind for a more nomadic existence, but acknowledge this lifestyle is not for everyone.