Five years how did that happen? We have traveled for five years non-stop, except for two months early on during the Pandemic. Even with Covid, we were able to start housesitting again.
As Tom and I approached retirement age, we agreed that what we really wanted to do was travel. A lot. I discovered a way for us to go exploring full time, by doing house/pet sitting, through a creative service born out of the sharing economy model. This proved to provide an unprecedented opportunity.
Starting in April of 2016 we cut our ties and launched off into a rare adventure that continues to this day. We have completed 70 housesits and visited 20 countries on three continents. This is our story.
To help split up this long journal I have divided it up by calendar year, it just seemed easier to do it that way. So here is where it all started, in California, April 2016 to the end of 2016 in Norway.
For additional photos please also see my husbands photo site – https://tomgrahammedia.com
Note the service we use is called Trusted Housesitters a UK company located in England. After several years of full-time sitting, Trusted Housesitters invited us to become Brand Ambassadors. If you email me I can send you a special code, you can not get from others! Email – firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you for being here!
Coloma, California – April / May 2016 (3 weeks)
Our first housesit was the start of something we could never have imagined – years of non-stop traveling. We came across a website quite by accident called Trusted Housesitters. I looked for a house sit close to where we were staying in Northern California. I found one in the Gold Rush area of Coloma California, for a Border Collie – Tessa. The owner really wanted to find someone with Border Collie experience. As we had had two, we were the perfect candidate.
Coloma is a small, small town where gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill on the American River. There is a replica of the old lumber mill there and a state park. The area is beautiful and you can even try your hand at panning for gold or watch a blacksmith at work.
Our first hitch was-the water pump for the house went out, so we woke up to having had no water! But fortunately, we had had the owner give us a tour of the house and she showed us where BOTH fuse boxes were – who would have guessed there were two boxes. Good thing we knew, so we were able to get the water back on again quickly.
We took day trips to several other gold rush towns – Placerville (also known as Hangtown), Angels Camp, and Auburn.
The owners got back late but we did take Tessa over to them that night, where they lived in a second house on the property. We stayed over that night to get a fresh start in the morning. When she saw me in the morning, she came running over to me – made the owner very happy to see that the dog truly enjoyed our taking care of her.
Nevada City, California – May / June 2016 (4 weeks)
Nevada City is another great gold rush town. Every building downtown is listed as historically important. Grass Valley is a twin city about 5 miles away. Both feature dozens of great unique stores to wander and are set in an ancient pine tree forest.
The Empire Mine State Historic Park, once the most productive gold mine in the state, is located close by and well worth a visit. There is plenty of history and outdoor activities to keep you busy.
We cared for one very old dog named Polly. She did need help to get up. The dog was very loving and was still a joy to be around. She had a happy temperament.
The trash outside was kept in a secure location because they had a problem with a bear – what. The house was surrounded by tall pine trees and the backyard deck was heaven to hang out on. My sister from San Diego came up and our son, his wife and my sister all came over for a wonderful BBQ.
Our son and wife were fostering a dog that ended up having 9 puppies! And she was a small Jack Russell Terrier – how she had 9 healthy puppies, well it was amazing. That is why my sister came up, she had decided it was time to get a dog and came to visit the puppies. She did get one and named it Joy. So any time we are in Santee in this journey that is where Joy lives, with my sister.
Portland, Oregon – June / July 2016 (3 ½ weeks)
Wow already on our third housesit. Our first one out of California. Oh there is so much to see and do In Portland, Oregon. We went to the Japanese Garden, Powell’s Books, and to Multnomah waterfall. Tom did escape for a couple of days and took a train to Edmonds, Washington to visit his aunt and cousins.
We also found the house where Tom lived as a child, in Portland, and visited the brickyard where his grandmother’s home was, in Vancouver, Washington (across the river from Portland).
This was an old fun, unique home in a nice neighborhood. We cared for two bunnies, Cantaloupe and Hazel. They mainly stayed in the daughter’s room, but each day I would bring them out to the living room and they had lots of time to explore and hop around!
While we were there I found our first international house sit – we are going to Oslo, Norway for Christmas!!
The people we were house-sitting for in Portland had an “Employee Card” for the Columbia Clothes outlet store. Since we were now going to Norway during the winter it worked out perfectly to go to the outlet and we both found new jackets, at awesome prices, to keep us warm.
Highland, California – July 2016 (2 weeks)
It was very hot (115° F) in Highland when we were there. Highland is near the city of San Bernardino in Southern California. It is also near Redlands where some friends live, so it was nice to be able to combine a housesit with visiting with them. They took us to their favorite tapis restaurant, introducing us to tapis, a first for us. The food was excellent.
This sit was mainly a recoup stop, without a lot of responsibilities except walking the big dog, Sadie, twice a day. There was a park we could walk to that had a pretty lake with a fountain to walk around.
While there, we also got to go wander through some antique shops that had lots of tempting items, which is one of our favorite things to do as we explore.
Santee, California (San Diego County) – July / August 2016 (2 ½ weeks)
Ah San Diego – our hometown. It was great to visit downtown San Diego and some of our local haunts. Tom again escaped and stayed with a friend in Mexico, just south of Tijuana for a few days. We cared for our first diabetic cat, Speedy. A great chance to learn something new – how to give injections to a cat. There was also one more cat, Turbo, and a “puppy,” Joy. (Joy from above mentioned in the Nevada City housesit.)
This sit gave us a chance to check in with some San Diego friends and visit the beautiful beaches.
A funny-ish sidenote, when we left Santee we picked up our daughter-in-law’s new Bengal cat. She lives in Northern California, so we were saving her a drive. As we were driving north, our air conditioning went out and yes it was hot. Our daughter-in-law was concerned about the cat so she actually drove down and met up with us in Fresno. We did get the car patched up but it was a good thing she came and got it. At least she didn’t have to drive all the way to Los Angeles.
Fair Oaks, California – August / September 2016 (1 week)
Fair Oaks is a great location, 25 minutes to Sacramento and only 15 to Folsom. Lots to see and do in an area we had not explored before. Folsom is another great gold rush town along the American River. We really enjoyed exploring Folsom’s old town and basked in the quaite gold rush era all around us.
This was a nice location also because our son only lived about an hour away so it was another opportunity to connect. This time we cared for one small cat named Joey. They had a great backyard and we even watched deer walk by the back fence a couple of times a day.
Sonoma, California – September / October 2016 (5 weeks)
Not only was Sonoma a great location for a housesit, it also came with a job for Tom. The owner we housesat for had a food taxi job, so instead of having to find someone that would cover him for only five weeks, they asked Tom if he was interested and he said yes.
I also escaped for a long weekend to go visit our son in Brooklyn, NY. It was interesting when I returned. The cat, Snowflake, was so much more friendly! This cat was also very particular about being fed – there was a strict routine that needed to be followed that took a full hour – but it was a great place to be and the cat was beautiful.
We also had a chance to go explore Muir Woods. Walking through some of the biggest and oldest redwood trees was inspirational. It was raining slightly, so there were few people there. It almost felt like we had this amazing place all to ourselves.
Grass Valley, California – November 2016 (2 weeks)
While in Grass Valley, at our son’s, we took a hike on the Independence Trail near Nevada City. Walkers are rewarded with some amazing views down a deep gorge. There are great views of the river and then of a waterfall where we had a picnic lunch.
We took time while we were in Grass Valley to start reading for our trip to Oslo, Norway, and to take care of lots of errands and loose ends to get ready. Update – Sadly, since we visited the Independence trail, the area has burned, and most of the old wooden bridges and flumes are gone. Our photos are now even more special.
Orangeville, California – November 2016 (2 weeks)
Orangeville seemed a strange city name but again it proved to be an interesting location, close to Sacramento and about 15 minutes from Folsom. (Similar to when we were in Fairoaks.) My two sisters came and visited us for a day out in Folsom and to explore some of the historic sites of the Sacramento area.
We cared for two very different cats, one was basically outdoor only and one was indoor only, and the one had the strangest name – Stink Pot (the indoor cat). The outdoor cat was Rosco. Rosco was super friendly and I was happy to see him every morning!
There was a full moon while there, so Tom practiced taking night sky pictures.
Folsom was cheerfully decorating for the Christmas season – they had even set up an outdoor ice skating rink.
Oslo, Norway – December 2016 / January 2017 (5 Weeks)
Who in their right mind would travel all the way to Norway from California to do a housesit? We didn’t know the people, the area where we would be, and we were committed for 5 weeks, basically, sight unseen. I guess that would be us. (We did do a video chat, so not completely sight unseen.)
We ran into a potentially serious problem as we were checking in to our flight to Oslo. We didn’t buy a return ticket because we did not know when we would be returning as we planned a number of house sits to follow in the UK and Europe. That didn’t go over very well. It was dicey at times, but we finally were allowed to get on our flight – a close call.
The first stop was Stockholm, Sweden. We chose to have a six-hour layover which gave us a chance to take a train into Stockholm from the airport for some quick exploring. I really wanted to see their Christmas Market, so that was our goal. The Nobel Prize Museum is also there, wish we had had more time to explore.
When we arrived in Oslo our host met us at the airport and drove us to the house. We loved the house and the location, a bit remote, up a hill with amazing views of sunrises and sunsets! Did you know spectacular sunrises and sunsets can last up to an hour that far north?
We went to several museums including the wonderful Viking Ship Museum and the outdoor Norwegian Museum of Cultural History where they had collected a number of homes and buildings from Norway’s long history.
On Christmas Day, we wandered around the fascinating Akershus Fortress. A true highlight of our visit was seeing the Vigeland Park and its sculptures – one of the most famous tourist attractions in all of Norway. The sculptor spent a lifetime creating a vast collection of highly personal and evocative statues of men, women, and children, doing all the things we do in life, and capturing the precious nature of human interaction in every one. Don’t be shocked by the fact that the statues are all nudes. The sculptor’s vision is timeless, allowing nothing that would limit the experience of the viewer. A must see if you ever get to visit Oslo.
Our job on this housesit was to take care of four beautiful ragdoll cats Choco, Cutie, Fluffy, and Heldig (Heldig means lucky in Norwegian). They even had their own fenced in outdoor patio, so they could spend time outdoors, weather permitting. One of them even loved the snow.
The two-level home was heated by 2 high-tech fireplaces and they did a beautiful job heating the whole house. It snowed while we were there, but we were toasty warm inside. The owner actually was the sales manager for the fireplace manufacturer.
They had decorated the house for Christmas and had even hidden some presents for us to find on Christmas Day! We are still friends and are in regular contact. They invited us back any time. We did see them again in the summer of 2017. (If it had not been for the pandemic we would have seen them again in 2020.)
Next up – Year 2 – 2017 – Bath, England