Recently, we had a chat with Janet.
We were blown away by her incredible spirit for travel and adventure.
After things (in her words) fall apart, she picked herself up and moved to Panama!
After finding a running her own international language school, she decided it didn’t bring her joy and looked to house sitting!
Make sure you read to the end, because her plans for 2002/2023 will leave you in awe!
Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, for, do you do it full-time or sporadically
I’m Janet, a semi-retired teacher from Florida. In 2012, after “all thing [fell] apart”,
I moved to Panama to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up….this time.
The plan was to be there for 1 year. The second I landed, however, I fell in love with the beauty, diversity, and culture and just never moved back.
After working for international schools for a few years there, I started my own language school but soon found that it did not satisfy me.
So I decided to try house sitting….for maybe 6 months or so just to see where in Panama I wanted to settle down.
Well, that has been over 3 years now and, yes, I fell in love again…with Nomading. Wanderlust seems to be my middle name.
Now, I am houseless but not homeless as a way of life; I travel full time via house sitting while teaching English as a second language. I have a car in Panama with all of my worldly belongings and one in Florida at my son’s home where I also have my travel trailer-to-camper conversion project going on.
While there, I go back and forth between my son and daughter and their families, grandkids and fur babies. I usually do a few house sits close by so as to not invade too much of their space as well as have some me-time and my-space.
I am a widow of 12 years, the mother of 3, and grandmother of 3: a family I am blessed to be able to visit often.
I have had many lives: movie theatre “candy girl”, secretary, event planner, catering director, non-profit founder, teacher, and ALWAYS a student of life. I speak only 2 languages but proud to have learned the 2nd at this age (I will be 67 in mid August).
How many housesits have you had and where?
To be honest, I have not kept track but, after 3.5 years of many both long term and short term sits in Panama, Florida, and a few in Europe, on 4 platforms and a multitude of repeats and referrals,
I have racked up enough memories, made many wonderful friends and learned sufficient information both important and insignificant to keep smiling through my entire golden years in the home (who am I kidding, I’d rather go out ziplining!).
Why did you do petsitting? What is the main motivation?
I house sit because I love it. I get to travel, learn about new places, cultures, history, etc; make new friends and get fur baby cuddles to boot.
Was it hard for you to secure your first housesitting gig? How many applications did you have to send before you got accepted for your first assignment?
I really got lucky. I joined and posted in Trusted House Sitters and was contacted almost immediately by the principal of an international school in Panama. who was attracted by my post of being a retired teacher.
I subsequently sat for them several times and their precious Bull Mastiff in a magnificent condo right on the Panama Canal.
What a gig!
We have remained friends even though they moved to Norway. I have an open invitation to visit them and just might do so during my upcoming Europe adventure. Later I added myself to Mind My House, Rover in the US, and Nomador but really only use the 1st 2 as fill ins.
A fabulous resource has Vanessa and Ian’s Facebook pages. They are awesome people and their information is priceless.
How much luggage do you travel with?
I am down to a backpack and/or a carry on.
I have donated my larger suitcases and only take what I absolutely need for a few days.
I don’t remember what anyone else wore yesterday so why would anyone care what I had on. Besides, I am rarely in one place long enough to be seen out in the same thing. If I find I do need something for some special occasion, I find a thrift store and just donate it back before I leave.
I am planning (as much as I do actually plan) a trip to Europe in September to walk the Camino de Santiago (short version) with my daughter.
Once she leaves, I will look for house sits over there in order to wander and explore more of Spain (where I have some dear friends), Portugal and Italy until my great deal of a repositioning cruise takes me from Rome to several stops in Spain, 1 in Portugal then Bermuda and finally New York where I will visit friends from Panama then back to Florida in December to spend the holidays and some birthdays before returning to Panama the end of February 2023.
Pros of House Sitting?
It’s a great way to see the world for cheap and to get in our animal fix.
We love being able to cook our own food in nice kitchens, soak in peo
In my random online searching for who-knows-what, I found out about house sitting and figured, why not…so I did…and, as with Panama, fell immediately and deeply in love with the life.
It fit me perfectly at a perfect moment in my life.
Cons of House Sitting?
Trying to juggle dates, travel arrangements, and fill in accommodations between sits can be a con or it can simply be a challenge and part of “doing business”.
I use those in between times, if and when I ever have them, to visit friends and family or to explore places I have not been able to get to see or other interesting ones near my last or next sit.
How do you decide on a destination?
Sometimes it has to do witI generally don’t.
They seem to choose me.
I get a referral from a previous homeowner that leads to my next adventure. Then I look for my next sit or something nearby, check out potential sits in that area, post on a Facebook group that I’m available
Or maybe find an interesting cruise bargain (the Basel to Athens one was $99 for 5 days including alcohol.
That line is no longer in business! Lol…really!). If it seems like a sufficient gap, I go to Florida to visit my family and friends there.
What’s been the biggest adventure so far?
I think the biggest adventure (aside from moving to a foreign country where I did not speak the language!)
I was going to Europe to house sit for 2 Main Coon cats in a small village in Switzerland (where I did not speak the language!) then travelled around Europe for a bit.
I also incorporating a river cruise from Switzerland to Amsterdam, visited the birthplace of my ancestors in Frankfurt, Germany then wandered some more and finally took a repositioning cruise to Athens before heading back to Panama.
How did you find out about house sitting?
You know, things seem to come to me at that perfect time when I need them most whether I realize I need them or not.
I was going through yet another upset in my life when I decided to walk away from my language school and had no idea what was next.
In my random online searching for who-knows-what, I found out about house sitting and figured, why not…so I did…and, as with Panama, fell immediately and deeply in love with the life. It fit me perfectly at a perfect moment in my life.
What was your favorite housesitting experience to date and why?
I couldn’t possibly claim a favorite. Each has had its own special experiences, locations, furbabies, homeowners, etc. It’s kind of like our children: each special in their own way but equally loved.
Have you had any funny housesitting experiences?
I think this probably falls into the same category of nothing specific but have had plenty of precious pet moments.
One thing really seems to be a common giggle moment, though is how all dogs seem to want to “save” me from yoga!
They seem genuinely concerned and want to help me out of this “situation”.
Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?
I have not had any unusual pets but mostly by choice.
Although I had a farm of my own, I would rather just sit for cats and dogs and a few other small pets. I think you always need good instructions for the dog sitter. That way everything is taken care of.
Most of my sits in Panama are for people who have rescued street dogs, historically a problem there. These precious pups come with both psychological and medical issues in most cases and,so, do require some extra tlc.
Tips for others wanting to get started?
I guess I’d say to just be open minded and respectful and keep in mind that you are in “their” home and they are trusting you with their things and their “babies”.
Although many homeowners want to make things comfortable for me, I figure that it’s my job to adapt to the home, the homeowners, and the pets’ routines.
My life is all about change and one of the reasons that people use house sitters is so that the pets’ lives are not disrupted too much while they are away.
This is a wonderful community of the kindest hearted people I have ever met. They are trusting and caring and giving.
I don’t think I could have chosen a more rewording retirement lifestyle.
Where to next (when you can)
Right now, I’m in Florida with my family. I just finished a repeat month long sit nearby with 2 adorable cats who wonder why I’m there and have no need for me as is the definition of cats.
I leave here in just over 2 weeks for a short repeat sit for 4 stray adoptees and then a month back to another repeat sit in a mountain village in Panama called El Valle de Anton which is in a lush, dormant volcano crater valley.
From there I am off to the cool mountain town of Boquete, Panama for a fellow house sitter; a kitty sit for someone I met during another house sit at a gorgeous beach condo for 2 precious pit bulls in a small beach town near Costa Rica called La Barqueta.
I have sat there twice and made a whole lot of bonus friends in the process. The Boquete sit is for the month August and then, as I said, I am off to my Camino, a few months of wandering Europe and my repositioning cruise.
All of that leaves me in 2023! I wonder what great adventures that new year will have in store.
My bucket list includes Hondorus, Ecuador, back to Colombia, the DR and maybe Costa Rica. Once I finish my trailer to camper conversion, I might do a little tour of the Florida state and county parks sprinkled with a few sits along the way. There’s a great big beautiful world out there and a multitude of belly rubs and ear scratched await!
Want to see what they get up to next?
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