What is it like to house sit for the first time?
First international house sit
We’ve been reading so many blogs about travelling, how to keep doing it and making it sustainable. It seems it’s becoming increasingly popular to stay on the road and share the experience online. We have our hearts set on it and reckon our best bet for staying on the road is van life. In the meantime we’ve taken our first leap into the world of house and pet sitting. Lots of people, especially fellow travellers, have recommended it as a way to make friends with like-minded people and at the same time get to live in places like one of the locals.
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We did some research and then added our profiles to trustedhousesitters and nomador. We were soon contacted by a couple in Portugal who needed their dog and cat minded as they were soon to be heading off on a holiday for 20 days. We were really delighted that our first international pet sitting assignment would be; number one, in Portugal, a country we really wanted to visit again and; number two, minding a dog who loves walks on the beach and a cat called Biscuit, two rescues from Thailand. We had included our blog in our profile and it was a boost to our confidence when the couple said that our blog sealed the deal for them. Turns out we’re kindred spirits! They are both full-time travellers themselves who are staying in Portugal for a while to use it as a base to explore the country and the rest of Europe. They have a really cool blog over at lifepart2.com and we highly recommend you check it out for your travel inspiration.
And away we go...
So it was time to book our flights but it turned out Neil would have to join me a week late as he had some work lined up. I admit I was apprehensive about travelling alone and meeting the people who would place their trust in us and the lives of their pets in our hands. I was worried, first of all, about the impression I’d make, if the pets would like me and a tiny part of my mind thought “what if this is a scam and I get murdered, cooked and eaten”?! Needless to say all my fears were completely unfounded. Sarah and John are lovely people, we have loads in common and I made instant life-long friends with their pets as well. They picked me up at the bus station in Lourinha, a five-minute drive to the little village of Atalaia de Cima, where their house is. I’d had a long day travelling and I hadn’t travelled on my own in such a long time so I was wrecked I must say. I enjoyed finding my own way out to Lourinha, it wasn’t hard to be honest, but it’s been a while since I had no-one to turn around to for reassurance (Neil really does all of the navigating around the place when we’re together!). I was so excited to find out where our home would be for the next 3 weeks.
The perks of the job
And what a home! The pictures just don’t do it justice at all. The cliffside village of Atalaia has commanding views of this stretch of Portugal’s beautiful coastline with the towns of Peniche and Porto Deneihro on either side reaching down to the Atlantic. It’s a pretty, sleepy hamlet only a thirty-minute walk from Lourinha where you can stock up on bulkier supplies in the large supermarkets although Atalaia’s little mini-marts, I’ve discovered, are well stocked. Sarah and Jonathan’s home is stunning and is perfectly positioned for views of the sea and the surrounding tilled fields that belong to the locals. Within walking distance are two glorious beaches which Sarah brought me to in the first couple of days I was there. It was a great opportunity to yap away about our travel experiences and get acquainted with Angel (their pooch). I was roasting hot (I’m a redhead and don’t cope well in the heat) but Sarah, having lived in Thailand and Laos for 15 years previous to Portugal, was freezing! I couldn’t wait to get my feet into the ocean and I managed to encourage her to dip her toes too. We had a laugh on our walks and they truly spoiled me rotten with delicious food and local wine. I promised that when they returned we’d have a lovely meal ready (probably an Irish stew) for them when they walk in the door.
Alone but not afraid
I had only 2 and a half days on my own before Neil arrived but I explored a lot while walking Angel so I felt sure of my way around the town and down to the sea. I was taking loads of pictures to keep Sarah updated on their kiddies and to let my Mam and Neil know I was not only surviving but thriving! I didn’t feel lonely at all and there was plenty of “Bom Dia” from locals everywhere I walked. I was happy to be corrected one afternoon when I said “Bom Dia” when I was told it should be “Boa Tarde” instead, as it was later in the day. The lady in the local shop helped me with learning how to count in Portuguese too. I started to feel like I could happily move here and genuinely started to feel at home. Angel is a dote of a dog and Biscuit the cat only wants a set amount of scratching at certain times of the day (her purring is hypnotic). I had a routine perfected and settled into the house no bother. I really enjoyed getting down to the sea but I only paddled as I was nervous about swimming alone, particularly as the beaches are so empty in November. I was happy to wait anyway as me and Neil always have the best craic when we get into the sea together. It would have felt like cheating on him with the Atlantic Ocean! Find out what we get up to when Neil arrives and we discover why house sitting is the best for slow travel.