What’s been going on since we last communed, dear reader?
Well, most importantly, cat sitting! We’ve started a period of near-continuous and full-time house sitting, which has been incredible so far. The hosts are all so gracious and kind, the homes are warm and welcoming, and the cats are SO! DAMN! CUTE! 😻
Forgive me if I sound like a skipping record, but if you’ve considered house sitting, just do it! It’s possibly the best way for animal lovers to travel – especially here in the U.K. where boatloads of new sits are posted daily. I’m so grateful for these amazing opportunities.
Of course, this time hasn’t all been roses. A big reason why I’ve been a bit scarce lately is the intense grief that’s accompanied the first anniversary of my dad’s death. I’ve done a lot of writing and ruminating in private to work through some of this stuff, but I just want to thank everyone who’s held me up during this time. You’re all stars. 💕
On a lighter (and existentially related) note, my birthday is coming up! Forgive my gratuitous wish solicitation, but if you wanna put an easy smile on my face year after year, all you have to do is add January 28 to your calendar. You’re welcome. 🎂
How do you deal when things don’t go according to plan? 🤔
Over a decade ago, when I was struggling with my career and future in general, I decided to take the Myers-Briggs personality test. There are many simplified versions of the test online, and it can be a fun and insightful way to learn more about yourself and suitable life paths.
In case you’re unfamiliar, there are four basic measures that exist on a spectrum:
Introversion / Extraversion – do you feel exhausted or energized by social time?
Intuition / Sensing – do you listen more to your gut or your trusted five senses?
Feeling / Thinking – are you an empath like Deanna Troi or an android like Mr. Data?
Perception / Judgment – do you wing it or do you prefer to review blueprints of the wing?
The first time I took the test, I was an ENTJ. More recently, I’ve become an INFJ. I’ve always been very close to the middle on the first three measures, but on the final one? I’m a Hard J. Rather than jumping in head first, I like to know what’s in the pond before I dip toe one. I like a plan.
As you can imagine, this has been challenging for me in so many areas of life. Because as it turns out, things rarely go according to plan! And more difficult still, the choices that can lead to the most fulfillment don’t often come with a roadmap. Sometimes you just have to wing it.
And SOMEtimes, you randomly hit your head on a shelf and wind up with a concussion! Sigh. Poor Matty. He’s doing fine and recovering well, but this injury has meant we’ve had to seriously scale back our activities and media consumption to focus primarily on resting.
It reminds me of when I had mono (or glandular fever for my British chums) and I had to spend months in recovery. Tough things happen without our permission, and often outside of our control. But they do provide an opportunity to slow down and practice acceptance. 👌😑👌
It’s been a long three months of travel, and to have an excuse to slow things down hasn’t been such a bad thing. Matt and I have made some great memories, but living out of a suitcase isn’t as glamorous as it may seem. And removing the pressure to be a tourist is kind of a good thing.
We’ll return to the U.K. in just a few days. What we’ve seen of Sweden, though a bit limited, we have really loved. This place seems made for people and community. Plus, as seen above, their ER was near empty when we visited! A sign of a people well cared for? I like to think so.
What’s next? We’ll be visiting Matt’s family over Christmas, followed by housesits all over England, from Minehead to Leeds. And I can’t wait to go back to Edinburgh in March. After that, we’ll just have to wait and see… which, I assure you, makes me deeply uncomfortable. 😭
It’s been over a week, and I still miss our Nuremberg kitty friends Sally and Rocky. Talk about charmers! Since leaving Germany, we’ve made out way to Sweden, starting off with four lovely days in Stockholm. Between tasty tapas and super-fun shuffleboard, we had a killer time there.
Now we’re in Gothenburg! This will be the longest I’ve stayed put since leaving Canada three months ago. We’ll be here for three full weeks, cat-sitting our new friends Neo and Smilla. Though we’ve only been here a few days, I’m already impressed by this cool and beautiful city.
Praise to the gods you may or may not believe in, I’ve FINALLY finished the Artist’s Way! I’ve had my ups and downs with this so-called spiritual journey to creative recovery… from its constant references to god to its random and often pointless tasks, I really didn’t buy what it’s selling.
I’m more excited by my year-long subscription to Masterclass, which I’ve already dug into with classes from Dan Brown. The content is engaging, and certainly more practical than the Artist’s Way. Plus, I can still look forward to classes with Margaret Atwood, R.L. Stine, and Judy Blume.
Another thing I’ve cracked into is a personal reading list. Realizing that I’m not the fastest reader (with limited space available), I’ve picked up a couple of smaller fantasy books. Right now I’m on the first of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, and next is my beloved Neil Gaiman.
Luggage is already stretching maximum for comfort, so I may need to offload the books as I go. I’ve considered lighting a fire with the Artist’s Way. (Seriously, “reread this book” as a final instruction was like receiving a hot poker to my backside. But somehow more infuriating still.)
In any case, that’s what’s shaking for now. We’ll be in Sweden until Dec. 19th and then it’s back to the U.K. for a while. Hope to see (some of) you then!
We’ve been in Nuremberg for about a week, and I can say without qualification that I’m in love with this medieval city. I’m so grateful for this awesome house-sitting opportunity; otherwise, we might never have ventured to this part of the world. Gotta love dat serendipity!
Our travels around Europe have been largely shaped by house-sitting, and that is most certainly by design. So far this fall I’ve done house-sits in Amsterdam and Nuremberg, and next will be Gothenburg, a Swedish city I only learned about this year! As I’ve said before, it’s an amazing way to live like a local and visit really interesting places on the cheap.
We’ve really enjoyed Nuremberg’s old town, though the photos really don’t do it justice (an argument for upgrading my camera phone). At the very least you get the idea of how magical these structures are at night, particularly when you consider their age… properly medieval!
As per usual, the current highlight of the place (followed closely by the amazing architecture) is the animals! The Nuremberg Zoo would be an incredible place to visit even if it didn’t have giraffes and lions, and prioritize conservation and the animals’ well-being. The German word for zoo is “tiergarten” which I feel adequately represents my experience. 🍂 😭
And that’s to say nothing of the local baker and butcher, both of whom have totally captured my tastebuds and therefore my heart. Gah. Is it totally ridiculous that I want to learn German now? I don’t care. Ich bin Janice und ich liebe Deutschland, dankeschön!
Have you ever ended up in a totally wonderful city by random coincidence?
I went on my first solo international trip in June of 2016. I’d spent a lot of time considering ways I could afford this, since at the time I was living on my own and working for a not-for-profit… that is to say, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income.
So, I did what all clever millennial-types do: I turned to Google for help! The search history would probably read something like, “how to travel when you’re broke” or “tricking the universe into throwing you a bone” or “spring break for 30-year-olds.”
As is its wont, Google rendered a million different ideas. Some of the more interesting options for travelling on the cheap were getting a Working Holiday Visa, being an au pair, or WWOOFing. But for me? The most exciting prospect was housesitting.
Here’s how I realized that housesitting was for me:
I was single.This limited what I could afford, but also where I’d feel comfortable travelling and staying on my own. (I’m an independent yet pragmatic woman.)
I didn’t have any money.Free or cheap accommodation was fairly essential.
I hated being a tourist. I mean, I love visiting new places, but I detest doing the tourist song and dance. Living *like a local* as much as I could was the goal for me.
I didn’t enjoy the *travel* part of travelling.Once I’m actually in a place, I have a great time. But the journey itself is often frustrating and always exhausting.
I was kind of obsessed with cats.Refer back to point #1. Now, it’s not that I’m a batty old cat lady, but I certainly appreciate feline companions. 😻
Of all the options I considered, house and catsitting was the most obvious and amazing solution. It offered free accommodation, where you can stay put and really get to know a place, and have some adorable kitty company while you’re there. Purrfect!
Interested in housesitting?I can vouch for the awesomeness of Trusted Housesitters. And if you sign up, please use this link (or code RAF28625) to save 20% off a yearly membership. Plus, you’ll kindly gift me a couple free months for referring you. 🤓
With only two weeks until I hop the pond, I’m getting pretty excited for what’s coming up next… including catsitting in Europe and the U.K. So look forward to hearing more on the subject! And please, don’t just sit there, green with envy – try it for yourself.