My latest interview in the Starting Over series is with Suzanne from Life At No. 22. She and her husband tried several new things over the years, including running an orchard and traveling around New Zealand in an RV for ten years and almost half of those full-time. But they seem to be hitting their stride with their current role as international housesitters who take care of the pets left behind while families are on vacation. Sounds kind of fun, doesn’t it? Let’s learn how they travel the world as housesitters.
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Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
Hello, everyone, my name is Suzanne and with my amazing husband we housesit around the world, for the last 2 years we have focused more on the UK and Europe. We are heading into our 3rd year in November.
You’ve had numerous careers over the years, including owning an orchard, can you tell us more about your decision to run an orchard?
My husband and I had the foresight to see the potential in a piece of land/house, that was once a thriving apple orchard though when we eventually brought it was very run down and the land grew maize and the house had been rented out. Great negotiation skills and we had a bargain that we could do up and eventually sell. It was too good to pass up, and we were looking for a project and land.
You’ve done a lot of new things in midlife, including training for and running your first marathons after you turned 50. Can you tell us what inspired you to start training for a marathon in your 50’s?
I love walking, and to be honest, I was getting bored. With gaining a few more unwanted kilos I needed a goal. I don’t believe in diets, though I do believe in reducing foods and doing more exercise. Energy in Energy out. I did my first 10km walk and I was hooked. To be honest I was full on motivated to get training for my first half marathon the day after that first race. Maybe it’s my competitive streak and the love of a new challenge.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. First, why did you and your husband decide to sell the orchard? And then why get a motorhome and start traveling around?
We had gone as far as we could with the orchard as we wanted to go without spending more money to develop it further. It was like trying to fill a bucket with water when there’s a hole in it. Plus my husband had to leave his job which he had been employed in for over 30 years with 3 blown discs in his back. As I was left to do the orchard work it was up to me to decide when I had enough of managing it. That day came when we sighted motorhomes and did some research on it, and as the saying goes, “The rest is history.”
After you traveled around in your motorhome for years you decided to become Global Housesitters, what sparked this interest?
After a 3 month trip around Europe, we loved our time there. We returned to New Zealand and looked into ways in which we could extend our time over in the Northern Hemisphere. I had come across Trusted Housesitters many years ago, and we weren’t quite ready to head down that road. Until the end of 2015, then we took the plunge.
How much and what type of research was involved in this decision?
The biggest thing is trust and listening to our gut instinct. Sometimes we did not do this and the result was not a satisfactory housesit. On the other hand, 99 percent have been an amazing array of people who we have been very fortunate to housesit for. Some have become friends who we still keep in touch with and will be doing a repeat housesit for them.
What do you like best about housesitting and what do you like least?
We love that we can be locals for a short period within communities and learn more about their cultures. The animals are a big bonus in that it makes our stay feel more like home. What we like the least is saying goodbye to the animals we have cared for.
Looking back, you made the transition from traveling in a motorhome across New Zealand to becoming international travelers as housesitters. Is there anything that you wish you did differently or had a better understanding of at the beginning?
To be honest we cannot think of anything that we would have done differently. As with most things we have improved our skills as housesitters with more experience. At the time of this writing, we have completed 24 house sits.
And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone looking to make a career change during midlife or later? And especially becoming a global housesitter.
We have not changed careers as we are early retirees due to my husband’s back disability. The big thing is being adaptable and being open to change. Have faith in your ability and no one is ever too old to learn new skills if the desire to learn is still alive
(All Pictures used in this post were provided by Suzanne from Global Housesitters and used with her permission.)