The rise of Alexa and smart home devices may bring about an earlier than expected decline in the demand for housesitters. The devices are now in over 30% of US homes - up from just 8% three years ago - and the trend is sure to follow in other countries.
Now the release of a new Alexa feature, Alexa Guard allows owners of smart home devices to have them monitor the house while they are away. Alexa Guard can listen out for the sound of smoke and fire alarms, breaking glass and other noises that could signal something has gone awry at home. If such a sound is heard, Alexa Guard will send a text alert to your phone to let you know. And if you have a video-enabled device, you can remotely access the camera and see what's going on for yourself.
Equally, Alexa Guard can connect to and control other smart home devices such as smart light bulbs to turn lights on and off at different times of the day, making it look like someone is h...
I've been a huge fan of travel website Kiwi.com for some time now. Their unique approach to searching for low-cost travel makes it my go-to website when it comes time to book a flight. And their unique booking guarantee means that if you make a booking through them that involves connecting flights and you miss your connection, they will do all they can to get you to your destination.
But now they've gone one step further.
Playing the System
There have been numerous news articles in the travel press of late about airlines getting litigious with their own customers. Airlines have had the upper hand for far too long. Complicated routing and pricing, copious amounts of terms and conditions for a sale that is really a glorified bus ticket at the end of the day.
With technological advances, frequent travellers have been gradually turning the tables, using search engines to find ways to get from A to B for less. New terms such as "skiplagging" and "throw away ticketing" h...
Last December, having just taken over the reins at my 2018 Christmas housesitting assignment in Italy, I received an enquiry from a desperate homeowner in Cyprus looking for someone to care for his apartment and cats over Christmas.
Now before you experienced housesitters roll your eyes at yet another homeowner leaving things to the last minute, let me explain. This homeowner had done everything right. He'd advertised early. He'd found a sitter and everything had been confirmed for weeks.
The sitter had booked her flight, packed her bag and was at the airport - Gatwick Airport. And then the unimaginable happened. Some idiotic and/or nasty people decided to fly drones over the airport, bringing flights in and out of a major airport to a complete standstill.
So the housesitter was stuck, unable to get her flight from the UK to Cyprus - and the homeowner was in a complete panic as he and his family's own holiday was also now in jeopardy. Hence me receiving ...
It's late October 2017. The eve of my departure from Cyprus has arrived.
In the weeks since Annie and I confirmed our housesit, I have been at the centre of a whirlwind of activity. Leaving home for three months (and hopefully longer) takes a lot of planning - especially when you are travelling with a dog. Not only were there travel plans to be made but the apartment had to be prepared for being left for a long period. There were also so many people to try to meet up with to say goodbye to (some of whom I suspect I may never see again).
Eddie also had to be prepared. She had never been in a flight crate or on a plane and gets petrified at anything new. All this and trying to carry on working and also starting to think about what happens at the end of my three month assignment with Annie.
There were times where I thought I'd have to give up on the idea. I went round and round in circles trying to find the best way to travel wit...
One of the fundamental freedoms we all desire in our lives. That sense of self determination, control perhaps. We want to choose for ourselves, not have others dictate the content and direction of our lives.
Yet, sometimes choice can become a burden rather than a freedom. When we are surrounded by too many choices, we end up paralysed – unable to choose. A restaurant menu that goes on for pages and pages; any tile shop these days with thousands of options; and - as Harvard Graduate, Pete Davis says in his 2018 Commencement Speech - the unending choice of movies in Netflix's infinite browse.
And for me at the moment – the endless choice of housesits across the numerous housesitting sites I've signed up to. The ever growing list of 'Today's New House and Pet Sitting Opportunities' that arrives not once but twice a day from TrustedHousesitters.com. Should I apply or shouldn't I? What about the ones I've ...
A recent incident on my current housesitting assignment got me thinking about how well prepared any of us are when we take responsibility for a client's home and pets.
Dogs Will Be Dogs
I'd been overseeing some renovations on the house and while the builders were bringing in tools and materials, the dogs (Mac - my client's dog and Eddie - my own dog) took the opportunity to sneak out and go for a wander in the nearby woods. I wasn't too worried as they'd done this a few times - both on my watch and when my client was at home. The routine was to periodically yell their names and eventually they would both turn up, usually filthy dirty but very pleased with themselves.
However on this particular day, things took an unexpected turn which resulted in me having to deal with the kind of situation every housesitter hopes they will never have to face.
Three hours after the escape to the woods, Mac returned - as usual caked in mud and ready for a lie down in a shady spot. B...
June 2017. I return to Cyprus after a blissful week visting my Italian part-time neighbours at their other home in the Veneto Region of Italy.
We have explored castles and towns, visited wineries and mountains, seen art in all its forms and indulged in some retail therapy Italian style.
Together we have shared so many wonderful meals - both home cooked and restaurant prepared and, with the exception of breakfasts, washed them down with delicious wines of every hue.
The sadness of our parting for the timebeing - at this point in time with the intention of seeing each other again in Cyprus in November - is only tempered by the warmth of the memories we have created and the excitement I always feel at the prospect of being reunited with my beloved Eddie.
Back On Too Familiar Territory
Arriving home I at once take in the view of the valley behind. The view that held me spellbound when I first came to view this place. The view I thought I would never tire of. And I real...
The town of Servigliano in the Le Marche region of Italy is unusual for the region. It is not built atop a hill with a commanding view of its surrounding domain. Instead it lies on one of the few flat areas of this undulating landscape.
The old part of town is enclosed within a fortress of sorts. Its high walls have small houses and shops built into them. Once through one of the three gateways, you pass along cobbled streets and emerge into a large central piazza. Three sides are taken up with the shops and houses of the external walls. The centre is a combination of marketplace and urban park with memorial statues. The centrepiece of the piazza completing the fourth side is, inevitably, a church.
Visit the town on market day and you will probably be so focused on the stalls you will not look up at the church. But come here on any other day and you will notice a large white plaque on the front of the church. The majority of the plaque is taken up with a vertic...
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new blogger in possession of an empty blog must be in need of some posts."
Apologies to Jane Austen for borrowing the structure of a truly inspired opening line, and turning it into something altogether more mundane. But what is a girl to do when presented with an empty box to fill and inspiration deserts her?
What will my blog be about?
I suppose, in the tradition of diaries through the centuries, it will be:
a miscellany of factual recordings of events in my life (tastefully edited to protect the not so innocent),
random musings of my overactive mind,
a scrapbook of words and images from elsewhere that have caught my attention, and
a window into the murkiest depths of my soul - for those who dare to venture so deep.
It is also intended to be a roadmap full of tips, advice and signposts for those who choose to follow in my housesitting footsteps. I am fortunate to share my journey, or at least some of it, wit...
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