It’s that time of the month again…oops…phrasing! It’s time for another edition of 8 Questions, this time we feature Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith, an awesome house sitting couple, retired and only in their 50’s! We had the fortune of meeting and spending some good times with them in Nicaragua. So without further adieu…
Name: Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith
Hail from: Sydney, NSW, Australia
And now for the 8 questions:
Question #1. How/When did you become a house sitter?
We became house sitters in 2014 when we returned back to Sydney, Australia, after travelling around the world for 12 months. We had previously downsized in 2013/14, “sold all our stuff” and returned home for a short while to be with our adult sons. Realising that they did not want us to ‘couch-surf’ with them we decided that we would house sit in our local area – the Northern Beaches of Sydney. With this experience we would then be able to travel the world house sitting and blog about our travel adventures and experiences. The planning to find our first House sitting gig occurred whilst we were in Koh Phangan, Thailand and we needed accommodation for our return to Sydney. We researched House sitting sites and paid our membership fees and applied for a few assignments. To our amazement and joy a number of parties were happy to wait till our return to consider us for their assignments (even without references or experiences) we were successful with three of them.
Question #2. What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you while house sitting/travelling?
We were caring for Ziggy, a 47kg Bernese Mountain Dog, who was still young aged 18 months. A very good-natured dog who loved being with you and having lots of attention. We cared for him for nearly 7 weeks whilst the owners went abroad for their wedding and their honeymoon.
The owners were due back in the morning and everything was ready for them. Ziggy was all clean and shiny but he knew something was up. We were packing our bags inside the house and both looked at one another at the same time and said something is not quite right – Ziggy is too quiet. At this stage we anticipated that the owners were only about 20 minutes away. Going out to the back yard, there was Ziggy – absolutely covered in dirt, his white face black, the biggest hole we have ever seen and dirt strewn all over the back door and pathway. Looks of horror on our faces! Within 20 minutes the path was swept, the door clean, the dirt back in the hole and Ziggy once more a picture of innocence and so clean just as they walked through the door – we never did tell them. We completed our hand over and headed for the nearest coffee shop!
Question #3. What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on your travels/house sitting?
We were house sitting in Ecuador and needed to spend a night in Guayaquil for an early appointment at the Australian Consulate to renew our passports that had been stolen in Quito. We had arranged with the owners that their staff would take care of their two dogs whilst we were away. On the morning of our departure one of the dogs became ill, very lethargic, totally not in character. We have a house sitting agreement in place with all of our house owners and part of this communication highlights what to do in an emergency situation and where they are and the time zone they will be in.
We rang the local Vet to see if he would do a house call, he advised he couldn’t but we could come in after 9am. In the meantime we had contacted the Home Owners who advised that they would prefer a more diagnostic evaluation and organised that a Vet a few hours away was a better option. One of the staff was able to take the dog to the Vet for us and be with him until we returned. For the next 48 hours we were very worried about the situation but on arrival home, he was back to his normal self, jumping up and down and waiting for us at the gate. The health issue was a tropical worm that had burrowed itself into an open wound which had become infected.
Question #4. What is the single most important item (aside from laptop/phone/electronics) that you take with you to every house sit?
A sink plug – for clothes washing in the basin and also in Central America to reduce the drain smells that we sometimes encounter
Question #5. How long do you plan on house sitting?
Not sure whether we would stop, I guess if we both get to an age where it becomes harder to care for the pets and the home maintenance we would consider it. House sitting is an integral part of our international traveling where we enjoy living like locals for weeks or months at a time. We are able to travel longer and further and enjoy adventures in places that we would not have considered visiting before. We are able to have a greater return on our investments as we are not paying for property assets, costs associated with a property and incurring the high cost of living back in Australia.
Question #6. What’s been your favorite house sit so far, and why? (location, awesome pets)
This is a hard one. We have done over 25 house sits now and each one brings something special – the different types of pets we have cared for and the locations we have travelled to. It is funny we leave each house sit and say “pet so and so has been our favourite”, so they end up all being our favourite. Some favourites come to mind, living in a luxurious house in Whale Beach, Australia, living on the beach in Ecuador, living like a local in San Miguel de Allende and Tepotzlan – both UNESCO World Heritage cities in Mexico. We are sure there will be many more favorites in the future.
Question #7. If you could improve one thing about house sitting in general, what would it be?
We are keen that the web sites have the ability to review and reference the Home Owners. We would like to see this becoming available as standard by the platforms.
Question #8. If you could offer one piece of advice to would-be house sitters, what would that be?
Ask a lot of questions during your initial and subsequent communications with the owner. What is important to you, as a house sitter may not be as important to a previous house sitter that the owner has used. For us it is good Wi-Fi strength and connection as we are digital nomads and we like to be in daily email communication with the Homeowner. Understand your full responsibilities on the house sit, if you feel that there may be some issues with some of the requirements make sure you discuss this openly and clearly with the Owner. Remember it is a mutual agreement between the two parties – a win win situation on both sides.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite movie?
Jane’s – Bridget Jone’s Diary
Duncan – The Sound of Music
Ahh WiFi, we’ve had many angering moments venting on messenger with Jane and Duncan about WiFi in Nicaragua. And I have to admit, I was a tad disappointed to see neither of their fav movies were Australia, Crocodile Dundee, or Evil Angels/A Cry in the Dark (the dingo ate my baby movie)…I really wanted to brush up on my Australian accent I perfected when I had a fake Australian ID as a teen :). We’ll be meeting up again with this house sitting couple for some Micheladas in Panama City!!!
You can check out more from house sitting couple, Jane and Duncan, and all their Ziggy-like antics and travels by:
Visiting their website and blog: totraveltoo.com
Liking their Facebook page: facebook.com/totraveltoo
And of course, following them on:
If you would like to share your awesome stories and take part in our 8 House Sitting Questions, please visit our contact page to reach us.
Now go sell all your stuff!