As 2016 drew to a close and family and friends were starting to feel the growing pressure of the holiday season...we hadn’t a care in the world. My husband, Michael, and I were enjoying a stay in a three-bedroom apartment in one of the nicest suburbs in Quito, Ecuador...for free.
Sitting in our own private little courtyard with a bubbling stream on one side, a warbling symphony from the aviary on another, with pink bougainvillea and fiery red geraniums cascading down a third, my husband Michael and I could be in Italy.
After spending a crazy weekend in Paris decades ago, dashing madly from the Louvre to the Arc De Triomphe, with chaotic traffic and irate Parisians, I had no desire to return to France. That was until my husband Michael and I spent a few weeks at an award-winning vineyard in southern France. It was a far different experience than the chaos of Paris.
Slowly the walls rise above us, hemming us in as our vessel sinks into the depths. Barn-sized doors of riveted steel loom above us as valves open and siphon the water away. With a clank, the doors crack open, widening to reveal another chamber. We sail in, feeling as though we’re in a gigantic bathtub…
I confess I am a travel addict as is my husband Michael. We've seen much of the world and we want to see more. One highlight I will never forget is our four-month long trip to Europe. Long after the azure twinkle of the Mediterranean disappeared beneath the clouds, and our plane soared toward the Americas, the views still sprang fresh to mind: the canyon that cleaves the Spanish town of Rhonda in two, washed by the setting sun...the rolling hills of Tuscany...the white villages of Andalucia, stacked like brilliant sugar cubes.
If, like me, you’re hooked on the ocean and the laidback vibe of the Caribbean, you may also dream of living there… But, driven by the tourism industry, rising prices mean that many people feel a slice of paradise could be beyond their budget. Let me introduce you to Grenada, where my husband Michael and I were lucky enough to spend one month last year. (And we intend to go back soon.) We’ve visited many Caribbean islands, but in Grenada we found a true gem that combines terrific beaches and weather with an affordable cost of living and reasonably priced real estate.
My husband Michael and I have come to realize that we are not really city folks, even though we lived for years in the suburbs of one of Canada's biggest cities. But when we found a luxurious home in the hills above the Costa Rican capital San José, where we could stay for free we were happy to make an exception. We were house-sitting a villa perched high in Costa Rica's Central Valley, near enough to admire San José and access all its amenities, but also far enough away from the busy center. We were in Escazú, home to foreign embassies, diplomats, and wealthy business owners and one of San José's more upmarket neighborhoods.
Three years ago, my husband Michael and I were both on the corporate treadmill—Michael as a consulting engineer and me running my own business. We were working long hours just to maintain our lifestyles, leaving us overworked and miserable. When a dear friend died, we asked ourselves, "If we had six months to live would we continue doing what we're doing?" The answer was a resounding no. We had to find the "off" switch for the treadmill.
In exchange for looking after the house, garden, pets, and pool, my husband Michael and I have saved around $24,000 in accommodation costs. Whether you want a dream vacation or to sample a retirement destination, the trick to being successful is to stand out from the crowd. Competition is fierce, with many homeowners receiving 20 to 60 responses to their "housesitter needed" advertisements. Here's how you can join this group of savvy travelers and score the best housesitting gigs around the world.
Cynthia West bounced through the door vibrating with the news she was about to tell her husband Robert. He listened with mounting glee as she explained her medical company's plan to inject some younger blood into the workforce. They were offering an early retirement package—one that would give Cynthia "an avenue of escape" from her high stress, 10-hour-a-day job in Silicon Valley. She grabbed the opportunity. Though Robert, 62, was working part-time...