Picking Up Again

Where to begin?  In waiting for the perfect inspiration to post, I have allowed too much time to go by and too many things to happen that writing a thorough update has become overwhelming.  I will do my best now.

Time has a way of passing faster when you’re not paying attention.  I am lucky to have enjoyed my time so much in the past few months that I was barely aware of its passing until another notch on my personal timeline hit and I am celebrating, or experiencing, my 30th birthday.  While I wouldn’t call it a celebration, it is an experience – and a little reminder that time does keep going, and nobody has yet figured out how to control that.

image

Liza Jane, during a trail run in Durango

Dallas and I were dog sitting and house sitting in Durango, Colorado for about 6 weeks.  Dallas went back to California on Christmas Eve to sell our bikes and collect some belongings while spending the holidays with his family.  I stayed until New Year’s Eve, and attempted to rent a car to drive to Denver to catch a flight to Detroit for my cousin’s wedding.  After walking around Durango for 3 hours between a few different car rental companies, I conceded to defeat.  Despite having plenty of savings in the bank to buy a car, let alone rent one for a day, I was turned down by every rental company because I didn’t have a credit card.  This is one of the most ridiculous things about the US.  These companies would be perfectly fine renting a car to someone who is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt as long as they have a credit card, while the people who are careful never to spend more than what they have are punished for not having any credit.  I had to get to the Denver airport the next day, and there was literally no way to do it.  For $400 and an expensive cab ride to the Durango airport, I could have bought a plane ticket to Denver that would have gotten me there a few minutes after my flight to Detroit took off.  I felt utterly defeated and helpless.

image

This is Coda

  Naturally, I began scouring craigslist for…anything.  Durango doesn’t have enough of a presence to require its own craigslist page, so I was searching the entire western slope of Colorado, with no luck.  I began expanding my range to areas south of Durango. Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Farmington, Phoenix…I was desperate.  Eventually, I found someone who was driving from Phoenix to Cleveland.  While I was originally hoping for a ride to the airport, I ended up securing a ride for myself all the way to Michigan.  AND I got to stay in Durango for an extra day and hang out with Liza and Coda, the two dogs I was sitting.  As luck would have it, my flight out of Denver was canceled and I was able to get full credit for the price of the flight I would have missed anyway.  The drive took two days, but Ray had done the drive many times before and dropped me off safely at the hotel where my family was staying in time for the wedding rehearsal dinner.

image

My beautiful cousin Rachel and her new husband, Ben, along with the rest of the wedding party

While I love my cousin Rachel, I wonder about her sanity when it came to picking a time and location for her wedding.  I’m pretty sure everyone who was flying in had trouble related to snowy weather conditions, and there were just as many delays or cancellations on the way out.  I amazingly managed to fly out of Detroit somewhat on time, but the plane I was destined to take from DC to Providence was stuck somewhere else so I ended up spending an extra 7 hours in the airport after that flight was canceled.  Had I been allowed to rent a car, I probably could have driven to Providence in less time.

image

Back in Providence, I am dog sitting again. This time for Kyla, the husky.

Dallas met me in Providence a few days after I arrived.  It was his idea to come back to Rhode Island and try it out for a while.  We hadn’t had an income since September, and we really needed to take some time to rebuild our bank account balances.  I vaguely questioned Dallas’s sanity as well for choosing to come to Providence in January, but he really didn’t know any better.  I am happy to be back in an area where I’m surrounded by familiar faces and places, and I think my friends and family are happy that we’re here (for now).  Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to save enough money to hit the road again in a few years.  Dallas just started a job at Brown, so send him congratulatory messages!  He will be working part time with full time benefits, and he may choose to stay long enough to earn a degree while he’s here.  This means we could be here for a few years!  But I have every intention of still completing my bicycle journey around the world.  During this pause, I am thinking about starting a business to help support our goals and mission of promoting bicycling!  I will update as things unfold…

Arizona Road Trip

IMG_0371

Dallas and I figured that while we were already in the Southwest, we should find a way to explore the surrounding area before our dog-watching duties began again.  So we rented a car and drove down to Flagstaff, where I have a cousin, Jeanine, and Dallas and I have a friend, James.

image

The road between Flagstaff and Sedona

Over the past two years, I have been traveling around my own country like I never have before, and I am still astounded by how vastly different it can be depending on where you go, and how dramatically beautiful it is.  It’s amazing that you can see such an array of climate zones, landscapes and people all while remaining within the United States.  These experiences that I’ve had make it a little easier to appreciate being an American, even though I am still itching to get out and explore the rest of the world.  From the food and hospitality of the South, to where the mountains meet the ocean in Alaska, and everything in between, I am more in love with this country than I ever have been.  Our recent trip to the desert in Arizona further exceeded my expectations, and continued to awe me in every way.

image

A view of Sedona from Submarine Rock

The enormous red rocks rising straight up, illuminated by the sun, give off a presence that is impossible to capture on camera. Yet, the scenery was constantly making me want to stop and take a million pictures everywhere I turned.  It is so stunning, I could not take my eyes off of the landscape. This presented a challenge when Dallas and I went trail running in Sedona.  We spent a few hours on a ‘run’ that couldn’t have been more than 6 miles, pausing to take in our surroundings and attempting to photograph everything without falling into the canyon.  It was equally difficult to drive down to Sedona from Flagstaff without stopping or slowing down to feast our eyes upon the vivid land.

image

Simultaneously standing in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah!

The day before we went to Sedona, we drove from Durango to Flagstaff, stopping at the Four Corners National Monument along the way.  My eyes could barely handle all of the visual stimulation then, and it was nothing compared to Sedona.  Once in Flagstaff, Dallas and I met up with James (who Dallas had originally met on his first bike tour in California and who had stayed with us in Portland when touring with his mom, Jo).  James brought us to Diablo for burgers, and then we walked over to Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution to meet my cousin, Jeanine, and her husband, Stuart.  Flag Bike Rev is a local bike shop, and they were having their holiday party.

IMG_4849After leaving the party, we were kindly welcomed by Jame’s friend, Lauren, to stay at her house.  Two of their other friends were in town from Silver City, New Mexico, and Dallas had stayed with one of them while he was passing through two years ago.  We had good conversation with James and friends, and I really enjoyed listening to Lauren and Mike sing and play the guitar (Dallas even joined in on guitar towards the end).  It’s really comforting to know that there are such good people all over the country, and we can relate to many of the same things, like music, the environment, and bicycling.  I think that this would be my group of friends had I lived in Flagstaff or Silver City.  It also makes me miss my friends back in Rhode Island, and I look forward to seeing them again.

image

Anyway, after all of us went out for an early breakfast of chiliquiles at Martan’s, Dallas and I headed off to Sedona.  I could probably spend a few months in Sedona before I got tired of exploring all of the trails it has to offer.  I did want to visit Arcosanti before heading back to Flagstaff, so we only got to spend a few hours in Sedona.

image

Arcosanti’s skyline

Arcosanti is an experimental town, designed by architect Paolo Soleri, who just passed away earlier this year at the ripe age of 93.  Soleri was born and studied architecture in Torino, Italy before coming to the US and working under Frank Lloyd Wright.  He started constructing Arcosanti in the 1970’s, based on his idea of Arcology (architecture + ecology).  It is still somewhat a work in progress, but is a very cool idea with the goal of being environmentally sustainable and lean with regards to urban sprawl.  I first learned about Arcosanti while working on my master’s at Brown and researching places that are not autocentric (revolving around the automobile).  I am slightly embarrassed that we had to drive there, but I am glad that I got to see it.

The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

On the way back to Flagstaff, it started snowing, and the next morning there were several inches of snow covering everything. I love the way the snow clings to all the tree branches, turning them white. We enjoyed coffee and breakfast with James and friends at Macy’s, and then said goodbye before driving to the Grand Canyon. We drove over a mountain pass on the way, and once on the other side, there was no more snow on the ground.

image

Dallas basks in the views of the Grand Canyon

I felt like we were the luckiest couple of people on earth when the clouds began to break while we were at the Grand Canyon National Park, and I was reminded of when the same thing happened while we were visiting Denali National Park in Alaska. I can’t believe this enormous canyon has been sitting here all this time, and I had never even seen it once until now. It’s incredible how different everything can look depending on the season, the lighting, and the weather. There are so many different types of beauty, but I think my favorite is these striking natural landscapes.

image

The South Kaibob Trail stretches for 7 miles and drops over 4000 vertical feet before reaching the Colorado River

Dallas and I began hiking down into the canyon from the South Rim’s Kaibob trail, but we only had enough time to go about 1.5 miles before having to turn back up. We watched the clouds shift as the sun set behind the south wall of the canyon, casting various colors and changing moods on the whole picture, all the while maintaining its majestic aura. The long drive back to Durango was dark and silent, but the moon rising behind the clouds was also pretty magnificent.

Finally selling my jewelry

image

samples of my jewelry

I think I started making hemp jewelry when I was 12.  I remember doing a lot of it in Germany one summer, and purchasing about 80 Deutsche marks worth of beads and string.  Well, I have kept the materials over the years and started picking it up again.  There was a craft fair in Durango last weekend, and while I missed the boat on that, I was able to get a small table at the local grocery co-op, Durango Natural Foods for two hours on Sunday.  I sold three things, and I have much more.  I will probably continue making things until I run out of supplies before reassessing whether this is a worthwhile hobby.  In the meantime, I decided I would try to sell my creations online instead of lugging everything around wherever I travel.  Now is the perfect season to start selling these sorts of things, so after researching my options, I decided to use Etsy as my online jewelry selling platform.

image

I would also like to use this as an opportunity to raise money for a charity, since I haven’t actually done any fundraising since last summer.  So, if anyone does want to buy this jewelry, I will keep track of all my sales and donate 20% of whatever I make to the National MS Society.  If you would like to make a larger donation to the MS Society or are not even interested in the jewelry but still want to donate, please e-mail me and we can figure out a method via paypal or some other option.  At the end of this year, I will submit my donation (and will continue to do the same thing for next year).

So, without further to write, I introduce my Etsy shop, Nomadic Jewelry by Nomadic Cycling

Cycling in the City vs. Nature: A Collaborative Article

While I love the way cycling through a bustling city gives me a rush of adrenaline, heightening my awareness of my surroundings, since going to Alaska I have been gravitating towards a different kind of cycling.  A fellow blogger pointed out that there are many ways to enjoy exercise, and we agreed to collaborate on a post to highlight the differences.  Whether you live in a city or in the middle of nowhere, exercise is a necessary outlet for most people, and it can be enjoyed at both extremes.

image

Teaching kids how to ride safely on city roads

When I lived in Montreal, I would regularly go running.  I trained for and ran my first marathon in Montreal, and most of those miles were on busy city streets.  City running (and cycling) is my favorite way to learn a new city, or get even more familiar with a city you’ve lived in for years.  As I steadily increased the distance of my long runs in Montreal, I familiarized myself with more streets and parks than I ever knew existed during my first 3 years of living there.  However, something can be said for escaping the city and getting out into nature.

In Alaska, nature was more accessible to me than ever before, and my love for trail running and mountain biking grew stronger.  Fortunately, many cities have huge parks where you can run, safe from traffic – I have utilized many of these parks in various cities where I’ve lived or visited.  If it weren’t for the noises of the city, you might actually believe that you were far from civilization while you lose yourself on their trails.  In between our bike tours, stopping for a few weeks or months at a time allows us to explore and find some of our favorite ways to stay in shape while we’re not touring. 

It may seem like bicycling from place to place every day is plenty of exercise, but if it weren’t for these in between times, I’m pretty sure I would be ten pounds heavier.  We’re actually pretty energy efficient when touring, and our bodies quickly adapt to cycling 50-60 miles daily.  These miles become predictable to our muscles and are rather slow – the miles are more of a mental challenge than a physical one after the first week or so of touring.  The mental fatigue from the long hours on a bicycle prevents us from doing much of anything at the end of each day on the road, and we probably end of eating more calories than we burn.  Variation is needed – whether it’s a different sport or just a different style of riding – so we don’t plateau and lose fitness.  I like to run on my days off from cycling – but city commuting or mountain biking (without 40 additional pounds of gear) is a great way to mix it up. 

image

At opposite ends of the spectrum, both city cycling and mountain biking are totally different from touring.  I was surprised by how many different muscles, including upper body, that I used when I was mountain biking in Alaska.  It was so different – so fun and challenging, and something I wish I could do more frequently.  Likewise, city commuting really conditions your legs to accelerating from a stop after every stop sign and light (which can be quite frequent).  I also enjoy the challenge of racing up hills and having my own secret races against other commuters who have no idea (or maybe are racing me in their minds).  And then there’s trail running.  Trail running is like playing Tetris with your feet.  You have to figure out where to plant them before they hit the ground, and there are plenty of obstacles to make that challenging on your ankles.  Each type of exercise comes with its own mental game, and the variation really helps me to not burn out. 

While some people are able to go to the gym and run on a treadmill every day, I know I could never do that.  Here in Durango, it has been incredibly cold and snowy, but I would still prefer to bundle up and go snowshoeing or ice skating outside than to concede to the gym. I will make exceptions for swimming, and I have been going to use the pool, but if it were warm enough I would choose to swim in a lake or ocean any day.  The problem with winter sports for me is the cost, but many people around here ski or snowboard during the winter and there are enough professional athletes living in the area to either motivate or depress me (I haven’t decided yet). Read Bridget’s perspective, below, on exercise and cycling from a totally different city.

A Cyclist Makes Friends with Las Vegas

It’s amazing what some of us will do to get our exercise. I used to spend almost all my free time at the gym. After work, I’d head there and stay most of the evening before going home. I didn’t exactly enjoy spending so much time in that cramped space with sweaty people running nowhere like so many hamsters in a cage. Like many others, I simply hadn’t found a better way to stay fit. Sure, I knew that some folks ran outside and others would cycle around town on errands, but those options seemed unsafe. Then I moved, and my life and habits changed radically.

A move to Las Vegas seems an unlikely catalyst for becoming an outdoor enthusiast, but that’s exactly what my move became for me. Although I originally thought that outdoor exercise in Sin City likely entailed too much to drink and a faltering march along the strip, I found out that many outdoor activities lay waiting for those willing to participate here.

If you’ve seen pictures of the Las Vegas strip lit up in all its promotional glory, you may tend to forget that the city lies in the heart of the Mojave Desert. This natural landscape features miles of bike trails, and I love taking rides through the area. Of course, getting lost here would be a travesty, so I use this handy resource to help me keep my bearings.

image

Bridget's boyfriend helps her fix her bicycle

I also enjoy cycling in urbanized areas near my home. Las Vegas earned the designation of one of America’s Cycle-Friendly Cities from the League of American Bicyclists. In part, this has to do with the 390 miles of bike lanes located in the city. Downtown, several new bike racks and lockers have also been installed for the convenience of cyclists.

Travelers also benefit from the culture of fitness here. Hotels in Las Vegas offer a myriad of fitness amenities. In addition to well-equipped gyms, many local accommodations provide exercise sessions and outdoor fitness recommendations to guests. In order to find activities and accommodations that suit your personal fitness needs, use that link to filter pretty much every establishment in Las Vegas based on your travel and fitness preferences.

You don’t have to be a fitness nut to know that exercise is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. The fitness culture in Las Vegas has also given rise to a number of healthy eating and drinking establishments. Vegetarian fare isn’t hard to find, and several restaurants offer healthy menu options that accommodate those on the paleo diet or similar healthy food plans. If you find a juice bar more appealing than a tavern, you’ll easily find several from which to choose here in Vegas. I hope you have a chance to visit my city soon and experience all this for yourself.

Review of North St’s Woodward Convertible Pannier

image

Riding to the grocery store using my new bag as a pannier

I am writing this review on a bag that I purchased with a preconceived bias, so keep that in mind if it sounds slightly like I may be searching for a reason to love this bag.  The Woodward Convertible is a bike pannier that can also be worn as a backpack.  North St Bags, which is located in Portland, Oregon, was named for the street the owner grew up on in Montpelier, Vermont.  Unfortunately, I left Portland just before discovering this amazing local company, and had to wait for the bag to arrive in the mail.  Since I don’t remain in one place for very long, it was a bit tricky to coordinate where to have the bag shipped, and to make sure I would actually be there.  Consequently, by the time I did receive the bag, I was over a thousand miles away from my bike, so I had to test it out as just a backpack first.

image

The bag converts easily between a pannier and backpack, with a zippered flap that contains the backpack straps while being used as a pannier and a velcro strap to secure the pannier hooks and bungee while wearing as a backpack.  The bag is also waterproof, so there’s no need for rain covers if it starts to rain on you during your ride.  There are good reflective stripes all over the bag, and my favorite part is that you can customize the colors of both the main bag and the reflective stripes.  

image

Inside the main bag is a padded compartment for a laptop (or papers that you don’t want to get crinkled), and there are two velcro pockets on the outside as well as a pocket that perfectly fits a U-lock.  The side velcro pocket is perfect for my water bottle when I’m walking around town or already have my coffee thermos in the water bottle cage on my bike.

image

I did get to try the bag out as a pannier when our friends, Dustin and Katie, from Alaska came through Durango after bicycle touring around Arizona and New Mexico.  The bag fits best on a rear rack, since it would hang pretty low and may hit the ground if you were to try it out as a front pannier.  There is a bungee cord with a hook that hooks onto the bottom part of the pannier rack, and two hooks at the top of the bag that hook over the top of the rack.  It does allow the bag to bounce away from the rack, since there’s nothing securing the bottom of the bungee to the bag, but it seems pretty secure and I don’t think it would easily fall off of the rack.

image

This bag has been perfect for biking and walking around town and is wonderful for grocery shopping.  I am extremely happy with it so far, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who commutes by bicycle or even occasionally would use their bicycle for a shopping excursion into town.  It’s a pretty durable material, and while a bit costly for me, I think it could last a lifetime, and I feel good about supporting a local company that’s making handmade bags in the USA.

For anyone who is interested in purchasing from North St Bags, use the code “bagforlife” to receive a 20% discount on all orders over $100! This discount code is good until December 14th of this year.

Shopping for a bike rack?

Even though it may be far from cycling season where you are, it is shopping season!  Whether you’re shopping for someone else or for yourself, a rack that allows you to bring your bicycle along when using your secondary mode of transportation can expand the geographic range where you cycle and encourage you to ride more when conditions outside of your immediate vicinity are not ideal.  We know not everybody can quit their day job and bike around from city to city, so for those of you who have your own car, here’s a guide to shopping for the perfect bicycle rack:

guide to buying the perfect bike rack for cars

Turkey Trot Recap and Thanskgiving in Durango

image

Today was Thanksgiving.  While most people spend the holiday with their family, the best Dallas and I could do was talk with family and friends on our phones.  Traveling does cause us to miss our family and friends, and it is especially apparent during the holidays, but Dallas and I are thankful to have each other.

image

I started my morning off with a 5 mile running race, the Durango Turkey Trot.  This was my first race since the Klondike Road Relay in September, first 5-mile race since August of 2012, and first ever race at high altitude.  I didn’t do that badly, for having lived my whole life at sea level until last week, but I did feel noticeably out of breath earlier than I would have liked.  Dallas couldn’t run today, but he did bring the chocolate lab, Charlie, and both of them stood around to cheered me through the race.

image

After the race, we cleaned ourselves up and walked over to a community Thanksgiving dinner at the Plata County Fairgrounds, where we were given a full Thanskgiving meal for free!  Hundreds of people sat at long tables inside a large room, with volunteers serving food, buffet-style, from the tables along the side by the entrance.  Dallas and I found two empty seats on the other side of the room, between the table with all the pies and the band (but much closer to the pies).  The average age of attendees was much higher than our ages, but the people were all very friendly.

image

We walked back and spent the rest of the day lounging around the house, making food (including pumpkin waffles and pumpkin egg nog!), napping, playing with the pets, and studying languages on Duolingo.  The house where we’re pet sitting has a trampoline in the back yard, and today the sun had finally finished melting off the last of the snow that was covering it since the first snowfall.  I hope everyone else had a nice holiday, if you celebrate it – and have a great weekend!

Reflections of life in the Bay Area

Dallas and I decided to go to Durango, CO to visit with our friends and pet-sit for them and their friends over the holidays.  In the month that we were living in the bay area, we were able to get by working random jobs found on craigslist.  We also could not have stayed as long as we did without the hospitality of Dallas’s sister, Sherilyn, and step-mom, Sandra.  We also were warmly welcomed by Dallas’s friend Linus and his family, his cousin Tommy and his girlfriend, and his Aunt Lisa (who makes excellent banana bread) and her husband John.  I am very grateful for Dallas’s friends and family and so glad I could meet them!

image

Apparently, I have really nice feet. Who knew??

Dallas was lucky to find a part-time job as an assistant for a man who had just had foot surgery and needed help running errands, picking the kids up from school, and general help around the house.  He was just able to start driving again the week we left California, so the timing worked out pretty well.  I found gigs as a foot model for ankle jewelry being sold on Amazon, and spent another three days as a background runner for a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial.  Sandra also gave me some work, as she needed help tagging assets for one of the biotech companies that employs her as their facilities manager.  For the amount of time we had in the area, we did pretty well.  Living as a temporary resident of the bay area, I was able to observe and take note of a few unique characteristics.

image

Biking around downtown San Francisco, everyone is in a hurry.  There are also lots of traffic lights (and tons of traffic).  I got to practice my track stand and acceleration from a stop countless times on each commute, while other bike commuters rolled on through most of the lights.  This never happened in Portland.  I wonder if the difference is that there is more enforcement of traffic laws applied to cyclists in Portland, or if they are just better educated since there is a higher percentage of bike commuters there.  San Francisco has more tourists, and many more people riding around on rental bikes, but it is clearly the commuters who were riding on city streets and disobeying traffic signals.  I also noticed that the bike share program, which was recently initiated in the bay area and is expected to be one of the largest in the country after its planned expansions, is getting plenty of use in the city.  In Redwood City, however, where there is a hub of bike share bikes, I didn’t notice anyone using them.  It is definitely promising to see so many people commuting by bicycle, and so many bike lanes in the area, but it has a ways to go to catch up to Portland (which, doesn’t even have a bike share program, yet).  Most of the bay area is accessible by bike, but (especially as you get further from the city) there are plenty of inconveniences and obstacles for cyclists to endure in order to avoid autocentric areas and unsafe roads, heavy with multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic.

Another noticeable thing about the bay area is the smog.  We actually lucked out with pretty sunny weather every day that we were there, but some days you could see a tan haze hovering over the city.  This is apparently normal, especially in the summertime.  Every time I went outside, there were numerous planes in the air.  Sometimes you could see ten or more planes in the sky around the airport, which wasn’t too far from where we stayed with Sandra.  This, plus all of the traffic on the roads, probably leads to some pretty unhealthy air quality.

While I really enjoyed my time in the bay area, I’m glad that we didn’t stay long enough to get caught up in whatever the big hurry is around San Francisco.  Everywhere we turned, everyone seemed so rushed and stressed out, and most drivers seemed angry.  I’m sure it’s because the cost of living is so high, people have to work so much just to pay for their home, food and gym membership – they probably don’t have any time to spend at home, eat good food, or work out.

image

A view of the city from Coyote Point Park in San Mateo

On a positive note, San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in North America.  There is literally anything you can imagine available at your fingertips.  There are numerous selections of restaurants and markets for any kind of food you could want – plus, there are courier services that will deliver the food to you if you don’t want to leave your condo.  Pretty much anywhere is accessible via public transit, and there are transportation options for everyone – trains, subways, buses, streetcars, electric trams, ferries, cars, and bikes.  As for entertainment and recreation, there are museums and theaters that attracts all of the big names in art, music or acting and there are parks and gyms for any kind of activity you would ever want to do.  For water sports, you can go swimming, sailing, kiteboarding, kayaking, rowing or windsurfing on the bay, along the Pacific coast or on one of the lagoons (we witnessed part of a rowing regatta in the lagoon behind Sandra’s house two days before we left).  There is excellent road cycling and mountain biking just outside of the city.  AND it seems there are job opportunities everywhere – San Francisco seems like the place to be if you want to start up a company or are involved with any kind of technology.

Dallas and I took a one way flight to Durango, but we left our bicycles behind so we do expect to be back in the bay area to pick up where we left off on our cycling adventures.  Until then, we will definitely be borrowing mountain bikes and skis, and doing a lot of trail running with other people’s dogs!

A review of trustedhousesitters.com – from a sitter’s perspective

As the holidays approach and people are scrambling to solidify travel plans to see family, an important priority for many people is finding someone to care for their home or pets while away. Then there are people like Dallas and me, who are always trying to figure out where we’re going to sleep for the next few weeks (or months) and how we’re going to afford it. Websites like trustedhousesitters.com offer a solution for both types of people. Dallas and I joined trustedhousesitters.com on November 1st this year.  We have membership privileges for one year before we have to decide whether to renew or let lapse.  I have formulated a rough sketch of an opinion so far, from the perspective of a house-sitter who has yet to connect with the right homeowner.

image

trustedhousesitters.com

First, you have to pay for a membership in order to contact homeowners, and it’s a bit pricey.  This could be why most of the members are older, retired professionals.  For homeowners, this filters through all the potential sitters and is MUCH better than posting an ad on craigslist.  Homeowners can feel more secure knowing that their sitter will not be partying or doing drugs in their home while they’re away.  However, as a younger house-sitter with no steady income or pension, it is a bit of an investment for me.  That said, the costs are well worth it if it hooks us up with the right home.  In most cases, the membership would pay for itself in just one sit, saving us on the costs of hotels or hostels.

Also, as a younger house sitter amongst a member base of “mature, responsible, house sitters with extensive references and resumes”, I feel at a slight disadvantage when it comes to getting chosen to be the house sitter.  We need to use our age to set us apart advantageously.  While many of the members advertise that they are fit, I wonder how many of them would run daily with the dogs in urban areas that have leash laws.

Most house-sitters are not expecting to be paid.  This is a great benefit for homeowners, for obvious reasons.  However, most people who can afford a membership can also afford to pay their sitter a little bit to reward them for doing a good job.  If there is no payment at all, there may be less incentive for the house sitter to make extra efforts to keep the house clean or the garden alive.  I assume that most of the members on here would go that extra mile just for the positive feedback to use a reference, but it is nice as a house-sitter to receive a little bit of compensation, not only to offset the cost of travel or the time involved in caring for pets, but as a token of appreciation for a job well done.  This would still be much cheaper and less hassle than boarding pets at a kennel or hiring someone through a pet-sitting service, and it would provide homeowners some extra peace of mind.  I don’t mind not being paid, but when everyone is offering their services for free, it diminishes the perceived value of all sitters. 

In search results, your sitter profile is not going to show up if you say that you charge “Sometimes” unless a homeowner indicates “I don’t mind” in the search query, so if you want homeowners to be able to find you, it might be beneficial to indicate that you don’t charge at all. I don’t like this, for the reasons mentioned above. Sometimes a free place to stay is more than enough and I would not feel right charging a homeowner, but when the house-sitting job comes with responsibilities like feeding and exercising animals, keeping house plants and gardens healthy, and helping to run a farm or bed-and-breakfast, I would expect a little bit of compensation. 

The reference feature allows house sitters to request references from other members or externally, and references are posted on sitters’ profiles. There’s also a feature to have a police report available, to prove that you have no criminal record. Homeowners can search for sitters based on references and police report availability. The references offer sitters great motivation to do a good job so they can earn more positive references to help them in finding future house-sitting opportunities.

The site is an excellent resource for both homeowners and house sitters.  It connects people who would never have found each other and opens people’s minds up to opportunities outside of their immediate vicinity.  Members are much more reliable and trustworthy than your average craigslist user, or at least the sketchy people are weeded out from the start. I have already started recommending the website to friends who may be interested in house-sitting as a way to vacation inexpensively.

Recommendations for the site:

Reach out to younger people and try to diversify the membership base. Maybe offer a Groupon or not charge a house-sitter for their membership until they have secured their first house-sitting gig through the website. OR, in addition to the membership option, allow people to join for free and pay per house-sitting gig that they obtain (members would not have to pay this fee). Also, try to attract people from other countries. Right now, the majority of homeowners are in the UK, US, Australia and western Europe. It would be nice to see an even wider range of locations, including South America and Asia.

Improve search result feedback. Allow people to sort search results in order of proximity, or other options. Your profile won’t have any priority if someone in your area searches for a house-sitter. Let the profiles of house sitters who indicate that they charge “sometimes” appear in search results for either paying or non-paying homeowners.

So far, I love the website and am excited for its potential in helping Dallas and me find places to stay while we are traveling. When we do find a house-sitting gig through here (and according to the site, 75% of members with complete profiles do), I will be sure to blog about it!

For those of you who made it through to the end of this lengthy review, Trustedhousesitters is offering a 25% discount on memberships when you enter the discount code, “nomadiccycling”!

Trying to be good travelers

image

What happened on Dallas’s last day of riding before he reached San Francisco remains a mystery for now, as I have given him ample time to update us and cannot wait any longer to update our readers on where we are and what we’re doing now!  Not that it’s very exciting.  We have paused our bicycle touring again to spend time with family in the bay area and to figure out our next move.  We have been considering a variety of options, which I wasn’t going to reveal until we made a final decision, but maybe writing it all out and sharing the possibilities with everyone will help us come to a conclusion in a more timely manner.  So, here they are:

image

 

Option 1: Go sailing!
We have been fortunate enough to meet up with David, a sailor who owns a hand built 40 foot catamaran sailboat and is looking for crew for some segments of his sail around the world.  He is very much like us in that he has been traveling and working random jobs wherever he stops, literally going wherever the wind blows him.  We started talking to him via e-mail after the website, findacrew.net, matched our profiles.  He was in Alaska for the summer, but never made it far enough north to see us while we were in Skagway.  We finally caught up to him in San Francisco where he is anchored while working on replacing the hatches, and we had the chance to go sailing with him around San Francisco Bay last week.  I have to admit that sailing across the ocean would be my number one choice, since I started my journey two years ago with the hopes of combining bicycling and sailing, and still I have yet to actually sail anywhere.  However, the boat is a work in progress, and David has not done an ocean crossing yet.  I have no doubt that he is taking all the appropriate safety precautions and am confident in his sailing ability as a captain, but we are still not ready to trust our lives to a small sailboat that is untested on such a long journey.  If David decides to head south first, to San Diego, before going west, we do want to join him.  Hopefully we will know more about his plans by the end of November.

image

Option 2: Bike South
We can always hop back on our bikes, but it’s going to get a lot colder before it starts getting warmer.  It only makes sense to go south.  We could bike to San Diego, and potentially crew on a sailboat from there, or keep biking south.  There are a completely different set of risks associated with this plan, but we would get to work on our Spanish.  Dallas was hoping to have saved up some more money before getting into South America, since it may be hard to find legitimate work outside of the US.  If we do go this route, we could spend the next year or two bicycling around South America.

image

Option 3: Work seasonally in Durango, CO
Out friends, Anna and Brendan, from Sockeye, live in Durango, Colorado.  We really enjoyed getting to know them while we were all living in Skagway, and we even got to witness their wedding in July!  They have extended an offer for us to live with them for the winter season.  Durango Mountain Resort is hiring people for the ski and snowboard season, and it would be a good way for us to earn some extra income before leaving the country.  It would also be cold, and would delay our departure from the US for a little bit longer.  Although, we would get to be a little closer to friends and family for a little bit longer.

image

Option 4: House sit and work odd jobs through the holiday season, and then bike south or sail across the Pacific.
Thanksgiving is approaching quickly, and it would be nice to stay close and accessible to family throughout the holidays (and so I can attend my cousin’s wedding).  While we’re already in the country, we may as well stay a little bit longer so we can afford to visit with family.  House-sitting is a great way to stay somewhere, rent-free, and lots of people need house-sitters during the holidays (including our friends in Durango).

image

We recently discovered a very cool website that connects homeowners to trustworthy house-sitters while they are away for extended vacations or business trips.  The website is called trustedhousesitters.com and we have just started exploring the possibilities of living in beautiful homes in all parts of the world, watching over the house and sometimes caring for pets and plants while the owners are away. There are several websites like this, but trustedhousesitters.com seems like the best so far.  Membership is required in order to apply for house-sitting jobs, and there are ways for previous homeowners, employers, or others to leave references on the house-sitter’s character and caretaking abilities.  There’s even a section for a police check, so you can show that you have no criminal record.  We see the site as a great tool for helping us find places to stay without the commitment of a lease or the cost of rent, while also providing homeowners or pet owners a piece of mind, knowing their home will be in good hands.  If we do land a gig through this site, I will update our readers with a more detailed review.

image

We have been entertaining all of these options, and are open to other wild and crazy suggestions that people may throw our way.  Don’t hesitate to comment on this section!  It may not affect our decision, but it’s good to hear what y’all think.  While in the bay area, Dallas and I have been lucky enough to stay with his sister, Sherilyn, and her family, his friend, Linus, and his family, and his step-mom, Sandra.  We are working temporary jobs until we move on to the next locale!

“A good traveler has no plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu