The Places We Live – Chicago, Illinois

We are spending a long weekend house sitting in a hip condo in Chicago. Our neighborhood alone has enough to keep us busy the whole time, but the L Train is just a block away, connecting us to the entire city. Seems like I better stop writing and start exploring!

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Chicago, Illinois, USA

Illinois is a state in the American Midwest, and is bordered by Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Iowa, along with Lake Michigan in the northeast and the Mississippi River to the west. For anyone who didn’t grow up in the states, there is a childhood saying that goes “there is no noise in Illinois”. This helps kids remember that Illinois is pronounced without the S (ill-ih-noy).

Chicago, Illinois, USA. The Places We Live. A map of the United States highlighting Illinois along with Idaho (with a heart), California, and New York. A collage shows Chicago Riverwalk, Cloud Gate, and Chicago skyline from the lake.

Thanks to the major bodies of water, Illinois has long been a major population center and has a long, rich history. One archaeological site in west-central Illinois suggests 7,000 years of continuous habitation. Illinois was the 21st state to join the Union and has been home to some of the nation’s most notable presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.

The City of Chicago is located in east-central Illinois on Lake Michigan. It is the third largest city in the USA, with a population of over 2.5M people, and hosts the second busiest airport in the world. Some of America’s most famous buildings, museums, and artists are here. Needless to say, we won’t have any shortage of things to do.

Our Neighborhood

We live in the community of Lakeview, an area of Chicago’s north side. The community includes the neighborhoods of Wrigleyville (home of Wrigley Field), Boystown (popular LGBT area), and Belmont Theater District. On top of all of that excitement, Lakeview hosts the annual Chicago Marathon and Chicago Pride Parade. This neighborhood definitely has it going on!

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Photo by Blake Guidry on Unsplash

Our street is packed full of trendy shops and restaurants. Like most neighborhoods in the area, there is a strong German presence; for example, the nearby church offers services in English, Spanish, and Deutch. We can see Wrigley Field from the roof of the building, and have easy access to the L Train, connecting us to the city. I would call this prime real estate.

Take a Bacon and Brew Tour in Lakeview and Lincoln Park with Viator

Our Home

Our home is a 1,900 square foot condo on the second floor of a row-house style apartment building. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, front and back decks, an open concept living area, and spacious kitchen. There is also a reserved parking area in an alley off the back of the house, which we greatly appreciated, as street parking in the city is either by permit or very costly. Similar condos in the area were sold for $650k and rented for $2,700 per month.

The inside has been meticulously updated and beautifully decorated in a modern style. My favorite spot in the house was the front deck that overlooked the busy street. I really enjoyed sitting out there to watch the world go by. On nice days, people slowly wandered up and down the blocks, stopping into the many shops lining the street or sitting down for a meal at the restaurant across the way. On the rainy days (which were common during our stay), everyone was running from one awning to the next, and surprisingly, laughing along with everyone else playing the same game.

Our Family

Our hosts are from just about everywhere. They moved to Chicago for a job and have been happy with the decision. We had the pleasure of joining them as their guest the evening before they left. We went out for dinner, had an amazing meal, and an even better conversation.

One of our hosts is a social media marketer working for a romance writer. As this seems to be where my career is heading, I took a very keen interest in this. Not only did he have some great advice for my marketing campaigns, but also some really inspiring advice for Josh and his options for self publishing his short story collection, Finding My Voice.

Lucy. House sitting in Chicago, Illinois. Brown, tan, and white dog with long hair sits on a patio chair

Our pet is a dog named Lucy. I love meeting all of these dogs with their unique personalities and quirks. Our previous “Lucy” was a people dog; she would have nothing to do with squirrels or other dogs, but loved other people. On the other hand, our Malaysian princess, Molly, would only socialize with us and other dogs. She wasn’t interested in the kids that wandered the neighborhood, but would instead run for every squirrel, bird, or neighboring pup.  This Lucy, Chicago Lucy, loved everyone and everything.

As a result, taking her on a walk long enough to allow her any exercise is a challenging task. She has to stop and flirt with every passing pedestrian, beg from every diner sitting on the restaurant patios, say hello to every dog barking through their front window, and openly gawk at every rabbit hopping through front gardens (of which there have been a surprising number). I’m pretty sure that, in her mind, everything that moves is a potential tummy rub.

Our Life

Like I said, we have both become truly inspired, and have shifted focus and started some new projects. My goal for this month is to get rejected five times for travel blogging collaborations (getting paid to blog about a company). It may sound strangely negative, but right now I am realizing I’ve been too afraid of failure to even try sometimes. This way, I am at least forcing myself to try — I would rather get five rejections than hear nothing because I didn’t even ask. My other goal is to build up my social media marketing skills. One way I am going to approach this is to start a new marketing support group on Facebook for fiction writers. It will be a good opportunity for me to learn more about the writing “industry” and also flex my tiny marketing muscles to help others succeed.

Josh is also newly engaged, working on a Five Rejection plan for his short story writing. He will be submitting a minimum of five short stories to paying markets (like magazines) this month in hopes of getting published. I can’t believe he is only a few months away from being done with his novel! Because of this, it is time to start building his resume before we shop it around. He is also working on self-publishing a short story collection to be ready in time for the holiday (that’s right friends and family, your darling Josh has the last stocking stuffer you need to win Christmas). We’re new, improved, and ready to roll!



 

The Places We Live: Nashville, Tennessee

Our American #vanlife road trip continues with our new home in Nashville, Tennessee. From our camping spot at The Bolo Club in Sherwood, Tennessee, we drove the 117 miles (188 km) in a little over two hours to our next house sit in Nashville. The drive was easy and involved a continuation of the lush greenery that we have now come to expect from the American South. As we pulled up to our new house, we felt immediately at home in the hipster neighbor that would become another one of the places we live.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, located near the center of the state, is the capital of Tennessee and is known as Music City. Its musical history fame reaches as far back as the 1700s when Davy Crockett, famous American frontiersman and eventual congressman, was well known for his stories and fiddle playing (source).  Thanks to the city’s reputation for fostering musical stardom, Nashville has been home to many celebrities over the years. The list of musicians who have lived in Nashville at one point or another is quite long, and to this day up-and-coming acts are being discovered in Nashville. Some of its more recent stars include Miley Cyrus (native Nashvillian), Ke$ha, and Taylor Swift.

Map of the USA highlighting Tennessee along with Idaho, California, and New York. Collage to the right shows Nashville skyline, cement map art of Nashville, and Jen in front of a guitar mural.

We are living in Lockland Springs, a historic neighborhood in East Nashville. On the north side of the Cumberland River, we are only three miles away from downtown Nashville. It appears to be a trendy neighborhood of local people. Consequently, I don’t think we will find many tourists here (which is fine with us!). Instead, it’s just people going about their daily lives, going back and forth from their jobs. It seems like this neighborhood is going to be the perfect place to experience REAL Nashville.

Our Home

Our home is on a busy residential street, but only a block away from several shops, restaurants, and bars. It is a single family, craftsman style home with a front and back yard. There are large front and back porches, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, sitting room, kitchen, dining room, and mud room. Similar homes in the neighborhood are selling for about $500,000 USD.

Jen standing on the front porch of a craftsman style home, surrounded by trees and greenery in Nashville, Tennessee.

The house is furnished very comfortably with large pieces for lounging. The decorations show an appreciation for history, art, and family. Italian artwork adorned the walls and books filled the shelves. Josh certainly had fun perusing this collection. My favorite room was the backyard patio. It is screened in against the bugs and has all the comforts of an indoor space, including fan, fireplace, and TV. I really enjoyed sitting out there with my coffee while watching the family of cardinals that live in the tree just beyond the screen.

Our Family

The owners of our temporary home in Nashville are accomplished concert musicians and travel writers, specializing in small-town adventures in Italy and Ireland. We had the opportunity to chat with them a bit before they left on a work trip to Ireland. It was really neat to meet another travel writer in person. I have been reading their books and getting excited by what my budding career could eventually be. Before they left, they told us some excellent travel stories, gave us suggestions for exploring Nashville, and introduced us to their “fur herd” of four adorable cats.

Mr Weasley

White cat poses in front of the camera from the arm of a chair. The label reads Mr Weasley.

Mr Weasley (Weasel) is the oldest of the bunch. He has suffered from several illnesses, allergies, and discomforts. Thankfully, he takes all of the vet visits like a pro by allowing just about anyone to pet him, pick him up, flip him over, and just generally do all of the things cats hate.

Coconut

White cat lounging on a bed with books in the background. The label reads Coconut

Coconut is the least sociable of the bunch. Like our cat, Bubbles, he seemed to have a no touching policy unless it fit his schedule. Despite his cattiness (ha!), I really enjoyed Coconut and watching our relationship grow. He even jumped on Josh’s lap the other day! It didn’t last long, of course, but it felt really nice to know that he didn’t actually hate us.

Socksie

Socksie might be the most adorable cat I have ever met. She is small, fluffy, and cute as a button. She sleeps on the bed with us at night and paws at our hands if we stop petting her too soon. I particularly love her little kitty snores which aren’t loud enough to be annoying, but just loud enough to set me into a brief giggle fit.

Hoover

White cat playing on hit back on the carpet. Label says Hoover

Hoover is the baby of the group and lets it be known. Despite being the sweetest little thing, he has also been the one to most likely act out. If there is a cat on the table, we can assume it is Hoover. If someone is making a ruckus in the hallway, it is probably Hoover. While Socksie sleeps at our head each night, Hoover sleeps at our feet and wakes me up each morning with a wet nose to the face. He’s just too cute.

Our Lives

The routine has been about the same in Nashville: writing, afternoon adventures, a home-cooked dinner, then TV time. It has been nice having the chance to catch up on some of our HBO shows and are looking forward to trying some of Nashville’s famous Hot Chicken. We won’t be here for very long, so we hope to suck up all of the internet and hot showers that we can. There is only one more stop before we’re looking at nearly a month of #vanlife.


My Host’s Travel Books

 


The Places We Live: Atlanta, Georgia

Day Two of #VANLIFE takes us from our goat farm overnight in Lee, Florida to a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Here, we spent five days house sitting two beautiful cats in a modern row house. We had a great time, and by the end of our first day, fell right back into our old routines again.

#VANLIFE - The Places We Live. Map of the United States showing an arrow from Lee, Florida in Northern Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta, Georgia

The U.S. state of Georgia is located in the American South and borders Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, the Gulf of Mexico AND the Atlantic Ocean. It was one a Confederate state during the United States’ Civil War and was one of the last states to return to the Union when the war was over. Now, Georgia is known as the Peach State and is the eighth most populous state, with about 10.5 million residents. Visitors flock to Georgia to visit its historical monuments, film settings (The Walking Dead is filmed here), and the bustling urban hub of Atlanta.

Atlanta is the capital city of Georgia, with a population of six million people. It played a major role in the American civil rights movement, being the birth place of Dr. Martin Luther King. The city is playfully called “the city in a forest”, and for good reason. We were amazed by the amount of greenery found interwoven among the tall buildings and suburban neighborhoods. We didn’t get the chance to explore much of Atlanta, but wished we had. There are so many fun and free things to do in Atlanta!

Map of the USA highlighting Georgia. Collage of Atlanta city skyline, Georgia Aquarium, and the World of Coca Cola. The Places We Live

Our Home

This time around, we stayed in a North Atlanta suburb called Brookhaven. We were in a gated apartment complex with a pool and fitness center. Nearby are a couple of lively new urban developments, a Whole Foods (our weird style of proof that it is a trendy neighborhood), and a university with some European-style architecture. The complex is only a block or two from a main road that connects us to downtown and some trendy shopping areas.

Check out our home in Hua Hin, Thailand. ♥

Our home is a one bedroom, one bath apartment. Other apartments of similar size in the community were renting for $2,000 USD per month. There is also a garage, living room, patio, kitchen, dining room, laundry room, and small office. I love the look and feel of this place. The design and decor is modern, simple, and comfortable; if I were the one decorating, this is how I would have done it. Needless to say, we felt right at home here.

Our bedroom at our house sit in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The bedspread is shades of whites, browns, and blues. The night stand holds a CO alarm and a picture frame.

Our Family

We got a chance to meet the owner of the home only briefly, but felt an immediate connection. She is about our age and has similar interests. She is having us watch her home while she flies out to Florida to look for a new home on the beach. It looks like she might be moving into a place fairly close to Mom’s house, so I hope we will have a chance to meet her again later this year.

Our fur babies for the week are two Siamese cats. Huey, the older of the two, is clearly the boss of the house. He does what he wants, gets pets when he wants, and sleeps where he wants. We connected pretty quickly and really enjoyed each other’s company. Leo is a bit stand-offish. He spent a lot of his time sitting in the same room as us, but at the opposite end, where he could sit and stare at us with a look of confusion and disapproval. Although he never got out of this habit completely, he did eventually warm up to us (Josh specifically). He is very playful and full of energy.

Huey and Leo - The Places We Live.png

Our Lives

We set up our work stations on the couch and at the dining room table, and set about reestablishing our routines. I wrote and optimized two blogs, took part in several social media campaigns, and made housing reservations for a full month out. Josh started a new social media push, published a couple of stories, and made some progress on his novel. It has been a really good work week.

For fun, we took a walk through one of the urban developments and the nearby college, tried some new recipes, caught up on the new season of Orange is the New Black, and spent some time relaxing by the pool with a book. I am currently reading Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and zoologist Mark Carwardine. It is a true story of the time the two men traveled the world to check out some endangered animals. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Josh in front ot Lowry Hall at OU in Atlanta, Georgia, USA - The Places We Live

We did manage to set aside some time for one big adventure in Atlanta: the Georgia Aquarium. I bought our tickets online, which saved quite a bit of money, but we still paid $59 USD, well over our daily budget. However, it was totally worth it! Up until 2012, the Georgia Aquarium was the largest in the world, and they’re in the process of installing a new addition. My favorite exhibit was Ocean Voyager, which is the aquarium’s most famous exhibit. It houses a 6.3 million gallon tank (23.9 million liters) filled with thousands of creatures, including four whale sharks! I have never seen anything like it. It was a truly amazing experience I will never forget.

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Moving On

We both agreed that Atlanta was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, we didn’t see nearly enough of it, so I’m hoping we get to come back and explore again soon. Until then, we are off to Nashville for our next house sit and more #VANLIFE adventures!


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The Places We Live – Hilton Head, SC

After a long month dealing with a family emergency back in the States, we are back on the road! This time we’re house sitting on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We have a beautiful home in a world famous town where we get to enjoy the company of a very dapper young bulldog named Winston. And this time we have a very special guest: my mom! Read on to learn more about the island and get a virtual tour of this amazing location.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA. Map of the USA with Idaho, California, New York, and South Carolina highlighted. ThePlacesWe.Live

South Carolina is, as you might expect, a southern state, bordered by North Carolina, Georgia, and the Atlantic Ocean. It was the 8th state to join the Union, the first state to secede, and hosted the first battle of the Civil War. South Carolina is now home to five million people and is renowned for its lush forests and long coastlines.

Hilton Head Island is located on the Atlantic Ocean, in the southern corner of South Carolina. It is a popular tourist destination for the upper class and is world famous for its golf courses. In particular, Harbor Town Golf Links hosts the yearly Heritage Golf Classic, which is part of the PGA Tour. In total, the island has 40 golf courses, 24 of which are championship-level courses. Needless to say, people take their golfing very seriously around here.

Check out these Civil War travel destinations in South Carolina. 

Our Home

Most of Hilton Head is broken up into gated communities that they call plantations. The home we are house sitting is located in the Sea Pines plantation, which also hosts Harbor Town Golf Links and Harbor Town itself. The plantation is made up of hotels, apartment complexes, vacation homes, and private homes. We’re staying on a street of large, private homes, the majority of which sell for around $850k.

Single story home with bulldog in the front grass

We’re in a single story home with three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a large kitchen, dining room, living room, patio, and an unattached garage. The kitchen has all of the expected gadgets of an American kitchen, including two ovens, a large fridge/freezer combo, microwave, toaster oven, dishwasher, and garbage disposal. As our house sitting host is an architect, we also have special aesthetic extras like beautiful interior ceiling beams and unique exterior fixtures.

Check out our other house sits. ♥

Our back patio looks out onto the Harbor Town Golf Links and a pond. The pond turned out to be one of our daily delights. Each day, there was a new bird, turtle, lizard, or alligator to keep us entertained. The alligator pictured below (can you spot him?) was about six feet long and enjoyed swimming around or watching the golfers from behind the sand trap. We named him Billy Gates.

Jen sitting on a bench overlooking a pond and golf course. Next to the pond is a 6 foot alligator.

Our Family

Our house sitting host is an architect who has been living on the island for the last ten years. She’s spending the month visiting her kids in Pennsylvania and leaving us with her beautiful home and very handsome young bulldog named Winston.

English bulldog sitting in the grass - Winston

Winston is a three year old English bulldog. Despite his tough appearance, he might be the most gentle giant I have ever met. He loves getting attention, especially from children. He also loves rolling in the grass and getting tummy rubs. With Mom’s help, Winston has been spoiled rotten since we have been here. He gets regular car rides and just runs from one of us to the next to get all of the pets he can handle.

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Living in South Carolina

Life on Hilton Head is pretty great. We wake up each morning, feed Winston, eat breakfast, then take the pup out for a walk. It is pretty hot and humid in South Carolina, so we spend the majority of the day working or staying indoors. Once the sun goes down, our favorite thing to do is hop on the bicycles our host was gracious enough to provide and explore the forested neighborhoods. I can’t wait to try some Southern food and maybe even a round of golf… or at least some mini golf.


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Hilton Head, South Carolina - The Places We Live  House Sitting. Free accommodations. Free cuddles.


 

The Places We Live – McCrae, Australia

We had a wonderful time in houses sitting in central Melbourne and had far more fun adventures than I had time to write about. But now it’s time to move on. We’re now house sitting in a spacious home about an hour south of Melbourne with a beautiful dog named Bo.


McCrae, Victoria

Mornington Peninsula Shire, Victoria, Australia. The Places We Live. Mornington Peninsula shown on a map of Australia relative to Brisbane, Sydney, and Perth. To the side, a collage of locations around the peninsula including the ocean, beach boxes, and rolling farm land.

McCrae is a suburb of Melbourne, located on the Mornington Peninsula. As the town sits directly along the bay, it is a common tourist destination packed with beaches and bush land. The full-time population is around 3,000 people, but it is obvious the town is prepared to host many more during the summer months.

Read more about what our life is like as an American visiting Australia. ♥

We are fortunate to have our house sit on the Mornington Peninsula perched near the top of a local mountain. In addition to the amazing view of both the bay and the sea, we are only a five minute drive from town and a 15 minute walk from the popular look-out on Arthur’s Seat.

Cup of coffee with a view of a small town, trees, and the

The House

Our house sit in Australia is a 70’s style home, tucked away in a high-end neighborhood. The owners only recently purchased it and are considering a remodel. It looks like this is a common theme in the neighborhood, and that this area will be full of modern mini-mansions by the end of the decade. The current average price for the neighboring homes are between $750k and $1M USD.

Our house sits have been amazing! Check out our sit in Hua Hin, Thailand. ♥

The place where we live on the Mornington Peninsula is on a large lot with a long front- and backyard frequented by kookaburras and kangaroos. The inside has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living spaces, and large front windows. Although the home still holds a lot of its 70’s charm, the owners have decorated it beautifully and their passion for modern art is obvious throughout.

 

Our Family

Our house sitting hosts are a married couple preparing for retirement. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with them before they left and found them to be incredibly interesting and kind. As they used to host a bed and breakfast, we were treated with all of the pampering of a new guest. For the rest of the month, the two of them are visiting Singapore for a work conference, then have a long, guided tour through Vietnam. It sounds like they are going to have an amazing time.


The star of the show is our new fur baby, Bo. He is less than a year old and already a pretty big puppy. I chose this home specifically so we could meet Bo. My mom adopted a Hungarian Vizsla shortly before I moved out. I remember really appreciating how smart and beautiful she was. Bo is much the same, although his puppy brain gives him a lack of attention that can be a little difficult. It took about two days for us to truly bond, but now we are inseparable.

Bo, a Hungarian Visla dog (red coated sporting dog), sits on top of a colorful bed.

Life in McCrae

We’re living the suburban life here in McCrae with a strict, morning routine:

6:30 AM – Bo starts (and won’t stop) whining to be let out of his kennel. I attempt to make him wait until a decent hour and show him that I am in charge of wake-up time.

6:45 AM – I give up trying to teach Bo any lessons and just wake up. Bo has breakfast, goes pee, then falls immediately asleep again. I make a cup of coffee and enjoy an hour of quiet time while wishing I was still asleep.

8:00 AM – As long as it isn’t raining too hard, it is chore time. I sweep the foot paths in the yard, collect the poo, get the mail, water the outdoor potted plants, fill any holes created by Bo and kangaroos, water and fertilize the garden, tend the compost, and water the indoor plants.

Jen from The Places We Live standing behind a fenced in garden. The garden has three rows of green plants.

8:45 AM – I turn on the hot water for coffee, calm Bo down, and wake up Josh. [Editor’s note: Josh does other chores not listed here. Just to be clear.]

9:15 AM – Josh and I drive Bo to a dog park located about 10 minutes away. It is an excellent park with kind regulars. We walk loops around the park and gossip with the humans while Bo runs his little heart out with his friends.

Three dogs stand together on a lawn.

It makes for a long and exhausting morning, but we are usually back to real life by 10:00 or so. As most of the food isn’t that different from home, and restaurants are very expensive, we tend to eat at home. Around 2:00 PM each day, Josh and I will usually leave the house for some sort of adventure. The peninsula is an excellent place for hiking, so we usually get in 12-15k steps per day.

What’s Next

Our goal for this house sit is to hike as much as possible, see the penguins on Phillip Island, drive the Great Ocean Road, and teach Bo three new tricks. So far, the hiking has been going very well and we are having a ton of fun. Bo is almost lying down on command and is getting much better at sitting patiently while we put our shoes on. The weather should be improving within the next few days, so we’re on call to drive out to Phillip Island as soon as it does.

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We have the pleasure of sitting at this house for three weeks, so we have plenty of time to explore. We’ve already seen some amazing animals, awesome sunsets, and had some… interesting Australian foods. I have no doubt that the rest of this sit will be epic!


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Mornington Peninsula Blog - The Places We Live

 

The Places We Live: Melbourne, Australia

Our adventure around the world continues with another edition of The Places We Live: Melbourne, Australia! A seven hour, red-eye flight got us from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne for about $150 each. We left one growing and bustling city simply to land in a new one. We were immediately struck by the familiar sounds of the English language, as well as the bitter chill that comes with the fall in May (?!)Read on to find out more about our first home sit in the land down under!

Read more about our week in Sepang, Malaysia before flying to Australia. ♥

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria, on the southern tip of Australia. With a population hovering around five million “Melbournians”, Melbourne ranks as the second most populous city in Australia, just behind Sydney. Thanks to its highly rated educational, cultural, and economic standing, Melbourne has been ranked as the World’s Most Livable City for the last seven years in a row!

Map of Australia with Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth labeled. There is a teal flag being used to highlight Melbourne

We are in Australia as a short reprieve from the more foreign lands of Asia to celebrate our six month nomad anniversary. I didn’t specifically pick Melbourne for any real reason except that it was the cheapest city to fly to. Once that was decided, we started looking for house sits and found two back-to-back that would last us through the entire month of May. That would leave us with just enough time to fly back to China for our scheduled sit in Chengdu this June.


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Our New House

The front of a two story, brick, Victorian home in Melbourne, AusOur first home in Melbourne is only a few miles outside of the CBD (Australian for “downtown”). Using the trolley system (ranked as the largest in the world), we were able to get to and from town in about 20 minutes for $3 USD each. The trollies are very convenient, clean, and easy to navigate.

The house itself is a Victorian row house (look at me pretending to know what I’m talking about!). It is part of a very large duplex with a small front and back garden (Australian for yard). It didn’t look very large from the outside, but it was deep and had two levels, so it was actually quite spacious on the inside. There are three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a den, two living rooms, a dining room, a large kitchen, and a garage. The prices I saw for homes of similar size in the neighborhood were going for about $750k USD.

Our house looks very similar to the other homes in the neighborhood. We get the impression that indoor-outdoor space is important to the Melbournians. Like most of the neighboring homes, the first floor was covered in windows and doors to the outside. Despite the cold of the upcoming winter (that’s right, it is FALL here), our host had the majority of the doors and windows open.

Check out our lovely house sit in Kuala Lumpur. ♥

Our New Family

Our host, Ms. J, only recently moved into the home and works as a Vicar at the neighboring church. She has traveled quite a bit and has a lot of experience hosting house sitters in her home. She was super welcoming and made us feel very comfortable.

We were very excited about this sit because we would get to enjoy the company of two adult cats. They, unfortunately, we far less excited to meet us. We did eventually become friends, but it took a lot of pandering.


A large, brown cat with black striping sits on a bed with a pink blanket. It is labeled Marley The Places We LiveMarley

I know we’re not supposed to pick favorites, but Marley was my favorite. He was the ruler of the house and was not afraid to wave his authority over us. Marley was the first to wake us up each morning for breakfast, yelled at us when we left the wrong doors closed, etc. I wormed my way into Marley’s heart one night with an invitation onto my heated blanket. He slept with me each night after that.

Meet Jack, the cat we watched near the beach in Thailand. ♥


A Black cat with green eyes stands on carpet next to a banister. The image is labeled Betsy The Places We Live.Betsy

Betsy liked Josh right away. Although she would hide from me, I could usually find her cuddled on a chair as close to Josh as possible without actually touching him. She did warm up to me after a little bit and at least stopped hiding from me. She liked that I fed her minced kangaroo meat for dinner (a common pet food in Australia) and I loved her beeping mews.

Meet Lucy, our indifferent dog roommate in Chengdu, China. ♥


Living in Melbourne

As with all of the places we live, our budget in Australia is $200 USD per week. That affords us $38 Australian dollars per day, including housing, food, transportation, entertainment, visas, and tickets back out of the country. That is a pretty tight budget here, so we are very grateful for the free housing our house sits provide.

Shopping for groceries has proven to be fairly inexpensive, and although some of the names are unfamiliar, most of the food is recognizable. We were able to do quite well on our budget with our usual staples, plus some local microbrews and snacks. We have all of the kitchen appliances are we are used to and have been finding it easy to cook at home on a budget.

Some of the groceries we purchased in Melbourne, Australia. Uncle Tobys brand Honey Whole Grain Cherrios, Sunbites brand Grain Waves, SPC brand Aussie Made Baked Beans, Tim Tam, 4 Pines Pale Ale

The weather has been cold and very rainy since we arrived, so most of our days are spent working at the kitchen table. We have gotten in the habit of keeping our eye on the windows, ready to run outside for a walk during every break in the clouds. There are a lot of parks nearby and so many interesting birds and plants to look at.

Overall, we are liking Melbourne a lot. It has a hipster vibe very similar to Portland, Oregon but with the cleanliness and seriousness of Vancouver, Canada. We’re really excited to do more exploring in this amazing city and country!

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Australian flag. Melbourne, Australia House Sitting  Melbourne Australia skyline in black and white with teal frame  The Places We Live - Melbourne Australia

 

 

 

 

Hua Hin – The Places We Live

Our adventure in sharing the places we live continues with our new home in Hua Hin, Thailand. Hua Hin is a beach resort town three hours South of Bangkok along the Eastern coast. It is a popular tourist destination for Thais and foreigners alike. It is even said that the King of Thailand has begun living in his summer home in Hua Hin full-time.

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The Places We Live

We are currently house sitting in a lovely home in a suburb about five miles Northwest of Hua Hin city center. Our home is in a quiet, “gated” community a few blocks away from any major street. The word “gated” is in quotes because there is no actual gate, though there’s a place for one. Aside from one cafe a couple of blocks away, there are very few public locations that are at a walkable distance. Although, walking isn’t our preferred mode of transportation here anyway, as the area seems to be run by packs of wild dogs (who admittedly seem quite harmless, if not a little scary looking). However, these things all just add to the flavor of being in Thailand, and we are loving the location.

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Our house is on a corner lot with a large front terrace and small patio. It is a three bedroom, two bathroom, modern home. We have a large kitchen to cook in, dining room table to work at, and a TV in the living room with an HDMI port so we can watch Netflix. It has been very comfortable and we are enjoying the feeling of being “home”.

Our room is bright and full of windows. We have an ensuite bathroom with a shower and tub (still no curtain, though) and a wardrobe to store our clothes. The bed is comfortable and, with the light linens, we find that we rarely even need the AC at night.

The Family

Our host is a teacher at an international school here in Hua Hin. She has been traveling around Asia for the last 13 years and has been in Hua Hin for the last three of those. She is very excited to be moving to the Netherlands for her next job at the end of the school year. As with our other hosts, she was full of great conversation and showered us with kindness while she was here. Now, she is on holiday in Sydney, visiting some friends.



Bear is a four year old shitzu whom our host rescued off the streets of Bangkok. She is super loving and is definitely the one who runs the house. She is obsessed with playing fetch, but otherwise spends the rest of her day cuddling with us wherever we are.

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Coco is also a stray rescued after our host saw her get hit by a car in Chengdu, China. Coco still shows the scars of her previous life where she was very poorly treated. However, our host has done a wonderful job in making Coco feel loved. She is old and obviously still in some sort of pain, but she has a happy glow about her (sometimes) and she loves pets and attention as much as any dog.

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And then, there is Jack, who obviously considers himself the “man of the house”. Like Bear, he was a rescued stray from Bangkok, but despite his diagnosis of FIV, he seems to be very healthy and happy. He spends most of his day outside hunting whatever creatures dare to step foot on the property and the rest of his time snoozing at Josh’s feet.

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Pictured: not Josh’s feet.

Critters of Thailand Living

Life here in Hua Hin is quite nice. Aside for the usual love and attention, the pets don’t really need us that much. The home is comfortable and we are slowly getting used to the neighborhood and settling in to our new Thailand life.

The critters of Thailand have been a bit of an issue, however.

As we mentioned, there are packs of stray dogs roaming the streets. They look a bit scary when I walk up on them but they have, so far, not shown any signs of aggression. They just look scary, cause traffic jams, and make a lot of noise when they howl at night.

Beyond that, we have had at least one critter encounter per day. One day we shooed a cockroach out of the house that was about half the size of my palm. Another night we found the house surrounded by a loud and persistent belching sound. Turns out we’re here during frog mating season, and the males make these strange sounds to attract the females. Last night, we had a large dragonfly trapped in the house immediately following a close encounter with a very large and very fast spider crawling along the wall behind the TV.

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Also, this centipede. We kinda just let him do his own thing…

These critter encounters have been scary and unenjoyable but, surprisingly, had their moment of fun as well. Even the large spider was a rewarding kill for Josh and a brave moment of calmness from me. It is nice to feel like we are still growing, learning, and adapting to new ways of life… I just hope it doesn’t happen too often.



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We're living in Thailand... for FREE! Cycling Yangshuo Our House Sit inThailand