Reflections on Retirement
When I tell people I’m from the Pacific Northwest, they invariably say,” it rains a lot there, doesn’t it?” Yes. Sort of. Like the Scots, said to have 421 words for snow (for example, the Scottish word for a large snowflake is ‘skelf’), those of us in the PNW have many many words for rain. Or more precisely, rain-like weather. Sleet or mist or shower. Downpour, torrent, deluge. Drizzle, sprinkle. The thing is, come late October and lasting until…October, it becomes very, very gray. It’s not just raining or not raining. Generally, it’s somewhere in between. Clouds hang heavy in the sky most days and because we are far enough north, the sun sets around 4:20pm on the winter solstice adding to the deep gloom.
As I begin my 60th trip around the sun, (I know it’s out there behind the clouds…somewhere), I’m feeling a little snarky about the whole thing. Fighting back boredom and an ever so slight case of depression, I look for worthy distractions to stave off both.
Complicating things, this past year was a financial disaster. We over spent our carefully planned retirement budget with an epic cycling adventure last spring and not one, but two weddings this past summer. And then the “coup de gras.” The icing on the cake. The cherry on top.
Stupid inflation and dumb cost of living increases hit us right between the eyes. Not enough? Let’s have both cars break down, within the same week, right before Christmas. Sigh.
Now to be clear, I wouldn’t have traded the trip or the weddings, all wonderful life events, for anything. Worth every penny. But the other stuff? Completely unnecessary.
So what is a broke 60 something left to do? Enter Housesitting.
It all kind of started as a fluke. Similar circumstances however. I was bored and slightly depressed. It was 2017 and Rick had left from our then home, Bangkok, back to the US, in order to take care of our son during and after a surgery. A friend asked if I’d be interested in watching a cat, Hickory, for a few days. I could stay in a luxury apartment in downtown Bangkok, for free. Just feed the cat and change the kitty box. Why not?
I felt like a celebrity influencer. Living in a fancy penthouse with an enormous rooftop garden. Hickory and I would lounge about, snacking on tidbits, laughing and drinking sparkling water. It was really a fun step out of my somewhat bland suburban tract home. And Hickory. Love at first sight.
A few years later, another friend suggested I might enjoy a housesitting website, Trustedhousesitters.com. Basically, it’s a platform in which folks that need a house or pet sitter can connect with folks who would like to “sit.” Pay a nominal annual fee, get a background check and collect your references. Like “Yelp”, you and the hosts rate each other after each “sit.” Good reviews equal more opportunities. Why not?
We’ve had mostly excellent experiences. An historical snow storm in New Mexico with two cats was memorable. Ben, the Retriever, near Peaks National Park in the UK will forever be in our hearts. Buddy, the blind dog with a rainbow dyed tail, showing us the ropes in Ballard, WA. And most recently, Pepper and Minnie, the hysterically funny and mischievous Canadian cats that literally tip over furniture for attention. And the surprises. Flooded laundry room, leaky roof, or the cat that slipped away and was gone all night. Thankfully, he was back in the morning at the backdoor, looking like he’d been partying for a week. That rascal!
The downside? It’s slow travel on steroids.
Don’t get me wrong. I love slow travel. I love getting to know a place really well and seeing things in depth. However, when you stay in a town for a week or two, restricted on how much time you can spend away from the animals, it can get boring. I mean, who knew that Kelowna, British Columbia is as gray as Western Washington in the winter AND has a foot of snow on the ground for 5 months of the year? That means taking a walk requires the use of YakTrax, (basically “chains” for your boots) so you don’t slip and break your neck. No wonder the homeowners went to Mexico.
So, instead of escaping the gray, I got a different shade of it. Instead of gray and wet, I got gray, cold and as the Scots would say, “big ‘blin drifts’ on your streets” and “real ‘spitters’ coming down.” Trapped in a beautiful house with a hot tub and a big screen T.V., with two great cats, my cute husband and a full fridge (after the most chaotic trip to Costco I’ve ever had in my life). I guess it could get worse.
And as I sip my coffee in a very comfy chair, I’m planning our next cheap adventure. This time I’m getting a little smarter. Arizona. The anti-gray state. Except for it’s residents.
I’ll feel right at home.
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