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[ Guest Post: Romana Frey ]  It started innocently enough. While I was living in the Comox Valley about seven years ago, a friend asked me to feed her cat while she went on vacation. Then she asked if I would also water the plants and check for mail. Finally, she suggested that it might be more convenient for me to just live in her home during her absence. I agreed. There were many things to enjoy in her home and neighborhood: the bed was comfortable, the yard was spacious, the cat loved to cuddle, I could walk to the beach in just a few minutes.

The next opportunity to house-sit arose when a friend living in a downtown Victoria highrise asked me to stay in her apartment for few weeks. No pets or plants to take care of, lots of time to wander around her neighborhood and beyond. Being able to walk to Ross Bay Cemetery, Cook Street Village or Fairfield Plaza in a few minutes was marvelous!

The three house-sits on Hornby Island were a bit more complicated. One saw me caring for a cat and a coop full of chickens and chicks on an acreage, another for a young puppy, and the third for a feral cat.. All three homes were heated with wood,and had some indoor plumbing. Two of them had only an outhouse.

Staying on Hornby was a great adventure - hiking, attending theatrical and musical performances, hanging out on the beach, meeting interesting and talented people from all over the world, and drinking the amazing Hornby Island Coffee, While living there, I launched my ‘Business and Personal Coaching’ practice, and soon had a roster of 20 Island clients.

Now I was getting referrals and phone calls from people all over the Island. I soon decided to give up my own home and become a full-time house-sitter. A friend had recommended a website, and I pored through the listings to see which community I might want to experience next.

In Salmon Arm, I cared for two rescue Shetland Sheepdogs and a century home. In Falkland, i learned how to run a generator while taking care of an outside dog and cat. Vernon - a cat and garden in a rural neighborhood. Maple Ridge - three high maintenance cats in a gorgeous home near Alouette Lake. So much to see, so much to do, so many new friends.

After my son graduated from University in 2016. I became even more daring. I accepted a house and pet sitting assignment in Bad Ischl, Austria, caring for three elderly cats and a dog in diapers. The payoffs - experiencing winter in a small spa town in the Austrian Alps, rekindling my interest in my Austrian heritage and culture, having the opportunity to speak German every day, and becoming increasingly confident about traveling overseas alone.

I write this blog post from a house-sit in Vienna, my second one here this year. I'm hanging out in a small village just outside the city limits, in a beautiful home with a garden, until the beginning of March. No pets this time, the plants are on a watering system...nothing to do except take out the garbage, and spend time in the house.

In the village I’ve found cafes, Gasthauser, shops and friendly locals. A short bus and subway ride take me to the centre of Vienna. I still work as a coach and now have clients in several countries and timezones; we meet on Skype and I’m paid for my services via Paypal or Etransfer.

Tomorrow I’ll be Skyping with a woman who lives in Manchester, England. She lives in a lovely flat close to canals and walking trails. She needs someone to care for her two rescue dogs while she vacations with her fiance for a month. I’ve always wanted to spend time in England. Sounds like a win/win situation. Oh, the joys of house-sitting.

Photo of Romana - taken at Sandpiper Beach on Hornby Island, BC, June 2014, by Gina-Rae Horvath.