Friday, January 15, 2010

Logistics of Extended Travel… what to do with the house, cats, yard, car, and the mail?

I never thought much about the running and humming of maintaining a home and pets until I made the decision to travel for 5-6 months. Once I started planning Our Great RV Escape it became evident there were some major items to address before I could take off on any extended RV travels. Not surprisingly to those that know me, I made a short list of the big issues:
  • The House… security, heating, cooling, using the plumbing, other maintenance needs that pop up mysteriously 
  • Yard care… mowing, tending the garden beds 
  • The cats… can't leave these guys to forage on their own! 
  • Car… what to do about my car? We are not taking it with us and it really should not sit for 6 months 
  • Mail… what to do about mail? How will we get it? 
  • Bill paying… bills don’t go away, even if you wish they would
The house, cats, and yard care were the biggest conundrums – I did not want to leave the house unoccupied for 6 months and neither did my insurance agent. And we certainly would not abandon the cats!
Did you know that many Homeowner policies do not cover a house that has been unoccupied for more than 60 days? If you are leaving your property unoccupied for an extended period of time, you may want to check with your agent to see what options they offer for coverage.
So as far we could figure out the choices for the House, cat, and yard care were to either…

Pay a service to take care of the yard, and ask friends to come by every other day or so to check up on the place and the cats.  Nope, not a good option but an excellent way to overburden friends and run them off! It’s just too much to ask anyone to do. And the yard care service could get expensive. OR

Rent the place short term to someone. Did not like this option either - who would want to move into a house for just 6 months? And what about all the stuff in the house? And if we would consider this then why not the next option? OR

See about getting a House Sitter. That’s right… someone we don’t know and who probably isn’t even from around here. What a ridiculous idea! Or is it? The more we thought about this and researched the whole house sitting thing, the better we liked the idea. We would establish a contract, get references, do a background check and make sure we had a “warm fuzzy” for the person or couple. And our friends in the neighborhood could keep an eye out and let us know if anything looked worrisome.

So for caring for the house, cats, and yard, a House Sitter is the path we decided to take. House, Cats, Yard = done.
Finding and making a deal with a house sitter is turning out to be a very interesting journey, and is giving us a glimpse into this surprisingly wide-spread practice. There are people out there that have been house sitting for years, living for a few months at a time in various places throughout the US, South America and Europe. If a person has a telecommuting job or an internet-based business, or does not need to work at all, House-Sitting is a great way to travel at minimum cost. You can read more about House Sitting in my post, The Hunt for the House Sitter 
So, once we got a plan in place for the house, cats and yard I turned my attention to how to handle mail and what to do with my car? Well the car is a piece of cake…Lynda’s parents will take care of it. This is good for them also because they will have a second car to run around in if they need to go in different directions. Car = done

OK, what about mail? Well there are several options with this also: friends could collect and forward to us every so often; we could use a mail forwarding service (there are 100s of such services) or we could ask the House Sitter to collect up the mail and send to us every couple weeks. We decided that this would be a House Sitter task that would not take up much of their time and would be the simplest way to handle. The most complicated part of handling the mail will be to know at least a week in advance where we’re heading and then have the house sitter send the mail to us care of whatever campground. Mail = done

The last notable thing on my list of things to handle was bill-paying. This was probably the easiest… I already pay 99.9% of my bills on-line. The Internet may have some seedy aspects, but it also provides some wonderful abilities and freedom for travel! I will handle any miscellaneous bills I don’t pay on-line on a case-by-case basis - they are too rare to worry about. Bills = done

I have to admit I was a little worried at first about whether I could come up with practical ways to take care of all these things while off on our RV travels. As it turned out, with enough thought and planning, and the willingness to be creative, I haven’t tripped over a logistical issue yet that we haven’t found a way to handle.  Life does not have to be too complicated.

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