We need to go back a few years… I served as a professional firefighter/paramedic for twenty-six years. During this time, I was struggling to raise three kiddos. Even though I had some good time-off being a firefighter, I certainly could not afford to travel out of the country! Our vacations usually consisted of camping out and cheaper ventures like that. Other than a quick day trip to Laredo, Mexico I had never travelled out of the United States.
In 2011, I was injured on the job
I had to retire because of an injury to my neck. Not really a bad injury, but I had no business crawling into fires with seventy-five pounds of gear on my back. It was a medical necessity that I retire at the age of 57.
But, Could I afford to retire?
Not really, I had two things going against me. The first was an ex-wife that got a third of my pension when I retired. The second was I was going to have to pay the full premium of my “Cadillac Health Insurance”. In 2011 when I retired, my premium was going to be $1350 a month! OK, the ‘ex’ was getting $1250 a month and insurance was $1350. That was $2600 a month that I did not have! What to do?
The answer was to retire to Panama
Yes, I am talking about Panama in Central America! Panama Canal and Rain Forest Panama. Panama has become a very affordable option for retirees to take their money they made in the United States and live a simpler cheaper life there. Some things are just as expensive, like food and gasoline. But housing and medical care are quite a bit cheaper.
And when you do things the right way
With certain requirements (retirement income) and using a lawyer, You can get a “Pensionado Retirement Visa”, that makes us permanant residents. With this visa, you get all sorts of discounts! Here are some examples: Airline Flights 25%, Hotels 30 to 50%, Restaurants 25%, All medical including doctors, prescriptions and hospital care 10%. What’s not to love about the discounts? Plus the weather was wonderful! Never gets cold in Panama, just wet sometimes.
Panama was very good to us!
We had a blast in Panama. Life was good. We bought a large house for a very affordable price. It had been a “weekend home” for a Panamanian doctor that spent the weekends in it with his family for the previous thirty years. It needed lots of work since no one really lived in it for so many years. But, we were up for the task. I spent my time remodelling the house extensively. I loved to work on the house, in fact, I built thirty-five feet of Teak Cabinets in the kitchen and a ten-foot vanity in the master bathroom. We spent lots of time with our new friends and I enjoyed playing my guitar and singing at the local restaurants. We were ready to live in Panama the rest of our lives.
Then we took a cruise that changed our lives
Terry talked me into taking a Mediterranean Cruise. We first flew into Paris France where we spent three days and then flew to Barcelona for a few days prior to embarking on our adventure of a lifetime.
Here is the itinerary of the twelve-day cruise we took:
Barcelona to Toulon, France, then Livorno (Florence and Pisa), Italy. Next Civitavecchia (Rome), then Naples before a well needed day at sea. After that Mykonos, Greece, Istanbul, Turkey Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey. and finally Athens, Greece Another day at sea before docking in Venice, Italy where we disembarked.
This trip was life-changing for us
First of all, we really could not afford this trip. We dug deep into our retirement savings to do it. I still cringe when I think of how much we spent. However, it was a trip of a lifetime and we absolutely loved it! We saw the most incredible things that we never even dreamed of seeing. The trip changed our lives as to what was important in life.
The travel bug had infected us and infected us bad!
We came back to Panama for the “let down” of just living our old normal lives. The travel bug was rearing its ugly head. We wanted to return to Europe so badly but could not even think about it with our budget. Remember, we were living off my of my firefighter pension.
Then a friend made a recommendation
After seeing us moping around and boring her with our travel stories A close friend of ours in Panama (Louise) said, Why don’t you try house sitting? We had heard a little bit about it but did not know how it worked. We even knew some people that had come to Panama to house sit. We talked to them and then my wife Terry started researching house sitting.
She joined “Trusted House Sitters”, the largest house sitting site
I have to admit right here, that Terry has a gift for writing. She put up a wonderful profile and started applying for house sits fairly close to Panama. I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was doing as I was busy working around the house. She came to me and said, What would you think about flying to Ajijic, Mexico and doing a month-long house sit?
Yes, within two weeks we were headed to Mexico
Wow! Was I ever proud of her! We were staying in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico free for a month! We were taking care of a cat named Everest. We didn’t need a car, we could either walk, take a taxi or a bus. We ate out so much as the street food was ridiculously cheap. We were in heaven.
Got back and she found another House Sit in Costa Rica
We barely had time to catch up with the yard work and Terry landed us a sit in Costa Rica. We spent a month there close to the beach with free use of their vehicle. We were watching a sweet German Shepherd name Bolle. We spent our days at the beach with him and then the evenings in the private pool for a month.
Finally, back home for a rest, but not for long!
Yep! She found another house sit opportunity in Ambato, Ecuador taking care of a “Blue Tick Hound Dog” named Jethro.
Another month in paradise! We really loved Ecuador and could not get enough of the people. In fact here is a video I did of the wonderful people of Ecuador.
Then we took a GIANT leap!
We sold our house with everything in it. The new homeowners even adopted our dogs. It was official! We were homeless! I was also able to sell my car and sound equipment to some friends.
This old retired firefighter and his sweet young wife (I think she is going to read this) were leaving Panama to Travel the World House Sitting! We had sold everything! We left with two carry-on suitcases and a backpack on our backs each. We owned nothing else. Nothing was stored at a storage barn or friend’s house. We had downsized much more than we ever imagined we could.
Our first house sit was in Bangkok Thailand
She had to find an exotic place for us to start and boy she sure hit that nail on the head with Thailand. In fact, we found out that you could stay in Thailand for a month and the sit was going to be for two weeks. We asked if we could come early and back pack other parts of Thailand. They were receptive and off we went. A few days before the sit, the home owners contacted us and the sit was canceled because the cat got really sick. But, the “classy” home owner offered to pay our hotel bill for two weeks as we had come all that way. We ended up taking a trip to Cambodia and Hong Kong during those two weeks as well as exploring Bangkok.
To sum up our Travels
We have done Thirty-Five house sits in the last twenty-one months. We have been all over the world taking care of all kinds of wonderful animals. Our resume of animals has been dogs and cats of course. And then add to that, alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs and can’t forget the fish!
We have had house sits in the following countries: Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Portugal, England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland the canary islands as well as Egypt!
We have also been able to visit Israel and India on our off time as we were very close to them. We did a Golden Triangle Tour in India, a Holy Land Tour in Israel as well as a Nile Cruise in Egypt.
We are now already scheduled for the next six months. We will be taking off to Belgium soon and then to Kenya Africa (yes a house sit in Kenya) and then to return to Egypt for the same sit we did previously.
Our Giant Leap of Faith has been a success
We are so glad we took the chance to do this. When we started out, we had no idea of how long we could do it, or even if we could do it. We see no end in sight and plan on continuing with it as long as we are having fun.
Yes, we are living the life, Traveling the World House Sitting!
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