After experiencing the loss of both a marriage and a business, Vanessa Anderson left the UK in June 2013 to visit Ian Usher in Panama… and never returned! Through house-sitting and teaching English online, they’ve been able to fund their nomadic lifestyle and become part of a larger sharing economy.
Here’s her story:
It actually begins with Ian’s side of things back in 2006. Blindsided by the breakup of his own marriage, he devised a genius marketing idea to sell ALL his stuff on eBay—house and job (subject to acceptance) included! He then set off on a two-year journey to complete 100 bucket list goals in 100 weeks.
His unique method of dealing with a life crisis sparked the interest of Disney and before long he found himself with a Hollywood agent, resulting in a lucrative movie deal for his book, “A Life Sold”. This funded his next noteworthy project: to buy a small mangrove island and build an off-the-grid property in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
This is where I come into the story.
Challenged by the failure of a long-term business and marriage, I had moved from Wales to start a superb new job in London. The next part of my life appeared to be unfolding nicely. Despite some difficult choices over the past year, I was feeling excited about the future.
In April 2013 Ian and I met through a mutual friend in London, when Ian was passing through on the way back to his Panamanian island home. We quickly realized we had a lot in common and swapped emails. Over a couple of months our emails progressed to long, late-night phone chats and it was soon obvious that I needed to organize a visit to Panama. I set off in July for a two week holiday that was to change the course of my life.
Ian and I immediately hit it off. Our life philosophies are aligned and our interests are mostly the same. It was like meeting the other half of me and finally finding the person who would share my crazy travel ideas, my dislike of conformity and my love of continual change.
After two weeks on the island it was an easy choice to remain in Panama with Ian. I was presented with an opportunity to live exactly as I had always wanted. If it went wrong, what was there really to lose? The worst that would happen is that I’d have to go back and start over.
Funding the lifestyle: house sitting and teaching.
Our foray into house sitting started naturally, as it’s an accepted method among the expats of Panama for keeping your home and pets protected during long absences. We’d used house sitters ourselves on the island whenever we left, and house sat occasionally for friends. So it was an easy transition to become international house sitters, as we moved on from Panama together.
After road-tripping and house sitting through the Southwest US, we made a more radical move to Shenzhen, China for a year, where we taught Chinese students in a private language school.
Demand for good English teachers is high in China, so we were able to secure decent salaries and with the low cost of living, topped-off our travel funds. Plus, we got to experience a completely new culture. After we left China we continued to instruct part time online teachers; an unexpected development that has meant we now earn enough to fund our flights and food by working around 30-40 hours each per month.
As professional house and pet sitters, we rarely have to consider any accommodation expenses or utility bills. It’s taken a couple of years to perfect, but we now feel as if we have our ideal lifestyle mapped out for as long as we want.
All the experience and contacts we’ve made over the past few years through house sitting and nomadic communities has recently culminated in us acquiring “House Sitting – the ultimate lifestyle magazine.” It’s an online publication that has just been re-released as an Apple and Android app in support of the communities that have helped us. Subscription is free but we will be supplementing our residual income through subtle and relevant affiliate marketing.
Exciting times lie ahead—but the question still remains: “Why do we live the way we do?”
Our answer is: simply because we can. And because we’ve actively crafted our lives to ensure maximum freedom! Being able to travel perpetually, and live and work nomadically, is liberating.
House sitting is the resource that allows this to happen. It provides free accommodation, free utilities, WiFi and often a vehicle as well. Without this, it would be impossible for us to fund our current lifestyle. We also enjoy being part of a trust-based sharing community that fosters a level of generosity that often doesn’t exist when a service is paid for. This is what we value and will continue to promote.