2017 Winner Housesitting Blog Competition

5 Dec, 2017

2017 Winner Housesitting Blog Competition

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Each year HouseSitMatch hosts a Blog Competition and this year our entries are better than ever, here we share with you the Winner – Housesitting Blog Competition Finalist 3 – Anel and John Ryan have travelled across the world and found themselves caring for and protecting property and pets against not one but two hurricanes from their very first housesit. Imagine that!

Housesitting Blog Competition Finalist 3
The beautiful Caribbean Sea

Housesitting Blog Competition FINALIST 3 – Anel Ryan

‘Lessons Learned as Dual Hurricane Survivors’ by Anel Ryan ~ photos by John Ryan

Anel and John – started housesitting in 2017

Starting the housesitting adventure

Housesitting rookies

We began 2017 as house sitting rookies.

Early in the year, we sold our home, our cars, our business and everything we owned, to travel the world as house sitters. When we tell people this, we get many reactions. Sometimes we are treated like we are purple-haired, web-footed screwballs, but more often than not, we see the glimmer of envy in the eyes of those who behold what we do. Our families are still having a tough time understanding our “homeless/nomadic” lifestyle, but they’ll get over it.

So, this past June, with stars in our eyes, excitement in our hearts, months of Spanish lessons swimming in our brains, and all our worldly possessions stuffed into 4 suitcases and 4 carry-on bags, we set off for the Caribbean for our very first house sit. Ta Da!

Our inaugural venture was to last from June until November and was located on the plush, tropical island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. What a way to begin our new lifestyle! Five months of pure paradise.

Wait! Did you catch the location?  Vieques, Puerto Rico.  If you follow the news, you probably know that on September 6, Hurricane Irma passed a bit north of Puerto Rico causing destruction to the terrain, but only minor structural damage. Then, on September 20, Hurricane Maria hit directly on both Vieques and the main island of Puerto Rico, completely obliterating them both.  And, we were there for it all.

Surviving the adventure and what housesitting taught us

Now, having lived through two hurricanes and two months with no power, no running water, none to limited cell phone reception and no Internet, we’ve discovered a few things about what we thought was our “bare bones” existence. Hurricane Maria literally pulled the rug out from under us and made us aware of what’s really important for survival.
We wouldn’t wish what we endured on anyone, but we’ve certainly learned a lot. For example:

1. Electricity is over rated

We learned to wash clothes in a bucket and then dry them with our energy-efficient, solar-powered clothes dryer (a clothes line). We learned that flashlights and candles aren’t so bad and can even be very romantic. We found that unplugged refrigerators can be used to keep food cool (not frozen) when a few bags of ice are stuffed inside the freezer.

2. You never miss the water till the tank runs dry

We’ve learned the true meaning of “hauling water” for washing dishes, cleaning and flushing the toilet, as well as how to take showers with a hose connected to a rain barrel.

When you’ve hauled water to the house, every drop is precious

3. Phone tag is not fun when you’re never “it.”

Three weeks after Maria, we were finally able to get sporadic cell phone reception. We learned to make conversations short, as well as not to send photos with texts, do group texts or try to upload/download anything from a text. Airplane mode and ultra-power saving modes were our friends. We learned that higher is better when cell service is spotty. We climbed a lot of hills and sometimes we were actually able to send and receive a text, with the ultimate thrill of talking on the phone.

Cell phone reception after three weeks was still intermittant

4. Even though there is no breeze, if you sit absolutely still, it’s cooler

‘Nuf said.

5. Never underestimate the power of wind

Nothing that we’d experienced in either of our lifetimes compared to what we faced as we walked out our front door the morning after Maria. It was total, absolute devastation. It looked like a bomb had been dropped on our street. The power pole across from our house was snapped in two and was laying across the road as power and phone lines flapped in the wind. Half of the front wrought-iron gate had been ripped from the brick wall and was laying in the yard across the street. Most of the trees in our yard were either uprooted or snapped like toothpicks and there were no leaves on the few that are still standing. Even the paint on the house had literally been peeled off.

We will never, ever take the power of wind for granted again.

The impact of Hurricane Maria on Vieques, Puerto Rico was devastating

6. Surviving is a given

We knew that eventually we would see the light at the end of the tunnel (preferably when we flipped on the switch). Smiling through it all was optional, but it sure made surviving easier.

Feeling like a survivor

7. The people on Vieques are truly remarkable

Our friend, Bill, describes Viequense with the three R’s: resilient, resourceful and respectful. The rest of the world could learn a lot from these amazing people.

Vieques residents who survived Hurricane Maria

8. You can see a gazillion stars when there is no light pollution

It’s breath-taking. One night we saw a space station zooming through the sky. Or maybe it was a satellite. We weren’t exactly sure which it was, but we waved anyway.

The unpolluted skies at night in the Caribbean are full of stars

When we realize the vastness and beauty of the universe, all the hardships and maladies that have befallen us, since Irma and Maria, seem trivial.  We survived.

We said a bittersweet farewell to Vieques, Puerto Rico, on November 2nd.
We left behind a shattered island that Mother Nature is slowly, but surely, healing. We left behind friends that are and will be precious to us for the rest of our lives. We left behind an island people that continue to struggle with daily existence, recovery, and a rebuilding process that will take months or even years to complete.  We left behind a part of our hearts.

Through horrific conditions, trembling, embracing, surviving and rebuilding, our first house sit has definitely changed us. We will never be the same because of it. We are stronger, more resilient, more resourceful and definitely more respectful of what it takes to survive, as well as the intense power of Mother Nature.

Housesitting Blog Competition Finalist 3 Anel Ryan is now a highly experienced housesitter and actively blogging about her experiences on her blog Barefoot Diary.

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