Perspective really is everything. When Barb and Jim tell friends they’re ‘out of town’, they’re not necessarily where you might expect them to be. They may actually be just down the street or in a neighbouring community in the cosmopolitan city in which they live. To this retired couple, being ‘away from home’ translates into days or weeks spent in someone else’s home, soaking up the ambience of the neighbourhood, re-creating days spent in foreign cities, immersing themselves in the local culture while they take care of pets, plants and possessions.
Barb retired in 2000 after spending her career working as an administrative assistant for a local school district. Used to being the hub in a flurry of activity, she had planned for and quickly settled into a lifestyle that included exercise, socializing and volunteering at the community centre and care homes in her neighborhood. When Jim stopped working 4 years later, he was content to not plan and to ‘go with the flow’. After many years spent managing more than 50 people in a lumber mill, he was well aware that “things always interfere with plans.”
It soon became apparent they had different ideas about retirement. Barb had expected to spend a lot of time traveling once her husband retired, but he was content to stay at home. Jim, who was born in the former Yugoslavia, had already visited a lot of the places she wanted to see, and for him “the people, the restaurants, the hotels, the cities all look the same.” So she created a vision of a lifestyle that could work for both of them.
And now the two of them have fun staying in a variety of properties—from carriage houses and condos to heritage homes and full-blown estates—on weekends, holidays and during the summer vacation season. In exchange for a minimal honorarium to cover gas and groceries, they take care of people’s pets and homes. And wherever they are staying, they make each day a magical adventure. For example, while staying in a Mexican-inspired home, they modified their cuisine and daily activities to re-create San Diego. And while taking care of a condo near a popular city beach, they watched beach volleyball tournaments, ocean swimming competitions, and local bands at an outdoor amphitheatre overlooking the water.
Barb and Jim’s calendar is full through to next fall with ‘out of town’ time, taking care of their own family during the school year, and an ‘out of country’ vacation in the Mediterranean. Unlike when they were both busy working, they are now ‘active’, doing things they like to do, openly welcoming friends to spend time with them wherever they are, and making every day special. Best of all, they are fulfilled taking care of other people’s pets and satisfied knowing they are making a difference in the lives of the ‘busy’ people who are still working.