by Pat Nelson
for The Daily News, Longview, WA July 17, 2008
Reprinted with permission
Kauai, Hawaii — Home away from home. That’s what a house on the island of Kauai in Hawaii has occasionally been for a team of house sitters including three Woodland couples and families from Kelso, Castle Rock, Vancouver, Portland, St. Helens, and Deer Island.
House sitting duties for my husband, Bob and I, began in 2004, when my son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Laura Ellsworth asked us to go to Kauai with them. Laura called her friends on Kauai to inquire about a good place to stay. It turned out her friend would be “off island” the same time we planned to be there. To our good fortune, they offered us the use of their home.
The next year, that couple had friends who needed a house sitter for six weeks. The four of us were recommended. We couldn’t cover the entire six weeks, so another couple stayed part of the time, followed by Steve and Laura, and then Bob and I. We all loved having a home instead of a motel room to return to at the end of the day.
Our house sitting perks include a two-story home, a lap pool and use of a mini-van. Duties include caring for the house, the pool and grounds, and three pets. The dog, Tasha, is a Borzoi, or Russian wolfhound. She is black with white spots and tall and slender. Because she constantly sheds, all the floors upstairs and downstairs must be swept and mopped each day before it gets too hot. It didn’t take any of us long to fall in love with this gentle, sweet dog who remembers us from one visit to the next and welcomes us with a big smile when we arrive. The two cats enjoy being well-fed and well-loved.
Since our first visit, the owners added an aquarium and a fish bowl containing a beta. A goldfish is visiting until September while its owner is off island.
This month, I came to Kauai alone for some quiet writing time while my husband trains for a bike ride at home. I was met at the Lihue airport by Woodland residents Scott and Nona Perry, who were just finishing their house sitting duties. Before they headed home, we spent a day together snorkeling, eating Bubba burgers and shave ice, and sifting through sand at Anini Beach searching for tiny seashells.
When new house sitters arrive, they overlap with the current house sitters anywhere from a few hours to a few days for a good transition. Last year, the Perrys took over from Woodland residents Ted and Mary Ann St. Mars, who hope to return next year.
When the owners make plans to go off island, they e-mail me. I send notices to our house sitting team. Couples must act quickly. The spots are grabbed up within 12 to 24 hours. Everyone on the list has stayed at the house before and knows the routine. Each couple tries to leave the house and yard in better condition than when they arrived, which makes the owners happy when they return home after a six-week absence.
People often ask me how to land a house sitting job in Hawaii. Many island residents need to be off island for periods of time and might need house sitters to care for their pets or their yards. Lush island vegetation requires regular maintenance. The plants grow fast and constantly drop fronds, leaves, seeds and pods.
If you want to house sit in Hawaii and don’t mind the duties that go along with the job, visit one of the islands and ask everyone you meet.
One day, while house sitting on Kauai with friends Scot and Sue Lawrence of Portland, we decided to see how easy it would be to land other house-sitting jobs.
First, we asked our tour guide at the botanical gardens if she knew anyone who needed house sitters.
“I do,” she said. “I’m leaving next week and my regular house sitter has another job part of the time I’ll be gone.” We were already house sitting, so we couldn’t take the job.
Next, we asked at a restaurant.
“See that motel?” the waitress asked. “The owner goes to London, and she always needs a house sitter. Go ask her.”
We inquired twice and received two leads. We were told some people who live in Kauai year around, house sitting from one place to the next, never having their own place to live. If you’re footloose, fancy free and interested in house sitting, you might try renting a place on Kauai — or the island of your choice — and then ask around and line up jobs. Who knows. Within a year, you might be able to give up your apartment and just move from one lovely home to the next. But don’t accumulate too many possessions … keep life simple for those frequent moves.