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How I became an international house-sitter

by maïa, 16th May 2005

maïa follows her path into an international housesitting lifestyle. She wasn’t seeking the job – it found her. Tag along with this philosopher to learn how the practice of caretaking properties can be more than just a cheap holiday – house sitting can become a route to self-fulfillment.

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Mi Casa, Su Casa. Reversing that lovely Spanish gesture of hospitality, to this wanderer…your home is my home. Homeless by choice and not by chance, as so many sadly are in our world, in regard to any physical or emotional abode, I ‘have none, will travel’.

As happens continually in this weird life I now live, I fell into house-sitting ‘by chance’ a couple of years or so ago. A writer/philosopher, I’d given away all my worldly goods years earlier and went off to seek not my fortune, but some clue as to how this human race had become so inhumane. In the first years, I journeyed far and wide among some 36 or more of the continental US states and missed only two of our neighbor to the north’s provinces, putting over 63,000 miles on my little house on wheels, a 29’ Jayco RV.

At first, I was known to the new friends I made among this country’s indigenous people as, ‘No-Name-Yet,’ since I’d left my old names behind along with everything else that connected me to my old material life. During a miraculously serendipitous side trip back to the Greek isle of Mykonos, my name finally found me and I’ve been ‘maïa’ ever since. No capital letter, no last name. Just the Greek word/name, which means ‘little mother’, ‘great mother’, ‘midwife’ and…‘witch’. All of which seem to apply in one way or another! My prior life’s lifetime wealth of commercially-aimed writing projects left behind, I’d begun writing in an entirely different métier and ‘voice’ after I left and the new name was truly fitting.

Tribal people call what I did, ‘going on a vision quest’. It’s a standard exercise for their young people when they come of age. I hadn’t a clue why I did this at the time, but it certainly fits now with what took place as a result. Retrospect is so much clearer than my poor aging, ever-weakening eyesight! The philosophical writings turned out almost automatically under that new byline, increased in number almost exponentially over the next couple of years, amazing even me. Having previously been a writing consultant, and a take-no-prisoners editor who’d cut and slash all work to the bone, I was stunned to find my work coming off the top of my head ‘pre-edited’! Always hewing to a good editor’s command to ‘edit, edit, edit’, I found there was nothing to edit in this new work. Clearly, someone/something was passing all this ‘through’ me for some reason.

So, this agnostic who didn’t believe in any version of God, this logician who avoided all religions like the plague became what others would call a totally ‘spiritual’ person in spite of myself. Go figure.

Anyway, shortly after my movable manse joined all else I’d gifted to this one and that, I set out with nothing but the clothes on my back and the culmination of my new life’s writing work that I call, ‘Mother’s Guide to Clean-Living In A Dirty Universe’. And I’ve been ‘homeless’ ever since.
But, you ask, how did I get into the house-sitting thing? Why, the same way I got into all this weird stuff – ‘by accident’, of course! I had the feeling I should never again charge money for what I can do with the talents I was given, so I give away the work I used to charge up to $150/hour. A homeless shelter ‘down east’ in Maine needed me to organize their non-stop daily truckloads of donations and their muddled computer systems, so I lived there for over five months, doing what I could to help.

From there, I trekked west, courtesy of that skinny grey dog’s modern version of the prairie schooner and ‘fell into’ another doing-good group that needed what I could do. This time it was a family shelter for women and children. I passed on all I’d learned at the first one and after a couple of months, leaving them in better shape donation and computer-wise than when I arrived, headed even further west. I landed in Santa Rosa, California by another series of ‘accidents’ and stayed at the women’s shelter there almost two years, setting up systems, laying carpet, obtaining free stuff and supervising repairs, along with helping so many helpless women and kids that my mother’s heart was in constant danger of breaking irreparably.

When I finally had to leave, having overstayed their staff’s maximum tour of duty three times over, one of the wonderful couples I’d met who’d donated needed stuff to the shelter asked me if I’d ‘go to France’. They didn’t even know I was a life-long Francophile and that French was the first other language I’d more or less learned! They only had a ‘feeling’ that I was the one they needed to go to Poitiers and keep an eye on the lady who was supposed to be keeping an eye on their house there. After four years, they felt they couldn’t trust her to be taking proper care of it and offered to send me there and provide me with a small monthly check for groceries. Trouble was, they couldn’t send me just then, and it was time for me to turn over my ‘job’ at the shelter to my replacement.

Serendipity or fate, or whatever, struck again, and another generous lady donor grabbed me to house-sit for her, and then for her friend. Then the anti-nuclear weapons group I did work for found out I was looking for temporary housing and one after another of them went on trips to various parts of the world, leaving me their houses, cats, dogs…and best of all, their computers to continue my work! The peace group even bought me a laptop to take with me to France, when I finally went, so I could continue with my/our work there.

So now I’m a ‘professional’ house-sitter. It’s the perfect thing for me, ’cause I can’t charge for anything I do, being provided with all my needs by the good force of the universe I seem to be working for. These days, I’m getting a social security check every month, so I don’t have to depend on any other source for food and incidentals. But up until this past July, I lived for almost five years without a single source of income. And despite having no income, I never went a night without a good bed, a day without a good meal, or a minute without good work to do for the good of humankind and the benefit of good people I met along the way. House-sitting to me, is just another of the many ways in which I’ve been enabled to do my work…work that something in this universe seems to want done. It’s a blessing to me that seems to be passed on to those with whom I connect.

Right now, I’m mentoring two teen-aged fledgling screenwriters and doctoring/revising screenplays for one woman and a group of three others via email. Like Thomas Paine, the Revolutionary War era’s brilliant writer/philosopher I feel that, ‘The world is my country and doing good is my religion’. I’ll go anywhere; I can semi-speak several languages (using pidgin and sign language if all else fails); have been to many and love all parts of this earth, all of its peoples and other critters.

My current situation is a repeat of several prior ones, I’m house and cat-sitting for the same lady who started me off. She brought me back from the 10-month-long sit in France, so she could go to the Omega Institute in upstate New York where she’s been doing her intuitive healing work for both staff and guests since July. When she returns at the end of October, she plans to move to southern Oregon where I’d maintain her home base whenever she goes here and there. This would leave me free to take care of others’ homes whenever she’s in residence. Couldn’t be more perfect!

Update
Thanks to my listing with a well-known house sitting directory, in September 2003 I headed instead for Altadena in Southern California. It’s a posher neighbor of posh Pasadena. A couple there wanted me to live in (in my own suite/wing!) just to be on hand whenever they felt like being out for the evening or leaving for a day or more, so they wouldn’t have to worry about their four little lap pooches. It’s a tough duty, but somebody’s gotta do it, huh? From there I went back to Europe, then to Connecticut, Delaware, Oklahoma (all of these assignments came from my website listing). Next? Who knows? North coast of Scotland seems a strong possibility!

In 2004 I went back with the dear couple in Altadena, California (next door to Hollywood) as sort of a live-in pet nanny to their three little pooches, and as a whenever-needed housesitter. It was supposed to be ‘permanent’ but, who knows? I spent nearly a year with the folks in California. When they decided to expatriate to Spain at the end of 2004, I was invited up to Toronto to be step-mom to two wonderful, loving, lovable (and huge!) German shepherds. I have my own luxurious apartment in the basement and dogless weekends. I’ve just applied for a year extension on my ‘visitor’s’ permit, because the pups’ parents want me to stay ‘forever’. What a life!

For info, or just to ‘talk’ you can contact me through my website: www.saysmom.com

About the author: maïa

Seven years ago she gave up her name and anything resembling a home and asked the Universe to send her where it would. For writer, philosopher and traveler, maïa (Greek for ‘little mother’), house sitting worldwide is just another of the many ways in which she’s been enabled to share her work. She asks for nothing in return from the many home owners she’s met except for the chance to connect with them and pass on her blessing.