Why Portland, Oregon?

Why Portland, Oregon?

Hope you like pictures, because I am finally able to post them again and I have lots to share with you, thanks to my new hosting company, bluehost.  So many friends have asked us what it is about Portland that inspired us to actually stay here and rent a place. I am not sure where to begin, so I am going to allow my pics to do most of the talking.

Indie shops are all over NE Portland.  This is a pic of Wanderlust owner Vanessa with her friend and her hubster.  Other favorite shops of mine include digs (if you love gnomes, you gotta check this place out) and Tumbleweed, where lots of the clothes are sewn by the owner and one of a kind.  Sigh.  I could go on but will save that for another post.

When you live in a cool city, you are more likely to have friends visit.  Not that Nancy and Chad wouldn’t come to visit us elsewhere, but it just helps to live in a cool city.  This is us at McMenamins Kennedy School, an old elementary school that now sports a hotel, pubs, movie theatre, etc. etc.  It is walking distance from us.  Our favorite spot is there is the Detention Room, thanks to the atmosphere and Alex, who tends the bar.

If you love live music, Portland will not disappoint.  Sade played here not too long ago and it was phenomenal.  Our friend Libby came out to celebrate her 50th with friends and we are so happy she included us in the festivities.  This concert was at the Rose Quarter, but there are plenty of smaller venues that host outstanding acts as well…

First Thursday is huge on Alberta Street during the summer.  Twenty blocks are closed to traffic and it is one big party.  Here you see Myrtle singing “You can take my husband, but please don’t take my man” outside the Star E Rose Cafe.  There are jam sessions going on here constantly.

My little sis came out for a quick visit last month.  So happy she hung out with me for a few hours when she could have been hanging out with friends (I am a generation older, after all).  This is her outside the Alleyway.  I can’t vouch for it as we haven’t been in yet, but Em liked the sign.  We had a yummy meal at Thai Noon, which I can definitely vouch for.  Paul and I love it there.

So.  The food.  It is out of this world.  I am not kidding. We are walking distance from deliciousness in all directions.  I do love a good breakfast, and Helser’s has never let me down.  Never.  This pic is of their potato pancakes with creme fraiche and applesauce. Another favorite of ours is Vita Cafe.  I get the huevos rancheros for breakfast and the buffalo tofu wrap for lunch.

What you see here is my favorite burrito joint, La Bonita.  I grew up on Mexican food and it will always ALWAYS remain near and dear to me.  I can make a pretty mean burrito (according to the Brit, anyway) but this place is SO GOOD.  I know, I know, I sell Beachbody products for crying out loud.  The good news is that there is plenty to do here to stay active. Between meals.

This is Aaron, manning the Townshend’s Tea booth at the Alberta Street Fair.  This place has every tea you could possibly imagine. We went to a tea tasting the other day, which was super interesting.  Does that make us tea nerds?  Whatever. Don’t care. Latest addictions = White Rose Kambucha and Roasted Coconut Mate.

And no, I have not lost my love for latte.  There are so many great coffee shops all around us.  I am *trying* to limit my coffee consumption to the weekends.  Caffe Vita is one of my faves on Alberta.  The baristas are great.  I also enjoy fuel cafe and Random Order.  Oh, and I can’t wait to try Barista now that their space has been renovated (there was a fire on July 4th).

Introducing three of the lovely ladies from binks…Holly, Grace and Ally (you are lovely as well, Dan).  This has become Paul’s local.  I am sure it has nothing to do with the binkstenders pictured above.  Yes, I am rolling my eyes over here.  Seriously, though…we love this bar.  Next door is another fave, Siam Society, where it is always a pleasure to see Don.  He reminds me of a young Leonard Cohen. We also enjoy Bernie’s and Bar Lolo.  All of the above are walking distance from our abode.

Portlander’s love their pets and we are enjoying our new canine and feline friends.  Jonny C brought Charlie over for a photo session the other day.  She is a nine month old Beagle/Pointer mix and very sweet.  She sniffed all around, vacuumed the kitchen floor for me, ran up and down the stairs and  otherwise entertained us for a good hour before conking out at Jonny’s feet.

Adorable, I know.  And while we are on the subject…

Allow me to introduce Macey.  I met her at the Alberta Main Street office.  She is the mascot and Sara is her human. I love this pic because I swear she is smiling at me.  She let me follow her around and take several photos and of course my two faves of her are in front of the trash cans and the boxes you see here. Macey prefers to keep it real.

We have even made a handful of human friends. People say it gets harder to make friends as we get older and I am doing my best to prove that theory wrong.  I met Michelle and her hubster Jeremy (see below) at a bloggers meeting set up by Sara, who I met at WordCamp back in September.  This pic is of Michelle and I at Livewire, which was performed and taped at the Alberta Rose Theatre that night.

Besides being world travelers (sigh) Michelle and Jeremy boast some serious culinary skills.  Michelle has her own blog, Feed Your Skull. Jeremy is a developer and an all around smart and mellow guy.  This is Jeremy with his delicious apple pie at our place on Thanksgiving.  Thanks for all the yummy meals, you two!

Portland is the land of creatives. One of my favorite places (again, walking distance ~ dangerously so) is Collage.  I took an embroidery class there and plan on taking others as well, including bookbinding and encaustic painting.  Getting the nerve up for that last one. They have tons of fun stuff for sale, too, including stamps.  I gave away most of my stamps when we left Cape Cod (Trish, I hope you are using those stamps!) and am rebuilding my collection, one stamp at a time.

I helped out behind the makeshift bar this past Thursday night for a Community Cycling Center fundraiser. This place and the people who keep it going are great. Tomorrow, they will be giving bicycles to over 400 youth across Portland.  Watch this short video by Quin, a twelve year old who volunteers for CCC.

The sense of community here in Portland is strong all around. I took this picture at a recent Occupy rally. This woman gave me a wink afterwards. I know there are a lot of people that disagree with this movement. So be it. I find the people involved to be a huge inspiration.

Portland is about an hour and a half away from the Oregon Coast.  Life was good back in Evergreen, Colorado but I never did get used to being that far from either the Pacific or the Atlantic.  I need an ocean nearby.  We had a couple of weeks off of our sit a few months back and spent some time in Yahats at the SeaQuest Inn en route to the Redwoods. That trip was nothing short of magical.

On our way back to Portland from the coast, I spotted this mother of all busses parked along the road.  Paul turned around so that I could take a closer look.  Since then, I have seen a variety of rolling homes that make my heart go pitter pat.  We love living in a place that celebrates individuality.

So, there you have it.  Just a few reasons why we chose Portland for our home.  If you are looking for someone to take care of your own home sweet home, please let us know.  We are staying local for the most part these days, but have several sitters that we know personally and are happy to recommend.  Thank you for reading, and be sure to drop a line via the comment link ~ we love hearing from you!  Seasons Greetings,



The Comforts of Home

The Comforts of Home

Caretaking Couple Calls Portland Home

When Paul and I decided to house and pet sit full-time back in 2009, the Pacific Northwest was at the top of our travel wish list.  Then we were offered a sit on the other side of the country (Cape Cod, MA) and a couple of weeks later, we happily headed north and east.  It took us two years to make our way back across the States, eventually landing in Portland, Oregon.  This gave us perspective (Paul especially, who moved to America from England about eight years ago) and helped us to narrow down what it is we want and don’t want in a “home base”.

While we both love our travel, I can honestly say that it feels so GOOD to have this little space to call home. We are having the best time making each room comfy-cozy, having friends over, and sleeping in our own bed.  And for the first time in…forever, I am perfectly content with the fact that I have absolutely no short-term travel plans.  I don’t want to be anywhere but here. What a great way to celebrate the holidays.  Can’t wait to decorate our Christmas tree this year, with our own ornaments! What do you love about your home?

Portlanders Love Their Back Yard Chickens

Portlanders Love Their Back Yard Chickens

Rosie Gives Paul a Tour of the Back Yard

All of our Caretaking Couple facebook friends know that we have added chickens to our sitting repertoire, but I don’t think it has been mentioned here on the blog.  Many a Portlander has a chicken coop out back.  Not only are chickens entertaining (no, really ~ these chickens crack us up), but they lay eggs.  I know!  Bonus. And look how pretty the eggs are…

Breakfast, Compliments of Toops and Rosie

We can pick up whatever we need for the chickens at the nearby Urban Farm Store, and the owners have even written a book on chicken keeping.  I love visiting the chicks whenever we go to pick up feed, etc. for the girls – they are seriously adorable.

Coop, Sweet Coop for Rosie and Toops

We are going to miss these girls when we move in to our new digs.  Luckily, they will only be a few blocks away.  Thank you, Toops and Rosie, for months of laughs and yummy breakfasts.

P.S. If you decide you want to raise chickens, be sure to find out what the regulations are in your neighborhood (some hoods don’t allow roosters, some have a limit on how many chickens you can keep, etc. etc.).

Making a Living From the Road

Making a Living From the Road

Paul and I love Signal Point (here I am trying to keep up with him, as per usual)...

Traveling from place to place is great if you can swing it.  Everyone tells me this, then asks me how we pull it off.  So, I am going to explain it.  Keep in mind that this is simply what works for us, and if you really want to live a similar lifestyle, I am sure you can get creative and find something that works just as well for you.

We didn’t commit to becoming “Caretaking Couple” until Paul’s house was sold. That was the first big step for us.  Some people own a house and do what we are doing, but it wouldn’t have made sense in our situation.  So, we sold the house and one of the cars and just about all of our earthly possessions.

Paul had already transitioned from commuting to Denver each day to working from home.  All he really needed to maintain his job was his laptop and a reliable wireless connection.  I had a small bath and body products biz as well as bartending and seasonal jobs while in CO, so the income issue was more tricky for me.

Last fall, I sold Mountain Girl Organics and decided to focus on ways to make a living online. This little blog is simply a labor of love at this point (although it has great potential in my humble opinion) so I needed something more.  I wanted something I could do from anywhere (versus getting a new bartending gig every few months), something I could take with me.

I recently found what works for me and have become a full-time Beachbody Coach. The main benefits for me are that I am able to do this from anywhere with a wireless connection, it provides extra motivation for me to keep on track with my own exercise and nutrition goals while helping others with theirs, and I get paid to do it.

I have only been at this for a couple of months and I don’t make nearly as much money as Paul (yet) but right now I am making up for that difference by finding us incredible sits all over the US and saving us thousands of dollars a month.  In other words, we are partners, and it all evens out.

Signal Point...this spot is known as the "Grand Canyon of the Tennessee".

That is not to say that you must have a partner to do what we are doing.  I went from sit to sit in Southern California while I was in my early twenties.  I was limited to that vicinity because I commuted to work and school, but there were plenty of people literally begging for my services in a fifty or so mile radius.

There are so many possibilities…so many opportunities…all over the world.  People say to me all the time, “Yes, but ____”.  Drives me a little nuts.  Seriously, there are all kinds of opportunities for all types of people in all types of situations….all over the world.  Trust me on this one.

Finding said opportunities can be tricky…but that is all part of the fun.  Nowadays, there are even house and pet sitting sites you can subscribe to in order to find sits or sitters (it was all word of mouth when I started out).  I’ve actually made most of our recent contacts virtually.  Example:  If I find a blog or a facebook post or an article or whatever online, I go out of my way to contact the person/people behind it and establish a rapport with them.

I like to feature people on my blog that are interesting and living a similar lifestyle. Friends feature me on their blogs every so often, as well…here I am in two recent posts; Linda’s blog (Evergreen, CO) and Raj’s blog (San Francisco, CA). This is a great way to cross promote.  I leave comments on other people’s blogs, and I always answer e-mails/facebook messages, etc. that come in.  It is all about give and take.

Wherever we go, we meet people who want to know more about what we do. Obviously, I love talking about this stuff.  I make sure people know about our blog and that they can correspond with me via various social media platforms (just click on your symbol of choice at the top of this page!).   The more open the lines of communication, the better the odds are for finding that perfect sit for you.

Our friend Peg lives in Tennessee. She brought us pickles. I love pickles! Thank you, Peg XOX

I hope this post has been helpful…it seems I am getting this question more than all others these days.  So many people are realizing their dreams by earning an online income from the road, and you can too.  We’d love to hear from you so please  share what is on your mind by leaving a comment here.   Oh, and be sure to go to our facebook page and “like” us. You never know when we might decide to run another prize drawing… ; )

An Interview with Andrew Collins, the County Hunter

An Interview with Andrew Collins, the County Hunter

Last Spring, I took my first online class. It was a travel writing course through Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Initially, I was reluctant to go this route. I did it anyway and found it to be just as effective, if not more so than the traditional classroom setting. Andrew Collins was my travel writing teacher. He is a bit of a hero in my book. You are about to find out why.

Andrew Collins in Alaska

1. Andrew, when and how did you figure out that you could travel, then write about your travels, and (gasp) actually get paid for it?

I sort of lucked into the perfect job right out of college, as an editorial assistant for the guidebook publisher Fodor’s. I worked my way up to Associate Editor in about two years, but realized early on that I’d rather be out traveling and writing than in and office editing. So at age 23, too young and foolish to know any better, I quit to embark on a freelance career. I’ve been working for myself ever since.

2. Who do you currently write for? How does it work? Do you go where they send you, or do you go where you want, write about it, and submit the article? Or does it vary?

It varies greatly. I still work on several Fodor’s guides each year, both as a writer and editor – the New Mexico, Arizona, Pacific Northwest, France, and Ireland guides are the ones I most recently worked on. For some clients, like the website About.com for whom I run the “gay travel” channel – I’m basically free to produce as much content as I’d like, and pretty much on any part of the world. I’ve worked for other guidebook companies, too, and right now I’m working on my first app, a guide to Portland on food and restaurants. I’m hoping to finish that this spring.

Then there are the occasional one-off jobs – writing stories for certain magazines or, more commonly these days, websites. And finally there are the custom-publishing clients – everything from tourism offices to travel services companies, like Orbitz and TripAdvisor, for whom I’m often hired to write editorial copy. Much of the latter is without a byline and not especially glamorous, but it tends to pay relatively well. I find it all pretty enjoyable, though. As long as I’m able to support myself traveling, and I’m able to do so with relative autonomy, I consider myself very fortunate.

3. You just introduced your own blog, The County Hunter. What do you hope to accomplish with said blog? And what camera do you use?!? I want one.

I did – well, I kicked things off anyway, with four posts this fall. Then, as I feared might happen, I became caught up with too many other work projects and had to set it aside. I hope to start it back up again very soon. My aim is simply to write more in my own voice, and according to my own interests, about what I see in my travels – I’m on the road about half the time, and I spend a good bit of that driving across country.

As the name of my blog The County Hunter suggests, my goal is to visit every county in the United States (I’m up to about 1,960 out of 3,168), but that’s really just a fun (to me) excuse for trying to take plenty of back roads and visit a variety of both major and more out-of-the-way communities. I’ve always most enjoyed writing in my own voice, as an end in itself, but to pay the bills, I obviously have to take on quite a few consumer-oriented jobs – the guidebooks and custom publishing, for instance. As I mentioned before, it’s all enjoyable to me, but I’m happiest when I get to write simply as me.

I use a couple of point-and-shoot cameras – both Canon. One is a smaller one that I tend to use more in restaurants, bars, and tighter spots where a compact size is important. And the other is larger and has more bells and whistles – a good mix of manual settings. Increasingly, I shoot pretty decent images with my Droid. Honestly, I don’t think much about cameras and equipment (I couldn’t even tell you the models off the top of my head) – I take hundreds of pictures, everywhere I go, and some I spend more time setting up than others. But mostly I just snap away, and in the end, I usually end up with a few pretty impressive images from every batch. If you can knock out two or three stunners per every hundred, you’re doing fine if your goal is simple to document your adventures compellingly on the Web.

Of course, I also use my camera to take notes, visually – I take pictures of signs and exhibit markers, I shoot in poor light knowing full well sometimes that I’m going to end up with some blurry or poor shots. But in these cases, I’m just shooting to capture details I’ll need when I get down to writing.

4. Tell us about a couple of your favorite places to visit. What do you love about them? Do you always work when you travel, or are some trips dubbed “vacation only”?

There’s always an element of work to every trip, even if the main drive is, say, getting away with friends. Every summer I rent a beach house on the Oregon coast, in this cool little town called Manzanita, for a week with a few friends. I guess that’s as close to a vacation as I do, but even on that trip, I’m always working a fair amount – a couple of hours most mornings on the computer, at least. But there’s always the opportunity for work, wherever I go, and that’s a happy thing to me – it’s ideal. I can be in some of my favorite places – the mountains around Taos and Santa Fe, the Oregon coast, the Sonoma Wine Country, northern New England, New Orleans, Buenos Aires, just about anywhere in Spain – and I’ll always be able to create content for the About.com site, and potentially for other outlets, wherever I am.

I have a very hard time narrowing down any sort of definitive list of favorite places – those I just named are some of the top ones for me. I can live anywhere, and the last two places I’ve lived – Portland, OR for the past three-and-a-half years and northern New Mexico for seven years before that – I chose simply on the basis of my having loved visiting them.

For seven years before I moved to New Mexico, I didn’t live anywhere. Just floated around, drove across country for months at a time, took house- and pet-sitting jobs, crashed on sofas, stayed with relatives and friends, and so on. I loved every minute of it, but in the past decade I’ve come around to the idea of having a home base again. Now I make it a goal to spend at least 15 days of every month at home – as you know from my constantly posting pictures of them on Facebook, I have three cats back there in Portland, not to mention many good friends there. So I balance travel and home now, and in my travels, I just go wherever I feel like going.

Outside Salvador Calatrava's Hemispheric, at the City of Arts and Sciences, in Valencia, Spain

5. What is your preferred method of travel? What makes it better than the others, in your opinion?

I’m a huge fan of road trips. Few activities make me happier than driving someplace scenic, and I also feel a certain sense of happiness just from learning a city or region well, to the point of not needing maps or GPS. That’s gratifying to me. So the cross-country trip I’m currently in the middle of, that’s been a blast. And this past summer, I spent two weeks in Spain with a friend, and we rented a car. I drove, and we logged the equivalent of driving from Vancouver to San Diego over those 14 days – loved it. I like the freedom that a car affords you.

I fly often, too, and I like trains but don’t use them especially often, mostly because although I enjoy gazing out the window, I don’t find they’re as liberating as a car – in terms of just setting off when you feel like it, and turning down whatever little dirt road or remote highway looks interesting.

On a more localized level, I jog a lot in my travels – it’s a good way to balance all that I’m eating (which is a lot), and an excellent way to “tour” a neighborhood or explore a beach or trail.

6. Like Paul and I, you house and pet sat for some time. How did you go about finding the gigs? What were some of the pros and cons for you?

I did sit for quite a few years, mostly for a good friend in Greenwich Village with two cool cats and a beautiful apartment. Her work took her on the road for a couple of weeks every few months, so this was a perfect fit for me. And then sporadic opportunities came up – all just word of mouth, and nothing longer than two weeks. I’m too much on the move to commit to anything longer than that, and these days, because I do like to be home half the time, I take on house- and pet-sitting jobs far less often. I sat for friends with a place in Santa Fe for a week last June, which was great – that’s one city I get back to as often as possible. But mostly, these days, I visit a town or city for not much more than two to four days before moving on.

7. We are considering an apartment or something simple and inexpensive to call home in between sits. Would you recommend this?

That’s hard to answer – for me, I like having a home base now, as I mentioned above. But back when I had no home base, I was fine without one. I had no pets, and the lifestyle just suited me well. Even now, I have a one-bedroom, and that’s as big as I could want. I rent and have no desire to own, and I have an informal policy of not adding anything new to the house (furniture, books, etc.) without getting rid of something comparable to offset the acquisition. I come from a family of pack rats, and I’ve sort of broken away from that tendency, which was actually very strong in me years ago.

Again, though, it just comes back to what you’re comfortable with. I would recommend your current approach sometime before you decide.

8. Do you think you will ever want to settle down in one spot permanently? If so, do you have an idea of where this spot would be?

I’m very much at home in Portland – I could see that remaining my base indefinitely. But I’m not overly attached to the idea of staying in one place for long – there are plenty of places I could live happily for a year or two, or even several years. I couldn’t even begin to guess whether I’ll still be in Portland in five years, but I’d say that of all the cities I’ve visited, and certainly all those I’ve lived in, it’s my favorite in terms of being a happy home headquarters.

9. What advice do you have for those of us looking to break in to this line of work? Has the internet made it more or less difficult to be a travel writer?

The answers to these questions are both potentially a bit complicated – well, let’s just say I could probably write a long book to answer the first one, and at least a long article to answer the other. In a nutshell, as far as breaking in, you just have to be persistent and dedicated to the objective of writing for an audience – of getting your words before as many sets of eyes as possible. It’s not easy to break in, and it’s exceptionally difficult to make a living solely from writing about travel. I had the advantage of getting a job first in travel publishing, and that’s definitely one very good way to get your foot in. Had I simply tried striking out on my own, with no connections or workplace experience, I’m not sure I’d have succeeded.

On the balance, the Internet continues to make it easier and easier for writers and readers to find each other – through blogging, commercial sites, and so on. Has the Internet made it easier for writers to earn a decent living? My guess is it’s no harder or easier now than it was a decade ago to earn enough as a writer to support yourself. But the Web has provided countless more opportunities to write semi-professionally – that is, to get published, and to earn at least a modest return on that writing.

10. What are your plans for the next year or two? Any dream projects you are about to embark on? Let me know if you will be needing an assistant…

Haha…I always get asked, albeit mostly jokingly, about the assistant thing. Honestly, I’ve tried hiring assistants here and there, on a very limited basis. I’m terrible at delegating. And I’m happiest doing things on my own, even though I do travel about half the time with friends, some of whom are also travel writers.

I can’t really say I have a dream project per se – I’d like to work more on my CountyHunter blog, and perhaps develop that into a book of some kind (maybe purely an online book, or just keep it as a blog, or develop an app…you see? the Web really has opened plenty of doors for distributing information – for reaching readers). I’ve never sat down and worked out specific goals and objectives, though. I want to travel about half the time, and I want to share what I discover in my travels with any who might be amused or interested. And at the end of each year, I’d like to have earned a nickel more than I spent. That’s all. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still probably approach it all about the same way.

Arches National Park in Moab

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Andrew.  I really appreciate it!  Can’t wait to see your Portland food and restaurants app, especially as it looks like we will be sitting in your neck of the woods this summer : )

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