Paul’s Favorite Places Here in the States…Part 1(Colorado & Three Coasts)

Paul’s Favorite Places Here in the States…Part 1(Colorado & Three Coasts)

I made my first visit to the US in 1997. A business trip to New York, Detroit and Dallas while working for EDS, a US based IT company once owned by Ross Perot. My first glimpse of the Big Apple made a lasting impression, but I never once thought that a few years later I would make the US my home.

When Valynne asked me to contribute to the blog and highlight some of my favorite places in the US I thought that would be easy enough, but when you have visited 43 of the 50 states you begin to see the problem.  Anyway, here goes.

View of Evergreen Lake from the Old Digs (New Year's Day, 2008)

Colorado has to be high on my list. Not least because it’s where I lived, happily most of the time, for about 6 years and for the last 4 of those with Valynne. Colorado is scenically very beautiful, a photographer’s dream if you will. I lived in a picturesque little town called Evergreen, approximately 15 miles west of Denver at an altitude of 7,200′ (we were a little above 8,000′, on Bear Mountain). The main feature of Evergreen is the lake and this provides a meeting place for the community with concerts during the summer months and skating in the winter. We have many friends there still and it’s always wonderful to return whenever we can.

Valynne always has a yearning to be close to the ocean and I’m not far behind her, although throughout my life in both Europe and the US I’ve always lived as far from the ocean as you could possibly get, until recently. My favorite oceanside spots, in no particular order are: the California coast between San Francisco and Santa Monica; the Oregon coast; driving from Miami to Key West and having a wild time in same; Provincetown (right on the end of Cape Cod) and last but not least, the Outer Banks in North Carolina and particularly Ocracoke Island.

The Atlantic, as Seen From the Deck at Louie's Backyard in Key West, Florida

I think it was back in 2006 when Valynne and I flew out to San Francisco to attend a wedding in Santa Cruz (a friend of Valynne’s) and then take a week driving down to L.A. stopping at places that had been on my ‘must see list’ for a while. I wouldn’t say I’m a big wedding fan, but this was as good as it gets. The ceremony was held outdoors in a redwood glade at a vineyard followed by a reception amongst the vines. This was also my first exposure to the redwoods…more later. We then headed south to Monterey. Both being avid readers, we wanted to get up close with some of the locations familiar to Steinbeck followers. Things have changed since Steinbeck’s time of course and while Cannery Row has become ‘touristy’, there is still an atmosphere that you can feel.  Also, the Aquarium is a must see…..probably one of the best in the world.

We continued south stopping briefly at Carmel for lunch….think we missed the best bits. Need to go back. We drove through the private estate of Pebble Beach and via the world famous golf course of the same name. If you can afford the fees, this must be a wonderful place to play golf. Next of course, Big Sur. More writer connections if you are a Kerouac fan. The real attraction is the dramatic coast line where the surf races in like nowhere else in the world. Erosion is severly damaging the highway these days, so be sure to check the news reports before planning a drive down highway 1 as long road closures have become frequent.

After spending the morning at Hearst Castle (ostentation at its best or worst, depending on your reaction), we headed for Santa Barbara. Now that is a place I could live if anyone wants to donate a few million to the cause. A perfect place to do a ‘sit’ methinks. Wonder if Oprah needs any help.

Cora's Coffee Shoppe in Santa Monica, 06

We couldn’t drive past Ventura without calling in on Valynne’s family…could we?  Just joking, Valynne and Mum. Our first meeting and I thought it went pretty well…I hope.  Our last stop was Santa Monica where we spent a few days amongst the beautiful people. I guess technically it’s L.A. but it feels like a different world. We hired bikes and cycled along the bike path through Venice Beach and basically had a great time.

More of Paul’s favorite places to come….

A Note to House and Pet Sitters on Inner Value

A Note to House and Pet Sitters on Inner Value

Six-Figure Pet Sitting by Kristin Morrison

I recently purchased a copy of Six-Figure Pet Sitting by Kristin Morrison.  It took me a week or two to actually take the time to sit down and read it, but once I picked it up, I could not put it down.

In Chapter 5, Kristin discusses the concept of Inner Value, or the lack thereof.  Although this book specifically covers pet sitting, what she has to say about inner value is pretty universal and worth pondering, whatever your occupation.

The following is an except from Six-Figure Pet Sitting:

“Do You Lack Inner Value?

A symptom of the lack of inner value is often under-earning.  This lack of inner value can be made to look productive through marketing and activities to increase your business, but often there is little or no follow through to ‘close the deal’.  Remember the sabotaging techniques you previously wrote about?  A lack of inner value can also sabotage all of your efforts and often will feel as though you, once again, have your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time.

Having a lack of inner value that sabotages your business and financial success is often expressed through:

  • Not raising client rates for two or more years.
  • Being afraid to say no to a client request.
  • Working too hard and not having a lot to show for it.
  • Not holding clients to terms outlined in the contract.
  • Not having clients sign a contract.
  • Giving discounts without clients asking for them.
  • Not keeping orderly and accurate business records.
  • Being afraid to hire people and/or saying no to new business.
  • Returning client calls too late: 24-48 hours later.
  • Marketing a lot but feeling too tired to call new clients back.
  • Not spending enough time doing revenue-producing activities.

List all the ways you notice that YOU lack inner value and sabotage your business and profit…”

She then goes on to have you list positive actions you can take to stop sabotaging yourself and provides a series of “action steps” that seriously encourages follow-through.

If you are a house and pet sitter, or are considering becoming one, please buy this book.  This is just one of the excerpts that resounded with me.  Thank you, Kristin ~ I SO needed to read this guide right before launching Phase II of Caretaking Couple! Here’s to Inner Value,

Valynne

PS You can find even more tools and resources (including business coaching, teleclasses, forms and a blog) at Six-Figure Pet Sitting Academy.

 

Friends That Blog in Portland, Oregon

Friends That Blog in Portland, Oregon

Katy, Bethany, Me, Sara, Michelle, Jeremy, Kristen, and Andrea

WordCamp PDX was a great experience for me. I met so many friendly, creative, and SMART people! Allow me to introduce a few new blogging friends, beginning at the back row, left…

Katy blogs here at the Non Consumer Advocate. Her motto is “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Katy will be proud to know that Paul and I have been “thrifting” all week for gently used items to fill our new old rental home with (stay tuned for pics).

Bethany and her husband are known as the two oregonians. They will be traveling the world starting in January 2012 (first stop, Peru).  No, they aren’t independently wealthy ~ you will just have to read their blog to find out how they are pulling it off.  So.Exciting.

And just in case we haven’t actually met, I am the shorter one in purple towards the middle. I’m not very short…just surrounded by taller women than myself at present : ) Anyway, that is me. Valynne.  Or “V” for short. AKA Bloggess of Caretaking Couple.

Next we have Sara, the one who invited me to join this fantastic group. We met first thing at WordCamp PDX last weekend (great job on the SEO talk, by the way!). Sara blogs at Go Gingham, where simple living is “frugal, fancy and fun”.

Michelle and Jeremy recently got rid of most of their belongings and are embarking on a travel journey. They ventured west a few weeks ago and are loving Portland (it all sounds a bit familiar…). Check out Michelle’s blog Feed Your Skull for some serious raw gourmet greatness.

Jeremy is a developer and (to my delight) a writer as well.  AND to everyone else’s delight – he is working on a recipe app for the group (in other words, Jeremy is Mr. Popular). Maybe said app will inspire me to actually put food on the table for once, instead of always relying on the Brit.

Kirsten’s claim to fame is that she rarely washes her hair. Yes, you read that correctly. But her hair looks great, you say.  Exactly!  To find out why hair washing is for sissies, click here. And to find out more about the good life, click here.

Andrea is a Dot Organizer for Automattic. I will have to find out what that means, exactly.  More importantly to me at the moment is the fact that she blogs about her love of all things wine here.  She is pregnant, which explains why her posts are fewer and farther between as of late.

But wait…there is also Monica, the taker of the picture.  Monica has fifteen years experience with professional marketing, strategic planning and business development.  She blogs here and is working on a new blog that I will be introducing to you all soon. Monica, it was so nice to meet you, and thank you for thinking to record this moment and send us all a copy.

And to everyone else I met at WordCamp and/or at Tabor Space (a delightful community coffee house and more), it was a true pleasure. You put the social in social media : )

V

 

 

What Would You Like to See Covered in our e-Book?

What Would You Like to See Covered in our e-Book?

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

Our Caretaking Couple e-Book is coming along.  The first several chapters are polished while the last few are still a bit…ahem…rough.  Time to finish what I started, methinks!

I receive and respond to several questions about house and pet sitting and living simply in general via e-mail, and am doing my best to address the most relevant ones in this book.  Now is is your chance…

If you have any questions/comments/suggestions of your own for us, I would love it if you would share them here on the blog (you can do this by clicking on the comments link).  XOX,

V&P

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 : )

Macs, Goals, and Winners

Macs, Goals, and Winners

Flashback - Paul and I in Italy, Summer 2007. Thought I would share as most of my pics are in between laptops at present and I get complaints when there are no blog pics : ) AND this is what I want to look like again, which is why I am using Beachbody Products!

Honestly, the old hp has done me well, considering I have used it every day for over four years now…but it hasn’t been the lowest maintenance of computers (understatement).  Not being one to throw away a (barely working) machine, I have been waiting and wondering when it would finally go.  And it went. 

So, guess what is charging up right next to me?  My early Christmas present: a brand new MacBook Pro.  I am VERY excited!  AND Santa is bringing us an iPod nano (actually, it was a promo with E.Webscapes when I had my blog redesigned but I am sure Santa would have brought it otherwise).  YIPEE!  Can you believe neither of us has even used i-Tunes???  Instead, we have been lugging thousands of CD’s around with us.  Uncool but true. 

Of course there will be a bit of a learning curve with the new lappy but I have seriously wanted an Apple for years and years and have looked over many a Mac user’s shoulder so I don’t think it will be too painful.  If you are a Mac lover and have any pointers or want to share what you love most about it, that would be super appreciated!  Just click on the comments link above and tell us all about it.

***Speaking of appreciation:  I have an announcement to make regarding yesterday’s prize drawing.  The lucky winner is…David!  Thank you for your comments (even the feisty ones)…I will be sending your Tennessee prize package in the next few days : )***

A couple of blog posts back I decided I would share my monthly goals with you.  I’ve always done this for a new month – sort of.  As in I wrote down my goals somewhere but didn’t always remember where and didn’t always remember to see how I did at the end of the month, etc. etc.  So I am turning over a new leaf.

The man who inspired me to take monthly goals seriously can be found at http://www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com/.  I found him (or he found me – can’t remember now) on facebook and have been following his blog ever since.  I am seriously impressed with the progress Chris Ducker has made with regards to his quest for a truly Virtual Business Lifestyle this past year.  Seriously. Impressed!  Not to mention inspired. So, here goes…

My December Goals:

Blogsville:  My goal for November was to get this blog redesigned and transferred over to it’s new platform.  I hope you like our new look and find the social media links above to be useful (as in, I hope you are using them).  My first goal for December is to work on a few quirks with the blog that have been brought to my attention.  If you notice any, please let me know.  My second goal is to figure out how to use my Mac..I cannot waitto give you podcasts and other cool features I see popping up on my favorite blogs.

My Writing: I am currently taking a memoir writing class through Gotham Writers Workshop  and am pretty disappointed in myself for not dedicating more of my time to it these past few weeks.  These classes are great and deserve my full attention.  I just submitted two more chapters of my book for critique, so I did accomplish last months goal…but just barely.  The class ends soon.  My goal is to refocus and to polish up two more (very rough) chapters.  I am working on an FAQ’s page as well, so if you have any questions for Caretaking Couple, please fire away.

Health and Fitness:  Last month I told you I was considering becoming a Beachbody Coach.  I decided to go for it and am so happy I did.  This company is great – the online office tools are phenomenal, which makes my new job that much easier.  They immediately hooked me up with websites, an e-mail address, and a great “Getting Started” kit.  So, I get to sell products that help others which in turn keeps me focused and accountable for my own health and wellness goals.  BONUS – I am actually losing weight and getting in shape over the Holidays! 

Speaking of the Holidays:  My goal for this year is to continue to simplify and to celebrate the Season by sharing the love in ways that allow me to live within my means and beneath my seams (I think that is how that old saying goes).  That doesn’t mean I won’t leave a little extra come time to tip or anything miserly – it just means that I won’t overdo it like I have in the past. 

Thank you for stopping by.  As always, we would love to hear from you…my goal for this blog is to make it as interactive and user friendly as possible.  If you have friends that you think would like to join in the conversation, please tell them about us.  The easiest way to keep in touch is to subscribe via the “News and Updates” box to the upper right of this post.  Happy Holidays, everyone!

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