As two travel addicts, Ian Usher and Vanessa Anderson’s paths crossed in 2013. Ian was passing through on his return to Panama.
More on that later.
Ian’s story began much earlier in 2006. Believing his life to be on a happy trajectory, after emigrating to Perth, Australia, he was severely knocked sideways when his wife announced that she was leaving him. Isolated from his British friends and family, he decided the best course of action was to sell absolutely everything he owned, and embark on a travel adventure. He could use this time to decide what next to do with his life.
A unique marketing idea – to sell his life on eBay – resulted in unprecedented world wide publicity. He found himself in the spotlight on news channels around the globe. His travel plan unfolded to materialize as a complex logistical challenge. In 2008 “100 goals in 100 weeks” took Ian to 31 countries and numerous locations over the next two years.
He achieved many personal goals including a meeting with Richard Branson, a night in an underwater hotel, and a flight in a fighter jet! The media followed him every step of the way. To cut a long story short, he soon found himself with a Hollywood agent, and a movie deal with Disney for his book, “A Life Sold”.
Creative ideas are Ian’s forte and his next involved buying a deserted, overgrown island in Panama, where he built an off-grid property, learned Spanish, and perfected his boat handling skills! A further story unfolded in a second book, “Paradise Delayed” (the film rights for this one are still available if anyone is interested!), and after almost two years of Caribbean living, Ian popped back to the UK to celebrate his mother’s birthday.
Having relocated from Bristol to a small village in Wales, Vanessa’s retail distribution business and her marriage had recently ended – both she and her husband agreed they had come to the end of their particular journey in life. Their village house was put up for sale and, while remaining friends, they both looked to the future with renewed vigor.
Vanessa took a superb new job in London, which exploited her sales and marketing skills to the full, and commuted back and forth to Wales while waiting for her house to sell. She rented a room in South London and through her new flat mate was introduced to Ian, on the one night he was couch surfing in her home.
After a concert, a meal, and a few pints, Vanessa and Ian found they had much in common and chatted until the early hours of the following morning. They exchanged contact details and went about their lives. But they did stay in touch, and weekly emails became daily emails, daily emails became hourly emails and then long phone calls sealed the deal. Ian was becoming a welcome distraction in Vanessa’s life and she decided that it was time to take him up on his offer of a visit his island.
She left the UK in June 2013 and never returned! Not because she disappeared in unusual circumstances, but because she met Ian in San Jose, Costa Rica, travelled to Bocas del Toro and never looked back.
Ian and Vanessa spent a year together in island bliss.
Hearing about their story, the producers of the popular UK TV program, “Ben Fogle – New Lives in the wild”, visited the couple and decided that Ben should spend a week living with them in their remote location. Before long, Ben and the Channel 5 film crew arrived to make a fascinating documentary of their new life together.
Ben was a perceptive guy – and at the end of the program made an observation that Ian and Vanessa were now on their own adventure, and he suspected they’d soon be moving on. He was correct in every way. The island had been great, but there was so much more in the world for these two adventurers to see and experience together.
House sitting is an accepted method among the expats of Panama for keeping your home and pets protected during long absences. “Active recycling” is common for the local Panamanian Indians. If you leave your property for any length of time then it must be because you no longer need or want it! So Ian was no stranger to the concept of house sitters, having used them many times himself when travelling away from Panama.
Therefore, it was an easy transition for these two free spirits to become international house sitters themselves, as they embarked on their ongoing journey to embrace a freedom lifestyle together.
Life continues to evolve for Ian and Vanessa. Since selling the island in Panama they have lived for six months in an RV in the southern states of the US; Ian has delivered his first TEDx talk to 1000 people in Vienna; they both passed their TEFL exams and spent a year teaching English in Shenzhen, China; and they’ve continued their house sitting adventures in Australia, the US, UK, and Fiji – where they survived the Pacific’s strongest ever cyclone earlier this year!
More recently they have acquired “House Sitting – the ultimate lifestyle magazine”. An online publication which is available on free subscription for the house and pet sitting community. It launched in July 2016 as an easily readable Apple and Android app. It is also available as a simple PDF version.
Exciting times lie ahead – but the question remains “why do they live in the way that they do?”
Simply because they can and they’ve actively crafted their lives to make sure of this! After selling all their possessions they were both amazed at the feeling of freedom. Being able to travel perpetually, and live and work nomadically, is totally liberating. Both of them believe that experiencing a different culture first hand, is the only way to truly gain an understanding of the people we cohabit with on this planet.
House sitting is the resource that allows this to happen, and creating an unbiased magazine to encourage others to experience more from their lives, is their way of giving back to the community.
Without house sitting, it would be impossible for Ian and Vanessa to fund their current lifestyle. They are part of a trust based sharing community which fosters a level of generosity that often doesn’t exist when a service is paid for. This is what they value and will continue to promote.