Well it finally happened, the first ever House & Pet Sitting Conference came into being over a gloriously warm and sunny September weekend, on the outskirts of Swindon in the UK. Both newcomers and seasoned sitters converged to listen to over 20 experienced house sitting travelers talk about the house sitting lifestyle.
Was it a success? You bet it was!
After many months of work (and our fair share of setbacks), it all finally came together and exceeded all our expectations. We’ve had very favorable feedback, so it seems on the whole that our delegates, sponsors, speakers and volunteers (pictures below), also had a great time.
What impressed us most?
Apart from the amazing contributions from everyone involved, I think the biggest factor to emerge in the post-show reviews was the power of so many like-minded travelers and house sitters coming together in one place. The power of sharing stories, advice and inspiration in a “real” environment shone through.
A HUGE THANK-YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED, ADVISED, PARTICIPATED, CONTRIBUTED AND ATTENDED – YOU ALL MADE THIS THE SUCCESS IT WAS!
In a world of increasing “digital” contact, and in what can be a lonely travel lifestyle when constantly on the move, creating a space for us all to be together appeared to be a definite highlight of the weekend.
The Final Countdown
Our repeat sit in London finished a week before the conference opened its doors, and so we headed to the sanctuary of house sitting friends, Kate & Simon (Terrific Sitters) in Marlborough. This was when it really hit us – this event was actually going to happen… and in just a few short days!
In the conference “hub” upstairs we found a number of parcels waiting to be opened. They contained sponsor products, merchandise, printed posters, lanyards, a selfie frame … and we were a bit like kids on Christmas morning as we inspected the contents of each box.
Work began in earnest, printing and preparing signage, tickets and itineraries, organizing the raffle prizes, preparing for the networking dinner, putting together table plans, and uploading the final slide presentations into SlideDog (the software used to manage all speaker material and interlude videos).
Then messages began to arrive from speakers and volunteers, and we knew we were at the point of no return.
Delays and last minute changes in the schedule meant Ian and I were still both avidly practicing newly compiled talks and producing the accompanying slides, in-between the other demands of the pre-show organization.
We really couldn’t have done it without Simon and Kate who kept us sane throughout the week and made sure we (and all our gear) got to the hotel in time for the first pre-show meet-up on Thursday. They helped us be as prepared as we could possibly be.
Our community, working together
This first event really was a coming together of the house sitting community, a whole team of people who helped make it happen. Neither Ian nor I had previous experience of running a conference, so everything had been a steep learning curve.
We were (and are) so grateful to have been able to pull on the collective knowledge of our house sit “colleagues”, who together solved a number of problems we encountered once we arrived at the hotel.
You can read more about that in the next article… about how “house sitting teamwork” saved the day, and as told by Allen Trottier of Reliable Housesitters (sponsor, speaker and techie genius!).
Our original intent was to use some of the speakers and delegates (who generously offered their extra time), to help with the many “volunteer” jobs needed to keep the show on the road! But we were blessed by the generosity of two couples, Brooke & Buddy (TrailingAway.com), and George & Michelle (TheRealHousesitters.com), who appeared like angels, and dedicated all their time at the conference as “crew”.
This meant that, apart from the techie guys, most others were able to simply relax and enjoy the presentations, dipping in with help as and when needed at registration and breaks. It really was a demonstration of the adaptability and flexibility of house sitter skill-sets.
Talking of crew… they were all very easily noticeable thanks to the fabulous T-shirts designed and organized by Michelle McDines – known to many as The Happy House Sitter.
Michelle contributed 2 talks at the conference, stepping up when we needed to fill a gap, and she was the creator of the fun and innovative “Sit or No Sit” interactive presentation!
And so it began…
… and the first House & Pet Sitting Conference came into being. Although at the start we were tired, weary and worried about how things would be, almost everything went to plan. I don’t think there was a speaker among us without some nervousness, but everyone excelled.
The networking breaks were a great success, with lots of people finally meeting after years of knowing each other digitally, and the food was better than we had anticipated!
Of course there were hiccups, that’s inevitable with first events with no fall-back budget, and I’m sure with more people and relevant skills there would have been some things done better.
But we are proud of what we pulled off, and happy that so many people enjoyed being a part of this first event, helping to make it the success that it clearly was.
And among a number of us staying on at the hotel on the Sunday night, we seemed to have earned a reputation as gin drinkers… the G&Ts just kept appearing in our glasses until we finally made it to bed! So thanks everyone who helped with our post show R&R – it was the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend!
A different perspective
If you’d like to get another perspective on the event as it unfolded, take a read of Lamia’s (HouseSitMatch) diary of the two days here:
Would you like to see what we saw?
We know that many of you were unable to attend because of prior house sitting engagements, but some will have got a taste of the weekend as our “Roving Reporter”, Jodie Burnham (Roaming Income) went live on our Facebook page.
But it was thanks to the amazing technical team of Ian, Allen, Philippe, Buddy and George, that we were able to video all of the event. In fact, the reason I’m writing this month’s “welcome” is because Ian is currently editing all of the content – it’s a long process when you have 3 camera angles and a dedicated audio track! The great news is it will be available for you to watch from the comfort of your home or house sit!
Not only will you get to see all the educational sessions, you’ll have access to all the talks from experienced international house sitters, travelers, and life coaches; you’ll be able to watch all the inspirational house sitter videos; and see the Q&A session with our sponsors.
This event really wasn’t just about house sitting, it was as much about lifestyle and how to sustain and fund your unique version of independent travel or retirement with the help of house sitting.
If you’d like to watch the conference (at a low introductory price for magazine subscribers), you’ll find more information here:
And, while we are still loading up the videos for the final two sessions, you’ll also get three of our online video courses included as an extra bonus – everything you’ll need to get you underway with the house sitting lifestyle.
That’s not going to be for much longer though! The price will increase and the courses will revert to their individual prices, the moment the last video is uploaded.
There was a lot of talk at the conference about making life choices, stepping into your “courage zone”, and living a life of freedom that removes the stress and anxiety of 9-5 “normal” routines.
So it was a bit of a surprise maybe for some when Ian talked about feeling a little bit of a “fraud” towards the end of the weekend. We ourselves have struggled this year, falling back into tortuous work routines, overstretching ourselves, and losing touch with the freedom of life we’d previously created.
This hasn’t been an easy year for us – losing my dad after 6 long years of illness, taking on the challenge (and succeeding with) “52 sits in 52 weeks”, and the responsibility of preparing for this event, the first House & Pet Sitting Conference, have all taken their toll.
Unexpected situations created unexpected stresses, and our time since the conference has also been a time for reflection. This year has been a stark reminder of how easily life can change, in ways we least expect.
So we’ve taken the time to reassess our needs, our expectations and how we want to move forward with our own freedom lifestyle. We’ve changed some of our earlier plans from this year – it’s an ongoing evolving process as always.
What we are clear about is that life will be kept simple for a while, with no major new challenges on the immediate horizon!
But more on that next time!