Why We Are In Africa

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why we are in Africa, how long we’re staying, and how the whole house/pet-sitting thing came about.

Two giraffes

We’re here because I wanted to see this.

Well, I’ll tell you . . .

Why We’re Here

Africa has topped my travel wishlist since forever—since I was a kid and discovered African animals existed, and since I first saw Out of Africa when it came out in 1985. That movie had a huge impact on me in a couple of different ways. One way was that it made me long for travel and adventure, particularly in Africa.

For milestone birthdays, Mike and I choose to visit a dream destination. A few years ago, he picked the Galapagos.

An iguana head

A marine iguana on Isla Isabella in the Galapagos. For a month, we shared a house with a couple hundred young iguanas.

I said then that my next big-birthday destination would be Africa, so it’s been on our radar. Technically, that milestone birthday is still two years away, but this opportunity arose, and we took it. Having the dream destination on our radar meant we were watching for such an opportunity even though we weren’t actively pursuing one yet.

Oh, and because we’re doing this two years early, I have every intention of choosing another destination in two years. I might pick Africa again. It’s a big place. And we’ve got all the vaccinations now.

How Long We’re Staying

No, this is not a permanent move. We’re here for a little over four months, and then it’s back home to Alaska. We love to travel for extended periods, but also love returning home to Alaska.

Fresh snow on the deck, mountains, and glacier.

From the deck at our Alaska home, January 1, 2015.

We are house/pet sitting for the first 2+ months and probably again at the end of our stay. In between, we’ll travel around Botswana and Namibia, camping, visiting parks and reserves, exploring, adventuring, seeing all we can see. We’re already seeing gobs of animals just on our day trips. I didn’t expect that.

How Did the House/Pet Sitting Thing Come About?

I did a little house/pet sitting as a teen. Mike and I spent ten years caretaking remote lodges in Alaska (we still do some lodge caretaking in the spring and fall). And we house and pet sit for neighbors and friends in Alaska. It’s fun! We like it. I love being the fun Aunt to pets that might otherwise be sad or stressed while their families are away. I’m very attentive, especially good with old, ailing, and otherwise needy or difficult animals.

Mike napping with two cats.

Ah, such needy and difficult animals. (Not!) Pip was with them until I came in to snap the picture.

Friends in AK aren’t the only ones who need house/pet sitters; people all over the world need them, too. Where do we find these people? On the Internet, of course.

There are websites connecting home owners with sitters, and we are members of two such sites: and We tried a third site, but dropped it after the first year. We like these two.

Cat peeking out from under a couch.

Bandit playing in a hidey-hole under the couch.

When we travel, we prefer to stay in a house rather than a hotel or resort, and we like to stay as long as we can. We want to shop where the locals shop, take care of ourselves, and blend with the local community, even if we rarely interact with it. We consider house/pet sitting a great way to see and experience a new place.

Jen walking dogs in a sandy pan in Maun.

My favorite place to walk with Gib and Pip is in some “pans” nearby. During the rainy season, pans hold water and grasses grow. It’s already a lot greener here than it was when this picture was taken.

We met the owners of this home online and Skyped and emailed for much of the past year. I think we’re a great match. We’re thrilled to be here; the home is wonderful, an oasis in the desert; the animals are delightful, every one wanting and appreciating our attention. We’re experiencing a new (to us), different (to us), and exciting place in the way we prefer and being useful at the same time. That, to me, is an ideal situation.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel

6 replies »

  1. I love this post, Jen, learning the background of why/how you travel. Charlie and I are the same in that we like to rent houses or apartments when we travel, especially to other countries so we can shop in the local markets, etc., immerse yourself more in the country/culture than you do when staying at a resort or hotel. Love the pictures, as always!

  2. Thanks, Jen, for sharing a bit of the background of why you’re in Botswana. It’s nice to get a bigger picture. Travel while you’re young and have the energy to explore. I’m very much enjoying your travelogs! It’s interesting to see a bit of everyday life in another country. Has Africa inspired new stitching ideas for you? Or are you getting any stitching done at all, in spite of packing your kit?

  3. HEY! Awesome! So…are you in Africa or AK right now? You have a photo from your Alaskan deck taken yesterday? Keep the posts coming. Looks fantastic.

  4. I’m doing a little stitching, Tess, but not much. I’d like to be doing more.

    Animal and human tracks are a motif I come back to over and over, and, yes, I am working on some tracks of African animals. I also like the patterns on the animal fur, skin, and horns and think of them in terms of stitching. Zebra, leopard, and giraffe prints have all been done over and over (though not by me), but maybe something cool can be done with the spiraling horns or the tufted ossicones. On our last outing, I took close-up pics of wrinkly elephant skin, thinking it might be cool to do something stitchy with it. Of course, you know the colors of thread I have with me . . . DOH!

  5. Yes, Deb, we’re in Africa right now. We’ll be home in April. And yes, that was a photo from our deck taken yesterday, sent to us via email.