Selling her house at age 70 to become a housesitter might be seen as brave or even foolhardy. Sadly, Angela Laws can’t hear you from her Barbados infinity pool.
I’ve had many exciting careers spanning almost five decades, living and working in many countries, so it was totally unexpected to find my dream job in my 60s, after I thought I’d already retired.
I’d held senior sales and marketing management roles and also worked in event management for brands including Helena Rubinstein, Lancôme and L’Oréal. I’ve even owned and run a bridal salon. For a while, living in Canada with my family, I was the resident beauty advisor on a popular morning TV show.
Married and raising two children at the same time, and always owning dogs, I was busy and happy with a very full life. The last dog to join our family was an adorable springer spaniel puppy called Holly, who came to live with us in 1992.
Holly was my constant companion for 14 years. India, Germany, France, England and Canada were just some of the places we were to call home together. Had there been a pet frequent flier programme, her card would undoubtedly have been platinum.
During Holly’s last Christmas I engaged a sitter to stay with her for a few days while we went to Seattle. Little did I know this would eventually change my life.
Holly passed away in February 2006 and not that long after my son and daughter left the nest and started living their own lives. A few weeks later, fate stepped in when I was asked to look after a cocker spaniel for a young widow who lived 10 minutes from my home. She needed to travel for work but was desperate to keep Charlie at home. I knew exactly how she felt.
It was the adorable Charlie who began healing my heart and who took me on a journey of discovery. I realised that my husband John and I could enjoy the company of pets without replacing Holly at this stage of our lives. We could do this while still travelling the world and making the most of what we had planned to be our retirement.
The next four years were a real adventure. John and I travelled across five continents, making wonderful friends and caring for numerous beloved pets as house-sitters. Then one day an email arrived in my inbox from TrustedHousesitters.com, a site we had used to find house-sits, from someone called Andy Peck.
There was something very compelling about his message; sitters driven by their love for animals who choose to sit for free. I contacted Andy, who turned out to be the site’s founder and CEO, and two days later he drove to Wiltshire to meet us where we were house-sitting.
I was intrigued and inspired by the business model – to connect home and pet owners with people who wanted to house-sit for free because they simply love the company of pets.
I immediately said I wanted to become involved and we agreed I would take over the site’s social media management.
My marketing background, which before then had been very much established in the 1980s and 90s, had to evolve rapidly as I tried to adopt new digital techniques. I’d previously used Facebook, but I’d not yet adopted Twitter or Instagram. Soon however, I was creating memes and editing video content that was generating thousands of likes.
The last five years have been an amazing adventure. TrustedHousesitters has grown to become the world’s largest sharing economy travel website, specialising in house-sitting. We’ve grown our membership from a few hundred people back in 2011 to a community of more than 300,000.
The business is based in Brighton, but Andy encourages all 30 staff to work from house-sits all over the world, whenever they want to. As house-sitters, my husband and I have now travelled to 11 countries, staying in remarkable places. In 2015 alone, we looked after 23 dogs, 13 cats, three horses, 12 chickens and some fish.
Last year we took what many see as quite a brave decision and we sold our house. We felt we just didn’t need it, seeing as we live our lives staying for weeks or months at a time in other wonderful homes, caring for animals we quickly fall in love with. And when I say wonderful homes, there really are some incredible properties out there.
One of our regular house-sits is a beautiful home in Barnes, south-west London with a cat who I’m sure has come to think of us as a doting aunt and uncle. This summer, we spent six weeks looking after a golden retriever in a luxury villa with an infinity pool and incredible sunset view in Barbados.
As well as travelling to beautiful and inspiring places, I have finally realised a lifelong dream of working with animals.
And as for my favourite house-sitting story? It has to be the time I stayed in a rather lavish apartment on Fifth Avenue, New York, owned by the Kennedys. As I left, a young doorman who helped me into my cab said, “Have a nice day, Mrs Kennedy.” I smiled graciously and said thank you.5463 Views
Angela Laws is the social media manager for TrustedHousesitters, now the world’s largest sharing economy travel business specializing in housesitting. A professional housesitter since 2006, Angela has spent the past decade living and working in 10 countries and caring for countless animals – four legged, two legged, feathered and finned.