By Charles Wade-Palmer
A widow yearning for adventure gave up her quiet life to travel the world for FREE – by staying in people’s homes to look after their pets.
Maria Keehan, 60, who lost her husband nine years ago has spent the last three years staying in lavish homes in exotic destinations without paying a penny after establishing herself as a trustworthy pet sitter.
Growing up on a farm, Maria became a trusted hand around animals which after retiring from her career as a medical receptionist, she has put into practice all over the globe.
Maria said: “I lost my husband nine years ago, I did a bit of travelling then renovated a cottage in Devon where I lived for four years.
“I woke up one morning and thought what am I doing? I packed my bags and I’ve been moving around ever since.
“I’ve been to 16 countries in the last couple of years and the one in Australia was the only one without pets to look after. I was just there to make sure the house was okay and do the garden.”
Maria wanted more out of her life and so she turned to the internet for inspiration and found TrustedHousesitters after which she sold her house to live entirely on house sits.
Going from house to house and pet to pet which has allowed her to travel to countries like Oman, Dubai, Morocco and Spain- Maria could not be happier with her new life.
Maria, who moved from Ireland to England 34 years ago, said: “Because I knew I was going to go to Australia a few months in advance, I had got in touch with the local community centre so by the time I got there I was up to all sorts.
“I’ve had fabulous adventures in lots of places, Dubai was amazing and when I was in Australia I went to Bali for a trip.
“I tend to do things like that when I’m staying somewhere for a long time. I’m very much a people person but I don’t mind my own company at all.
“I met a friend in Dubai who was doing the same thing as me out there and we became fantastic buddies.
“For my 60th we met in Spain where we spent a few nights then we flew to Paris for my birthday because I told her I wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower to celebrate.
“When we got down I almost had a heart attack when I saw my boys who were down there. My friend organised the lot so I’ve clearly met some smashing people.
“Nothing’s going to stop me travelling I’ve been having a wonderful time. Normally I like to get involved and have fun and have plenty of laughter.”
The opportunity to travel the world while house sitting was like a dream come true for Maria who loves animals as much as she does socialising with people.
Growing up on a farm means Maria has a confident hand caring for pets whether it is a cat or a chicken.
Maria said: “It’s a real pleasure to be doing what I’m doing I couldn’t just sit around doing nothing.
“Sometimes I really want to shake people and tell them there’s a whole world out there, go live it.
“I’m lucky to have an affinity with animals I grew up on a farm where we had everything.
“I’ve had no trouble from pets at all, they’ve all been absolutely fine. I do find that animals have their own individual characters and they have their own quirky ways.
“I’ve looked after rabbits, cats, dogs, chickens, fish and even a turtle. Some will sleep on your bed and others don’t want to know.
“In Appledore, Devon a couple said that I wouldn’t see much of their cat at all because she stayed outside but on the second day she wouldn’t move from my bed.
“She even brought me a present two days in a row. I thought thank you I really don’t need this. That was her part of the deal- I looked after her and she brought me presents.
“Although chasing her around the house at 3am was less funny.”
Over the last three years Maria has travelled to: France; Spain; Portugal; Italy, Sardinia; Cyprus; Turkey; Dubai; Australia; Oman; Bali; Greece; Monaco; Belgrade; Morocco and of course the UK and Ireland.
With TrustedHousesitters members can stay for free in anything from chateaux to eco-lodges while caring for owners’ pets in 140 countries.
Interested house sitters need to start off small and build a good reputation locally before dreaming of landing jobs around the world like Maria.