Some people have dream jobs, some have dream vacations. You would be lucky to have both, but dreams are all about interpretation. Pick one: three weeks in an Irish cottage with fowl responsibility, or a condo in Cancun?
Meet Jolene and James Patrick Dames, a couple who met on a movie set. They work, respectively, as a scene designer and a grip, and the work keeps them busy enough in Pittsburgh, where they live on Mount Washington.
Unlike most people — whose precious vacation weeks evaporate like water droplets in the thirsty desert of work — this couple takes off for weeks and months between work gigs that are sometimes even shorter. Their goal, in fact, is to turn the work/ vacation paradigm on its head.
Three years ago, they learned about an international subculture of people who house-sit and the people who accept them. Jolene Dames scoured online sources and found their first opportunity in Ballycastle, a 5,000-year-old town in County Mayo in western Ireland.
They have since stayed in other people’s homes throughout the United States, in France, Scotland and the Yucatan.
The Dameses have to get their own house-sitter when they leave, but it is a local friend. The house-sitting they do is not a house swap. And it is not the same as airb&b, a website on which you can find homes for rent anywhere.
This is you doing a favor for a stranger — taking care of his home and pets, maybe watering plants, at no cost. There is no bonding to insure anyone and no way to be sure someone is trustworthy other than a rating system. Sometimes a property owner will interview a prospective house-sitter on Skype. Some negotiate an agreement with one email.
Mr. Dames said there are the usual red flags that have prompted them to turn down more house-sitting opportunities than they have taken. “You just trust your gut. And if it’s a lot of trouble, we don’t do it.”
In Ireland, there were ducks and chickens to take care of, but that was a great experience, they said.
“What is cool is that we have no idea where we’re going,” Ms. Dames said. “We flew into Dublin and got a car and drove four and a half hours to Ballycastle. We stopped in a little restaurant, Mary’s, and they knew we were there to watch the cottage. It was as if we were immediately locals.
“This was a place we never would have known about, but we saw 33 rainbows and lived near a neolithic site that’s the oldest field system in the world.”
Their original intent was to house-sit their way around the world, but work gigs have pulled them back, however briefly.
With the dream intact, they started the website The Globe Squatters, which offers links and advice for anyone to whom this way of vacationing might appeal.
Both natives of Pittsburgh, the Dameses said they feel like ambassadors on a different level, meeting local people who might not see many tourists but know something about Pittsburgh.
“We saw Steelers bars in Ireland,” Ms. Dames said.
“Even in the Yucatan, people asked us how the Steelers are going to do,” Mr. Dames said.
Mr. Dames has worked as a grip on movies for 22 years. His wife started working in film designing and painting sets in 2001. They worked together on local shoots for “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers” and “Jack Reacher.” She worked on the set of “Southpaw,” which is in production now.
Although Mr. Dames works with cameras on movie sets and Ms. Dames is a set artist and designer, she is also a photographer and he is a painter. When they travel, they film their experiences. What seems like a fun lifestyle of travel is fun, they agree, but it is also part of a larger project that advances the work they do.
“When you do film work, you are working on somebody else’s dream,” Mr. Dames said. “We want to work on our own dream.”
Diana Nelson Jones; firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626.
by Edna Rienzi (The Center for a New American Dream), August 11, 2014 at 10:22am
Jolene and Patrick Dames (aka The Globe Squatters) spent years working behind the scenes on movie sets. On these sets, Jolene and Patrick would joke around and claim that they were “living the dream.” One day, however, they realized that, despite their joking around, their actual dream of seeing the world was taking a back seat to their everyday work. Jolene and Patrick downsized into a much smaller space, started focusing on their own creative projects, and traveled to Ireland to house sit. For weeks, they lived in a cottage by the Atlantic Ocean, watching ducks, chickens, and a little dog named James. Jolene and Patrick realized that house sitting allowed them to instantly become locals, and see the world in a way that most traditional vacations do not afford. Now these two artists/filmmakers are house sitting their way around the world, with the mission of revolutionizing the way people travel.
What does “the good life” mean to you?
As artists and filmmakers, for us, the good life is about the art of living and the adventure of being alive. It’s about designing your life the way you imagine it can be, seeing the beauty of the world, making art and having the freedom to travel.
And how did you come to this vision?
We are both in the filmmaking business, an equally demanding and rewarding industry. At first we were okay with it consuming most of our time because it offered us a way to travel even more when we were between shows, but after a year went by and we hadn’t been anywhere we decided it was time to make a change. We completely downsized into a space a quarter of the size, began focusing on our own creative works and looked for more economical ways to travel. That is when we found out about house sitting and became The Globe Squatters: Two artists on a little adventure house sitting our way around the world.
What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your lifestyle?
Seeing things we have never seen before and seeing things we have seen before, just a little differently. For example, the house sit in Ireland was in a remote location and it was just minutes away from the Ceide Fields, a Neolithic field system of world importance. Then there were the thirty-three rainbows we saw (and photographed) over the course of three weeks. It was pretty amazing. We also really enjoy being house sitters because it is a non-conventional way of traveling, you instantly become a local, you aren’t consuming any more than you would if you were at your own home and you get a sense of purpose by caring for the homeowners property and pets. It’s really a great exchange.
Is there anything at all about your life these days that you really wish you could change or improve?
We are always looking for new ways to improve our home’s efficiency and lessen our carbon footprint. In addition, we have been transitioning out of the film business and becoming more independent artists, which I think has really helped us to be happier and healthier.
Tell us a little about the work that you do.
We are all about the art of living and being present in daily life, no matter where it takes us. If we are on a movie set or at a house sit, we value our time in each location and try to take the moments as they come. Our work as creative people (filmmakers, painters, photographers, writers) is to revive imagination and reveal the perpetual astonishments in life, whether they are around the world or in our backyard. We enjoy sharing all that we experience through our various creative outlets, especially photography and painting.
Describe some ways in which you are involved in your community.
As artists we enjoy getting involved with non-profits for children to inspire hope through creativity. Interactive murals, painting projects with children, photography for special events, and donating artwork for fundraisers are some of the ways we have been involved with our community. We also design the shirts for our local film crew, and, recently, while filming The Fault in Our Stars, we were able to donate the profits to Children’s Hospital.
For many, your lifestyle is considered “outside the mainstream.” Does this present any challenges, and, if so, how do you deal with them?
I think one of the main challenges is that people have a difficult time understanding that we really don’t fall under one thing. For example, when we say we are house sitters, we usually have to explain about traveling in this unconventional way or when we explain that we are artists they usually want to know what kind. The way we deal with them is to explain that we see our life (and everyone’s) as your main work of art. Every choice then becomes a part of your unique artistic footprint and that is the way you design your life.
Please describe any new skills or hobbies that you’re really excited about or that you would love to learn if you had the time and resources.
We would love to implement even more energy efficient items into our space, for instance solar power. We also would really enjoy learning Spanish, and we really want to learn how to fly drones so when we can film even more amazing time lapses. I guess this is a loaded question!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Make today amazing.