Time Away Inn Sitters

Everyone needs to take a break. Innkeepers are definitely not the exception.  The reasons for taking a break could be for much needed rest, relaxation, upcoming holidays, vacation plans, attending to personal matters, and unfortunately even health related concerns. Carmen Collier and Jeb Marshall were gracious enough to let me interview them about their experiences as Time Away Inn Sitters. Their web page asks, “Are you ready for a break? Carmen and Jeb are professional Inn Sitters, ready to take the stress out of your next vacation or time away.”
 

For this interview, I will let Carmen and Jeb speak for themselves…

 
As Inn Sitters, we have learned that each Inn or Bed and Breakfast is unique. We know that responsibilities and constant day to day changes can be overwhelming.  We understand how adaptability and good organizational skills are vital to maintaining your business.  We commit to making the guidelines of the innkeepers they sit for their top priority.  Receiving good reviews and references are also extremely important to us.
 
Hello, I am Carmen Collier, 48, born in Frankfurt, Germany to a full blooded German Mother and a Croatian Father. My Mother was full blooded German born (in 1936) and raised in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest region) of Germany during WW2.  She instilled the importance of doing something right if you are going to do it at all.

My Father was born (1923) in Los Angeles, CA to full blooded Croatian parents. His father immigrated to the States in the early 1900’s at the age of nineteen.

I was blessed to have parents and grandparents who appreciated good food and taught me how to cook and bake at a very young age. Both sides of my family came from a culture where you did not eat “junk food”, fast food, or processed food.

My grandmothers on both sides were phenomenal cooks/bakers. Always using fresh ingredients, and making everything from scratch. My Dad’s Mother even had her own cookbook. I would sit in their kitchens for hours on end watching and observing, and helping when they asked. It was one of my favorite past times.  My Mom rarely made the same meal twice, always inspired by trying a new recipe. We were very blessed!

My Father having traveled Europe for 15 years, tasted almost every type of cuisine/fare there was. He had an incredible palate, and passed that on not only to us, but his grandchildren as well.My son Nick is an Executive Chef for a restaurant in Durango, CO.  According to Jeb, when Nick lived with us while he attended culinary school, it was quite a show watching each of us try to outdo the other in the kitchen at night. Jeb gladly did the shopping every day and became the prep cook for whomever was making the meal of the evening.

Dad managed the Delaney’s Seafood Restaurant at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA for many years. Then my father opened “Restaurant Yebe Tebe” a family restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine in Anaheim, California.  Growing up, I worked for several years learning the ropes and how to prep food properly for the Chef.

After I graduated, I went on to become a professional licensed Realtor and Property Manager. After my kids were in school full time (1999), I chose to get my Real Estate License. I worked at it full time, and was Top Producer for many years. My husband (ex) at the time was a custom home builder. So it was advantageous to be able to sell the “spec” homes he built as well as being the Property Manager for the apartments we owned. I still keep my Real Estate license current!  In addition, I also owned and operated my own “Construction Clean-up” company for over 20 years. We specialized in cleaning new Custom Homes throughout the Temecula Valley Wine Country.

Traveling the world as an Inn Sitter caring for other peoples needs and comfort has become my passion.There is no one thing that ultimately prepared me for becoming an inn sitter. However, I feel the following combination of things is probably a common thread among most successful ones: being approachable, affable, helpful, positive, upbeat, artistic, creative, problem solver, can clean properly, take pride in cooking/baking, presentation, fun, responsible, thorough, thoughtful, empathetic & modest.

We are very good at communication, and like to touch base with the owners/innkeepers if not everyday then several times per week.  We have learned that through email, phone calls, instant messaging and Skype we usually have a great understanding of what each owner is requesting.  Honoring commitments are huge.  Every owner is different.  The key is to listen to what is most important and treat their business as if it were our own.  Most have everything down in writing and make sure to keep open lines of communication available.

I have found that most innkeepers like me to stick to cooking what they normally would offer. It keeps shopping and budgeting on track. However, some Inns have a Chef already in place and no cooking is expected from us. Then there are others that have us come in during the “slow” season, and just look after the place with no guests. So it really just depends on the owners individual wants/needs.

As a side note to some of my hobbies/interests that may pertain to Inn Sitting:
  • I took Floral Design in College thinking at some point it would be fun to own a florist shop.
  • I created and sold my own jewelry with a southwestern flair for 3 years while living in Durango, CO before the kids started school.
  • I’ve taken Tole Painting courses, and made many art pieces that I sold at art and craft shows. I pretty much painted on anything, but mostly wood.
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So to sum it up, the way I was raised in regards to cooking and cleaning, as well as my hands on experience with owning/operating my own cleaning company, staging my real estate clients homes so that they could be marketed and sell for the highest price, having a creative and artistic flair, and dealing with peoples wants and needs has completely prepared me for inn sitting. Not only that, but my father’s love for travel…it burns deep in my soul. Inn sitting at this point in my life is more desirable for me than being an innkeeper since it allows us the freedom to continue to travel and see the world.

Hello, I am Jeb Marshall, 51, born in Seattle, U.S.A. I received a B.S.B.A. from Central Washington University in 1985 and was a Boeing Design Engineer with a top level security clearance for many years.  My job with Boeing helped me improve organizational skills and become a better problem solver.  As an Inn Sitter you must be ready to solve a multitude of unforeseen problems.  Expect the unexpected is my motto.  Keeping a calm head and formulating the best action in response will always produce the best outcome.

Working for Boeing also taught me that working ten hours a day behind a computer screen was no way to spend my life.  I am reminded of that especially when I am back in the states.  It is sad to see so many people with their eyes fixed to a screen, be it a laptop, phone, I-pad or television.  The real world should be seen, heard and felt with real people and places.

I have also worked as a professional stage actor with various theatre companies and the Seattle Opera. As a stage actor I found another true passion in life.  The ability to perform and make people feel is overwhelming.  I carry that ability with me when I inn sit.  Being able to adapt to different personalities is a big plus as an Inn sitter.  I have also been known to perform one of my many monologues from time to time especially after a glass of wine.  I apologize to Carmen for enduring the same monologues over and over.

Carmen and I met in the ocean.  It was a sunny Saturday in early December of 2006, off the beach of Carlsbad, CA.  We got married a year and a half later in the “desert town” of Las Vegas, NV.  Carmen and I compliment each other with our inn sitting duties.  She is an amazing cook, how she comes up with her mouth watering meals is beyond me.  She does most of the cooking and cleaning, however I love filling in wherever is necessary.
The inspiration for us to sell everything and travel the world can be found in one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”
 
Even though society teaches us to buy the big house, the nice car and latest toys, Carmen and I decided that “The Stuff” is overrated.  The true inspiration for selling everything comes from within.  Carmen and I are adventurers at heart and following your heart and dreams will always inspire you! Helping run and care for bed and breakfasts has been and always will be a win-win proposition.  We are inspired to leave each inn sit with smiles from both guests and owners, taking the time to listen and observe, learning and becoming richer from each experience.

The best rewards have been the journey.  It is hard to put into words, however it is like reading a good book. You don’t know where it is going to take you but you know it will most likely enrich.  The faces and feelings have been amazing.  I speak of men and women that I have met and helped not knowing how to speak their language but connecting with them.  Feeling them through non verbal communication can be more rewarding than a long drawn out conversation.  The rewards are great with inn sitting. Sometimes a hug or smile can be reward enough for going the extra mile.

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, whether in the garden or as a handyman on that unforeseen project.  My list of jobs have ranged from changing switches on a circuit breaker in Switzerland to painting the roof of a casita in 100 degree heat in Costa Rica.  I also work as concierge, driver, grocery shopper, greeter, take reservations, accountant, bus boy, waiter, dishwasher, housekeeper, dog walker, receptionist, security guard and so on.

My favorite inn sit was for a winery in Satigny, Switzerland.  We arrived for the three week sit on my birthday, flying in from Venice where we had  celebrated Carmen’s birthday a couple days prior.  Upon our arrival into Geneva we were picked up and driven to Satigny which is about 10 kilometers from the airport.  Our duties for this sit was to care for their two wonderful dogs, watch and secure the winery and sign for all deliveries and mail.  You can read about it in more detail in our journal.

My favorite foods are Thai, sushi, seafood, Mexican and Italian dishes.  Who am I kidding? I love all food!  It does depend on freshness of ingredients and who prepares it.  The best Thai meal I ever had was in Spain, best Italian in Australia and best sushi was in Costa Rica.  Carmen has helped open my eyes to the wonderful world of great food.

Most people are afraid to travel to countries in which they do not understand the language.  As long as you show respect and try to blend in, most cultures will accept you and it is amazing how well non verbal communication works.  Carmen speaks German fairly well and she is working on her Spanish.   I speak many languages poorly, but can have conversations in English and Spanish.  The Spanish that is spoken in Spain differs from that in Central America much the same way that English in the states differs from the English spoken in the United Kingdom.
 
I have learned that the best way to learn about a specific culture is to get lost in it.  Get off the tourist lined streets and don’t be afraid to literally get lost.  Having to ask for help or eventually finding your way back on your own can be quite rewarding and you will be amazed at what you will find.  I enjoy getting off a plane or train and not knowing anything about the culture, it is part of the pure joy of travel.  When it comes to inn sitting, I will take the time to educate myself with a certain area if I have never been and learn everything a good concierge should know.

We have decided to be inn sitters of bed and breakfasts for many reasons.  We enjoy the challenge that everyday is going to be a little bit different.  The reward of being able to share some of our talents while having the opportunity to travel the world and make a living is a dream come true.  The Palawan and Cook islands are on my list of places to visit, however finding new places in Europe will never get old.

After traveling pretty much nonstop over the past two years to over 23 countries, we have discovered a tremendous amount about ourselves. We are able to travel anywhere in the world and are accepting Inn Sits from one week to one year.  Currently we are on a one year Inn Sit, in Los Pargos, Costa Rica until mid September of 2015.  After many Skype interviews and hundreds of applicants, we were offered the job.

We would like to extend an invitation to anyone who would like to stay in the casita for $80 a night. The town is great with award winning restaurants and a great pura vida vibe.  Everything is alive and constantly changing!

So much of life is about timing and luck.  Even though we had sold everything we owned, we feel extremely rich.  We have our health, great kids, and we are living our dream.  Life is full of ups and downs, never take the ups for granted and hopefully learn to weather the downs.

Plans?  What is that?  We would like to take on another inn sitting commitment once we finish inn sitting in Costa Rica.  We are always open to discussing any future inn sitting offers with innkeepers and are available to Skype at any time.

The experiences, sites, sounds, smells and tastes of Europe contrasting with Central America have been incredible. Our journey is far from over.  For those wishing to contact us, our email address is timeawayinnsitters@gmail.com

Thank you, Carmen and Jeb, for sharing your inn sitting adventures, experiences, and dreams with us!

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