Meeting Virtual Friends in the Flesh

By - September 9, 2010 (Updated: November 24, 2014)

Sherry Cooking Up A Storm

Sherry Cooking Up A Storm

“So how did you meet this woman?” It was a common refrain, when I mentioned someone would be house-sitting for us, while we were on our North American Adventure.

“Well, I’ve been following her blog for about a year now and we’ve chatted back and forth via e-mail…” It was at this point I separated the non-bloggers, who gave me the what-if-she’s-a-serial-killer look, and the bloggers, who nodded and said “oh, ok.”

Since arriving in Belgium, I’ve met a lot of expats through CheeseWeb, but this summer, I met three of my fellow bloggers (none of whom were serial killers) while on vacation, starting with Sherry, my house-sitter extrordinare.

I started following Sherry’s incredible travel blog, Ott’s World, about a year ago. At the time, I was shifting the focus of CheeseWeb to include more travel articles and I was looking for great examples of travel blogs to follow. Sherry’s is one of the best. I never dreamed I would get to meet her in person, let alone have her live in my flat.

Back in April, Sherry wrote a post called, Using Your Network to Housesit Around the World. I thought it was a fantastic idea. The house-sitter gets a free place to stay and lots of insider knowledge about their travel destination and the home-owner doesn’t have to worry about their house being empty; the cats get fed, the plants get watered and the house gets cleaned.

I left a comment on the post stating if Sherry should ever want to visit Brussels, our flat was usually available for a month each summer. After a few e-mails back and forth, the rest was history.

Sherry arrived in town a few days before we were set to fly to Vegas. Miraculously, we managed to meet at Central Station without the aid of mobile phones. Sherry was warm and friendly and her personality was exactly what I expected from reading Ott’s World.

Andrew and Sherry with our fabulous Vietnamese meal

Andrew and Sherry with our fabulous Vietnamese meal

We immediately launched into travel-addict mode – “Where have you been? What did you do there? What’s your favourite destination? Food? Drink? Market?” We also talked about the business of travel blogging, who our blog heroes are and where we wanted to take our blogs in the future. Sherry is also a fantastic photographer, so I even got to geek-out with some photo talk.

I showed Sherry a few of my favourite Brussels sites, took her to a couple of my favourite local restaurants, gave her tips on what to eat, where to go and what to do during her month in Brussels. In return, Sherry cooked a fabulous meal for Andrew and I. She even taught me how to make Vietnamese spring rolls, something I had always wanted to do but felt intimidated by.

While we were away, I received regular updates about the cats and what Sherry was up to in Belgium. (I’ve had a great time reading her recent articles about her Brussels stay.) Best of all, for the first time in five years, we came home to a clean house! Not only that, but Sherry had left us a goodie bag of chocolate and info on the places she visited. I couldn’t have asked for a better house-sitter.

But Sherry wasn’t the only blogger I met up with this summer. Two odd co-incidences landed a couple more bloggers in my path.

Jeff from Expat Yourself

Jeff from Expat Yourself

A few months ago, Andrew discovered a great expat blog called Expat Yourself. It’s written by Jeff, an American who was living in Prague with his family. Andrew started reading just as Jeff and his family were planning a huge life shift. They decided to move to Canada and trade rolls; Jeff’s wife would go back to work, while Jeff took on the roll of stay-at-home Dad.

Here’s where the first co-incidence comes in: Jeff’s wife is from Nova Scotia and they would be living with her parents until they found a permanent place to live. Andrew offered his services in Jeff’s comments section as a NS expert. With a bit of back and forth, they discovered Jeff and his family would be living temporarily in Pugwash – where Andrew’s parents now live.

So, cosmic forces aligned, we decided to all meet at the Chatterbox Cafe (highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Pugwash). We got to meet not only Jeff and his lovely wife, but his kids and visiting parents too. We spent a lovely afternoon chatting about travel, expat life, the huge changes they were undertaking and life on the East Coast.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where this new adventure leads them and I highly recommend his blog as a great source of info if you are or are thinking about becoming an expat yourself.

Nomadic Chick Jeannie

Nomadic Chick Jeannie

My final blogger encounter happened in my own home town of Saint John, New Brunswick. The blogger – the fabulous Jeannie, otherwise known as Nomadic Chick.

I started following Jeannie’s blog around the same time I discovered Sherry and simply fell in love with her writing. Jeannie was planning a round the world career break for the up-coming autumn. Fate had other ideas for Jeannie and she found herself on the road in the spring, travelling across Canada. I commented that if she found herself on the East Coast in August, I would love to meet her.

Once again the fates aligned. It seemed one of Jeannie’s best friends lived near Saint John and Jeannie would be in town for the last few days of my visit.

Andrew and I met up with Jeannie for lunch on the board-walk. She was as cheerful and insightful in person as she is on her blog.

We talked about her up-coming trip to India (jealous I am) and where she planned on going from there. Again the travel junkie in both of us prompted us to talk about favourite destinations over several glasses of wine. Again an invite to come and visit Brussels was extended and I do hope she’ll take us up on it. Either way, I can’t wait to see where Jeannie’s travels take her.

I may never become wealthy from blogging here on CheeseWeb, but my life has been enriched by the fantastic and fascinating people I’ve met through this virtual community. I hope you check our their blogs and make some new virtual friends of your own.

Have you ever met one of your blog heroes in person? How did it go? Leave your comments below and do let me know if you check out any of the blogs listed in this post.

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


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  2. Comment by paris (im)perfect

    paris (im)perfect September 9, 2010 at 17:29

    What a great trio of bloggers! I love this as a way to travel. I laughed when you said telling people about this helped you separate the bloggers from the non-bloggers. I also get the “what if they’re a serial killer” question about my tendency to go Couchsurfing. I don’t know, I believe the world is basically a benevolent place and most of the time my trust is rewarded. Definitely sounds like you’ve had the same experience!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison September 9, 2010 at 17:47

      Absolutely! I think North Americans in particular are conditioned to FEAR everyone. It’s the Fox news mentality… “101 things that can kill you that are already in your house… next on Fox news!” Honestly, the people I’ve met through my blog have been great. Sure I haven’t become life-long friends with absolutely everyone but I certainly have never felt in danger from anyone either. For the most part my blog friends have become real-life friends too.

  3. Comment by Jeff

    Jeff September 9, 2010 at 23:32

    Awesome blog post as usual, Alison – and I’m not just saying that because of the handsome guy in the 2nd photo.
    –Oh, wait, that’s Andrew…I meant the 3rd photo -me. 🙂 (Andrew’s handsome, too, of course!)

    The part of Sherry housesitting your flat is Great! We had a similar experience last Christmas, when an expat couple from Kuwait stayed in our Prague flat for the week we holidayed in Rome. Meanwhile, both us and that couple have since relocated to Nova Scotia and have met again. (getting dizzy here)

    It was so cool to meet you and Andrew. And my honour to share my family with you. We’re now settled in Dartmouth. Life is resembling normal and …*gasp*… routine.

    Best to you,

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison September 10, 2010 at 10:59

      Haha, don’t you know I only post photos of good-looking folks on CheeseWeb? 🙂 So funny that you met yet another expat couple in NS. It is a tiny world we live in. Glad to hear you’re getting settled in Dartmouth now and I look forward to following your Canadian adventures and hopefully catching up with you when we’re back in town!

  4. Comment by Sherry Ott

    Sherry Ott September 10, 2010 at 00:14

    Of course I have met some of my blogging heroes…I met you!

    I had to laugh when I saw this post on the home page and saw my face staring back at me with the quotes “So how did you meet this woman?”

    Alison and Andrew – I can’t thank you enough for opening up your home to me (a possible serial killer!) and allowing me to take care of your fluffy cats! I think I left all of the plants alive…yet I was quite worried about them with the excessive rain we received in August!

    What a lovely article – I miss Brussels and the kitties already. Plus – I was a little sad when I didn’t get to greet you back into your home and see you when you returned – kind of anticlimactic! I had so much fun the 2 days we were all in the same place, I was sad when you left for N. America!

    I know I’ll see you, Andrew, Deirdre, Orange, and Buddy again one day.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison September 10, 2010 at 10:55

      Haha, you don’t know how many times I got asked that! Anyone that can cook that well can’t possibly be a serial killer 😉 Thanks again for everything and I do hope we see you again very soon!

  5. Comment by Nomadic Chick

    Nomadic Chick September 10, 2010 at 13:54

    Love that photo of Sherry! Surprised, but delighted to be “caught” making dinner. 🙂 I absolutely agree with your second last paragraph – blogging may not bring riches (just enough to live on?), but it brings higher value in people and community, not to mention time to enjoy each other.

    It was such a pleasure meeting you, and I think we can make a hang out happen after I attend TBEX Europe.

    You and Andrew are generous, open minded people, and I’m not just saying that so Andrew will hire me to ghost write for him. 🙂

  6. Comment by Alison

    Alison September 10, 2010 at 14:37

    I never could have guessed when I started my little blog years ago, that I would get so much out of it. The expat and travel blog world is full of open-minded and warm-hearted people. The community is simply incredible.

    I do hope we can catch up after TBEX and I’m bummed I won’t be able to go. I’m really hoping to make it to Vancouver for 2011, but it’s too bad you won’t be there. As I said, there’s always room for you to hang out in Bxl with us and the cats! Happy travels!

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  8. Comment by Bessie

    Bessie October 11, 2010 at 11:17

    I agree, that it’s just fantastic meeting other travel bloggers – whatever the circumstances. If nothing else, it makes me feel like less of a crazy person traveling around and living the way we do. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sherry, and a number of other bloggers, TBEX was great for that, and every time there’s a fantastic connection, because somehow we all know we’re not serial killers. 🙂

    Maybe our paths will cross someday too. 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison October 11, 2010 at 14:52

      Thanks for stopping by Bessie! It is great to meet others with the same travel addiction! Chatting with Sherry was excellent and I am hoping to go to TBEX in Vancouver next year and meet many more of the travel obsessed, non-serial killer type bloggers 🙂 If you’re ever in Brussels just let me know!

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  11. Comment by simon

    simon November 25, 2010 at 09:52

    I’ve met a few blogfriends in real life, and have plans to meet many more, despite the distances involved. One turned into one of our closest friends, and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed. If you like someone’s blog I think it’s a fairly safe bet that you’ll like them in person, even if there’s some initial awkwardness.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison November 25, 2010 at 10:10

      That’s true Simon. I think the best blogs really give you a sense of the person/people who write them. If you like the blog, chances are you will also like the people behind it. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Comment by Jeff

        Jeff November 25, 2010 at 12:42

        Simon, Alison,

        I’ll step in and agree 100% with you. At least, in the case of — Alison is very likeable.

        (…I hope she doesn’t blush too much on that)


        • Comment by Alison

          Alison November 25, 2010 at 13:31

          Aw, Thanks Jeff! Back at you 🙂

  12. Comment by Kelsey

    Kelsey December 3, 2010 at 16:14

    I am definitely considering using my blogging/twitter network to find someone to housesit, should we need it in the future. My boyfriend and I may soon find ourselves on separate continents, neither of which contains our apartment, and since we have an incredible place, we don’t want to lose it by ending our lease, but I also would like to help out other travelers if possible. Since we live in Washington DC, which is something of a travel hotbed, I’m hoping that we will be able to find folks who want a nice apartment for a few months! I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with this idea.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison December 3, 2010 at 16:21

      I would definitely recommend it. Obviously you need to take some precautions about advertising your place on line but it worked out well for us. Not only did we find a house-sitter, we found a new friend.

      • Comment by Kelsey

        Kelsey December 3, 2010 at 16:23

        If we did it we wouldn’t be advertising it online – I’d be directly contacting folks I know who are on the travel circuit.

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