When we started to seriously consider adopting a nomadic lifestyle we realized that house sitting could be a integral part of our plans. Accomodation in particular in many places is beyond our reach financially for extended stays. Much of Western Europe, England and the Caribbean can be pricey and we knew that if we wanted to spend some time in these areas we would have to be adaptable.
Using this approach we were able to afford two weeks in London by house sitting for three weeks in the nearby town of Swindon.
There are several reputable house sitting websites to chose from. We are currently registered with TrustedHousesitters and HouseCarers. There is an annual fee for membership on both sites, $100 USD and $50 USD respectively. TrustedHousesitters offers more opportunities, however there are many more potential sitters so there is a trade off. Both sites have opportunities on a world wide basis.
The principles of the agreement are pretty straightforward, and some more formal than others. People looking for sitters to look after their homes and pets while they are on vacation are in the majority, but there are as many variances on this as you can imagine. Some people are looking for help with large estates, others looking for help with Bed & Breakfast operations and many others are looking for the security of having people in their homes while they are overseas for extended periods of time or trying to sell their properties.
There is generally no money changing hands in these arrangements, although on occasion stipends or small wages are offered and as well the house sitters will sometimes pay the utilities while they are on an assignment.
We began corresponding with our first house sitting host about a year ahead of time. Again this varies and often can be last minute. It really comes down to establishing trust and mutual understanding. For people to leave their most valuable possessions, their home and pets, with what can be a total stranger requires trust. In our case we communicated by email for several months in order to build a relationship that everyone felt comfortable with.
The way that we are approaching house sitting is to apply our total time and energy to the pets and home we are responsible for. We are in a unique situation that we can do our personal explorations in times leading up to and after the house sit. The learning and personal rewards come from interacting with the pets and community on a much more intimate level. In fact one of the great benefits of house sitting is to be able to actually live in a neighbourhood and experience day to day life there.
We have experienced that first hand in our recent house sit. The town of Swindon does not immediately come to mind when you ask someone where in England they would like to visit. But after having lived in a suburb of the town we can honestly say that it has been a very rewarding and enriching experience. Thanks to the generosity of the people we were sitting for we had access to a car and were able to do some short visits to nearby areas which were extremely beautiful and filled with medieval charm.
We found the neighbours and everyone we met to be very welcoming, helpful and friendly. This was a great change after two weeks in London. By walking the dogs twice every day we became familiar with some of the wonderful parks in the area and met countless other people out walking their dogs who always had a smile and a greeting or story to share.
It is a big responsibility and one that we do not take lightly. You must be prepared to take it seriously and work closely with the homeowners. We don’t see ourselves as full time house sitters but we do expect to continue at least a couple times a year. There is a great deal of satisfaction and reward in knowing that you have genuinely provided a good service to someone. The friendships you make along the way and the animals you get to know on a personal level are all added benefits.
A note to anyone thinking of this for the first time, it can be disappointing in the beginning as the competition is great with a lot of experienced sitters available. We have applied for about 10 assignments so far in places as varied as St. Lucia, Botswana, Italy, Thailand and Malaysia. Our research indicated sitters get an assignment about one in every 20 they apply for, so we were really pleased to get our first one. We are determined to build up our experiences and references for future opportunities.
We were very pleased when last month out of the blue we received a request from a home owner in an entirely new area of Costa Rica for us to house sit for them, based on what they had read on our profile and our blog. As we have said before we are not looking to this as a full time occupation but as a way to experience local life in areas we wouldn’t normally think of spending time in and to meet and help out like-minded people.
As we slow down and reflect now that we are in Portugal, we are thankful for the opportunity we had and it has helped prepare us for future assignments.