Our email in-boxes are overflowing with questions on how to see the world by house sitting, and we can see why you guys are so interested. House sitting is a great way to see the world, meet new people, and learn to live like a local in some of the most amazing places on earth.
I’m writing today’s post from a cozy, top-floor flat in an old building in Brussels, Belgium. There is a wall of windows and a terrace to my right, a shelf of great books behind me, and a well-equipped kitchen in front of me. The bed is comfortable, the upstairs office area a nice place to work if we need a desk, and the 2 frolicking cats add a lot of whimsy to the day. Add to that the ability to cook our own food, enjoy a blazing fast wifi connection, and even do our own laundry and you’ve got the makings of a pretty nice home away from home. Especially for people who don’t have a home.
We save a ton of money on housing, which is mostly just transferred to the entertainment budget when we are in a great city like Brussels.
We’re spending a month here in Belgium, and we’ve done multi-week gigs in England, Ecuador, and coming up soon on a houseboat in Amsterdam. After a slow start incorporating house sitting into our long-term travel plans, we are now having to turn down opportunities, and it didn’t take long for us to get here.
How we added house sitting to our long-term travel plans
We started our house sitting adventures almost as soon as we sold our home in Seattle. If you recall, we were homeless in May with a planned departure date of October 1, which left us a full summer to be nomadic in our own city. We rented a room from a friend and watched her beautiful house for her as she traveled frequently throughout the summer. Our other friends who lived up near the beach asked us to watch their dogs when they traveled. Still others asked us to watch their homes out in the ‘burbs or surrounding cities, which we never got around to because of all our social activities before leaving town. It was amazing how quickly the word got out that we were available and how many people reached out to us.
Our former neighbors asked us to stay at their vacation home in Ecuador at the start of our trip since they did not have it rented for the fall. We enjoyed 7 weeks in a beautiful rammed-earth home at the top of a mountain, and we were spoiled into thinking our travels would be like that all the time. We didn’t plan on doing any more house sitting after that.
It didn’t take long before long-term travel started to wear on us, though. (And no, I’m not looking for any sympathy here.) Little things like brewing your morning coffee, the ability to wash your clothes when you want or to cook a favorite meal are lost when you stay in a series of hostels or hotels, not to mention just having a comfy chair or couch to read a book or a desk to work at your laptop. These kinds of things are not always easily available to the long-term budget traveler.
Over time, we heard about other long-term travelers who used house sitting as a way to meet great people and see the world, most notably Sherry Ott and Pete and Dalene Heck. We followed their advice and it didn’t take long for the offers to start flowing in. We’ve gotten house sitting assignment from friends, other travelers we’ve met along the way, house sitting services, and even friends of friends on Facebook.
Are you a good candidate for house sitting?
As a homeowner is trusting you with their home, you will have to pass certain requirements. Just think about what you’d want in a house sitter:
- Writers, people who work online, long-term travelers, and retired people are excellent candidates for house sitting.
- Someone with experience as a homeowner, ability to troubleshoot small emergencies, and comfort with a range of household pets is highly desirable. (I never realized how much my 3-year term as HOA president for our 10-unit townhouse would benefit us.)
- This is one place where being older has its advantages. Homeowners want someone with experience and maturity, and a 45-year-old is going to get a lot more offers than a 25-year-old.
- Being friendly and communicative with the homeowner is a plus. You will be interacting with their neighbors, delivery people, local merchants, and perhaps friends and business associates who call or come by while the homeowner is gone, and knowing that you are pleasant and follow up appropriately is a bonus.
- References. You have to have good references for house sitting. It doesn’t hurt having a blog or active social media presence where people can easily find out more about you. (Unless what they would find is: “Dude! Out partying til 4 am AGAIN. I’m so wasted” on Twitter.)
How to get started in house sitting
- Start local: Begin house sitting and pet sitting in your local area. Not only will you learn a lot of lessons that are easier to handle close to home, you will gain valuable experience and references for your international house sitting gigs.
- Advertise yourself and network: Sign up for house sitting placement services, tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and make it easy for people to check you out. They are trusting their home to you, after all. Be as specific as possible (“I’ll be in France in August this year and would like to house sit in a village/Paris/farm.”)
- Decide on your availability: Are you traveling long-term, out for summer vacation, or between jobs? Start looking for your house sitting gigs before you need them. Many home owners (though not all) arrange for house sitting long before they need it.
- Calculate travel costs and visa requirements first: It may sound grand to house sit in an Italian villa for 4 months, but if you are not a resident of an EU country, you may not be allowed more than 90 days at a time to spend in Europe, even if you can afford the airfare to get there.
- Realize that most house sitting opportunities are unpaid. Become a house sitter because you want to see the world, learn the local customs, and help out a homeowner. Don’t do it to make a living, because you won’t. Sometimes a there is a small financial transaction, either in money paid to the house sitters by the owners for above-and-beyond type of chores (large animals or managing rental property), or by the house sitters to the homeowner for utilities or other perks (like use of a car) in a long-term house sit in a popular property.
- Be open to opportunities: Not every house sitting gig is going to be your ideal vacation spot (or your ideal season even if it is a great spot), but you can enjoy every single one of them with an open mind. We’ve stayed in cities, villages, the countryside, and on the top of a mountain. Soon we’ll even be in a houseboat. Each one provides a unique way of experiencing a country and could lead to new opportunities from the homeowner’s friends and neighbors.
Our favorite site for housesitting is Trusted Housesitters because of the extensive profile options (including video) and the easier search functions (some of the other sites don’t delete old listings, which makes searching cumbersome). We can search for the upcoming countries we plan to visit and see how a house sitting gig would fit into our travel plans. You can google “house sitting services” to find a variety of options out there, some specializing in specific markets.
To begin following your dream of traveling the world by housesitting, start by creating an plan to make it happen. Pick up a copy of our book, Dream Save Do, and learn how to put actions to your vision and get started today living the life you crave.