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Six weeks in Thailand on the beach with a dog. One month in Paris at Christmastime with a cat. Five weeks in a quintessential English countryside village with two dogs. If you could have told us that we would be the housesitters for these long-term housesitting gigs when we started globe-hopping in 2014, we never would have believed you.
In fact, when we first started traveling full time, housesitting wasn’t even on our radar. The entire point of ‘quitting our jobs to travel the world’ was to be free of responsibilities and to cut ties with commitments. We wanted the freedom to roam (and roam we did!). As we circled the earth in our first year of travel, however, two things became abundantly clear: One, we desperately wanted to keep traveling and Two, the cost of accommodations was going to be a hindrance until we could establish an income.
The Solution: Long Term Housesitting.
What Is Long Term Housesitting?
First, let’s answer the question: What is a House Sitter? A house watcher is someone (a solo person, couple or a family) who stays in a home and takes care of it in the owner’s absence. In many cases, it also means taking care of the owner’s pets. The house sitter job can be a paid position – but, often house sitters provide services unpaid in exchange for a free place to live.
Long Term Housesitting is when sitters stay in a home for an extended period of time – usually a month or longer.
Long Term House Sitting: The Pros and Cons
Practically speaking, the exchange is fair (and incredibly beneficial to full-time, budget-conscious travelers, like us!). Pet owners can save money (and the stress!) of boarding pets by welcoming unpaid sitters into their home. Housesitters can save money on accommodations and stay in houses for free by taking care of the house and pets while the homeowners are away on vacation. It is clearly a win-win scenario.
Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast.
Doubts Of Becoming Long Term House Sitters
While long term housesitting certainly provides a unique way to travel the world, we were not immediately sold on the idea. Who lets strangers into their home – to sleep in their bed! – and trusts them to take care of their pets while they are gone?
The idea of it was initially so daunting that we couldn’t wrap our heads around it. (But to answer the question: many of homeowners do it…and, no, they are not crazy!)
Truthfully, at first, it was more than just questioning the owner’s sanity that kept us from becoming long term housesitters. We knew that by accepting free rent for house sitting services, we were relinquishing some of the freedoms of travel. Caring for someone else’s pets and home is a big responsibility, and we knew we would not take it lightly.
To further complicate the decision, I (Sarah) have never owned pets – not even as a kid (except for an inbreeding family of gerbils, a goldfish and a hermit crab, but those hardly compare to a beloved family dog or cherished cat). On top of that, my hesitation to become a pet sitter was exponentially increased by the fact that I was intensely afraid of large dogs; it wasn’t that I didn’t like them…I had a true and irrational phobia.
How We Became Long Term House Sitters
We debated, agonized, theorized, questioned and speculated whether or not we could be long term house and pet sitters. Just like when we decided to become full-time travelers, we had to analyze whether house sitting long term was right for us.
The pros of becoming pet watchers were obvious, but it took a blind leap of faith to overcome our mental obstacles. After much squabbling, we took baby steps to engage in the housesitting community. We peeked at long term house sitting jobs online, just to see what kind of opportunities were available…and we were definitely intrigued. When there was a sale on membership to the best housesitting website – Trusted Housesitters – we finally took the plunge, signed up and created our profile.
Becoming Long Term Housesitters
After we joined Trusted Housesitters, it took us 3 months and more than 50 applications to land our first housesitting gig. It was frustrating and we began to wonder again if being pet watchers was in the cards for us. But, then – by some miracle – a couple in London selected us to be their house and pet sitters. It was a monumental moment for us – and we made that housesit our final stop on our initial year-long Around The World trip.
Housesitting In London
The London housesit was with one dog, Woody – a handsome Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier who had a set walking schedule, his own Fitbit and daily mind exercises to complete. On the day of the owners’ departure, we awkwardly and excitedly arrived at their house with our luggage. I even took more notes than I had on our first meet-and-greet, scribbling furiously in my journal as they shared a few more details about quirks of the house and Woody’s routine. Then, they left; they walked right out the front door and left us in their home, with their dog – and it all felt so surreal.
During our housesit in London, we were hyper-focused on earning a 5-star review. We stuck to the routine exactly as outlined and kept a daily log of Woody’s activities. We meticulously cleaned the house – after cooking a casserole, I spent a solid 2 hours cleaning the oven (even though it barely made a splatter). We were diligent to complete the instructions verbatim and were determined not to leave a single spot behind.
Despite the anxiety, we were jazzed by the reality of our situation. We were living in a swanky London flat in an amazing neighborhood, hanging out with locals at the park and the pub with Woody – and we were not paying a pound to live there.
With our impending return trip to the United States and fear of our travels coming to an end, we scoured the TrustedHousesitters website for long term house sitter jobs…and we landed one in Australia.
House Sitting Long Term In Australia
The house sitter job in Melbourne, Australia was for 7 weeks – and it aligned perfectly with our desired departure from the US. In some ways, the impending housesit was the only thing that kept us sane as we experienced reverse culture shock and the end-of-travel blues during our 1 month visit in the States.
Right away, we realized that the Melbourne housesit would be drastically different from the London housesitting gig. The home we were sitting was tucked away in the suburbs an hour from the city center by train, which was quite a distance from our typical accommodations. We, of course, knew this when we signed on, but housesitting in the suburbs was certainly a change to our travel style.
That said, it was a comfy family home and we were in the company of a feisty young Jack Russell Terrier named Tess – and she absolutely stole our hearts. Tess didn’t have much in the way of a routine; we walked her whenever we got up and fed her whenever we ate. She slept outside in her doghouse and could be left in the fenced yard for long stretches of time, even all day when we went into the city.
However, rather than regularly seeking out top attractions in the city, we got to know our neighborhood. The owners’ friends took us out to dinner at a local restaurant, a neighbor invited us into her house for a meal (and subsequently took us on a trip to meet her family, who we still keep in touch with!). Rather than feeling like tourists in a foreign land, we began to feel a sense of ‘home’ – which was a first for us at the time.
Much more confident and relaxed during our second housesitting experience, we settled in and the 7-weeks flew by without issues or concerns.
We were getting into the swing of housesitting – and relishing the encouraging outlook on our budget. In fact, our first two phenomenal experiences coupled with the reprieve from paying for accommodation costs inspired us to take on an even longer housesit: Two and a half months in the Netherlands.
Long Term House Sitting In The Netherlands
When we agreed to dog and housesitting in the Netherlands, I had some apprehensions…well, one big apprehension. The idyllic village of Beek was quaint, the home was cozy and the nearby historic city of Nijmegen was within easy reach. However, the pet in our care was Berus, a 90-pound Hovawart German watchdog…and I was terrified that my big dog phobia would wreak havoc on our housesitting job.
Our first meeting did nothing to quell my fears. The lovely owners met us at the train station with Berus, where he greeted us with a fierce bark and showed his full size when he reared up on his hind legs to reveal his massive height of 6 feet. He was intense and humungous – and I had serious doubts that he would even let us into his house.
Fortunately, he did let us into the house (I don’t know what we would have done if he hadn’t!). He warmed up to Kris right away and he quietly nudged his way into my heart. After just a few days, he became our hiking pal, my napping partner and our trusty protector. We formed a real bond with Berus, and of all the pets we have cared for, he was one of the hardest to part with when the owners returned. An emotion we hadn’t fully considered when petsitting.
Professional House Sitters
After the Netherlands, we spent 5 months house and dog sitting in Costa Rica, then a month house and dog sitting in Slovenia. We bounced around Europe housesitting until we traveled back to Australia for a month-long pet sit in Brisbane, followed by another month with a cat in Melbourne. In 2018, we were long term housesitters in the USA, Europe and Asia – honing our pet sitting services and skills at each stop.
In all, we have stayed with cats, dogs and even turtles in more than 20 homes on 5 continents. We still typically offer our home sitting services in exchange for free accommodation – mostly because we love the community of like-minded individuals, but also because it allows us to dictate where we travel and for how long.
Ultimately, pet and house sitting have changed not only the way we travel – but our ability to travel full-time. With long term house sitting, we can travel and feel at home simultaneously. Housesitting has become an integral part of our travel style…and every housesit is a new adventure.
How To Find Long Term House Sitting Jobs
As already mentioned, we struggled to get our initial pet sitting job. However, after our first 3 pet sits as live-in house sitters, it became easier to get long term pet sitting jobs. This is mostly attributed to obtaining 5-star reviews for every housesit we have completed.
If you are ready to start seeking out long-term house sitting opportunities, use our tips in our blog post, International House Sitting: How To House and Pet Sit Worldwide.
We Want To Know: Is long term house sitting part of your travel plan? What do you think are the pros and cons of being a long term housesitter? Tell us in the comments!
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