House sitting holidays as a slow travel experience
House sitting holidays as a travel option
House sitting holidays offer a travel alternative, not only for full-time nomads and retirees, but also for those wanting to experience a different kind of short vacation - a more immersive break, where you give something back, exchanging your pet care expertise for a place to stay. Both parties experience an exchange of value.
Traveling has become more and more stressful, as so many people have the financial means to organize trips away to visit popular destinations around the world. Coupled with a wide range of accommodation options and prices, it's becoming easier for all ages, from the young gap-year students to the more adventurous retirees and seniors, to travel further, and more frequently.
A house sitting vacation allows you to stay in a comfortable home caring for other people's pets, with time to really explore a local area.
Escape the crowds and travel slow
I don't know about you, but we find popular sight-seeing locations are now often over-run by tourists, pricey to visit, and in some cases you have to book a long way in advance to gain access, especially in the busier summer seasons. Trying to visit the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, for instance, can become a logistical challenge! And trying to see the object of your visit over a sea of mobile phones and selfie sticks is quite disconcerting at times.
We like that house sitting offers us a slower, more relaxed way of traveling. If you enjoy getting away and also love having pets around, it could be the perfect solution for spending quality time in a destination. You'll also get a more insightful glimpse into the local culture.
More often than not, your house sitting holiday will be in a residential area away from the high prices and overcrowded hotels and B&B's around major tourist sites. Tips you'll get from the homeowners who know their area well, can sometimes far exceed the "popular" tourist traps. We've found many a place to visit, quiet beaches, and to die-for cafes, by chatting with other dog owners in local parks while pet sitting!
Make your money go further
On the other hand, if you do want to stay in a fabulous city, or other tourist area, a house sitting vacation close by will give you more time to explore, with the added benefit of cost savings, making your money go much further. For instance, being able to cook and eat at home can increase your budget so that there is more available to pay for some of the more pricey iconic attractions.
We spent last Christmas house sitting in an expensive suburb of London - something we would never normally be able to afford, especially at this time of the year. But just think about how much money you spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner when on vacation - take that out of the equation and you've got a whole lot more money to enjoy your city break!
House sitting also negates the pressure of finding somewhere to eat out 2 or 3 times a day and gives you the opportunity to sample markets and local produce - and you can always use your savings to treat yourself to a special dinner!
It's a more sustainable way of traveling too - far less wastage on many levels!
Not owning pets doesn't make you any less caring
The pets do always come first, so you'll need to factor that into your planning, but for most animal lovers this isn't a chore, it's part of what makes house and pet sitting special.
Many pet part-time pet sitters don't have the working lifestyle that accommodates keeping dogs, cats and other pets of their own. Apartment living doesn't always allow for pets, or isn't practical. That doesn't mean there's any less of a love of animals. House sitting satisfies the "pet love" fix as you share your time with your temporary charges, making your vacation even more meaningful.
House sitting holidays are safe for solo travelers
It's not just couples and families that benefit from part-time house sitting. Solo travelers find house sitting vacations are a great way to enjoy a more immersive time away in a safe environment.
According to The Guardian Newspaper, there is a rise in solo travelers opting for trips that allow them to "do what they want". "Around 15% of travelers took a trip on their own - up from 12% on the previous year". The age range with the biggest increase was that of 35-44 years old.
We get asked over and over whether house sitting works for solo travelers and it most certainly does. If you have a small apartment and a couple of kitties, or a timid pet that's may be a little nervous around new people, then a single person is sometimes preferable to a couple.
It will depend on the complexity of duties and the size of the property - a big off-grid house, with 5 dogs would in many cases necessitate a couple. Here are two relevant articles to read if you are interested in solo house sitting.
It can be more social too - as a single person walking a dog, you'll often find people stop and chat - the exercise routine can be quite an interactive event!
Stories from part-time house sitters
If you are not convinced, take a read of 3 stories from people who house sit part-time. Discover their motivations, how they benefit, and exactly how they incorporate this alternative option for travel, into their existing lifestyle.
Steve Ullman (USA)
I love to travel, but not as a tourist. And I love animals. So, when I discovered the world of house sitting, it was a perfect match.
Unlike some, I don't house sit full-time. Professionally, I am a theatre producer and much of my work can be done from anywhere in the world, provided I have an internet connection. Of course, when a show is going into production, I must be there, so part-time house sitting fits perfectly with my lifestyle.
I began house sitting in the Brittany region of France. It took several applications before I landed the first one, but it helped that I had some references from friends who I'd sat for, before I registered with the TrustedHousesitters house sitting website. If you are new to house sitting, be patient and apply to any and all sits that interest you. And, when you compete a sit, be sure to get a review or reference from the homeowner. Reviews really are the key to getting more sits.
Arriving at my first sit, I was nervous - all sorts of questions ran through my mind. Would I do everything correctly? What if something happened to the dog for whom I was caring? How many hours would be required to tend to the vast yard and gardens?
And then it was all fine. I fell in love with the system of reciprocity – a homeowner wants to travel and have a responsible adult care for their loved one(s) and home, and I want to travel and am happy to provide those services.
I've now completed more sits than I can count in nearly five years and have done so all over France, in England, Italy (2 dogs, 1 semi-feral cat, two pigeons (one with only one leg) and 7 alpacas on a large farm in Tuscany), New York, San Francisco and the Bay Area, San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and more. I've had to take animals to vets, give medications, contact the homeowner about a medical emergency, etc., but things always work out.
Here are a couple of things I make sure to do on every sit:
- Keep in touch with the homeowner very regularly, sending texts and pics of their babies almost daily.
- Always leave a home neater and cleaner than I found it, which gets mentioned in my reviews.
When I embarked on this journey, I thought it was about the travel, but it is so much more. I've established deep friendships, lived as a local, and discovered places I would have never known or chosen to visit otherwise. I have even found the village in the south of France where I'm looking to buy a house and "retire" - although honestly that word isn't really in my vocabulary!
Carolyn Hansen (New Zealand)
When we decided a take a year off to travel and explore (mainly Spain) we looked for ways to maximize our experience and reduce our costs. Short term house sitting appealed to us on many fronts, it would give us a home base for "normal" living, allow us to meet new people and their pets, and introduce us to parts of the country we hoped to see more of. For us, house sitting was only a part of our adventure, not the sole reason for our time in Spain, and we weren't desperate for back-to-back or long-term sits.
We had only four confirmed house sits (one in the South of France and three in Spain) before we left New Zealand, which gave us some initial destinations to aim for. We wanted to explore as much of Spain as we could and so based our applications on areas that offered us a jumping board, and didn't limit our options to travel between sits. More and more openings gave us home bases all across the south of Spain and allowed us the time and opportunity to travel around the rest of Spain (and beyond) between our house sit stays.
Because we didn't need to glove-tail our house sits, we could be patient and wait for the right assignments. In the end, over 10 months we completed 16 house sits in Spain, and cared for numerous dogs, cats, chickens and fish. They were mainly short term house sits, ranging from 4 days to 5 weeks, but with most averaging 10-15 days. The most time we had without a sit was a month. This was a planned break to allow us to cruise the Baltic Sea and see the north of Spain.
Knowing we would need to budget for a rental car and cheaper accommodation (if there were no house sits for extended periods of time), meant we did save up for our year away. For us this year was about the adventure, rather than living away from home with minimal personal cost. We knew this year would cost us financially, but having these wonderful opportunities to look after homes and pets added so much to our experience.
As the year went on, we were invited back for two return sits and built up wonderful relationships with the homeowners. As a result of house sitting and recommendations from homeowners, we stayed in places well off the tourist tracks and discovered far more than just the known must-sees. We traveled far and wide and saw almost all of Spain, had a taste of Portugal, and Morocco, and so much more between our scheduled house sits.
It was such a wonderful experience that we decided to continue this lifestyle and are now committed to at least seven months of (almost) full-time house sitting back in our home country of New Zealand. Now, we WILL be looking at back-to-back, longer term opportunities, and have already confirmed over eight different locations. It will be interesting to see how a more full time year of house sitting works for us.
You can see how things work out at KiwisOnAdventure.com
Jane & Dan (Australia)
We both love animals, particularly dogs, and traveling is in our veins. But living in a townhouse has its restrictions when it comes to owning pets. And, having pets, as you may well be aware, restricts the ability to travel at a whim! So, when Dan decided to take early retirement two years ago while I was working freelance part-time, house and pet sitting seemed like the ideal solution.
Our first opportunity arose through close friends here in Brisbane. We moved into their apartment for two weeks to look after their little dog whilst they went on an overseas holiday. Despite knowing their dog well and having been to their home many times, it took us a few days to adjust and settle in. However, by the end of our first week, neither of us wanted to return home. We were hooked!
The next sit came through friends of friends – a month long sit with a lovely old black lab on the Gold Coast. The dates coincided perfectly with my contract end date, so there was no question for us in accepting the offer. The home owners were so happy, they booked us in for another month the same time the following year.
We quickly got to thinking about how we could make this a lifestyle. Not only were we enjoying the change of scenery with a regular base and wonderful pets to hang out with and care for, we also found ourselves meeting new and fascinating people – at the beach, the park, at cafes and just walking around the block!
After browsing the web, we discovered the House Sitting Magazine Facebook Group which opened our eyes to the global possibilities on offer. This in turn led us to join TrustedHousesitters in the hope of more opportunities to travel abroad in-between my work contracts.
Amazingly, we scored the first sit we applied for – in Thailand. We couldn't believe our luck and not only did we fall in love with the dog and enjoy living like the locals, but we have since become very good friends with the home owners and have kept in regular weekly contact. We just recently returned from another wonderful sit with two adorable dogs in New Zealand - another success for us with TrustedHousesitters.
There isn't a day I don't check the available assignments around the globe or jump online to see what everyone else is up to. Whilst our long-term goal is to travel overseas house and pet sitting for an extended period, we are currently bound by some family commitments, and are not quite ready to "take off" in the way we had initially hoped to.
For now, we'll continue to take time out when and as we can, either overseas or within Australia, be it a few days or a few weeks. And of course, we'll continue to plan for that future "lifestyle choice" - it's under our skin now!
You can keep up-to-date with Jan and Dan's adventures here on Instagram
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Last updated on March 24th, 2021