Reality of the House Sitting Travel Lifestyle
What's it really like to be a traveling house sitter?
Having traveled as full-time house sitters for almost 6 years, and part-time for even longer, we can genuinely claim to have experienced a wide variety of house sits, in different destinations around the world. To date we have completed over 100 house sits!
The point being… we see A LOT of what goes on "behind the scenes" in our sector.
Is being a full-time house sitter REALLY the perfect lifestyle?
On the outside, and for anyone new to house and pet sitting, it can seem that if you're looking for an alternative travel or lifestyle experience, house sitting travel is the perfect answer.
That's because house sitting is often glamorized and promoted as the "dream lifestyle".
Honestly, you'll be led to believe that before you know it, you'll be saving tens of thousands of pounds, living in million dollar homes, in glamorous destinations all over the world, with little more to do than sit by the pool with your cocktail. You might even fall under the illusion and popular misconception that you can "travel for free".
Well of course, that isn't true!
But here's where some confusion lies and it's something we want to try and set straight.
For anyone starting out house sitting, or who is a little disillusioned with their initial results, we want to give a bit more clarity about the true nature of house sitting.
Oooh… I'm starting to feel like Louis Theroux on an undercover mission!!
But first, let me start by telling you about a recent house sit.
We arrived back in the UK during the summer months and we're looking after a stunning home in Essex, taking care of 2 adorable black labs.
Our house is, in fact, a million dollar home… and some. It has a heated swimming pool and a fair bit of land. The home owners are incredible, generous people, the dogs well trained, and it's very likely this will top our list of all time awesome house sit jobs.
We don't ever photograph or publicly make known exactly where we are house sitting, but if you were to see this property, you would think that everything you've read about house sitting is true!
Let's be honest about house sitting now...
In reality, it's unlikely (but not impossible), that you would land a house sit of this caliber as your first ever assignment. This house sitting job has been the culmination of years of full-time experience, successfully looking after luxury homes and a vast array of pets, resulting in consistent five star reviews. That's not to say you shouldn't try of course, but be prepared for some rejection - just don't take it personally!
First Time Success - There are people who, with the right approach, having done sound research, have secured awesome house sits first time around - you can read the stories of some of those successful house sitters here in this collaborative article
We have a reliable, trusted and credible house sitting profile - our house sitting resume stands us in good stead. Just like a good career resume or CV would.
I'm giving you this luxury house sit example because it's the reason why it's so easy for those of us living the house sitting travel lifestyle, to sing it's praises, rave about it, thank our lucky stars, and want to inspire others to follow in our footsteps.
And consider this. If you've slogged away at a job for years, trapped by materialism, longing for a break and a happier life, and you land house sits that are in beautiful homes, allowing extended travel in distant dream-like locations, cuddling up to gentle, affectionate pets, then you wouldn't be wrong in jumping for joy, thinking you've just landed the best job ever!
We wouldn't blame you at all, and we are guilty of exactly the same.
Is house sitting a job?
Looking after someone's house, possessions and pets, carrying out daily routines, walking the dogs, cleaning the property, maybe doing a bit of gardening… it is a job as well!
"Tough job" I hear you say, and I agree, it's pretty good as jobs go.
But it's NOT the same as going on vacation and renting an Airbnb property, and it's definitely not like staying in a hotel.
So if that's what you're after, house sitting ain't for you!
Being a house sitter isn't just about getting a cheap holiday or free rent
For starters, you will have responsibilities - in almost all cases, the pets come first!
Remember when you had pets? Well the same applies. There will be duties you'll need to work into your day. You might have to get up early to feed dogs, cats, chickens, horses… and take your charges for walks, whatever the weather, once or even twice a day.
You can't go off for an overnight stay with friends on a whim, in fact, at most house sits you can't even have your friends and family round to stay.
All of this will depend on the house-sit and the expectations of the home and pet owner, but suffice to say, you can't just do what you want, when you want, get to the end of your house sitting vacation, throw the towels in the bath, and hand the keys back. Or if you do, it will probably be one of your last house sit jobs, because this isn't what house sitting is about.
You may (but not always) spend less on your holiday, and as a full-timer you'll no doubt save a lot of money on accommodation, BUT this shouldn't be your primary reason for wanting to house sit, or you could end up disappointed.
We cover the topic of what a house sitter does and expectations of both sitters and homeowners, more deeply here but for now, we want to talk more about how house sitting is just one part of our "perfect" lifestyle.
And, we think this is where we might sometimes confuse those looking in from the outside. People who want to live like us, but who are enticed into international house sitting for the wrong reasons.
House sitting is just a part of our travel lifestyle
Our traveling lifestyle comprises many aspects - some work, some play:
- Belonging to and promoting our sharing trust based community
- Travel and adventure between house sits
- Local exploration on house sits
- Living with and dealing with cultural challenges
- The logistics and planning of travel
- House and pet sitting "duties" including pet care, exercise and maintaining daily routines
- Our part-time online jobs that create our remote income to fund our travels
- Connecting with like-minds along the way
- Returning home to spend quality time with family and friends
We equate house and pet sitting with the "job" elements within our overall lifestyle, and if you do this too you can think about it with a different mindset. As in every other lifestyle choice where you work, you'll have "good days" in your "job", not so good times, and occasionally, out and out shitty experiences.
A tough day at work
In house sitting terms, a "tough day at work" means sometimes things might go wrong with the property, pets get sick, or you might not "click" with your homeowners. You might not find all the creature comforts you're used to, or the property might not meet your own standards of cleanliness.
External events, extreme weather and temperatures, transport strikes, wild fires, critters and insects, and the like, might all conspire to interfere with your plans or present challenges totally alien to you.
There's no doubt that there may occasionally be stressful times and when you don't have the back-up of a work team to support you.
If your first house sit involves any of the above (and In the "perfect lifestyle" scenario), you might now find yourself not quite so enamored with house and pet sitting.
You wonder where you've gone wrong, or whether everyone is misleading you about the way they live as house sitters!
But then the next pets come along, in a new location and an ideal home, with the opportunity to experience something different and unique - and all is rosy in the garden once more!
The truth is there will be "ups" and there will be "downs" and this might happen as part of your house sit, travel logistics, in-between sit adventures... or any part of your lifestyle.
In a few rare cases there might even be some very difficult situations to deal with, as could happen in your life at any time. Sometimes you might need to get the platform involved, especially if a house sit has been mis-represented. Or turn to fellow house sitters for support - which is where online forums come in to their own if properly moderated.
We really do believe it's important to find your house sits (or sitters) from a reputable house sitting site where some form of ID check is carried out, where reviews can be read and where there is someone to contact in the event of a problem.
To learn more about how to select the best house sitting site for your needs, this article might help:
A mindset adjustment
It's important to see house and pet sitting as just one part of your lifestyle design, and to realize that you are in a temporary job (the house sit), with a temporary employer (the homeowner).
Despite this being a trust-based exchange, we believe having this mindset can help rationalize the situations that occasionally go awry.
I'd like to be clear too, that doing due diligence and following best practices is also key to being a successful house sitter. And, if you consider taking a house sit that isn't advertised on a secure house sitting website, that due diligence will need to be much more thorough.
But, In 99% of cases, house sitting will NEVER feel like a job in the sense of the word as you used to know. In the same way that retirement takes on a whole new meaning as a traveling house sitter.
It will be a fun travel experience, or an alternative more meaningful vacation option, with a chance to bond and care for other people's pets.
Only in a very very small percentage of sits will it feel like the worst job on earth!
Really, as we keep saying, house and pet sitting is just one part of your overall lifestyle - and that overall lifestyle is pretty damn awesome!
I think that's often why in Facebook groups and forums, you see the occasional and sometimes seemingly insensitive remark when someone expresses a problem with their sit, suggesting you "get over it and move on".
Think back to "life before house sitting" when you were caught up in the trap of mainstream society. Didn't you have bad days then, terrible days in fact? And you probably suffered a lot more stress than you'll ever experience in your travelling house sitter lifestyle.
We've found we've had to adjust our expectations, and work hard to connect with home owners who are like-minded, with the same standards we have, who have a similar outlook on life and care for their pets in the same or similar way we did with our own animals.
In this way we continue to avoid difficult situations.
What makes up our perfect travel lifestyle?
For us this IS the "perfect travel lifestyle" - but it's made up of much more than just house sitting. For others it may be their perfect retirement lifestyle, or their perfect way to work remotely.
There are so many benefits that massively outweigh how we used to live:
- We work part-time when we want
- We do what we enjoy, part of which is house sitting
- We travel "slowly" all over the world
- We take "between sit" travel adventures… a month in Cuba, a road trip in Australia
- We have time to eat and live healthily
- We experience very little stress
- We have pets around us always
- We have eliminated accommodation costs, utilities, and other home expenses
- We have been liberated from the worry that comes with owning expensive possessions - property, cars, etc.
- We've escaped the rat race
- We have control over our life and how we live it
When we say we love the house sitting lifestyle, or that it's our "perfect lifestyle", it's because of all these things. Being a house sitter is just a part of the whole!
Over the last 2 years we've got most of our house sits through international house sit platform, Trusted Housesitters. If you are interested in joining and want to save 25%, just click the link below - the discount will be applied automatically!
Do house sits ever go bad?
We aren't suggesting you disregard the bad sits and pretend they didn't happen.
Not at all.
They do and they can be hell for part or all of a sit, and for so many reasons, especially if there's a conflict with the home owner. It's important to know that you are supported by the community and the house sitting platforms during these times.
But this can also an opportunity to learn more about yourself, your skills, how you deal with challenges or conflict - a chance to be a better you. Or at the very least, it can help perfect your future exchanges and experiences, protecting against another bad house sit situation.
Think "Human Resources" - companies have an HR department partly to deal with disputes between workers, and workers and management. As a house sitter you are encountering so many different personalities and "work" environments, yet you have to be your own little HR department, often with no-one else to help. That's along with all the other self-management skills you'll find yourself developing!
Putting it all into perspective
First of all, don't be put off.
With almost 100 house sits under our belt since we hit the road 7 years ago, and in some very challenging environments (off-grid, island based, in tropical environments and harsh remote locations), this is the sum total of our "less than good" experiences:
- On our very first sit, a radiator pipe burst soaking into an under-stairs' cupboard.
- In Fiji we had to evacuate pets, and prepare for and cleanup after devastating Category 5 Cyclone Winston - the largest ever to hit the region with sustained winds of 285 km/h - leaving 44 people dead.
- In Africa we had a total mismatch of expectations.
- In Australia we had to prepare for a bush fire one block from the house.
- Around the world we've had a few houses that were not as clean as we'd have liked.
Of these, only 2 house sits, Fiji and Africa, caused us any real problems - both stories in their own right. We learned from both.
The bush fire, however, didn't reach the property. We had a stressful couple of hours preparing for the worst, but it was contained and we were all safe. The burst radiator was isolated within minutes (always ask where the water cut-off is!), and the less-than-clean properties involved a few hours of cleaning before we could relax.
All of these were in our first year of house sitting, when we were finding our way, learning about due diligence and best practices as we became more experienced house sitters.
And of course this year, in 2020, we have had to negotiate the Covid pandemic to continue to provide safe sits for all concerned, in both England and France.
What about house sit cancellations?
These can happen for sitters and home owners, and while rare, you have to allow for emergencies beyond your control. It's important to always have a Plan B!
In all our sits we've only ever had 2 cancellations - the first gave us alternative accommodation for two weeks, the second, just recently, was a short weekender - we took the opportunity to catch up with family instead. Having adequate funds to cover these unexpected changes of plan is important - you can't claim on travel insurance for a cancelled house sit.
Update 2021: Covid-19 is causing travel disruptions all over the world that are having an impact on availability of house sits, and it's inevitable that more cancellations will occur. To read more about how to stay safe and to think about Plan B options, take a read of these two recent articles:
House sitting is 100% better than any day job!
Here's the reality of house sitting for us…
- House sitting is just one "part of" a pretty perfect travel or location independent lifestyle.
- Things will occasionally go wrong, and we need to be adaptable, flexible and always have a backup plan.
- Trusting our instinct is VERY IMPORTANT.
- The pets come first! Our day is not always our own - pets and their routines need to be maintained and seen as priority. But our travel adventures between sits more than compensate for that.
- We don't connect long-term with everyone we meet, but we have also made many like-minded friends along the way.
- We've discovered some of the most generous people ever are part of the house sitting community.
If house sitting isn't really for you - don't do it!
If it doesn't work for you, don't force house sitting to fit your lifestyle. Especially if the love for animals isn't there.
Find another way to travel, another way to retire even - there are plenty of options available these days, even for the budget conscious. But at all times remember, house sitting is just one part of your lifestyle, and it's the overall lifestyle that is freaking awesome!
It works for us, and we've found nothing yet that compares!
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Last updated on August 7th, 2021