Travel & House Sitting in Early Retirement
In 2017 we ended our careers and sold our home in Sydney, deciding we wanted to travel more in early retirement. We really enjoyed our travel vacations, but we wanted more than the four weeks of holidays that we were restricted to each year in our working lives. There had to be a better way to travel the world and see the things that we wanted to in retirement, in an affordable way that didn’t involve too many back-packer budget hostels!
A work colleague provided the answer to our travel dilemma. He mentioned how house sitting could enable us to travel long term, while also reducing our costs by providing a place to stay in exchange for pet care. After some research into the various house sitting websites, we joined Aussie House Sitters and began the process of looking for pet sits locally in New South Wales, Australia.
And just like that we became house sitters!
In March 2018 we were on holiday in northern New South Wales when we saw a post for a pet sit in Ballina for four weeks from mid-December 2018. We were staying nearby at the time, so we arranged to meet with the home owner. Over a cup of tea we made a new friend, met the adorable Romeo, and confirmed our first house sit.
A few weeks later a two week pet sit for October, again near Ballina, was posted. We quickly applied for this house sit too and offered to visit the home owner – that had worked well for us on our first sit, so we thought it would be good to continue in the same way.
We visited the home owner in her beautiful property in the rolling hills of the hinterland behind Byron Bay. As we gazed at the distant macadamia farms, we secured our second house sit in Australia! Two house sitting jobs already secured and we were now keen to plan our overseas travels and organise some international house sits in Europe.
Continuing to secure sits while travelling
In May we did fly to Europe and traveled around the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. We were away for nearly five months. The great thing about the house sitting websites is that they can be viewed anywhere and applications can be made online for any of the pet sits. While we couldn’t always visit the homeowners in these cases, we could still arrange a video or telephone chat to build the trust and reassurance between us.
Another benefit of house sitting websites is that homeowners can view our profile and contact us directly.
Whilst travelling in Spain, we were contacted by a homeowner asking if we could sit for her two dogs in North Turramurra in Sydney. As we knew the area well and the dates worked for our later return home, we accepted the offer. A further house sit assignment was confirmed for September in Corindi Beach near Coffs Harbour, which would be our first ever house sit.
We flew back to Australia from our European travels knowing that we had confirmed 11 weeks of pet sits!
The importance of a good profile when new to house sitting
It was a surprise how easy it had been to apply for these house sits and to be accepted for them, especially as we were totally new to pet sitting. One of the reasons we believe we had such good success was that we had written a strong house sit profile with some good photos.
It’s strange that some sitters do not bother to load photos on their profiles, as it really is key to getting accepted. In a similar manner, we do not apply for any house sits where the owners have not taken the time to include photos.
Meet our first house sit pet, Lucy!
Our time in Europe meant we hadn’t met our first house sit owner before arriving at the handover, so this was really quite an unusual feeling. But this first handover went well and after a chat and a walk along the beach the owner left in a taxi (off to work interstate for three weeks) and we were left with a home to look after and Lucy, her super cute dog.
We loved our twice a day walks with Lucy. She lived near the beach and loved running along the sand, dipping into the ocean and rock pools. She also enjoyed a journey in the car, so we took her up and down the coast with us as we explored the area.
On her return the owner wrote our first house sitting review on AussieHouseSitters which she ended with:
“I’d like to give them a 1 star rating so that I can keep them to myself!”
Luckily for us she did give us 5 stars and it felt like we had reached a real milestone.
Our first “farm sit” with 60 acres of land
When we were in North Turramurra, Sydney, a pet sit on steroids was advertised!
This house sit was in the stunning Upper Hunter Valley, looking after 28 horses, 12 cattle (2 of which were pregnant) and a beautiful Mastiff cross dog with the best name, “T Bone”. We contacted the owner explaining that we had no horse or cattle experience. He asked us if we knew how to look after a swimming pool – indeed we did, and we got the job.
This actually turned out to be a very easy sit. The horses and cattle were self-sufficient, we just needed to walk around the farm and check that there was water in the various troughs, and that none of the animals looked ill. T Bone would join us on our walks around the farm – he really loved exploring the land.
House sit reviews
We always give 100% on each house sit that we take, ensuring we look after the home and the pets as if they were our own. It’s really important to keep in contact with the owners while they’re away. This can be done by sending daily photos of the pets, and we have our own trademark of messaging these images along with humorous comments. All or our home owners have loved this!
It’s been pleasing to see what has been written about us in the reviews that we’ve received. We have been described as “great friendly guys”, “simply the best”, “super nice, friendly, clean and trustworthy” and “charming and interesting gentlemen”!
It makes our hard work seem worthwhile.
Adapting to constant change
It now feels quite normal to us to arrive in a new location to look after a home and the pets that live there. It can feel a bit like staying in an AirBnB accommodation, except that house sitting comes with a couple of bonuses – pets are included, and there’s no payment for accommodation.
To reduce the amount of travelling required, we prefer house and pet sits that are at least two weeks long. This enables us to live like locals and to really get to experience a place in a slower manner. It provides the longer travel experiences we had longed for without having to dash to see everything within just a few days.
Summer overseas in England
Our overseas house sitting adventures have now begun, and so we’ve also joined the international house sitting site, Trusted House Sitters.
Our first confirmed sit through this site was not as “international” as we had hoped for!
It was in East Ballina, in northern New South Wales, 7km from where we were at the time. We messaged the owner and she wrote back to suggest we pop over for coffee to meet everyone, including their Labrador, which we did.
Since joining Trusted House Sitters we have confirmed four house sitting jobs, one in Australia and 3 in the UK. We’ll be house sitting in Devon for three weeks, a further two weeks in Banstead, and then ten days in Cambridge. We used Skype to talk to the owners in Devon who were absolutely lovely, and confirmed our other sits through the messaging system on the platform website.
Feeling grateful for our lifestyle choice
We feel really fortunate to have found all of our pet sits to date. It does take a bit of work looking for and applying for house sits, but it is well worth it. We have met some wonderful people on this journey, stayed in some beautiful homes and looked after some very cute pets. The hardest part is always saying goodbye to the pets that have become part of our lives.
We have really loved spending time with all of the pets that we have sat for – each has their own personality and identity. There is so much more enjoyment in taking a four legged friend for a walk along the river or beach than completing spreadsheets or attending sales meetings as we did in previous lives!
So far our early retirement has been full of amazing travel experiences and we know that we are only just at the beginning of our house sitting journey. We are excited about what might come next!
Ian Gledhill is a qualified accountant and worked in the TV and music industries for 30 years in the UK and Australia. His partner Lloyd was a retail sales director in the UK and a general manager in Australia. They now travel between the northern and southern hemispheres enjoying summer in both. You can follow them at their blog: NomadicSummer.com or on Facebook and Instagram as @ThePetSitBoys
You might also like to read:
- Getting Started – House Sitting in Australia
- Nomadic Retirement – Travel Ideas
- Escaping the Rat Race
- How we took an adult gap year to become international house sitters
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