How to Travel by Housesitting
Sherry Ott lets us in on how to travel for almost nothing by Housesitting.
I’ve been back ‘home’ in the US for 4 months, yet I’m still living out of two suitcases, changing locations every week. I’ve been staying on lakes, farms, and in suburbs; watching cats, dogs, chickens, and horses; gathering mail, picking up dry cleaning, taking out garbage and transporting vehicles. All of this adventure was made possible through house sitting.
I know many people consider house sitting as a way to travel and see the world, so I thought I would try it myself. I first looked into the typical house sitting sites around the web. There is a whole house sitting industry out there – but I quickly found anything which involves travel and free lodging is in demand; everyone wants to do it, and the competition can be tough.
I realized not everyone who owns a house and wants someone to watch it looks to these websites to find sitters. In fact, many homeowners probably don’t even know they exist. In addition, most Americans only travel for a week at a time and don’t consider hiring a house-sitter through a website service; it’s overkill. That’s where I come in; the short term, flexible house sitter!
How do you go about house-sitting for short term engagements?
Be Verbal – Physically and Virtually
I decided to use my network of friends and family to put out the word that I was available to house sit, animal sit, vehicle sit or farm sit – all for two simple things; a bed and an internet connection. I put updates on Facebook, Twitter, and in my monthly Ottsworld newsletter. Even in the electronic world of 2010, word of mouth is still very powerful; tell your friends verbally!
I’ve learned that one of the great things about being older and well traveled is that you are considered trustworthy. However, it’s also good to have a list of references in case you are asked, plus it will help your ‘professional’ house sitting image!
Time and Place is Everything
In order to housesit – you have to put yourself in places where people don’t want to be. For me this meant the Midwest in the winter. Long, cold winters make a winter getaway a necessity in the Northern US. In this part of the country, people have to be concerned with freezing pipes and other issues when they leave their house unoccupied. This is how I found myself housesitting around the Twin Cities and South Dakota for 2 1/2 months.
Parking in long term airport parking can be expensive. That’s where I come in. Not only do I watch the person’s house, but I provide airport pickup and drop off service; utilizing that person’s own car. Sometimes the savings of avoiding airport parking can be worth having me watch a house regardless of pets!
Having a Home Base
I have to admit – I was pretty lucky as most of my house sitting gigs this winter lined up perfectly on the calendar. I’d go right from one to the other as different families had different weeks for vacations. However there are bound to be a few days where you have no house lined up,which leaves you homeless! You need a home base and for me I was lucky I had family in the Twin Cities. Between house-sitting I would stay at my sister’s house for a couple of days until I moved on to the next house. If you don’t have that luxury, then I suggest couch surfing or finding a local hostel for cheaper short term lodging.
Leave a lasting Impression
When house-sitting, my motto is to leave the house in a better condition than when you arrived. My goal is for my visit to appear invisible. I even go as far as bringing my own food to the houses so that I have very little impact on my stay. The last day of my house-sitting is always the cleaning day; sheets, towels, bathrooms, floors, kitchens, and don’t forget to take out the trash. As an added bonus I leave the owners a gift - photography. Since many times I was watching precious pets, I used my photographic skills to capture their furry loved ones; something the owners seldom do themselves.
Whether you are in your home country or traveling around the world, you can put these tips to use whereever you have a network of contacts. So, if your travels find you nomadic, but looking for something different – you may want to reach out to your family and friends around the world and try out short term house-sitting!
Sherry Ott is one of World Reviewer's Bloggers and Expert Contributors. She describes herself as being a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcase to Backpack, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She also runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at Ottsworld. If you are interested in having her housesit for you, contact her at one of her websites!
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