House Sitting, a fairly newer if not even known concept for Americans but a Big deal and quite normal for Australians where the concept seems to have originated based on activity and websites I’ve read.
Usually House Sitting is a NON paid, (although sometimes you can get paid) gig whereby you, the house sitter, stay in someone’s home whilst they are away on holiday. Usually, again exceptions to every rule, you stay for Free in exchange for taking care of their home and most the time, taking care of pets/animals. You can get house sits with no animals as well.
In Europe, many areas are remote and people need someone in the homes for security reasons and peace of mind to the homeowner for things like taking in the mail and communicating to the homeowners any emergency business matters in the mailings.
Ensuring the toilets are being flushed and kept going, making sure gardeners are coming on time if employed, or you become the gardener in exchange for free lodging! Sending emails or skype feedback to the owners as they travel and can be assured that all is well back home.
We joined a house sitting site, Trusted House Sitters, http://www.trustedhousesitters.com. We pay money to join and the homeowner pays money to join, to give somewhat of a security blanket of both parties being registered to the website with personal information and credit cards. (INTERESTED? in doing this yourself? email me and I can save you 20% on membership) In America it is more common to have to get a Police Report attached to the website. You have to go thru different processes in each State so consult the website for your area. In Europe, it seems people are much more trusting and the process of police reports aren’t needed as much. (don’t mind doing them but they are a bit of handwork to obtain)
Daily you receive updates of house sits available and you email the homeowners to the ones you qualify and want to do. The downside is there are ALOT more house sitters than home owners so you have to be a really good writer and have a good website online to convince homeowners you are the one to stay in their home! Be creative, highlight ALL your skills that help you be a good house sitter or pet sitter.
Then once they find interest in you, normally you talk via phone or skype/facetime to do a meet and greet. Then you both agree and boom you have free lodging from several days to months or even a year in some house sits!
We use the house sits as our itinerary telling us where to go next and finding places we would have Never gone to or thought to go to. You get to live like a local to really see if you like that area or not. Its a great way to test an area if you are thinking of moving. Or its just a great way to see a country/town thru the eyes of those that live there. Really get to Know a place versus just visiting.
However! (you knew there was a catch right?) However, if fancy hotel rooms, maid service and fresh sheets/towels each day is your idea of a holiday, then house sitting is Not for you! Housesitting and living like a local, is well, living like a local and/or a homeowner. Meaning, you have the house to keep clean, do dishes, cook at home, clean bathrooms, bring in the mail and sometimes even mow the lawn! If they have pets, then there is the responsibility of having to be gone no more than 4 hrs at a time to entertain and keep company the animals. Feeding them, loving them, cleaning cages, picking up poo-animal owner type of things. also communicating with the owners is an important part of the house sit as well. Either emailing or skyping to fill them in on the weekly goings on of the household. Being responsible is a Must. Plenty of time to have fun, but just like at home, responsibilities are a priority.
The owners expect you to be them or even better than them, at keeping the house clean and loving and tending to the animals. If you aren’t prepared to share your holiday fun with those duties and responsibilities, then its not a good match. We love it, have met great people, stayed in nice homes, and loved on cute fur babies. There’s been some tougher assignments, not all have been perfect, but all have offered something that was unique and great and staying for free in top Holiday Destinations is pretty awesome.
Our last castle for the day but we saw a total of 8-9, we lost count all in one day! Other than Scotland, I am thinking Wales has the most castles anywhere! If the google search is correct, Wales is THE capital of castles in all of Europe with 600. So I guess we didn’t even begin to see them all!
Its good to plan your trip with the most famous/largest but along the way to those, be on the look out for the road markers that say Castle and be prepared to stop on a turn and find ones that don’t rank for the maps! What a great day of finding all we could but we missed quite a few too! ( 591!)
“1000 Places to see before you die” is my Bible and my guide. A friend bought it for me back in 2000 and I have drooled over it and carried it with me on every trip ever since! As a guideline of areas/places I would have never thought of, never even heard of; it enhanced my already wander lust and made it my burning desire to ensure I highlight every page before I die! (I use a yellow or pink highlighter and cross out destinations, each time we go somewhere in the book.) A deep sense of satisfaction comes over me with every area highlighted. Thanks to this book we have had some crazy adventures like our road trip to Oklahoma and going to “Truth or Consequences, New Mexico” because it was in the book. (pretty sure Darren tried to burn the book after that holiday. Sorry to New Mexico and the book, but that is one page/stop we can help you to skip!)
But other amazing adventures have been had due to the book leading us there. San Miguel De Allende is one of those places. Spectacular.
And Amazing New friends are met, that you would have never known if you stayed in one place.
Back to why we would leave California and San Diego specifically; really for me, its because my feet feel like a gypsy. Travel is my drug, its what gets me excited, its what got me thru the worst economic collapse where we had to Fight to stay alive and keep our houses and business going. The reward was always the trip at the end, the money to get to go on the trip. Until I realized, 2-3 weeks per year just wasn’t enough to get it all done and I wanted to get started before I couldn’t hike, sail, jump on trains, etc physically any longer. I wanted to see it all and it was always my answer when I asked the question: “If you were told you had 1 yr left to live, what would you regret the most?” My answer was always, “all the things I missed seeing, all the places I didn’t get to go”. My bucket list was HUGE for travel so I had to get started Now! There was a time that we thought we would never leave California, but with each and every destination and trip we took, we realized regardless of how nice California is, it was time for us to get going thruout the world and of course, EUROPE was our go to destination, as it is for most people. Where else can you road trip to other countries not just another state? Until we can cross off all those countries off in THE book, we are UK/Europe tethered. I want to be at a cafe talking to other ex-pats and when they say: “have you been to …….” I can say YES, and we find that common denominator for all world travelers; Great stories of those exotic places you have both been to. Fabulous stories of the locals, the food, the smells and the joy of discovering something new and being able to share those stories with others that have gypsy feet like me. We can’t wait to see what each new destination brings: people/food/experiences. You never know when you are on a random island and someone asks you to crew on a 160 foot Yacht! Never know when you find yourself at dinner in Champagne, France with an entire group of non English speaking people, using your iPhone to translate an entire dinner conversation and it works! You never know………..there are so MANY adventures awaiting and we are so excited to see what that might be.
The incredible adventure of having No Idea what is around the corner, that is really Why you leave the comforts of home, the love of family and holidays together. Those smells of a new city, the feel of a new guidebook in my hand, learning new languages and more, that is why we we left and how do you explain that in one sentence when someone asks? Why would you leave California?
You can do it too, even if you start as a one week traveler at a time, who knows when the gypsy bug will bite you and you too will say, How can I leave and do this full time? The question from us to you? Why Not? and When? Come join us at some point on the journey, we would love to see you! And the great news, if you find its not what you want to do forever, Home is always where Family is, and you can always go back!