House sitting is becoming more and more popular for people while traveling and a lot of that comes down to the large number of location independent people in the world these days. For those who are not yet living the digital nomad life and have never house sat before, the idea of staying in luxury locations for free sounds like the perfect getaway, but I’m here to say it’s probably not. For most people vacation is about relaxing, having fun, and letting loose; and while house sitting allows you to do those things to a certain extent there are a number factors that could put a damper on your idea of a good time. Unless you do a lot of research and are very selective you’ll probably find yourself disappointed.
A lot of house sits are scheduled for long periods of time, anywhere from 1 week to 1 year! We tend to lean towards the shorter stays in our travel with our longest sits being about two weeks but typically when searching for our next location we see a larger number of long-term sits. Obviously, if you have just a few weeks of time off or less (Americans!) it will be hard to find stays that are short enough.
There are really only a few types of travelers. You have those who want to go somewhere, kick-back and not move for the entire time. You have the ones who are always on the go and seem to be more scheduled and busy during their holiday than when they are at home. And last you have the spontaneous and free-wheeling ones who just make decisions day to day about what they will do if anything at all. House sitting is very different. Even if you’re not working online, you’ll find yourself fall into a routine especially if there are pets to look after. So don’t imagine you’ll be able to go out partying every night and come back whenever. You may get lucky and have very few responsibilities and the pets may adjust to your schedule, but usually you are there to keep the house functioning as usual, so if the dogs are used to 06:00 walks, and lunch time feedings at 12:00 guess where you will be at those times?
Pet care, plant watering, deliveries and post, rubbish, all these things fall on you. You’ll probably have times scheduled to check in with the owners, and should always be home at night to watch over the house. It’s a full-time job. You have a boss and a schedule so you need to treat it just like you would any other job.
You could turn yourself completely green with envy looking through the listings on the most popular house sitting sites. Every other listing seems to be for an amazing house on a lake in South America or a stunning chateau in France. Realistically though most of the listings are for areas far away from the normal tourist and traveler routes; these are where the real people live. What happens if find yourself way out in the suburbs of a major city or on a farm in the middle of the country? Don’t expect to be right next to all the sightseeing stops or even expect to be able to make it there especially if you are traveling without a car and taking care of pets. It’s fine for travelers who can normally tack a day or two onto their stay to get to those places. If you’re on a fixed vacation time you might feel like you have missed out on everything.
With the internet, planning travel has never been easier. It’s still a wonder to me that travel agents continue to exist when you can go online and search for exactly what you want down to the sheet thread count and breakfast menu. Even Airbnb allows you to search for nice features like cable television or a wood burning fireplace. Housesitting is not like that. Sure, when searching you can try to find a nice view or a house that looks your style, but you will never have all the information. Homeowners often talk about the best features of their house but sometimes the make or break can be something simple. For me, it’s always the bathroom. So if your dream trip to Canada is a snowed-in log cabin with a bear rug, and outdoor hot tub, you may want to save up for that specifically. More often than not we don’t really know the size of the house, what the room we are going to be in looks like, how stocked the kitchen is, or even what bed we are sleeping in. Unlike hotel rooms which have a common feeling at each star level, sometimes you can walk into what is obviously a nice house for someone and it just doesn’t feel right. Would you really want to spend a week in a place that isn’t comfortable for you?
Maybe one of the most important things - house sitters adjust to the home owners and not the other way around. If you get two weeks to travel and you have to plan it far in advance you’ll be lucky if there is a housesit available that lines up perfectly. The homeowners who are normally going on holiday or an assignment themselves will have their dates and travel scheduled already and need someone to fit that. You as the house sitter applying are expected to be available those days, with a buffer window on the front and back ends for settling in and delays. Yes things come in last minute sometimes but would you really want to wait until a few weeks until your trip date only to find no house sits work for you, or there are some but travel costs are outrageous? Then you'll just have to go to a regular tourist destination that you could have gotten much cheaper months ago.
I don’t say this to sound negative or put anyone off house sitting (competition is fierce but not that bad!), I just want to give a realistic idea of what it is like. So much of what we see online these days is just the positive side so I just wanted to lower the altitude of your expectations. If your job has a very flexible vacation policy, or you just love the idea of spending your time away from home with happy cuddly animals (or you know if you’re European and always have twelve other opportunities a year if this one doesn’t work out) by all means give house sitting for your holiday a chance! Maybe try it out locally if possible so you get a clearer picture of what to expect. Who knows this could be a life changing experience that you want to try again and again.
Any differences you think we've forgotten? Add them in the comments below.
The Roaming Blog
From Europe to Asia. From cities to villages. From mansions to cottages. Follow us on our journey as we celebrate a new type of travel - House Sitting. Learn how to start you house sitting career, tips for making the most of your travel, and the tricks for being the best house sitter you can be.
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