After a low-cost way to travel that involves living like a local? And animals? You might want to consider house-sitting.
Taking the concept of local house-sitting and pet minding services to a new level, global house-sitting organisations can offer an unusual way to see the world.
Brittnay Sharman, 30 (from Melbourne), and Jayden McKinlay, 29 (from New Zealand), have minded 31 homes and 56 pets in the past three years across 13 countries, including Ireland, Britain, Thailand, New Zealand, France, Italy and Montenegro. In Greece, from where they spoke to The New Daily, they made it clear they had no intention of stopping.
The animal-loving duo were introduced to the world of house-sitting by a friend and see it as a way to enjoy pets and travel.
They suggest newbies seek pet/house-sitting opportunities during school and annual holidays.
“There’s a lot of demand at that time of year,” Ms Sharman said.
Along with walking the dog (or five dogs), you might have to administer medication, or even put on movies for pets, Mr McKinlay said. The couple recently house-sat a cat addicted to YouTube movies about fish and birds.
Another common task is sending holidaying owners photos of their pets.
“They just want to know their animals are well-looked after,” Mr McKinlay said. “We enjoy hanging out with animals and giving them attention. So it’s not too demanding for us.”
The pair – who are web developers and founders of The Travelling Housesitters blog and a course on house-sitting – warn that hidden costs include flights, visas, transport and accommodation in the gaps between house-sits.
An unexpected issue has been language barriers – with pets!
“You can tell a dog ‘come’ or ‘no’ or ‘stay’, and they just totally ignore you,” Ms Sharman said. “You realise you’ve got to learn the commands in their language.”
The biggest positive for them is the cultural immersion. An owner in Greece recently taught them how to make moussaka and taramasalata.
“You get a different experience of the place,” Mr McKinlay said.
House-sitting isn’t just for millennials
Adelaide couple 61-year-old Rachel Barnes and John Fowler fell into house-sitting after becoming insolvent and selling their home. Not wanting to go back to renting or working for someone else, they decided to try house-sitting.
Since their first assignment in the Adelaide Hills, the couple have house-sat for three years, including three months in Britain, Scotland and France.
“I have a few websites that I belong to and I try to arrange [house-sits] so they’re back-to-back,” Ms Barnes said.
“Sometimes it overlaps and sometimes you might have a day in between. At the moment we’re booked up until June 2020.”
Ms Barnes, a coach and consultant, feels like she’s on a permanent holiday.
“I don’t have to worry about paying rates and bills but still get to enjoy sensational locations.”
She said their only expenses were food, car and health costs.
Pet-sitting isn’t a free ride
“Anyone who wants to do housesitting really needs to go in with the right attitude to look after the owner’s pets,” Ms Barnes said. “Everything else is a bonus rather than a right.”
She suggests picking a sit relevant to your skills and preferences, and being thorough in your research.
Angela Laws, community manager of global, member-based house-sitting organisation, TrustedHousesitters.com, said it had 75,000 members. Owners and sitters pay annual memberships.
Ms Laws, who has house-sat more than 200 houses in five countries, cared for pigs, chickens, goats and horses, and made lifelong friends from the experience, described it as a way of travelling with purpose.
“You can use it whichever way you want to,” she said.
“It can be woven into your regular lifestyle easily. We have families that do it in children’s vacation times, and lots of singles.
“Anybody can do it, but it’s not for everybody. It comes with a commitment and responsibility. You must be an animal lover, have experience, and be mindful of the owner’s wishes. The home and the pets are your priorities. If you want a vacation, book a cruise.”
“Owners are looking for references, reviews, and connecting with like-minded people,” she advised.
“If you’ve never done house-sitting before, you can use external references.”
She recommends Skype, email and lots of communication to ensure it’s a fit for both parties.
Given 99 per cent of owners on TrustedHousesitters are looking for pet care, Ms Laws said it was important to spell out any experience you’ve had with animals.
Another tip: “Do sits in your area to build up your trusted house-sitter reviews.”
How to get started
“It’s like looking for holiday accommodation with pets that go with it,” she said. “TrustedHousesitters are global, so they’re one of our favourites.”
Ms Sharman and Mr McKinlay, who also use TrustedHousesitters, have a review and comparison chart (including fees) of the top house-sitting sites on their website, theTravellingHousesitters.