The idea of getting free lodging in a foreign city seems almost too good to be true, right? If you’ve ever spent months crashing in hostel dorm rooms and cooking ramen noodles in shared kitchens, you know a space of your own is nothing short of heaven.
But house-sitting is, in fact, a thing. People who live in lovely homes, in busy areas, will happily hand over their keys to someone with good references and a trust worthy demeanor. It’s rare that you’ll actually get paid to stay in someone’s house, water their plants and feed their cats, but you’ll save piles of money on lodging and get out of the hostels for a bit.
Nora has been house-sitting for years and shares her secrets!
I’ve been traveling full-time since 2007, often volunteering in trade for my accommodation. House-sitting is one of the ways I get free digs around the world, and I’ve been doing it on and off since I started traveling.
In the last couple of years, I’ve house-sat in a few places in Canada and England. (the rest of the time I’ve either stayed with families or volunteered). I expect to do some long-term house-sitting in Europe this year.
House-sitting is a great way to get a slice of “home” in a new place, which for a full-time traveler like me is a refreshing (and necessary) thing! It also gives me time to work on my writing, which is how I make money to keep on traveling.
The application process varies from gig to gig, but usually entails a series of emails (with questions and answers from both parties), and providing references.
It’s always good to ask lots of questions of the host so you have an idea of what the transportation options, amenities and expectations are. There is no template for what a house-sitting gig will be like!
This is entirely dependent on the gig! If pets are involved, it’s good to keep them in their routines, which vary dramatically from home to home.
House-sitting is very special for me, because it usually gives me lots of down-time for my writing and a kitchen to work with! (I love to cook, but rarely get to cook what I like, when I like, with a fully-equipped kitchen, when I’m volunteering or staying with families or in hostels).
Even demanding pets don’t take up a huge amount of time and it’s nice to enjoy the fixings of “home” – even (or especially!) if it isn’t your home. And getting to understand daily life in other parts of the world is a lot of fun!
I don’t usually earn money through house-sitting (or at least I haven’t yet). But this is a good reason to ask lots of questions of your potential house-sitting hosts.
Some gigs require quite a bit of work (from gardens to pets), and financial compensation might be well-deserved. In other cases freebies like use of the car, food and facilities might be fair enough compensation.
House-sitting requires flexibility and adaptability. Without these qualities it could be quite a challenge.
Also I can’t stress enough that it’s a good idea to get to know the home owners and their expectations and to sort out emergency phone numbers etc. It will make your stay much easier and the more you know, the more comfortable the home owners will be about leaving you to care for their place.
House-sitting requires flexibility and adaptability, since you’re always entering a new home and it’s nice to respect your new environment. Attention to detail is also a great quality to have; I like to leave the place just as I found it (or better) – from ingredients in the fridge, to cleanliness, etc.