Don’t talk about housesitting.
Why? Well, housesitting is one of those secrets that travelers like to keep to themeselves. It’s a little-known way to travel that requires a sense of adventure, trust and flexibility. And it’s just what it sounds like: you get in touch with someone who has a home and needs someone to come watch it for a while. Housesitters don’t like to talk about it because that means there is more competition for the few housesits that are available out there. But, what it really comes down to is exposure. A housesit benefits both parties–a person who has to leave town for a few weeks but can’t take their doggies and the person who volunteers to fly across the world to experience a new city and care for a loving new pet.
Traveling for free? Yes please. The ultimate travel hack, housesitting is a way to end up somewhere awesome and not pay a dime for your lodging. I’ve housesat (with this guy) in an artsy beach town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico and in a puppy-friendly neighborhood in New Zealand. There are some sick destinations and some lovely homes that need someone to babysit them. For free. Isn’t the internet awesome?
It lets you be in one place for a long period of time
When I travel, I like immersion. I enjoy getting to know a place and making it my home. Time is precious when you’re traveling, but that doesn’t mean that you have to forgo the fun of settling in for a few weeks to feel the rhythms of a destination. That’s what housesitting allows. You feel at home, and you establish a routine based on the pulse of the place. It becomes as much your home as any other place on this earth. You meet locals and do local activities. And you take day trips to explore.
You can fall in love
Most of the time, housesitting is more than just watering plants (although those housesitting gigs are out there, trust me!) No, most of the time, you’ll be responsible for the happiness, health and wellbeing of a little pets or two—that means feeding, walking, hanging out with, talking to. I’ve had experiences with dogs of all ages, and every time it’s hard to leave the housesit because you feel like you’ve made a new friend. Or, in the case of the three-month-old puppy I helped to train in Christchurch, New Zealand, you feel like you’re best friends. I will admit that I have fallen in love with the pups I’ve been charged with caring for during my housesits. It’s one of those perks you just can’t get if you stay at a Ramada Inn.
You can cook
Another money-related travel hack that housesitting opens the door to is saving cash on food. On a housesit, you have access to a kitchen (and sometimes even garden veggies!), which means that you don’t have to spend all that money on eating out at restaurants. In some countries (like those in Southeast Asia, for example), the price of food is pretty negligible, but the thing about housesitting is that it’s not usually in those countries. You get a chance to experience more, well, expensive destinations and still not break your travel budget. One housesit gave me access to a full garden, greenhouse and even chickens, which meant more fresh produce than we could eat. It also meant big savings at the grocery store. So, with housesitting, not only are you sleeping for free, but you’re also eating for cheap. Well done you.
No, we didn’t eat the chickens.
You’ve got you finger on the heartbeat of the Sharing Economy
There is a rush, I have to admit, showing up at someone’s doorstep on the other side of the planet, taking her keys and the dog leash and saying bye-bye for a month. That level of trust is uniquely modern and yet so old-school that it feels as natural and personal as any human interaction. The Sharing Economy is a revolutionary concept that benefits all and builds a global community. Housesitting, in my opinion (up there with couchsurfing) is one of the greatest products of this new trend of global love.
Not convinced? Fine. More housesits for me! No seriously, though, if you’re even considering it, do yourself a favor and set up a profile on housecarers.com or kiwihousesitters.com. (But remember…shhhh)