Travel hacking is all about making travel more accessible. It’s about making it cheaper and/or finding creative ways to make it happen.
One way to make it happen, especially for long-term travel, if your budget is tight or if you just want a unique experience is with house-sitting.
What is housesitting?
Basically, house-sitting means you’re taking care of someones house. In exchange for providing that service, you can stay at the house (usually) free of charge. This is a great way to find unique accommodation anywhere in the world and is mutually beneficial for both parties involved. Quite often it also involved taking care of pets or flowers as well.
House-sitting is a perfect option for those wanting to keep their accommodation costs down. House-sitting can be available anywhere from two-weeks to 6-months or more.
Home-owners want to find someone (or a couple) who will take care of their home (and probably their pets and plants) in exchange for rent-free accommodation. This gives home-owners peace of mind while they are away.
Other benefits include:
- Being able to travel slowly: House-sitting is ideal for those wanting to travel slowly and truly enjoy a destination. It’s perfect for retirees or for digital nomads who are looking for a home all over the world where they can get their work done and travel at the same time. House-sitting gives you the comforts of “home” in a different part of the world.
- Giving you a different perspective: When you stay in one place for months as opposed to a few days on a vacation, you get an entirely different perspective of that location. It’s an entirely different and unique experience. Instead of being a tourist all the time, you actually blend in with the locals, make friends, learn the neighbourhood, and become immersed in a totally new culture.
- The ability to research a new area that you’re thinking of calling home: This is something my retired parents are thinking about. Whether you’re retired or thinking of a new place to live in the world, house-sitting is a great way to test the waters and see if you’d really like a place before actually moving there.
With all these benefits, you’re probably wondering what’s in it for the home-owners!
Why would someone hire you as a house-sitter?
- Vacation: Some home-owners want to go on two-week+ vacation but don’t have friends who can look after their pets, water their plants or simply make sure the house is still standing when they return. House-sitting is a great way to have someone do it for free.
- Selling a home: Believe it or not, some people have trouble selling their home but may have already invested in their new one. They need someone to stay in the house and keep it in good condition until it’s sold.
- Extended trips: Some people (like us) want to go on a long trip and maybe even visit family for many months in another part of the world. They don’t want to just leave their property empty or leave their pets in some “jail house”, so house-sitting presents them a much more pleasant alternative.
There are many ways that house-sitters help home-owners such as:
- Saving money: (by not having to hire pet care, lawn cutters, and all sorts of things)
- Insurance: some insurance policies simply won’t cover a house that is left “empty” for a period of time. Sometimes this period of time is less than a week! House-sitters prevent this from happening.
- Keep the place clean and pets happy: one of the biggest reasons is pets and general maintenance. Home-owners just don’t want to leave pets in cages and don’t want to come home to a jungle in their front yard.
House-sitting may sound perfect by now and it is pretty darn awesome, but in order to make it a good experience, you do need to ask yourself some questions.
- What do you require to be “happy” with the agreement? Internet? Provided transportation? access to public services? Some freedom to leave the house and explore the area?
These are things to consider when looking for a house-sitting position. By knowing this in advance, it can help you narrow in on potential houses to inquire about. These will become your non-negotiables.
- Do you like animals? A lot of house-sitting requirements are based around animal care. Make sure you know what types of animals are at the house and if your comfortable with them. Maybe you’re allergic to cats or simply hate reptiles. This is good to know in advance!
- Visa requirements: Make sure to research what visas are required for the area you intend to visit and how long you are allowed to stay for. For example, Canadians are typically allowed just three months in certain European zones. Do the research before-hand so you can find ways to stay longer or simply not overstay and get in any trouble.
- Do you want to live in the city or in the “country”? You’ll find that potential jobs are all over the place. Some will be in rural areas that are much more quiet and some will be in bustling cities where all the action is. I like a little bit of both but you’ll need to decide this so you don’t apply for the wrong locations.
- Are you flexible? No, no – not yoga. I’m talking about plans for your house-sitting vacation. Being flexible with time, place, and length of stay will greatly increase your chances of finding jobs. Trying to find a short stay in the peak summer months for popular locations might be difficult to do. Also, some house-sitting opportunities are listed up to a year in advance while others can be last-minute. Having flexibility will put you ahead of most others.
- The costs involved: Although house-sitting is typically free, if you’re staying somewhere for as long as 6 months you may be required to pay for utilities and what not. If a vehicle is provided, you may need to pay for the gas you use. Determine this in advance and decide if it’s a fit for you. 6 months in San Francisco will be much more expensive than 6 months in Mexico.
- Languages: Realize that some places you go may require another language to be comfortable. For example, if you’re staying in the country-side of Italy, it’s not likely anyone will speak English. If you need help with something, what are you going to do? Find this out in advance.
- Adaptability: This is actually one of my strong suits but not everyone is great with adapting to the situation at hand. House-sitting can require this kind of strength as things can go wrong from time to time. Water pipes can break and animals can escape out the front door. You need to be prepared to deal with this sort of stuff.
Ready to house-sit? Click here to read part 2.