A few months ago I ran across an article written by a fellow blogger, Jayne of Blue Planet Nomads, where she laid out her travel plans for the entire year of 2017 and her plans are epic! Although I’m not good at planning that far ahead (much better at winging it), I started thinking about my travel dreams for next year and I realized:
“A dream without a plan is just a wish…” (Katherine Paterson)
So, I wrote “Game Plan for 2017 – Adventures in Housesitting“, forcing me to actually create a loose plan. By turning that house sitting dream into reality, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. I’ve also come to realize that many people aren’t even aware of this amazing option for stretching your travel funds further and making travel dreams come true.
Here are a few house sitting tips and lessons I’ve learned from hours of plotting and planning:
1.) Use multiple websites
Trusted Housesitters is my main source and it has tons of options all over the world with a focus on the United Kingdom, Australia, US, and Canada. Other sites like Nomador, HouseSitMatch, and MindMyHouse tend to have fewer openings and their websites aren’t as user-friendly. Nomador allows up to 3 applications without actually paying to join. I’ve used one of my three free applications (a cat living near Paris) but have gotten no response yet.
On my Trusted Housesitters profile, I have character references written by friends and will continue to add more professional references once I have more house sitting experience. This site also provides options for different levels of background checks, which is important for homeowners in making their selection.
2.) Sell yourself
The competition is intense for a lot of the most popular areas and you’ll really need to stand out from the crowd. I applied for one sit in Cinque Terre, Italy and was rejected along with everyone else who applied (she found a neighbor to help her out). But then she sent me a separate email asking if she could keep my contact information for future sits since “your email stood out and I’m sorry we won’t get to meet”. In my email application, I also add a link to my blog in case they want to know more about me. Adding a link to a professional social media account like Linkedin may help you appear more professional and trustworthy.
3.) It takes work!
I obsessively scroll through the Trusted Housesitter website’s “New Openings” and jump on the most interesting ones immediately. A few times I didn’t apply quickly enough and the gigs were closed before the daily email alert came out. I spend probably an hour each day researching and applying for openings, especially before I got my first confirmed gig. Now that I’ve been accepted for a couple of sits, I mention that in my email application and it gives me a little more credibility.
4.) Be flexible
I originally had visions of spending a few months taking care of one fat, lazy cat in an old Spanish villa or a cute little pug in a Tuscan mansion, but I had to revise my plan based on reality. It turns out the UK is the easiest place to start so I’ve been focused there. Once I get more experience, the rare jobs in those Spanish mansions and Italian villas will be more likely to open up. Also, some of the “pet sitting” options run far beyond the typical dog or cat. I’ve seen pet sitting requests for alpacas, horses, chickens, trained rats, and even a bearded dragon lizard!
5.) International driver’s license
I’m hoping to avoid renting a car while in Europe but some homeowners require a car due to the remote location. I don’t want to exclude a “dream job” because of the car requirement, so I stopped into my local AAA office yesterday and paid $30 for an international driver’s license – just in case. Also, one of the homeowners is planning to leave their car for me to use so I’ll definitely need the license.
Confirmed gigs…so far
The British people love to travel and adore their pets, so focusing on the United Kingdom is a perfect way for me to test the water and land my first few jobs.
Bristol, England (January 1 – 12)
My first confirmed house sit is in Bristol, England (located west of London and very near Bath) beginning on January 1st. Since the homeowners are leaving for vacation on January 1st, I’ll be spending New Year’s Eve with them – a couple of complete strangers and an adorable dog named Ben. This sit was confirmed using only email – no Skype session. Obviously, there is a certain level of trust required on both sides – I need to trust that I’m not walking into a house full of ax murderers and they need to trust that I’ll be good to their dog and their house full of stuff.
Bradford-on-Avon, England (January 17- February 14)
Bradford-on-Avon is a charming village very near Bristol and right on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds. This owner requested a Skype chat so we chatted, she gave me a brief tour of the house (a quaint renovated 1930’s bungalow) and introduced me to Alfie, the dog. After a few minutes of small talk, we both felt good about the connection and came to a verbal agreement. They’ll be leaving their car for me to use so it’ll be easier to explore the Cotswolds area. I plan to spend most of my time walking Alfie, hanging out in cafes or pubs, and doing a lot of writing.
I’ve applied for a house sit in Sicily from February 24th through March 5th. The dog lives in an apartment on a hill in Palermo with a beautiful sea view. Trusted Housesitters shows the approximate number of people who’ve applied for each sit and this one has at least 25. The homeowner sent a group email to all interested applicants stating that “she’s reviewing applications and will advise”. I’m not holding my breath for this one since the competition is stiff.
This lucky dog lives in a huge 5-bedroom house with a heated indoor pool, cinema, gym and amazing view! I jumped on this one immediately and by the time the “daily email alert” came out, the owner was already reviewing applications. Again – I’m not holding my breath for this one but it’s nice to know these options exist! Once I have more experience, reviews, and recommendations, I think this type of gig will be easier to get.
The One That Got Away!
The Camino de Santiago is a popular 1000 km hike in northwestern Spain. At the end of the trail is a rest house called The Little Fox House, a 300-year-old converted farmhouse where pilgrims can rest and relax after completing the hike. This house sit (at The Little Fox House!) looked so intriguing I jumped on it immediately and sold myself as hard as I could. I researched the owner, who also happens to have a house sitter profile on Trusted Housesitters, and bonded over the fact that she’s a writer (and I pretend to be). I didn’t get this one due to the intense interest and tough competition (maybe next time) but now I’m intrigued by the area and may plan a trip there.
Amazingly, I’ve managed to create an actual PLAN for the first 6 weeks of 2017! I’ll spend New Year’s Eve in Bristol, England toasting to new experiences and the mysteries that lie ahead! Stay tuned for stories from Bristol, Bath, and beyond!
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(Bath Photo credit: Randy Son Of Robert via Visual Hunt / CC BY)