Living in the moment is damn-near impossible. At some point, while growing up, we all forgot how to enjoy the moment we’re in. We start looking forward to the future, start imagining all the ‘what-if’s and ‘what will be’s, and forget to enjoy what we’re doing.
Do you play a sport? Instrument? Video game? Do you cook? Do you have a pet, like a dog or cat, that you enjoy cuddling? These are just some of the easiest examples of living in the moment. Time where nothing else matters outside of what is happening in that very second—not the future, or the past.
Before traveling, it can seem like every moment abroad will be like that. Every moment will be doused in color and life, imprinting itself on your mind forever.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In my experience, it’s rarely the case. Traveling is a long series of micro-decisions. Are you hungry? Do your feet hurt? What time does the bus arrive? Should we go left or right? Answering these one way can make you end up in front of the Eiffel Tower, or waffling between two restaurants that both sell falafel. Because of all these little decisions, desperate trying to think a move ahead, you might not always remember where you ate, or what you saw, but sometimes, you will remember standing in a Subway and watching your travel partner play peek-a-boo with a kid who just couldn’t look away.
When Darcy and I travel, we tend to plan out the next month, or at the very least, the next two weeks. Flights, lodging, busses, trains, etc. Everything is done at least two weeks in advance. Of course, this means nothing once we actually hit the road. One missed bus, or train, and the plan falls apart, we find ourselves taking a train to an airport an hour after our flight left, and we regret leaving home in the first place. So we begin to adapt. Take in new information and create new decisions, again and again, with no chance for ‘living in the moment.’ Or so it seems. But these are the perfect chances to live in the moment. There are moments in these hectic dashes through airports and countries, moments where we can pause and ask ourselves, “Where am I?”
If you can capture those moments, and enjoy them as they happen, without thought for what came before or what will come after, you will never regret your decision to leave home.
If you’re on the road, or hitting it soon, you might be looking for work. Some of the jobs listed will have certain requirements, like a visa or a certification, but if you haven’t left home yet, try and get what you need!
If you don’t mind the fact that cruise ships are usually registered to country
with little-to-no environmental regulations, and account for massive amounts of
untreated or minimally-treated sewage, look no further for work than cruise
ships! Not only are there a variety of available jobs usually found on ships,
cruise lines also hire restaurant workers, performers, bakers, fitness instructions,
spa technicians, and hundreds more. It’ll be easy to save money since the only
place to spend it is on board. You will also be working in an environment based
on cheap alcohol and sex (not kidding.) But, you often visit beautiful locations.
On the flip side, you’re probably going to be inside during a beautiful day.
There’s very little privacy, as you are bunking with a number of other people.
You’ll also be contributing to worsening a bad ecological state.
Although it doesn’t pay, volunteering is a great to meet people and spend
your time. Steer away from ‘voluntourism,’ though. Usually there’s a large
upfront cost, and it doesn’t always do what they advertise.
If you can pull beer and mix basic drinks, you can probably find work.
Usually you’ll need some type of ‘working holiday’ visa, but if you find a
little mom-and-pop shop that will hire you without one, as long as you keep
your mouth shut, go for it. Hostels also have bars, usually, and you might be
able to trade work for a place to stay.
This job would require you to speak the language and answer questions,
more than a bartender would need (after all, most countries I’ve been to
outside America has one option at a bar, and it’s ‘beer.’ Which means ‘whatever
beer sponsors you and supplies your coasters, glasses, and the sign out
front.’), Again, having a ‘working holiday’ visa is pretty important here, as
there will probably be fewer people who will hire you without one.
There’s a bit of a tradition of working for a place to stay in a hostel.
If you’re okay scrubbing toilets, doing the laundry, and making beds, then ask
around to see if there are any availabilities where you are. It might make you
a daily stipend, and a place to sleep, if nothing else.
Okay, this one is a bit silly, but some people have luck with it. If you
find something you think would sell well in another country, try purchasing it
from one place and reselling it in another place. This could be anything from
food, to little tchotchkes, to clothes. This might work better if you’re
sending it all to yourself, back home, and selling from there. After all, this
is how import/export businesses get started. All groundwork.
Can you read and write in another language? Try out your skills locally!
Same goes for being able to speak in another language.
Some places have guidelines as to who can have a tour guide license, but
if you’re willing to go through the hoops, being a tour guide can be a great
way to make money. Especially if you’re speaking English in a foreign country.
Many tourists look for a tour guide they can easily understand, and one who
will make jokes they understand. Not only can you charge American prices, but it
can also be a great way to make friends for when you go back to America.
Of course, this only works when you actually have the certifications. But
if you have them, try looking for work on a beach somewhere. SEA and
South/Central America are both popular locations that are looking for
English-Speaking instructors to give lessons.
Same idea, but with snow. If you know how to ski, or snowboard, and are
willing to give lessons, ask around and see if a ski lodge is hiring, or go
solo as a freelance instructor.
Probably one of the most famous foreign-worked jobs. If you like kids,
know how to cook, and know a few words of a foreign language, look into being
an Au pair. The field is heavily dominated by women, since most families look
for women, however the few times I looked for a job, I had tons of offers
because they had ‘two young boys who needed someone with lots of energy to
throw them around.’ Needless to say, I passed on those jobs. Usually, being an
au pair will come with a weekly stipend and a place to sleep. I would only recommend
it only if you like children. More
often than not, the stipend is far below what you’re worth and the lodging is
either a room, or less than a room. (I once couch surfed with a friend who was
an au pair in Paris. She had her own ‘apartment’ that was smaller than a car.)
Resorts in both beach locations and snow locations are always on the hunt
for English-speaking workers for the season. If you have a ‘working holiday’ visa
(or found someone to give you work under the table), a resort can be a great
way to pass a season.
Kind of a joke. But, if you happen to be living near a timeshare resort,
and a have knack for selling, there is money to be had in selling timeshares.
More often than not, people who teach English will have a college degree
and be placed through a program. If you have a degree, and don’t mind working
with a program, try teaching English. Most programs will also help you sort out
lodging and visa issues.
This can be anything from a summer camp in Upstate New York, to a
high-end resort camp for wealthy children. One of my old teachers found summer
work teaching wealthy children photography. It paid $2,000 a month, for 3
months, and came with free weekend trips to different cities. A job like this
can be had if you have a skill to sell. You don’t need to be amazing, just
better than 10 year olds.
Yoga/Tai Chi/Qi Gong Teacher
If you’re in good shape and you have a knack for flexibility, try getting
a yoga teaching certification, if you don’t already have one. Cruise ships,
resorts, and hostels will sometimes offer classes, and you could be the
instructor. Or, if you prefer, you could offer a class in a local public park
with a drop-in price. This seems to work very well from what I see when I
Again, if you have the certification, you can try your luck finding work
at a resort, or on a beach. If you have the start-up cost, you can work for yourself,
or work for another company if you don’t have the funds.
Europe still has traveling circuses! If you don’t mind some physical
labor, try applying to one of these. Won’t lie to you, though. Most of these
don’t treat the animals well, to the point they’re actually banned in some
Want to transport things that aren’t drugs? In America, there are
companies like Roadie that offer a way for buyers to get their purchases without
paying for air or ground freight. For instance, if you buy a sink on EBay
that’s local pickup only, you can hire someone through Roadie to pick up the
sink and drive it to you. If you have a car and are planning on a road trip
anyway, this can be a great way to cover gas costs.
Can you cut hair? Beards? Have your own set of tools? Try setting
yourself up as a barber! Some people do this in hostels, offering the hostel a
cut of every sale they get. And if you find enough people who need a cheap and
easy haircut, you can make easy money with minimal work. (For this to work
best, I recommend only offering certain styles, and something that is quick and
easy. This would be geared towards the budget traveler trying to stay
presentable. For anyone with a little spending money, it’s in their best
interest to get a shave locally.)
Some certified massage therapists go freelance while traveling, either
offering their services to a hostel, or to people through advertisements placed
at community boards. Some massage studios will hire you if you can demonstrate
Probably one of the best jobs a cook can have is cooking on a private
yacht. Surprisingly, the jobs are easy to come by, pay well, and you visit tons
of locations. Usually, you’re hired by a private yacht company who charters yachts
for a specific timeframe. So you’ll be a cook for lunch, breakfast, or dinner,
only for a specific group of people. Then, until you get another group of
people, your only job is feeding the crew.
Kitchens in other countries will also hire kitchen help, especially if
you have a ‘working holiday’ visa.
Less glamorous than cruise ships, cargo ships will hire deckhands to do
basic work, and they will also hire cooks to cover the cooking and grocery
Like Roadie, you can also find work in America moving rental cars for
different companies. When a company has too many renal cars in a small town,
they will pay you to drive an extra car to a larger city, and pay you for the time.
Really only works for America, unless you’re lucky enough to find the work in
Europe, and it’s a great way to only see highways. But if you want work that
lets you listen to audiobooks and eat road trip food, this is it.
There are a number of ways to get work on a yacht but the easiest are:
hang around yachts OR get certified then apply to yachts. Most yachts are
looking for people who know how to sail, but some will take people who don’t
know the first thing about sailing but are willing to learn. It can be a great
job, with good pay, and great locations. But it can also be stressful,
no-privacy, and long-stretches of working with the same people.
You can also find short-term work on a yacht. A captain will sometimes
hire people just for an evening cruise, so you can easily rack up experience,
and not have to leave where you’re living.
For years, and still today, small Chinese businesses will hire white men
to dress like an American businessman. It makes it seem like they have
international connections, and increase the likelihood of funding or investments.
So if you have the look of ‘American Business Owner’ this could be great job
that pays exceptionally well. (Usually $1000 per event.)
Bollywood extras come from many places, and sometimes off the street.
There are a number of stories of travelers walking around India, usually
Mumbai, and being offered work acting. It’s one day, in a costume, dancing in
the background (or just swaying.) It pays little, but it’ll look great on your
Do you know how to blow fire, juggle, perform acrobatics, or anything else that would allow you to set up on a street corner and make money? Although not legal in every country and city, this could be a great way to make money on the move. Also, if you do have skills in this category, and you don’t mind working on a cruise ship, look around for different job listings. Performers, even in a lower level on skill, are still highly sought after for cruise ships.
I will update this list as often as possible, and add links to different websites and job listings as I find them. Good luck on your travels!
For the last 4-5 years, Darcy and I have been traveling together.
Before this, I spent a few years traveling solo. I thought this section could
be important to anyone who was going to bring a Significant Other, a friend, or
a kid/parent. By and large, most people tend to travel alone, and pick up
partners along the way if they’re going to the same place.
It’s my own personal philosophy that everyone should take at least one trip by themselves. There are few ways easier to see your flaws so clearly than traveling alone. On my solo trips, I learned mountains of information about what my limits are, what my fears are, and how I respond to different problems under different stresses.
With a partner, you can mitigate some of these problems by
splitting the load. But with one person, it’s on you. Waking up at 3am,
catching a 4am flight, not arriving until the same time the next day, trying to
find your hotel on 3 hours of airplane sleep. It’s difficult, but once you do
it, you’ll think, ‘Now I can do anything.’
Whether or not you’ve been traveling before, you have
probably heard someone run down the list of why traveling alone is great.
Amazing. So much better than bringing anyone.
Meet more people
This one has some merit to it. I’ve heard that people are more likely to
approach you when you’re by yourself. However, I find it the opposite. I find that
I’m trusted more traveling with Darcy (whether it’s because she’s a woman, or
there are two of us, I don’t know.) However, when I traveled alone, I was more
outgoing, intent on meeting people and making the most of the experience. With
Darcy I find myself less outgoing, and less earnest to make new friends.
Go where you want, when you want
Sure, this one is true. But Darcy and I have never run into the problem
of wanting to go to two places at the same time. I’ve already talked about how
we decide where to go in the section ‘Deciding Where to Go.’
In my experience, this is categorically untrue.
Have a more unique experience
How can an experience be more unique?
Although I think everyone should take at least one trip
alone, I do think that traveling solo is lonely. Especially if you’re an
outgoing person, you might find solo travel to be especially depressing. I’ve
known a handful of people who end up coming home after a few weeks, telling me
they just couldn’t handle it.
And this is okay. Some people are incredibly well adjusted
to traveling alone, and they end up quitting their job and traveling solo full
time, hopping from place to place. This
isn’t everyone. If you find yourself floundering on your first solo trip,
don’t panic. You aren’t alone. You can always go home.
And when you set out again, you might want to go with
Strange thing to stat with, I know. But we had more fights, or arguments,
in that first month of traveling than a year and a half of living together back
home. When you’re traveling with someone, and both stretched to your limits,
fights happen easily, and they happen fast. But you learn. Not just about the
other person, but about yourself. What sets you off. Behavior you have that
went unnoticed by you. How you act when you’re tired, or hungry, or are faced
with the prospect of having to sleep outside. And you work through it. I will
say, after that first month, the arguments became rare, and easier to manage
because we had already been through so much together.
Traveling with a partner is cheaper. Not half as cheap as by yourself,
but pretty close. A hotel room for $70 a night is now the cheaper alternative
to a $50 a night hostel bed. Even eating. When traveling alone, I always bought
bread and cheese as a staple. And by day two, the bread would be hard and the
cheese sweaty. But when there’s someone else to eat, we buy food more often,
and therefore its fresher. Flights are sometimes cheaper when you purchase two
at a time, instead of one. Rental cars are far cheaper split between two
people. I used to spend nearly $750 a month while traveling. Now I average
around $450. So, not quite half, but pretty close!
With two people, once person can always be on watch. Whether it be taking
turns sleeping on a long train, or using the bathroom in a dodgy bar, or even
at airports when you want to walk around, you’ll always have someone to watch
over the bags, and vice versa.
Surprisingly, it’s far less stressful to travel with a partner. Not only
are there two pairs of eyes looking over every reservation and ticket, there
are now two people looking for those reservations and tickets. When traveling
alone, it’s easy to make mistakes and not catch them until too late. I can’t
count the number of times I boarded the wrong train, or bought a ticket for the
wrong date, or went to the ‘Hotel Sacre Coeur’ and not ‘Hotel de Sacre Coeur.’
Having someone else can reduce the stress simply by having the person there,
and knowing the chance for mistake can be mitigated by them.
Sharing the experience
This is probably the biggest reason to travel with someone, even for a
short time. I can’t remember all the amazing experiences I had while traveling
alone, primarily because there was no one lese there to experience them with
I found that when I returned home the first time from traveling, at the
ripe old age of 18, that most people didn’t care, or didn’t understand what I
experienced. And that’s what I realize every time I go back to where I used to
live. The only people who understand the rush of seeing the spice markets of
some North African medina for the first time are the people who have been
there. The only people who understand the stillness you feel when seeing a
sunset over a foreign ocean, are the ones who felt that same stillness.
It’s not gatekeeping, saying if you haven’t traveled, than you wouldn’t
know. But if you haven’t traveled, it’s difficult to listen to someone who has
talked about their travels. And, subsequently, the person who traveled (you, in
this case) feels disillusioned by the whole thing.
you travel with someone, you can share all experiences with them.
I won’t say one way is better than another, flat out.
However, I have found that I enjoy traveling far more with a partner than I do
by myself. Now, I can stop and have a coffee or a drink in a dingy Parisian
bar, and I know there was someone there to enjoy it with me.
So if you can, take someone. Don’t just go alone.
But if you’re the type of person who appreciates being by yourself, then dive in headfirst!
If you enjoyed this, follow me! I’ll be posting a different post on traveling when I can
Later I will write a general packing list, but since this is a housesitting focused blog post, I’ll focus on what to bring when house sitting.
For those of you who have traveled before, packing is easily the most exciting part of traveling. Partly because you have the chance to buy new gear before heading out.
When I first went traveling on my own, back in 2013 (which was 6 years ago, sweet lordy Jesus), I scoured through Sierra Trading Post, REI, local outdoor stores, and even eBay. I wanted the perfect anti-microbial, merino wool, high-tech mesh, quick dry, anti-odor, packing list. I must have spent $1000 on new gear (including the $300 for a Gregory pack.)
I no longer do this for two reasons. The main reason is for environmental reasons. Buying new gear is a waste of resources, if I have things that I can still wear. I don’t really need a quick dry, wool shirt if I already have a few Old Navy shirts lying around.
(I should say this now, if you are going hiking, or planning an overnight, or multi-night, outdoor excursion, please ignore all of this. Your success can and might be dictated by your gear, so don’t skimp! Wet clothes can cause a number of problems while hiking!)
The second reason is money. The Gregory pack was great, but it was for hiking. (A number of European backpackers will use a hiking back for its superior ratio of size/capacity and the fact you can strap it to yourself in very comfortable ways.) Now I use a $40 IKEA bag that works so-so. (Splurge in the bag. I think this $40 is a bit of a waste for any serious traveling.)
Now, my needs have changed, as have a number of people’s. We need tech. We need gadgets. Okay, need is a strong word. But many people who go traveling will try to have some kind of cyber-side-income. Or main income. Which means laptop. Which means a bag crafted around a secure laptop pocket.
Later, I will definitely make a Big Ol’ Bag Post, but for now, I recommend checking out reddit OneBag or similar places. A good youtuber to watch is Chase Reeves, who does reviews of bags and sometimes shoes/other gear.
If you already know what kind of pack you’re going to bring, great! Let’s get started on the packing list.
When house sitting, you’ll usually have a washer, so no need for bringing tons of clothes. If this list seems too large, then pare down. It’s all down to weight for me, but for you the metric might be different. It’s also worth mentioning that when you house sit, it’s best to blend in with the locals. Not only does this help remove you as a target for possible pickpocketing/mugging, but you might get better service with the locals!
Unfortunately, I can’t give a specific rundown of what you should buy. Not only do new things come out every day, you should really only go traveling with things you trust. But before buying something, definitely check out the reviews. You never know what you might find.
(This list is written by a male, and my needs. Darcy is going to write a female guide soon! But use whichever one works best for you!)
Right. Let’s get started. The amount of clothes needed will be per Week.
Summer- Whenever I go someplace hot, I tend to bring linen button down shirts. (I found a stack of them at a local Salvation Army just before summer started. If you’re looking, I’d start there!) I don’t like how t-shirts stick to me, especially in a place that’s humid. I know some people prefer wool shirts since they’re breathable and moisture wicking, but I still feel like they stick. The Airism line from Uniqlo is also growing in popularity as a lightweight, breathable, ultra-packable, and budget friendly shirt. However, if you already have summerwear, bring that. Especially if you’re trip isn’t long (under a month.) Depending where you go, you can go with one shirt, and come back with another. I try not to use this method since it’s a bit wasteful, but if you have some shirts that are soon headed for the trash, you can use those, wear them out, buy new ones and bring those home. This method works well because you’re bringing a few shirts that will be washed often, thereby decreasing their lifespan. 7 tops.
Winter- Wool is the way to go if you have it. If you don’t, consider investing in at least one baselayer. Doesn’t have to be Smartwool or Icebreaker. REI has a good selection of their brand base layer at affordable prices. That can be worn often, and paired with any top. I usually go long sleeves. I have a few long sleeve henleys from the gap that work perfectly for this. Once you have a base layer, I wouldn’t buy any new shirt past that. 1 base layer, 3 over shirts.
Summer- We’re back with the linen. Linen all day. Cut large, if you can find it. I’ve tried a variety of pants and shorts for summer, and linen is by far the best. If you don’t have any, and don’t want to spend the money on them (they tend to be pretty pricey in the States), and you’re headed to Europe, wait until you arrive to buy linen clothes. They’re easily half the price here, if not more. The linen isn’t some crazy high quality, but it’s perfect for summer. If you don’t want to dress in all linen like my uncle at every barbecue, try loose weave cotton. If you’ve been living in a hot place, and you’re visiting another hot place, then wear whatever you’re used to, just check the humidity levels! I used to live in Savannah, and it was crazy humid. However, having a summer in North Macedonia, it’s hot, just not humid. It changes my packing slightly. Bring 3 bottoms.
Winter- Pretty much up to you. I bring 2 pairs of pants. One pair is rip stop cotton, and one pair is Patagonia stretch jeans. The jeans suck for warmth, but I use them when the day isn’t too bad. The rip stop cotton pants are great for keeping the wind out, and they’re baggy, giving me enough ‘dead air’ space to be comfortable. Some people like 1 pair of pants, some 3. This is on you. Wear your normal winter pants. Only buy a pair if you really need to, because unless you’re going somewhere you’ll need snow pants, you’ll be fine.
This is where I splurge like crazy. Most of my underwear is about $30 per pair. I just bought a few pairs of the Uniqlo Airism underwear, and it’s not bad, but cut feels a wee bit small. I’m used to the leg on the underwear going down my thigh about 1/4 of the way. These are about half that. I have 4 pairs of Exofficio, and a few pairs of other underwear. I also have 2 pairs of almost knee length, half poly/half wool underwear that are fantastic for winter. I digress. Underwear is, again, up to you. I like the kind that’s all fancy. Anti-microbial, anti-odor, flat seams so it doesn’t chafe, quick drying (which isn’t that quick, so not a huge selling point), etc. Some people like Hanes, or Fruit of the Loom. Totally up to you. Bring as many pairs as you can fit. I bring 10, usually. Someone once said “Pack underwear as if you’ll shit yourself on every day of the trip.
Summer- For summer I tend to use flip-flops or sandals, so I rarely get the chance to need socks. That being said, I do travel with a pair of shoes and 5 pairs of ankle length socks. They’re small, pack down easily, and are great for summer. If you’re the type of person to bring hiking boots in the summer, then you’ll need longer socks, but I would recommend wool socks if that’s the case. Cotton will chafe like crazy when you sweat.
Winter- Wool socks. 5 pairs.
Summer- Sandals, as often as you can. Try not to buy some on your trip, because that is a bad time to break in a pair of uncomfortable sandals. I would bring whatever you have at your house. Anything comfortable, from Old Navy 99¢ flip-flops to Birkenstocks. If you need to bring shoes, try to bring something lightweight. Shoes can be a huge part of your packing weight, and a heavy bag in summer is murder.
Winter- Boots, if you can swing it. Boots tend to have better wet/snow traction, and they’ll create an overlap with your pants, keeping you warm. If you bring boots, also try to pack a pair of sneakers. You might need them for the days your boots are too wet to wear.
Summer- Very rarely will you need a summer jacket. I don’t think I’ve been to a single place that gets cold enough during normal hours to need a jacket. I know that some places get cold at night, and if you’re going to be out after midnight, then bring a lightweight jacket. Just remember, a jacket = weight.
Winter- You’ll need a warm coat and something waterproof/resistant. I recommend a 3-in-1. They are made to fit together, providing warmth, dryness, or both when you need it. I would also recommend a puff jacket. A few brands, like Patagonia, make theirs from recycled plastic. I’d recommend not using down, for environmental reasons, but if you have to, try Uniqlo. They’re supposed to have very high down standards, only using down from ducks being killed in China for food. Not to mention, their jackets are very reasonable and pack down into nothing. Which is why a puff jacket is important. I brought a nice, knee-length cashmere (found it in a Goodwill. $15.) jacket to Italy a few years ago. Although nice, totally impractical. Can’t really wear it on a plane, not maneuverable enough to wear a backpack with, and overall not as warm as a puff jacket with windproof cover
Patagonia Worn Wear
Sierra Trading Post
Lems (For shoes
I listed these as shops to buy clothes in that are somewhat environmentally responsible. STP isn’t, but you’re buying clothes before they end up in a possible landfill. (Of course, not all outdoor brands will trash unsold clothes, but major clothing labels will, so maybe outdoor brands do as well?
The most important part about the house sit, beside the pets, is the house. No-brainer, I know. However, since it’s an important topic, I might as well write about it.
(Someone asked me why I write about house sitting, if all I’ll do is tell more people how to house sit, and lose out on possible jobs myself. First, housesitting is a great experience, and everyone should have the chance, just once, to live in and experience a foreign country. Second, if and when you go, I want it to be the best possible experience for both sides, so no one gives up on it. House sitting can so easily turn into the Craigslist “Oh, don’t trust Craigslist weirdos,” so I want to do my part and make sure it doesn’t)
You’ll often hear “Treat the house as if it’s your own.” Don’t do that. That is a trap. Treat the house like it’s your most treasured possession. But don’t feel like you need to go crazy repainting the hallway or anything.
When Darcy and I housesit, we spend the last few days doing a deep clean. We make a list of every room, every chore to do in the room, and we knock it out over the course of a few days. It feels amazing to come home from a vacation to see your house immaculate, and the pets happy, so that’s what we try to do for the home owners.
Stressful? Absolutely! But worth it. We’re invited back for the next time they need a housesit, and it’s a great way to make friends with the homeowner.
Keeping the house clean isn’t your only chore. It’s also your job to make sure that nothing breaks. And I’ll tell you know, just to help your stress levels, something will break.
Let me repeat that.
SOMETHING WILL BREAK.
I know I just said make sure nothing breaks, and that I followed it up with something will break, but that’s the deal. Try your hardest to treat everything carefully. Don’t twist things that are meant to be pulled and vice-versa. Don’t use steel utensils on their non-stick pan. Don’t put your feet up on any non washable white furniture. If you do break something, don’t panic! It’ll be okay! Every homeowner we’ve met says “Just let me know, and don’t worry about it. We would have also broken it eventually.
During one of our first house sits, I opened the fridge door to get into the freezer, which is in the fridge. But the doors opened opposite ways. The fridge door opened on the right, and the freezer on the left, so the fridge door needed to be fully open before the freezer could be opened. When I opened the fridge door, I heard a loud snap, and the thin piece of metal that was the spring broke in two. (That was the most £40-ish pint of ice cream I’ve ever bought.) Everything ended up okay. I told the homeowners what happened, and told them I could fix it. I ordered a spare part, took apart their counters (since it was an integrated fridge) and replaced the broken part with the new one. Which brings me to my next point…
It’s always helpful to have some general handyperson skills. Just being handy with a screwdriver/drill. Maybe with a paintbrush if you accidentally dinged one of the walls. Nothing crazy.
Let me put you in the mind of a home owner (if you aren’t one who does housesitting.)
You leave for a few weeks, someone is staying at the house. You got a killer tan, saw a great sidewalk performer, and now you’re headed home after one last cuba libre on the beach. You get back, and you see a build-up of soap scum in the shower. That’s fine, that’s what happens when people shower. And, oof, a ding on the wall. They must have moved the chairs around. No worries, easily solvable with a coat of paint. A broken plate? No worries, it’s just IKEA. I just wish they told me.
And that’s what I try to do. I try to clean the soap scum, paint over the ding, and if I break anything, tell them. I always let them know I’d be happy to replace it, or send them money for it. To date, no one has taken me up on the offer, but I want people to know it’s there.
I know a few people who don’t tell the home owners when something breaks, instead just fixing it themselves. Their rational is “If it breaks again, they’ll blame me for not fixing it right the first time.” I feel like that’s a very iffy ational, and it’s better to upfront and honest, because that’s who I’d want staying at my (nonexistent) house.
Be careful when house sitting, and everything will be okay!
In the last post, I briefly touched on choosing where to go. In this post I’ll continue that idea and talk about how to choose a homeowner.
Choosing where to go is nearly 100% up to you. I say nearly, because of course, house sitting isn’t available in every country, or every city. I have talked to people who want to housesit in places where the concept isn’t common, like Italy, Eastern Europe, and parts of Africa. Generally speaking, if you’re going to be housesitting in one of those places, it’s at the house of someone foreign to the area. Which can be a bonus! Often times, expats will have things in their house that we’ve come to expect in the Western world, like a washer (or dryer, if you’re lucky!) or air conditioning.
In most countries, these things aren’t as common, so keep that in mind when you’re packing your bag (which I’ll talk more about in another article.)
Housesitting can be a great way to see places you normally wouldn’t have heard of (I know, dangling participle!) Darcy and I recently completed a house sit in Caen, Normandy, France, and it was fantastic! For the two of us, it was off the beaten path (but not to any WWII history buff) and we made great friends!
France is actually one of the few countries that have quite a few housesits available at any given time. Between a number of UK expats, and French who love their pets, it’s easy to find one and go visiting.
Before choosing a housesit, be very careful to read the description! I cannot stress this enough. It seems like the obvious thing to do, but not only do you want to have a firm idea of what you’re getting yourself into, you also want to be able to refer back to the description if you find the homeowner was not as forthcoming as they should have been.
Here’s a few things to watch out for.
First: Money. Never pay. I repeat. NEVER PAY. Nearly all house sitting websites tell you this same thing, but some homeowners think they’re doing you a favor by giving you a place to live. In fact, you are doing them a HUGE favor. You’re looking after their animals while they are away, ensuring the home owners aren’t paying for a house sitter locally, and most importantly, ensuring the animals are happy.
Where I used to live in the States, a night in the kennel would cost someone about $50. So a housesitter charging less than that would easily get the job, solely based on the fact the homeowners pet is in a place they feel comfortable — home! When a homeowners description says the housesitter will have to pay electric/gas/water etc, it tells me they greatly undervalue the service you are providing. This also tells me they will be requiring you to do things they didn’t list, ‘since they’re already doing you a favor.’
(To add on to this, never buy anything for the animal they should already have, i.e., food, bedding, litter, treats, etc. All of those should definitely be provided for by the pet/home owner. But if you want to buy the pet a treat, check with the pet owner, then do so! We did a fantastic pet sit in Edinburgh with an adorable dog, and the owners said he loved sausages from down the street, at a restaurant. They made it clear he didn’t need these, but if we wanted to treat him, those would be okay. I personally like recommendations like this. Of course, we ended up spoiling the pupper rotten, but they made it clear we didn’t need to, which we appreciated. It was also far more fun to do on our own volition.)
The only times that might be okay to pay is when there are no pets, and the housesit is long term (more than 2 weeks.) Then I understand the homeowner trying to keep costs low. And electricity/gas shouldn’t be too much for a month, anyway. At least, it’ll be cheaper than an AirBnB for a month.
Second: Check to make sure you’re not staying at a thinly veiled Workaway program. (If you’re looking for a Workaway program, ignore me!) Some of the housesits are looking for a live-in caretaker to do chores such as gardening, taking care of farm animals, etc. Which isn’t such a bad idea. But keep in mind, often times you will not be able to find a paying job without a visa, and the homeowners won’t pay, they’ll only offer lodging. I saw one offered in Guatemala that had the house sitters working long-term at their restaurant/resort location. Again, if this appeals to you, go right ahead! However, I am hesitant to do any work for someone without some kind of contract or payment.
Third: And this one is far more subjective. Get a feel for how the homeowner writes their description. If they sound demanding or welcoming. If it’s detailed or completely lacking information. To get a feel for this, just search through different descriptions. Don’t take too long, though! Once you find a house sit you want, you’ll have to jump on it! Which brings me to…
Initiating contact. Your first message doesn’t need to be a fleshed-out, color-coded, from-birth-till-today exposé on your life. Just a few sentences will do. ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I saw your housesit. Your XYZ looks so adorable, I have a little furry guy myself. I’m proficient/well-practiced at the chores you need done. Look forward to hearing from you.’ Something simple like that, maybe a few more bells and whistles. However, if you’re the type of person to show your personality on that first message, please don’t let me stop you! I want you to do whatever feels natural, that was just a little sample of how simple it can be.
When you’re sending out messages, try not to send out more than two, three at the most. You don’t want more than two people say yes, because then you’ll have to tell one of them ‘Oh, too late,” which makes it sound like you’re just in it for the vacation, and not the animals. I should reiterate, ANIMALS COME FIRST.
The reason I say it’s okay to send two is if you’re in a crunch, you have to get out of the house you’re in, and you need anyone to say yes. It’s an incredibly uncomfortable and difficult situation to be in, and you shouldn’t blame yourself if you have to send some messages and hope for the best.
I’ve never done a Skype call for any house sit. Usually Darcy and I exchange messages, then What’s App info, then a few more messages. The first housesit we did, we didn’t have a last name, address, nothing. (UK Border Patrol was real happy about that. I’ll talk more about that in a separate article.)
Once that’s done, it’s just the waiting game!
More often than not, you’ll be asked to come a day or two early, just to meet the owners and the pets. This is totally normal. Usually you’re put up in their house for the night they ask you to come. You can also do what Darcy and I did, and rent a hotel room, explore the city and meet the homeowners in a way that has minimal pressure. (After all, if something terrible happens, we aren’t getting kicked out of a house. We just go back to a hotel room and figure out Plan B.) But I’ve never heard of anything horrible happening, so you’ll be fine!
If you’re curious about more housesitting information, follow me! I try to post one article a day on a different, or slightly different, topic. If you want to read some of my fiction work, please check it out!
When I was at this point, the questions started to flood in. How do I get started? Where do I go? Do I need reviews?
The easiest way to get started is by starting where you live. Put out a Facebook post, or an Instagram post. Better yet, respond to people looking for a house sit. The people that will trust you the most are the ones who already know you. I would recommend getting a few of these under your belt, not to mention, these would probably pay if you do it in your hometown! (If you’re traveling somewhere, they won’t pay. If you’re doing it where you live, they will pay. That’s the general rule of thumb on which house sit jobs pay and which don’t.)
Once you have a few housesits completed, you can ask them to be references. Chances are, they won’t need to do much, maybe send an email or two. Tell a prospective house owner that you’re trustworthy. That sort of thing.
Now that you have a few house sits under your belt, you’re ready to go! Where to?
What are you interested in? There will more than likely be a few house sits that suit your interests. In the city or in the country? In a country that speaks a language you’re familiar with? A country with great food? What about a country with camels or emu?
(In the next installment I will talk about websites. It needs an entire article devoted it. This post will be more about the kind of description to write.)
Once you’ve found a housesit, it’s time to reach out to them! I tend to make an account after I find a housesit, mainly because most websites will let you search for housesits without an account.
Setting up your account is a fairly important step. I have trouble with it, because I tend to prefer anonymity, but a housesitting account needs to be outgoing, personable, and inviting.
Pictures are important. Pictures of you smiling even more so. My own personal philosophy is to use pictures that aren’t ‘instagram worthy,’ as in, there’s no filter, no setting sun, nothing that might look stock. Darcy and I use goofy, smiling photos. I think we’re eating ice cream in one, and another one is taken after a hike so you can see the view. Of course, you can use whatever photos you want! It’s your page! However, I’m always wary of bot accounts/fake accounts, and I steer clear from any house sit that uses stock photos/promo photos/drone photos. Not that I don’t trust drone photos, but they usually pop up on accounts that have promo photos. (I’ll cover this more in it’s own article about choosing the right home owners.) And because of that, I make sure my profile looks as real as possible. Trying to remove any doubt before anyone is actually doubting.
Now the description. Who are you, and what do you do?
Darcy and I both work at home, so to speak. I’m a writer, and she’s a watercolor painter. So neither of us are applying for a long-term housesit with the intent of getting a seasonal job. Which is totally okay, by the way! Some house owners even expect it! There are other house owners who are actively searching for retired couples, usually using the word ‘spry’ or ‘active.’ These are the housesits Darcy and I apply to. We act like a spry retired couple. Usually around the house. Giving plenty of cuddles to the animals. Happy to sit with a cat on our lap or go for a thirty minute walk with a dog. We have no plans, so our day can be the animal’s day.
If you’re looking for a job wherever you go, make that clear in the description! Like I said earlier, most homeowners won’t mind, but you don’t want to skip that little detail and have the homeowners find out in a bad way (like their animal getting sick or breaking something when you’re not there.)
A major addition to our description is ‘vegetarian.’ It seems to be one of those things that doesn’t hurt us, but has helped us. Our first house sit was at the house of vegetarians, and they felt comfortable knowing that no one would be cooking meat in the house. A recent house sit in France was the same way. The owners were vegan, didn’t want any meat in the house, but were okay with butter and cheese. I’m not saying go vegan/vegetarian! But if you are, you might have more connections. If you’re a hardcore carnivore, try adding that in! I don’t know if that would work as well solely because most of the housesits we’ve done have been for more-than-normal eco-friendly families, and meat isn’t very eco-friendly. However, I suggest you play around with it, see what works best!
The rest of your description should be things that make you, ‘you.’ I would personally avoid the usual list of adjectives that people use ‘loves pets, outgoing, open-minded,’ etc. It doesn’t say much about you as a person. You could try an animal anecdote if you have one, or talk about your pets if you have any.
Home owners are looking for reasons to trust you, just as you are looking for reasons to trust them. That’s the basis of house sitting. Of course, they’re taking the bigger risk, letting you into their house. so do everything you can to help them feel at ease!
When your profile is ready, send them a message! Just a simple ‘Your pets look cute, your house looks amazing, I can handle the chores you’re asking me to do’ is fine. At least, it’s been fine for us. The only time anyone has said no to us is when they cancelled the trip! Some people have really in depth and extravagant openers, but I prefer to use something simple and personal. If they like it, it’s easier to talk about things since you didn’t use it in a opener!
The next installment will talk about which websites are out there! Follow to stay informed!
Check out my novella if you’re looking for something to read.