House and pet sitting is becoming more and more popular. Although I still talk to people regularly who are amazed by the prospect of such an arrangement, there are many travellers partaking.
Don’t read any further ahead if:
#1 You don’t like animals. Yup, that’s right. You need to be 100% comfortable walking someone else’s dog and having that elusive cat appear on your keyboard, or better yet crawl into your lap unexpectedly.
#2 Don’t want to work while travelling? Then stop reading right now!
House and pet sitting really is a job. You apply and interview as you would for any job. This particular job is built on an infinite amount of mutual trust. You are stepping into somebody else’s life and keeping their home running as smoothly as possible. That, of course, involves doling out the ultimate in pet care.
If you’re good with #1 and #2 then read on to discover…
10 Unforgettable Benefits of House and Pet sitting
Would You Actually See This Place?
La Réole. Pontorson. Shamley Green.
These three places all have something in common. They are off the beaten path and not somewhere a tourist would necessarily visit. When house and pet sitting, the opportunity to live in smaller communities is a welcome chance to see a place you might never have thought to visit. In fact, you may never even have heard of it before. Fast forward and there you are living next to a cricket pitch or a short bike ride away from Mont-St-Michel.
House and pet sitting in small towns is slow travel at its very best. You are not just going at a slow pace but the opportunity to return to the same market, discover the best bakery and walk some hidden trails is waiting for you.
Get the Inside Scoop
Overlapping with the homeowners is critical to the success of the housesit. You get first-hand knowledge of how to run the house and all the tips and tricks needed to keep Fluffy and Fido content and on routine.
But the insider tips are not limited to the housesit. People are proud of where they live and love to suggest what to do in the area. Aside from nearby highlights, favourite bakeries that have the best lemon tart ever tasted, bike rides along shady canals and country walking routes are also recommended. Places where you never see another tourist.
If you are house and pet sitting in another country, the insider tips are a real bonus. But what about when you house sit in your own country? Housesitting has given me the opportunity to live and experience different places in Canada. It’s the difference between visiting somewhere for a weekend and living somewhere for a month.
Meet the Locals
This is not guaranteed. I have done all my housesitting assignments solo. Some in cities and others in rural areas. Sometimes you meet people. Other times you don’t. Occasionally the homeowners will introduce you to friends and neighbours over a meal, a cup of tea or the fence. But this should not be an expectation.
Some of my best memories from house sitting involve the interactions with locals, some fleeting and others more regular.
Early morning walks with my neighbour François were a delight. This resulted in him lending me a bike so I could ride along the French canals and find a hidden field with the first sunflowers of the season blooming.
I never would have met Yvette if I hadn’t been housesitting. Lost on the backroads of Brittany, France, I stopped to take a photo of her car and what transpired was an hour-long conversation in French. I’m glad to say I understood about 50%! A few days later as I sauntered through the local market, there she was greeting me with a wide grin.
Feeling welcome in the community is such a bonus of house and pet sitting.
Live Like a Local
Probably, if you are reading this post about house and pet sitting, you are inherently curious about the world. The bonus of housesitting is that you have the opportunity to embrace another culture. You can jump right in and see how it feels.
Eyeing the fresh mussels at the Pontorson market in France, I took the plunge and purchased a handful. Moules et frites (mussels and fries) is part of the culture in Brittany. I was instructed by the market vendor on how to cook the mussels and felt like a local creating my own feast. Did I mention the refreshing, local cider that accompanied the meal? Or the fact that I eventually learned how to eat mussels just like the French?
Walking the dogs past the village green in Surrey, England required a mandatory pause to watch the Sunday cricket match. Who knew that they hung enormous nets to prevent the balls from breaking windows on the houses encircling the field?
Live like a local and deal with the weather. Huge winds blew the antique trampoline over and over across the field after I had been explicitly told not to touch it. Oops!
Power outages (thank you trusty headlamp) and wild summer storms are part and parcel of the experience. You will definitely have something to chat with neighbours about the next day!
Receive Free Rent
This should never be the only reason that you undertake a housesitting gig. Never. But, for a long-term traveller, living rent-free is an incredible bonus. Live in an apartment or a mansion. It really doesn’t matter, for the opportunity to be part of a community and live rent-free is an unforgettable experience.
And don’t forget the responsibilities that go with the free rent! Dog walks, belly rubs, yard work, and housework!
Set up Office
Trying to work at coffee shops all the time is tricky. While housesitting, I love having a place to set up my computer, spread out my raft of papers (old school!) and delve into my creative mode. I love this advantage of house sitting. If this is important to you, make sure you ask in the interview about a working space and high-speed wifi.
Experience How Other People Live
You’re curious, right?
Housesitting is a fascinating insight into humanity. You see how others live and then step right into their lives!
Limoges china. You know, that antique china from France? Some people actually use it every day. I had to text the homeowner to verify that this was their everyday tableware.
Top of the line appliances are great fun to figure out. Thank goodness for the manuals.
Others will let you use their cars such as a shiny BMW. With the gorgeous English Setter all loaded up in the back of the vehicle, I couldn’t start the car. I had to break out the manual. Turns out it was my first time using a keyless ignition. Lesson learned- your foot needs to be on the brake before the touch ignition will start the vehicle.
Sometimes the washing machine is located in a shed outside the house. Not a problem until the lines freeze, the machine decides to stay locked and your limited wardrobe is inside.
You are sure to come away with at least a few good stories!
Be Close to Family but Not in Their Space
I choose to be a modern-day nomad. So I roam. But at the same time, spending time with family and friends is a priority. I have actually had more housesits in Canada than elsewhere. Not something I would have predicted in the beginning. It has been a wonderful opportunity to live in different cities in Canada and be close to my family but not in their space. Plus, I can invite friends and family over for a meal. That is always one of the details I clarify before accepting a housesitting contract. Are the homeowners comfortable with me having my daughters over for a meal?
Living a nomadic lifestyle and moving around quite a bit, I welcome the opportunity to have a set routine for a few weeks. Planning groceries for the week, walking the dog(s) and making sure the hens are in their hutch at night is an enjoyable change from living in hostels and Airbnbs.
Indulge in an Animal Fix
Having had a dog most of my adult life and being very fond of cats as well, the bonding that comes with looking after animals is always a joy. Donkeys, chickens, cats and dogs all have their personalities and it is so pleasurable figuring them out and building a relationship. Whether it is the shy cat that takes a week to emerge or the adventurous hen that keeps popping through the fence, if you’re an animal lover the experience will warm your heart.
The hardest part, of course, is saying farewell.
House and pet sitting is a unique and wonderful way to see the world. Have you tried it yet?
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