What made you decide to try house and pet sitting and how long have you been doing it for?
I am English and my husband Tom is Scottish. We emigrated to Australia 11 years ago. Having sold our business and taken early retirement, we spent time renovating our family home. We, sadly, lost own dog Nessie (aged 16 and a half) and one of our closest friends to cancer in 2010. We decided that now was the time to do something we had always wanted to do and travel the world (well life is just too short!).
So, In 2011 we rented out our home, put our furniture in storage and headed off into the wide blue yonder to follow our dreams (and the sun). We spent a year or so travelling around Europe and then headed over to the Caribbean (we have a son over there, so this was a great excuse to explore the islands). However, we soon came to realise that the costs of this lifestyle were mounting. To continue exploring the world, we would need to look at other options to achieve this . The financial constraints of living in hotels and the impersonal aspect of travelling this way had really started to wain. We really missed having the comforts of home and having animals in our lives. Rather than just be tourists, we wanted to experience, actually living in the various areas, meeting and striking up new friendships with the local people.
That's when we discovered the fantastic world of house and pet sitting! After visiting various websites and reading several books, I decided that this was definitely worth looking into. I have got to say at this stage my husband was somewhat skeptical! We joined TrustedHousesitters.com in January 2013 and I spent time setting up our profile, asking friends, family, colleagues, if they would be kind enough to write character references for us. We also produce a short video (hey, not an Oscar winning performance, but hopefully it would help potential home owners to get an idea of who we are). We applied for our police checks (this took a few weeks to organise). All done, we launched our profile and embarked on this fantastic new chapter in our lives. The rest as they say is history. We now been house and pet sitting for nearly 2 years and we absolutely love it!
What has been your highlight of house siting so far - has anyone touched your heart?
We met a wonderful couple in France. Not only have become friends but, through experiences shared, we have formed a very special friendship with them both - the kind that lasts a lifetime. This was certainly not something we were expecting to find when we embarked on our house and pet sitting adventures. We applied for their house/pet sit through TrustedHousesitters.com, looking after their Manor House, with guest wing, swimming pool in 7 hectares of land and 33 animals in total. My husband thought I was slightly bonkers when I first showed him the advert and said I'd like to apply. I am so very glad that we did!
We have now house/pet sat for the owners Suzanne and Jacques on 4 separate occasions. We have been there, seen family dramas unfold, help nurse their injured dog Vidocq and sadly comforted them when one of their dogs Nelson passed away (We cried as much as they did, as we too had come to love him). They also made us an amazing offer last year when they suggested/insisted we use their home for our friends and family to celebrate my BIG birthday. This we did and everyone had the most amazing time. We will always be extremely grateful to them, and I know they would say the same too. With 33 animals they had never been able to take a holiday until they found out about house and pet sitting. We now Skype regularly, have holidayed together, and will be returning to see them again this year.
This coupled with homeowners in Turkey (John and Selim) whom we have now house/pet sat for on two occasion, for 3 month each time. Have become very good friends in the process. We love this house/pet sit and love their three dogs, having spent a total of 6 months with them we know them really well. We nursed two of their older dogs following operations during our sits and this cemented a real bond between us all. They have kindly offered us the use of a property they own in the USA and have told us we are welcome at their home at any time.
These lovely people have certainly touched our hearts with their trust, kindness, generosity and friendships. We are sure our paths would not have crossed if it was not for house and pet sitting! All the animals we have care for have touched our hearts too. All the different characters and personalities! For us the hardest part of any sit is saying goodbye!
How much do you think you would have spent on hotels in the last year if you hadn't been house and pet sitting?
This is a hard question to answer. A Had we paid for accommodation in basic hotels this last year, we would probably have spent in excess £20,000. This however, is not the only saving we gain from house and pet sitting. Generally, we do not pay household bills i.e. electric, gas, water, rates etc. Our home, in Australia, is rented out so provides us with an income.
We do however, have travel costs i.e. flights. Whilst we occasionally pay out for car hire on some sits we are offered the use of the owners car (that said we would have a car and associated expenses if we were at home). Still whatever way you look at it, our expenditure is minimal compared with the savings of travel using traditional methods AND actually cheaper than staying at home!!!
Where was your first sit and what was it like?
Following the launch of our profile onto the TrustedHousesitters.com website, we started to, seriously, look at house/pet sits and applied one in Clevedon (UK). It was a short sit of 4 days looking after a black Labrador, called Lily, and 6 Bantam Chickens. The homeowners contacted us after receiving our application and asked if we could Skype. Looking back I remember just how nervous we were. We made a list of questions, mostly about the Lily the dog, but also about the care required for the chickens (as neither of us had any experience with these feathery creatures).
We Skyped the owners and the whole experience went really well. We chatted with them asked our questions and answered theirs. To our delight they offered us the assignment there and then. We arranged to keep in touch and organise arrival times and they promised to send us directions etc. Wow, we were so thrilled.
Our first experience was a really good one. We arrived and had a "handover' day with the owners prior to their departure. This was great for all involved. It allowed the homeowners to get to know us, show us around and explain how things worked in the house. We felt it was really important for Lily to get used to having us there, whilst the owners were still at home. This was also a good time for us to know the requirements of looking after the chickens. Lily and the chickens were a real joy to look after. We loved the fresh eggs the chickens provided every day! Lily loved her walks and quickly showed us around the local neighbourhood. Chase the stick her favourite game, and she adored her swims in the sea. She was quite a character and strangely loved to listen to Tom play his guitar (we think she quickly became his number one fan!)
We came away from our first experience in a very positive frame of mind. My husband was not so skeptical now!!! We had thoroughly enjoyed the house/pet sit and couldn't wait to apply for the next one.
Where was your favourite destination and why?
We can honestly say we don't have a favourite destination. We love the diversity of our destinations and the uniqueness of each house/pet sit. We have stayed in so many different homes; from a small Terraced House, a Stone Farmhouses, a Gite, a Manor House, a white washed Andulucian dwelling, a Luxury Villa to, even, a treehouse! A Our travels have taken us to, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Australia and the Caribbean. House and pet sitting has enable us to really "live" like a local, to get to know the places we are visiting, meet new people and to feel part of that community. It really has been so very rewarding on so many levels. The exciting part is not knowing what the future holds or where are next destination will be!
What do your friends and family think of your lifestyle?
Initially, when we announced we would be house and pet sitting, I think most of our friends and family thought we were mad. In fact Tom's sister told him straight to his face that he was!! Not many had heard of the concept and really understood what it was all about. However, a few months into our adventures, with our updates and stories along the way, they really started to take an interest.
By this time we had spent most of the summer in France and Spain and had just been offered the 3 month house/pet sit in Turkey. Fast forward to today, I truly think most now have an understanding why we love this lifestyle. I think we have inspired a few people. We have a couple of friends who are currently looking at doing house and pet sitting in the near future. Obviously, when we had the birthday party at the Manor House a lot of them truly got to experience what we do. This has been amazing for us, for friends and family too, as it really has given them a real insight and understand of the whole house and pet sitting concept. Everyone agreed it's a wonderful lifestyle.
Where are you now and where are you off to next?
We are now in the Saint Lucia, Caribbean just finishing our first Christmas house/pet sit that we were offered via TrustedHousesitters.com. We are living in a Treehouse in the Rainforest, the house is on the cliff and looks out to sea. Our nearest neighbours being a good 10 minute walk away. You should see the roads to get here....loosely called roads more like rocky tracks.
Luckily the owners have lent us their car (a 4 wheel drive), still feels like you are bouncing around on a trampoline! The only water here is filtered rain water! The vegetation is amazing, so lush and green. One of the highlights has be seeing the many varieties of hummingbirds, they look like tiny fairies, visiting the flowers that surround the deck. Not forgetting the little tree frogs and lizards that are everywhere too. An amazing place in the midst of nature. Not sure about some of the creepy crawlies though and the mozzies are having a feeding frenzy on poor Tom! Still we are not complaining, we can certainly live with them!
The dogs are gorgeous, Tizzy, Lucky and Shadow. Tizzy is the mum, Lucky her son (the only pup to survive her first litter hence the name). Lucky has a big fear of steps and as there are lots here he has to be gently encourage to go up and down them. Last but not least is Shadow the 9 month old pup (part kangaroo and crocodile too!). Forgotten just how funny puppies are. She is into everything, mad as a hatter, but good fun to be around. They enjoy 2 walks a day and lots of ball throwing and then lots of "find the ball" as it gets easily lost in the "jungle" here!
Our next house/pet sit is also in Saint Lucia to house/pet sit for a neighbour of the owners of the Treehouse. We were introduced to her as the emergency contact person for the Tree House pet sit. She has a gorgeous little white dog called Lao and an awesome property, high on the cliff top with 360 degree views over Marigot Bay, out to sea and across the lush green land to the mountains. We have been offered an 8 week house/pet sit here whilst the owner returns to the UK to see her family. This came about after her meeting us and her thinking that house and pet sitting could work for her too!!!
What advice would you give to others who are thinking about becoming house sitters?
Our main advice is, without doubt, to be adaptable! No two house/pet sits are ever the same and if experience has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. Research the area or country that you are visiting. Looking into the costs involved e.g. visa's required etc before accepting a sit. Do not be afraid to ask lots of questions. Make sure that you are happy with all aspects of the sit and what is expected of you. Adapt to the requirements of the animals in your care (you are there to look after them, maintain their routines and not to change things to suit you!). It may seem you are being entrusted with the house owners home (and you are) but the most valuable possession to the owners are their pets!!. Whilst it is great to be able to explore an area, it is important to understand that this is a 24/7 assignment. At the end of the day you may need to get back after 3/4 hours to feed/walk pets. You are not totally free to come and go as you please. So long as you understand there are a few limitations, we feel positive you will love house and pet sitting.
What's the best thing about your lifestyle?
Everything! We love house and pet sitting! There are so many opportunities out there, the world is literally our oyster! Meeting new people and having animals in our lives is something we treasure. It is extremely interesting visiting different countries, learning new languages and living in the local communities. We enjoy the comforts of a home instead of impersonal hotel rooms. We, personally, think this is a wonderful lifestyle for anyone who enjoys travelling and has a love of animals, it offers so much and is so very rewarding.
How easy do you find it to use TrustedHousesitters.com and would you recommend the site?
For us TrustedHousesitters.com is the No.1 house sitting site, although we are registered with a couple of other sites, this is by far the best. The site is easy to set up, easy to use and easy to update. We would definitely recommend this site and have done so on many occasions. The majority of our house/pet sits have come from TrustedHousesitters.com and we have been impressed at the growth and reach of their website . We hope that our story will inspire other's to give house and pet sitting a try. You certainly have nothing to lose and so very much to gain!