The term ‘budget travel’ features heavily in travel publications, online magazines and blogs. You can find a wealth of individuals claiming to personify the concept by travelling light, booking in advance, or booking last minute, scouring the internet for coupons and choosing to self-cater instead of eating out.
To some the idea of low cost travel evokes images of tie-dye wearing youths sleeping top to toe in grubby hostels and living on pot noodles and beer. Not an attractive scenario for many vacationers whose experience of travel is defined by the funds they have available to spend.
For me the notion of travelling on a budget is a necessity, I’m nomadic and have been for the past two years. My limited finances were a concern to my family when I announced that I’d left my job in London and was about to embark on an undefined period of nomadic exploration.
However I’d like to let you into a little secret.
Despite my limited budget I’ve experienced life on a cashew farm in the jungles of southern Costa Rica, run with bulls in Nicaragua, learnt the basics of macadamia farming in Australia, how to snowboard in British Colombia and the finer points of alpaca maintenance in New Zealand.
You see I’m a house sitter and in the past two years I’ve paid for just two months accommodation.
The concept of house sitting is simple. When leaving their home and pets for a period of time a home owner entrusts a house sitter to maintain their property and animals during their absence.
As a traveller on a budget the idea of temporarily living rent free is appealing. It’s a fact that accommodation will take up a large part of your budget and removing that cost can save you a huge amount of money.
Along with the financial aspect I have found house sitting to benefit my experience of travel more so than I had ever imagined. It is often far too easy to just brush the surface of the places you visit, staying in hotels and hostels you catch only a glimpse of local life and socialise purely with others who are travelling.
House sitting submerses you in indigenous communities and teaches you about life in the country you are visiting. Temporarily wearing someone else’s shoes, you interact with a location in a completely different way.
Neighbours and friends take you to visit their favourite spots in the area, invite you along to social gatherings and teach you local customs. This insight into local life is usually inaccessible to travellers and tourists and is one of the elements of house sitting that has given me the most reward.
There are a number of websites that connect house sitters and home owners, I use Trusted Housesitters and have had great success securing assignments in Costa Rica, Canada, Australia, USA, the Caribbean and New Zealand through the site.
For an annual fee of US$79 house sitters can create a profile listing and begin applying for assignments. The website also allows home owners to search the database of registered sitters and contact them directly.
There are a number of sites which offer more location specific opportunities and those which detail properties of a certain kind, ie lifestyle farms or properties with an attached business, so take the time to research which mservice will suit your needs.
Creating your house sitter profile is essentially like constructing a CV. When applying for assignments you’re competing for the position with many other applicants. Home owners will often receive countless applications and yours needs to convey exactly why you are the perfect candidate.
Take the time to construct an eye catching title and first paragraph because if you fail to impress in the first few minutes you may find your application is shelved without further consideration.
Be open and honest about yourself and why you are looking to house sit. Detail why it is you believe you can provide adequate property and pet care and be sure to list any references you may have.
Include current photographs of yourself that reflect your personality.
Once you’ve completed your profile you can begin applying for assignments. Read the home owners advert thoroughly before applying. Construct a tailored application letter and in no more than a few paragraphs explain why you are the perfect candidate.
Sign up for email alerts and apply for assignments as soon as they appear. Home owners can be inundated with applications and neglect any submissions once they feel they’ve enough applicants.
Every day I receive an email update listing new assignments all over the world. There is no shortage of inspiration for those unsure of the location for their next adventure. But how do you choose an assignment that suits your itinerary?
This is the key factor to consider. House sitting offers the opportunity to explore foreign environments, make sure the location is somewhere you feel you would enjoy. Take the time to research the local area and get to know what facilities you will have available during your stay.
The length of house sitting assignments can vary dramatically so ensure you’re aware of the time commitment before accepting the assignment. From as little as a weekend to as long as one year, search for an opportunity that fits with your schedule.
Don’t negate to consider the costs involved with travelling to and from the assignment as well as living costs for the duration of your stay. Include the cost of any flights, ground transport, vehicle rental and daily living expenses in your calculation.
If you’re house sitting abroad ensure you find out exactly what visa is required and how to apply, either in advance or on arrival. Remember that if you’re charging a fee for your services as a sitter you will need to hold an employment visa.
Enjoy Living Like A Local
With such a wide range of assignments available you’re almost guaranteed to find something that suits your needs and offers you the chance to experience life in a new and exciting location.
My assignments have taken me half way around the world! Where will house sitting take you?
About the Author:
Charli Moore is a house sitter and travel addict with a penchant for dark chocolate. In 2011 she and her other half Ben waved ‘Adios’ to the corporate world and jumped head first into a life of perpetual travel. You can follow the adventures of this writer/photographer team over at Wanderlusters or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Images sources under creative commons or from Wanderlusters.co.uk where specified.