One thing that often holds people back from taking a career break to travel is the worry that long-term travel only involves living out of a suitcase on a limited budget. Taking that career break is all about adventure, which inherently means a rougher lifestyle, right?
Not necessarily. I am writing this today from Santiago de Chile, where my partner Dani and I are housesitting for two adorable Scottish terriers in a luxury condo in one of the most exclusive areas of the Chilean capital.
The owners have gone to spend the holidays with their family in Ireland. In exchange for keeping their home and pets safe, we are not paying a penny for our accommodation. While we love the free rent (who wouldn’t!) there is much more behind why Dani and I have become such avid housesitters over the past two and a half years. Housesitting allows us to travel full time and yet live a life filled with all the creature comforts most people have to give up when traveling long-term.
During the seven weeks we are spending here in Santiago, the two of us have a three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo all to ourselves. Rather than a private room in a hotel or hostel, our condo is bright, sunny and we even have a fully-furnished terrace to spend time on, plus a swimming pool downstairs. There is also plenty of space for both of us to work out everyday, which means we can maintain our workout routine, which is difficult to do in hostels. The space is great for us as a couple, too. Traveling with your partner is such a tremendous privilege, but stuffing ourselves in small hotel rooms night after night, month after month, can be stressful.
Housesitting also frees up our budget. We are able to opt for higher quality food items at the grocery store, and we don’t have to say no to specialties like delicious cheeses and quality wines (though, being in Chile right now, even cheapie wine is delish). Rather than eating only in budget restaurants, we splurge more often on highly recommended places. On Saturdays, we walk to the nearby organic market (which we would have never found if we had stayed at a city center hotel) to pick up our fruits and vegetables for the week and then cook up any number of fun and healthy recipes. Having our own kitchen is such a blessing, especially because they are usually fully stocked with appliances like bread makers, blenders, crockpots and other fun items. During periods of heavy travel, we often have to grab whatever food is available and go, but when housesitting, we can stay healthy by being in full control of what we cook and eat.
With the money we save on accommodation while housesitting, we also opt for nicer buses or flights when we can and stay in better hotels when we get back on the road.
After 12 housesits on four continents in under three years, we feel confident in saying that, while each one is unique, one consistency we have found is that we almost always end up living in places that tourists would spent hundreds of dollars a night to experience.
We lived on a remote Caribbean beach in Mexico for two months, looking out every day at crystal clear water and working from hammocks. We didn’t just travel through Tuscany, we cared for four cats and a Bed and Breakfast which we had all to ourselves for ten days. In the hot Arizona summer we swam in our own private pool every day, and we will probably never drink water as fresh as we had in our housesit in the Bavarian Alps, where it literally flowed from the top of the mountains down out of the taps of our cottage. No matter where we have housesat, we can live like locals, go sightseeing and explore, but at the end of the day rather than return to a hotel room, we can sleep in our own comfortable bed in our own (temporary) house.
Some people housesit exclusively, but we prefer to apply only when we see an opportunity that fits in with our travel plans. There was no plan to housesit in South America, for example, but we saw the Santiago opportunity listed on one of the housesitting websites we use, so we applied and were accepted. The more experience we get under our belts, the more often we are accepted for sits. Every time, we recharge our batteries for just long enough and then get the itch to get back out and travel.
In this way, housesitting helps us maintain our zest for long-term travel.
Curious about how we find all of these great housesits? There are several websites you can sign up to, but which to choose varies by where you are looking to housesit. We have done a full analysis of the top 20 sites in our book, Break Free: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting. You will also find over 100 pages packed with step by step details on how to get started and how to get your first housesit, even with no experience. Break Free shows you:
♦ How to find housesitting opportunities
♦ How to write a stellar profile
♦ How to be an excellent housesitter and get great refereneces
♦ How to deal with issues of insurance, contracts and emergencies
The book also includes samples of profiles, application letters to model yours after and full checklists that both housesitters and homeowners can use (and print!) to make sure everything is covered before, during and after the housesit.
Dani and Jess are a German-American couple who left their adopted home of London and set off to travel the world in 2010. With the motto ‘Two Girls. One Globe. No Regrets’ they have since traveled through North America, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South East Asia and now South America, while running their travel website GlobetrotterGirls.com. The girls are digital nomads, street food junkies, public transportation masters, LGBT travelers, hotel enthusiasts, street art lovers, vegetarians, and avid housesitters.