Incorporating Housesitting Into Your Travels

Dogs, dogs, dogs!

Dogs, dogs, dogs!

Curious about whether housesitting is right for you?  In this post we’ll look at what it is, how it works, what to expect, and how to get started.  We’ll also share some tips that we’ve picked up from our experiences along the way.  We’ve been incorporating housesits into our slow travel for the last year and it’s been a positive and rewarding experience for us, our kids, and the homeowners.

Housesitting is basically a value exchange.  The homeowner needs someone to look after their home, and most often, pets.  The housesitter, in exchange for staying and looking after things, receives accommodation at no charge.  However, we have seen a few longer-term housesits where the homeowner requests that the sitter pay for a portion of the utilities, particularly through the winter months.  But these aren’t very common.  Housesitting is gaining popularity worldwide and sits can range from a few days to many months.

The homeowner lists their housesit on a housesitting website and outlines their details such as dates required, location and size of the home, number and types of pets, and items needing attention such as a lawn or garden.  They may also specify their ideal housesitter, ie. a single person, a couple, a retired couple, a family, etc.  We’ve never had anyone request a criminal record report but that is possible.  Some websites will show you how many sitters have applied for each housesit -- this is where experience becomes important in landing the most desirable sits.

afternoons with jenny the pig.

afternoons with jenny the pig.

We’ve noticed that the people who are open to having sitters they don’t know stay at their home are pretty easy going people, in general.  They’re happy to have guests stay in their home and know that their pets are being looked after.  And often the homeowner will go to great lengths in providing a list of all the area has to offer to make the sitter’s stay a happy one.  While away, some homeowners like frequent check ins, mostly to know how their pets are doing, while some are content to relax on their vacation and leave their phone alone.  As petsitters, we have to respect the owner’s wishes in how they want their pet to be treated.  It's not our place to modify behaviours or ignore their instructions because we don’t agree with them.  Our job is to care for their pets the same way they would.

The housesits we’ve done in Australia and Canada have been full of rich experiences.  We’ve met wonderful families and cared for beautiful animals -- all sorts of dogs, cats, fish, a calf, even a pet pig!  Some houses have had swimming pools.  Some have had great neighbours that have become friends, too.  Our travel philosophy is living life the way the locals do, and we believe that living in a local’s home is one of the best ways to do that.

Does housesitting sound like something you’d like to do?  Before we talk about how to start applying for housesits we’ll share a few tips to help set you up for success:

  1. Your profile and bio on the housesitting websites are key.  You need strong verbage that tells people what you’re about and how you can help them.  For ideas, you can view ours here.
  2. Build rapport quickly on the initial call, and suggest a video call on FB messenger or Zoom.  Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them.  Be confident in what you’re offering.  Ask lots of questions and listen.  When given the chance, people will talk all day about their pets.  Give them reasons to feel good about you.
  3. Maintain a clean presence on social media and invite homeowners to look you up when you apply.
  4. Don’t apply for housesits that are over your head.  If you don’t know anything about horses, it’s probably not the best time to learn when you have nobody to help you.  The last thing you want is wishing the housesit would end sooner!   That’s no fun.
  5. You’ll feel much more at home if you match your family’s characteristics to the homeowner’s, ie. we’re a better match to housesit and care for a family’s home and pets than for a single person living in an apartment with a solitary cat.
  6. Make a list of what’s in the fridge and pantry when you arrive and replace those items if you use them during your stay.
  7. On the day the homeowners return, stock the fridge with a few fresh groceries and put some fresh cut flowers on the table.  Wouldn’t you appreciate that if it was the other way around?
housesitting on christmas day - queensland, australia

housesitting on christmas day - queensland, australia

There are quite a number of housesitting websites to choose from.  Most involve a membership fee of around $100 annually.  The sites we’ve used are: - Worldwide - Australia - Canada

Find a site that works for you and begin working on your profile.  If you’re brand new, with no housesitting experience, you can ask friends and relatives to write character references for you.  That’s what we did.  Then start applying for lots of housesits wherever it is that you want to go!  And let us know how your housesitting experiences are!

How Podcasts Lead to Progress

Listening and running at Kalamalka Lake.

Listening and running at Kalamalka Lake.

I was a late bloomer when it came to owning a smartphone.  Up until late 2013, Jaime and I had one pre-paid 7/11 Nokia between us.  Then we joined the smartphone revolution -- thankfully -- and one of the first things I found on it was a podcasts app.  Also around this time we had adopted our dog, Penni, who needed regular walks.  Why not listen to some audio while I walked the dog?  So I began downloading podcasts to listen to as we walked every evening.

It’s important to note that up until this point I had mostly been listening to music.  Since 2010, when I became the full-time parent, the girls and I had been listening to a feel-good, comfortably-numb combo of alternative rock and preschool music.  Have you ever seen that T-shirt that says “My new favorite bands are pretty much my old favorite bands”?  That was me.  Looking back, I’d say I was ready to listen to some new material!  Since I’d already been reading a lot of nonfiction and personal development books I looked for those types of podcasts.  One of the first ones I stumbled across was The Kick Ass Life with David Wood.  It was fantastic.  I’d never listened to anything like it.  That led to finding podcasts about productivity, life hacks, personal finance, parenting, and TED Talks. I even listened to some fascinating stuff on RadioLab.  

I found the stories about people doing amazing things the most inspiring.  People that were changing the world -- pushing the limits of what was believed to be humanly possible, or overcoming tremendous adversity.  Or learning about the power of habit or how to be an empathic listener.  The podcasts were different than books.  I liked books but I could get more bite-sized, easily consumable content from podcasts.  I found I was applying the knowledge I was learning with my kids, with Jaime and with everybody I interacted with.  I also felt that a lot of the hosts were relatable and encouraged interaction through social media.  This led to me working up the courage to email Michael at the Kick Ass Dad podcast and share my story about going from electrician to full-time dad.  He followed up by having me as a guest on the show!

Boarding for Bali.

Boarding for Bali.

Directly and indirectly, podcasts have made an impact in my life and helped Jaime and I move from where we were before, just coasting along on autopilot, letting life happen to us, to where we are now, stepping out and taking advantage of opportunities to design our life any way that we want it.  

One of the most important things we can do for our own progress is commit to being lifelong learners.  You’re already doing it by reading this blog post.  Podcasts are an amazing tool for learning about any topic that interests you. I’ve been listening to them almost daily now for over three years.  I’ve even started listening to them while I run, whereas before that was my music zone!  It’s such an easy way to obtain new information -- just download and press play when you’re walking, working out, cooking, driving, cleaning, etc.  I listen to a lot of shows that relate to my business but a few of my all-time faves are The School of Greatness, Crank It Up, The Good Dad Project, The Tim Ferriss Show, Wellness Force Radio, and obviously, The Kick Ass Life.

I’d love to hear about your experience with podcasts.  What’s changed for you?  What have you learned?  Or maybe you ARE a podcaster!  Look me up on Facebook or Instagram, or email me here.

Worldschooling Mom: My 5 Biggest Takeaways So Far

From the very beginning of our homeschooling journey our motto has been to instill confidence, teach a love of learning and everything else will fall into place.  Sounds a little idealistic, doesn’t it?  A few years ago I would have raised my eyebrows if I’d heard that.  But as we are finishing up our third year of home-based education, here are a few of the things I have come to believe:

Supporting a vendor on Gili Air.

Supporting a vendor on Gili Air.

1) Learning happens anywhere and everywhere.

I started out thinking we needed specific books and a neatly set up learning table with chairs.  I eventually tired of banging my head against the wall and accepted that our daughter Claire had no interest in sitting in a chair and completing worksheets.  The real lesson that came from that was to not re-create a classroom but rather to use the world around us to learn.  I love things that are practical and fun at the same time. For example, when making a purchase in a store or a farmers market, let them figure out how much is owed before going to the checkout.  Do they have enough cash?  How much change are they going to get?   

2) When we’re excited about something we don’t resist it.

Think back to when you were in school.  There were probably subjects that you did better in than others because you enjoyed learning about them.  For instance, Claire is an animal lover to the extreme!  Anything that relates to animals will grab her attention and keep her focused.  She loves to draw animals and can rattle off very specific details out of animal encyclopedias.  In contrast, it took her until she was nearly seven years old to be able to remember her birth month and date.  Support your kids in following their passions and watch their confidence grow!

3) Worldschooling is real life.

It doesn't get any more practical than learning how to plan a route, ask a stranger for help (yes, we encourage that, and it’s a whole other blog post!), communicating despite language barriers, converting different currencies, budgeting, calculating time zones, etc. These are excellent real life skills that open our eyes to what we are capable of and what is possible.  Memorizing facts for the purpose of a test didn't do a thing to build up my confidence and has never been the lifesaving buoy I needed while navigating the opportunities of life.

4) Life isn't meant to be lived in a box.

The more places we have been and the more people we have met has us thinking differently about how and why we do what we do.  I love that my kids get to see how other people live and how the way we do things isn't the only way it can be done.  On the flip side, they are also realizing that they don't have to do things the same way other people do them either.  They are learning to share their views and to be open to learning about new ways, too.  The world needs more people who think and live outside the box!

5) Learning is a lifelong adventure.

Navigating Sydney's train network!

Navigating Sydney's train network!

One of my favorite quotes is "the more I learn the more I realize I don't know."  There are no specific qualifications required to teach your own children.   As a trained dental hygienist, there are subjects that are definitely more my area of expertise than others.  Nothing is better for my kids than seeing that I don't know something and that I am learning right along with them.

If you are interested in travelling for a few months, a year or longer, know that the resources are out there to support you and yes, you can absolutely do it!  Everything changed for me when I put my fears and excuses aside and asked myself “Why wouldn’t I do that?  What’s stopping me?”  Travel is the most rewarding education and even more fantastic when you can experience it as a family!  

Update: September 2017 - Listen to my podcast appearance where I speak about worldschooling and escaping the rat race on "Honey, I'm Homeschooling the Kids".