The House sitting Lifestyle isn’t exactly what we hoped it would be

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Why did we decide upon a house sitting around the world lifestyle initially?

Honestly, because it’s the most affordable way to travel how we wanted – or so we thought.

We aren’t wealthy but we make enough from our Scentsy business to fully support our family. We realized that we can actually save money, or at least spend the same amount monthly, traveling as living in one place paying rent/leasing a place.

Really crazy how It’s the same price or even less. Weird right?

At this point we’ve been traveling exactly 32 days. We’ve stayed in one Hostel, 2 Hotels, 1 Airbnb and are on our 3rd house sit. WHEW!

The House sitting Lifestyle isn't exactly what we hoped it would be

Our Travel Lifestyle

Things I will cover that you will need to know if you want a house sitting lifestyle:

  • Mandatory information
  • Gaps between sits
  • Location Location Location
  • Injuries and Deaths
  • What we love about house sitting
  • Costs of a Housesitting vs Hotel, Airbnb or Hostel Lifestyle

Mandatory Information

You MUST get enough information from the home/pet owner about the pets you are sitting and about the particulars of the home. For example, we had no idea there would be window washers or the gas man coming to one home for readings, washing and payment at our first sit.

This happened to us and it made us realize that we needed to ask more questions for future sits. We found out by speaking with a local shopkeeper that most people get their windows washed every fortnight. It’s common in England.

We need to make sure that we had the name and number of the Vet as well as the Emergency Vet info and Contact. And that in case of emergency we need to know if we should call the Vet first or the homeowner?

We need to know how to lock the doors. In England you ‘lift’ the handle up to be able to lock it. Took me 3 days to figure it out. Granted, we are Americans and this is our first trip the the UK.

These are things that those in the UK take for granted and would most likely not even realize they had to explain.

Also, most people dry their clothing on lines outside in the UK and don’t have Dryers. If you aren’t aware of this then get aware. This will be how you get things done if you are house sitting. We have only been to the UK at this point so far so this won’t apply to all countries of course but each one has it’s own quirks and challenges for visitors. If you have any needs that are a big deal to you then make sure you ask about them. The more you ask, the more you know and are prepared.

We’ve gotten use to washing and drying our clothes outside and can deal but we’d of course prefer to have a dryer.

Also, and here’s a biggie, if there is an emergency then you need to know if the home owner wants you to contact the emergency contact or them. You can’t assume that they don’t want to know about an emergency and leave the judgement of telling them to the emergency contact. It’s ultimately our decision to let the homeowners know of anything going on. We had one such instance and felt we should have handled things differently looking back. If we had been more savvy or had already had a few sits under our belt we might have made some different choices. We know better now of course.

One of our sits we had sheet after sheet of information about the house and each pet which was SUPER helpful. It might seem a bit overkill but let me tell you that the more information you have – the better.

Also, if you want to be out and about a lot you need to know what the pets require. Can they be left alone for more than a couple of hours? If not, plan on staying close to home. Do they need 3 long walks a day but you don’t actually like walking? Maybe you should just take care of cats then! Don’t accept a sit just because of location or the home. Make sure to take the pets needs and requirements as a large part of your decision.

My personal opinion is that you should spend some time with each home/pet owner family before you swoop in. This is a great info session but even better than that, you get to really ‘meet’ people and learn about other families, the way they live, what they do and perhaps you will have some new life long friendships.

Gaps between sits

If you choose this lifestyle you need to know that scheduling house sits isn’t easy to plan for when you have a couple of gap days between sits or even more time.

Not all sits work schedule wise to just go from one to another seamlessly and, if you aren’t renting a vehicle then you need to travel via public transport (which is amazing in the UK but more expensive than in the states) but you have to travel at set times and it does take longer to get everywhere you want to go than if you had your own car.

For example, we had 3 days between our last sit to the one we are currently in. We couldn’t find a sit for this period of time between. We chose to go to Nottingham for a few days between sits.  It was a fantastic time but when you add in the cost of travel, lodging and food for 3 days without a kitchen and then entertainment and wandering around town…you end up spending a good amount of money.

With our first 5 days of the trip as days to travel and get to Manchester England, there were expenses to take up time. Our first sit started on September 6th. We tried to find a sit right before but nothing worked out that was close enough or the right amount of time.

We were able to schedule our 2nd sit on the day our 1st sit ended which was ideal. As I write this post, we are in Sheffield England – near the Peak District. Our 2nd sit was in Cannock England and there was a 3 day gap between it and this sit thus we chose to go to Nottingham as it was between the two locations and sounded like fun.

In total, we had 8 gap days, 3 travel days. It has ended up costing us more than what we paid for rent monthly just to fill these gap days with housing and Travel expenses and food. WOW right?

We have a 7 day gap between this sit and our next and even though we are staying in very affordable hostels and found crazy cheap airfare, these are still expenses that come out of your overall budget.

Make sure before you accept a sit that it fits your budget for any gaps that will be present. We wanted to see Ireland and Scotland yet couldn’t find sits that worked in our schedule. For us it works out great to have this 7 day gap in October so we can go to both places.

Location Location Location

It’s funny to us that most people in the areas we are house sitting in think we are crazy for coming there. Why would you come here? Or why would you go there?

I mean, these same people live in the areas we are visiting so why are they there then? We’ve found great things about all the places we’ve visited so far.

Everyone is shocked when we tell them that we wanted to be in communities and meet people that we wouldn’t get to meet if we were in more touristy areas. This is true and exactly what we wanted to do and have done.

We are meeting neighbors, shop owners, pub patrons, passengers on the bus and so much more. It’s been amazing. Really, we’ve loved all the people we’ve met

BUT…

We have also realized that we are city people. All 4 of us. We like being able to just walk all over town upon exiting the door and when you are in a suburb or off the beaten path, you are more isolated, especially when the weather is poor.

In the city we feel more alive and energetic. Don’t get me wrong, we love beaches and tropical climates as well but we are in the UK right now therefore the City is calling to us.

Ask yourself and your family what is a deal breaker or something that they really are looking forward to.  Are you walkers? Will you be renting a vehicle? Do you want to meet your neighbors or keep to yourself? Do you want to be near the action?

We’ve walked 20 minutes up hill with groceries with the sun beating down on us and walked to the pharmacy with the rain pouring down sideways and soaking us.

Shawn and Sam almost got stuck in Manchester due to the rain. The storm thankfully hit and delayed their bus because they missed their train which would’ve gotten them stuck overnight in the city. We were 1 bus and 1 tram away from the dance studio they were headed to. If we had been staying in the city then we could’ve just walked easily to where we needed to go and also save at least a couple hours of travel time.

Staying in a suburb for a few days or even up to a week isn’t a bad gig especially if you want or need to get some school work or business done, play with some pets and even just relax a bit. It’s a peaceful and more chill environment than the bustling city and you have a lot of pretty walks to go on in most cases.

It’s much harder finding sits in the city though. Most are small flats that aren’t suitable for a family. This is our personal experience at least.

Injuries and Deaths

This part is the very worst part of a house sitting lifestyle hands down.

At one sit, one of the dogs attacked one of their other dogs. Shawn and the kids didn’t know what to do but thankfully I did as I’ve had to separate dogs before. Once I got the bigger dog off the smaller one, there was a lot to deal with. The smaller dog was injured and bleeding in multiple spots and eventually needed antibiotics, a cone around her neck and constant draining of the wounds and tender loving care. The kids were worried I was going to be bit so there was them needing to breathe. The bigger dog was upset with himself but he was also very aggressive. Then, the littlest dog was trying to go from each dog to the other to console them both.

Our son was afraid of him after and there were some other aggressive behaviors the dog exhibited through out our sit but we made it without further incident thank goodness.

You need to know your animals if you are going to let strangers into your home. Will they adapt to new people? Have you told the sitters EVERYTHING about these dogs an their temperament or even triggers? Not all animals should have sitters and not all sitters are equipped to handle pets with lots of needs. Further, even if I’m capable of handling the  most difficult pets, do I want to be surprised? NO, I want to know what I’m signing up for.

At our 2nd sit the worst thing happened. One of the indoor/outdoor cats was struck by a car and killed. It was just horrible. I was up until 2am calling Panther back into the house because it was unlike him to not come. He usually stayed very close to home.

The next morning at 5am Shawn went out searching for him. It was dark out still so he didn’t see that Panther had been struck by a car.

I found him around 8am.  The kids came out when they found out what had happened and the first thing Sam said was “I don’t want to house sit anymore!” He was so upset seeing Panther like that.

We were all so very sad for Panther, his girlfriend Tiggy (who happened to be hit and killed by a car in the same area that Panther was – just a couple of hours before I wrote this post) and especially for the wonderful people who cared for and adopted these rescue cats. They were just devastated. Even more so now that Tiggy too has passed.

We had to call and tell them the bad news. It’s a horrible call to have to make. They were wonderful about it and knew that it wasn’t our fault. We and they both know that when you have indoor/outdoor cats this is the risk you take unfortunately. Our own cats are indoor/outdoor as well.

Anyone who has pets feels as if they are family members. It’s a tough loss. Many times they are like your children. The entire situation is just horrible for the pet owner to deal with but the guilt you have as someone watching over them is real.

The only solace they and we have is that we know where Panther is. He didn’t just disappear. We’ve had 2 cats disappear and we would see a cat in another neighborhood and wonder if it was them from afar.

This lifestyle is not easy. You need to care about the home, the people you are sitting for and for all of their pets and possessions.

It’s a lot of responsibility and we don’t take it lightly. Make sure you really know what you can handle. It’s been much harder for Shawn and the kids to handle but they’ve learned a lot and pulled through it all.

What we love about House Sitting

We love having a kitchen and a furnished home filled with love and animals. At our current sit there is a lovely and sweet puppy, Bella, who Shawn is loving his morning run with. There is Terry the cat who is very loving and quirky. He drinks from the kitchen sink and he lies wherever he chooses – including the Kitchen counter.

Being in someone else’s home feels like being in your own home. We thought it might be weird to sleep in other people’s beds and use their things but really, it’s easier than staying in a hotel or hostel.

I love cooking and we eat so much better when I do. This also saves us a lot on eating out expenses which can add up quickly.

We have our own rooms most times which means privacy and alone time for all. Free internet is great for us to get our work in and for Sam to get his school work done.

In our current sit they have a piano and a Ukulele. Our kids love tapping on the piano but both have always wanted to learn to play the Ukulele. In just 1 day Alex has taught herself 2 full songs that she can play while she sings and Sam is working on learning 3 songs that he also sings with. This is their chance to see if we buy them Ukulele’s or not.

FREE housing. It’s free to house sit. This lifestyle, if done well and often, can give people the ability to see the entire world for super cheap. You can’t beat that folks. If it were just Shawn and myself then we could easily find more sits and get to locations we are wanting to be in but with an entire family you do have fewer options.

Exploring the towns we are in, meeting the locals and getting into a routine are something we do look forward to.

The Costs of a house sitting vs Hotel, Airbnb or Hostel Lifestyle

We did the math and have figured out that it only costs a little bit more money to stay in Airbnb’s and Hostels vs House sitting if you aren’t in the heart of the city or if you aren’t sitting for more than a month at a time.

How can that be you ask?

TRAVEL: For us, we’ve found that each train trip to a new area also requires a bus or 3 to get us close enough to our house sit. When you have 4 people traveling then that can add up. Figuring out the cheapest mode of travel can also add hours of research as well as travel time.

Flights may need to be taken as well and if you have Aer Lingus or Ryan Air then you will get where you need to go for a huge discount but it all does add up. Our flights from Manchester to Dublin cost this family of 4 $150. But, that’s just for 3 days there. We still have to fly to Edinburgh and then take a bus or train to our next sit. Cha Ching!

If we are staying in the city then the cost of transit goes down dramatically. Each city or area has different transit fees and deals. In Sheffield they have weekly passes for the bus which make it way more affordable to see the town and city. In Cannock buses were few and far between and taxis were the best mode of transportation. Each way cost about $12 USD. That adds up.

We don’t want to rent cars for 3 reasons. The cost of doing so; wanting to meet more people and really see the sites is better by walking and local transit; and, the people in the UK drive at crazy speeds and the roads here are super confusing. I’d rather drive in Greece or Italy (which is also crazy) but it made way more sense there. I don’t want to get in an accident by going the wrong way or not driving fast enough.

FOOD: We buy groceries at house sits which saves us a ton of money compared to when we are in hostels or hotels. We try to find places with refrigerators, ovens or microwaves but convenience food or dining out is much more expensive on the daily compared to when we sit or stay at Airbnb’s.

Some hostels have common kitchen areas but others may be cooking and using these areas so you need to be flexible and share the space. You can’t buy a lot of groceries – just what you are planning on cooking that day because it’s also shared refrigerator space and sometimes it’s packed.

We can spend up to $100 USD a day for a family of 4 to eat 3 meals. Sometimes way less and sometimes way more. We even came up with a plan for it. I hand out daily food allowances to everyone and we have to budget it – $25 USD. In Canada that ended up being about $30 USD a day and in the UK it’s about £20 each. We can go in on a pizza with another family member to save our money so we can have dessert that night if we want.

It’s a great lesson for the kids to really budget themselves and respect money but it does add up. If we stayed in hostels for 30 days then it would cost $3000 USD for food if there isn’t much cooking space on site. WOW right? Ouch. We can house sit for free and buy whatever food we want, whenever we want. We can go to Airbnb’s to offset the cost of food but we are still paying a bit more for lodging than staying in a Hostel. We need to find the right mix to make our travel lifestylework for our lives, needs and budget.

ACTIVITIES: The entire point of our traveling adventures is to actually see the world, meet people and have experiences. If we are cooped up in a house in the country and don’t bother exploring, taking tours, dining out, trying new things and getting the kids acting, dancing and singing classes – then we might as well be back in Seattle.

These can be cheap ($5 USD for a single dance class) or up to over $100 USD for a food tour or fun activity – or more!

CLEANING / CARING: I am domestic and like to clean and keep a neat house but I’ve realized that I am more of a drill sergeant at a house sit. I don’t want anyone breaking something, making a mess, or being sloppy. When I borrow something from someone I make sure that I take better care of it than my own things. I would also expect the same of others in return so it’s more stressful for me, personally, to house sit.

We really clean up and try to leave a home cleaner than when we arrived. It’s hard to do the sheets though because there is no dryer and I don’t want to leave a bunch of sheets outside in case it rains before the home owners get back home.

And again, it is harder to leave the house for long periods of time because of the needs of the pets. Cats are generally easy to leave unless they have medical needs but dogs aren’t. They generally need more care and can’t be left alone for more than a few hours.

I want to be more carefree. Not necessarily just toss everything on the floor and live like slobs but I’d like to not be constantly getting after everyone to or being on ‘duty’ daily caring for a home, pets and cleaning up. That’s just like being at home.

EXPENSES: We make more money than most families who are traveling the world like us. We’ve talked to so many other location independent families and they get by on way less but they generally stay in locations for months at a time and get cheaper rentals. Many have RV’s or travel in caravans with others.

We had to do things differently because we want to see as many countries as possible and have specific things we want to do in each. This makes things more expensive. That’s why house sitting seemed like the perfect solution. Nothing is perfect though.

One family of 6 we’ve talked to live in an RV have been in Mexico traveling around for over a year. They get by well on $3000 a month for travel and living expenses. This doesn’t include any expenses like taxes or any other normal bills they may have from home.  Many other blogger families also show monthly budgets between $3 & $4k a month.

Some other families we’ve seen get by on around $6k a month with all their expenses. Some live in more affordable areas of the world while others live in more expensive locations. The rub is that you have to give up some things in order to afford others.

We still have bills from ‘home’ and our life and business that are separate from our living and travel expenses. Budgets have been set for each. We know that we can absolutely pay all our bills and live the lifestyle we want but need to plan on being in certain areas of the world or house sit during our leaner time of year without stressing about money.

My summary of the House Sitting Lifestyle

When we house sit we are definitely saving on lodging and food but then we are paying way more for travel expenses and activities. There is also way more stress and worry about the animals and home we are taking care of. I take house sitting seriously therefore being in a hostel, hotel or Airbnb make me more fun and way less stressed. It is easier for Sam to do his school work though during house sits as we do have more down time. I can’t wait to spend a month in Airbnb’s and Hostels and see if he likes working in common areas or in cafe’s in Paris.

Sometime we feel a bit cooped up in a house sit.  It’s easy to get into your old daily patterns – which is what we are trying to break. When it’s stormy weather out and you are in the burbs or country without a car, you can feel cooped up or a bit stir crazy even. Freedom is just a long walk or taxi call away though but I prefer the hustle and bustle of a city.

The house sitting lifestyle is great for when I want to be domestic, cook and really let everyone have some R&R but, I think I only like doing it for 1 week intervals with breaks of other lodging. Especially in our leaner months like the Spring time. House sitting is a necessity if we are wanting to visit certain areas of the world that are more expensive to live in.

I also like meeting the locals, neighbors, and the owners of the homes and their pets. Having a pet feels good. Caring for an animal is something we love to do but it’s also a big responsibility.

Airbnb’s are great because they give you everything you’d have in a house sit minus the pets and you also aren’t as stressed about cleaning the entire house/apartment before you leave but, you do have to pay for them of course.

Depending on the area of the world you are in, you could get a great deal or get hit hard. I like Airbnb’s for long stays as you get a great discount when you book one if they are 28 days or longer but also, they are better than Hostels because you get a kitchen and your own private bath in each. You can find en-suite hostel rooms so we try to find these whenever possible.

We are super friendly so we meet people wherever we go regardless of whether we are sitting or in a hotel.

Staying in hostels means we have way cheaper lodging than hotels or Airbnb’s and with a family of 4 it’s easy to book an entire room all to ourselves. You get to meet a lot of fellow travelers and everyone gets their own beds unless there is a double bed for a family room – which some hostels actually have.

We can stay a week in Belgium for $350 lodging and I found a week in Paris near the Moulin Rouge for only $400! WOW. You just can’t beat those prices for a family hopping about. They have common areas and you get to be around a lot younger people in most cases, which Shawn and I love. But we constantly have to dine out. You can keep some food in a community fridge but it’s still not the same as having a kitchen of your own to cook in.

We are staying in Hostels & Airbnb’s in 5 different countries from November 14th through December 14th. I will write another post about that experience and see if my feelings and opinions have changed after heading to our house sit in Chiang Mai Thailand immediately after.

We just stayed in a Hotel in Nottingham for $279. We each had our own bed, it was really clean but there was no fridge or any amenities to use beyond a bathroom and TV. Hotels are great for short visits when Hostels are booked up or you want to be in a specific location.

I would say that Airbnb’s and Hostels are my favorite way to travel thus far.

We do plan on going to a resort in SE Asia in January. I want a full on vacation where we can just really play and relax and be pampered for a week

Here’s what it boils down to for me.

I want to feel free. Does that make sense?

I’m a wife, mother and business owner. To be clear – I don’t want to be free of my family or my business. I just want and need to NOT have to care for a home or pets of my own for a while. I want to explore and try new things. I’d like to cook occasionally or when I’m feeling like I ‘miss’ it.

What will I miss? After a few months will I crave being stationary for a while? Will I want to move to the States or live abroad or just keep traveling? Maybe a few months hopping from place to place will be easier on everyone. I have no idea but I know I don’t miss my life in Seattle right now.

I don’t miss anything from my life in Washington other than my family. I don’t miss driving as much as I thought I would – and I’ve always loved driving. I don’t miss having my possessions or my own bed or kitchen or anything at all.

Shawn told me last night that he misses nothing except family. Even then, we are still talking to my Mom as much as before with lots of Facetime chats and keep in touch with my Brother and Niece as well.

Alex misses nothing except for Family and Friends. She thought that she would miss everything more but right now, 1 month in, she is happy.

Sam only misses his dance studio and his friends as well as our family. He is fine without all his clothes and possessions and is also getting better at not being a little old man with a set schedule each day which is great.

I love our cats Maddie and Hunter but I’m happy to not worry about them because they are being loved and cared for by our friends. Our kids miss them a bunch though and love seeing pictures and updates on them (thanks Cressa & Nathan).

I believe I was meant to do this. I was born to explore. I’m a curious kitten (maybe that’s why I love cats so much) and don’t like being in the same place for too long yet I’ve lived in Washington, around the same basic areas, since I was 5yrs old.

I stayed because I didn’t really know any better or even think something, like what we are doing, was possible.

Maybe I just haven’t been gone long enough to miss having a sense of permanence. Perhaps I will change my mind when I have been gone 6 months or 12 months. Perhaps then I will say – okay, let’s find a spot to stay for a while.

One thing we didn’t expect was to feel so at ease and comfortable everywhere we’ve been. We could easily move to Nottingham and be happy. Sam loved Vancouver Canada and said he’d move there. Alex loved Liverpool and Shawn and I really feel at ease everywhere we’ve been and have adjusted well.

To me, the house sitting lifestyle is part of my journey and I like doing it on occasion but I prefer being unencumbered. No more long sits for now. Just short ones after January here and there to fill our needs.

When Shawn and I were kids we moved our rooms around every week or two. We needed change. We liked change. It makes so much sense now, looking back, to be feeling the way we do. Sam and Alex also were constant room re-arrangers – especially Sam. His room was moved every week and sometimes twice a week. I’d go in at night to say goodnight and bang into his dresser because he moved his bed.

I’m so glad I have a partner in life who feels the same as I do.

I’m also happy that we are giving our kids this experience so they can really know what they want for themselves and their futures.

Do they like traveling?

Will they always consider Seattle home or will they fall in love with some other place?

Will they be sick of traveling and beg to settle down?

Will they miss having a permanent home?

Will they love having a gypsy lifestyle long term?

Maybe they will become snowbirds who spend part of the year in another region 6 months out of the year.

I can see us living in different places every 3 months in the future. That would be ideal for Shawn and I and it would be good for Sam as well. Alex will most likely move on after the summer and do her own thing. He will want to be near a great dance studio wherever we go and he wants to start working as an actor and singer and even model. It’s hard to do that while moving every week.

Whatever happens I hope that we continue to have amazing adventures mixed in with a little monotony and routine. We are open to any possibility so don’t be surprised if we go and do something completely unexpected.

Thanks for following along on our journey.

*Scentsy Income Claim Statement

 

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About the Author

Wendy
My name is Wendy and this is my Blog. I love to share my thoughts, Recipes, My Family, our Nomadic World travel, plans and adventures. I'm a business owner and entrepreneur, WAHM, Mom, Scentsy SuperStar Director; Cooking, Baking and Recipe Making, Cat lover, Blogger and Kick Ass Wife and Partner.

2 Comments on "The House sitting Lifestyle isn’t exactly what we hoped it would be"

  1. Wow, THANKS SO MUCH for this! We are taking off for at least a year trip to Europe in a week. We’re starting out with an AirBnB but have been considering the house sitting route as well. Perhaps we’ll find a way to mix and match, but you’ve definitely given us something to think about. (p.s. found your post and blog via Location Independent Families group on FB). We are probably more rural oriented folks and love hiking but I’ve been concerned about the transportation issue as well. Thanks again, and I’m so glad I found this when I did.

    • Thanks Henry. I know a lot of people in that group have shown interest in House sitting and I’ve advocated for it but wanted to give more of my experiences now that our family is on our 4th sit. Our current house sit is in a great big house with a bus stop right outside the front door so we can easily head into the city and we are also just a rocks throw from huge fields and the Peak District (look it up). You’d probably love it in Sheffield because of that. Make sure you have rain coats and umbrellas and day backpacks you can all use to walk around and even get groceries as they charge you for bags if you don’t bring your own. It’s getting colder here and walking around you need to make sure you can have your raincoats and gloves and umbrellas handy when the weather suddenly changes and can then put them back in your bag when it stops.

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