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Ever since I heard about people living rent free in exchange for pet and housesitting, I have daydreamed about doing it for a couple of years myself, starting next February.
Two weeks ago I gave pet and house sitting a 'test run' to really see how it would feel, and maybe get some insights into how it would be as a long-term lifestyle.
Here's what I've learned so far:
First off, I've discovered that the demand for pet sitters is massive--so massive, that almost every time I mentioned that I was even thinking about doing it, people would right away ask if I were available to mind their cat/dog/rabbit for when they were planning their next trip!
Catteries and dog kennels are not only expensive for long-term stays, they are stressful to pets who are use to being in their own territories--especially cats.
Then there is the security issue of leaving a house unoccupied for a long period, so it just makes so much sense to have someone willing to stay and take care of the fur babies while watering the plants and taking the snail mail inside, making the home look occupied and thus deterring burglars.
Luckily, there are also a lot of people willing to house-sit, and a lot of online sites connecting them to those who need them.
People have been telling me about someone they know, usually retired, who has been house-sitting for years, traveling across Australia, even the world in some cases, and saving money everyday.
A dog-sitting friend of mine hasn't paid rent in a year since moving to Brisbane, and she is saving to buy a second house now.
Another friend told me he knows a writer who has rotated between the same four houses for years, their owners taking regular annual vacations.
For me personally, I am able to work from anywhere so long as the wifi is strong!
For years I have dreamed of becoming a digital nomad and working around the world like a gypsy, able to visit my family in Atlanta for an extended period of time without it causing a major disruption to my finances or business.
Finally, I can now!
I have no pets of my own, no mortgage, no kids, not even many houseplants.
Just over a year ago I moved away from the business of handcrafted accessories and toward freelance social media marketing.
House sitting seems like a nice way to ease into becoming a local nomad before doing any international roaming.
To me, it sounds like it would be an adventure to live in a different house in a different neighborhood every 2-3 months, exploring the area, feeling like a traveller, spending time with pets while working at home, and all without the full responsibility of owning them!
My Pet & House Sitting Test-Run
So, what happened is that a friend posted in a community Facebook group asking if anyone could pet and house sit for her friend for two weeks. I jumped at the opportunity, and of course, being a trusted, long-time friend, was immediately recommended.
After 8 weeks wait, I packed up:
- one big suitcase
- one yoga mat
- one wheel suitcase with my laptop and spiral work notebooks
- one computer monitor
- one ergonomic office chair
- 5 bags of groceries
The lady I pet sit for lived just down the street from me and had the cutest, most affectionate fur babies, a Papillon dog and a tubby black and white cat.
I fell in love right away!
When you have gone for along time without having a pet, you forget how enjoyable they are to be around.
I felt like all my latent maternal instincts came out over those two weeks, and I spoiled those two animals like mad.
It was a strangely comforting feeling to feel their little eyes watching me all the time (probably wondering who the hell I was and what the hell I was doing in their house.)
Staying in a stranger's home was odd at first, but after I cleaned, rearranged things in my own way, and set-up my office, it quickly became comfortable.
And for a bibliophile, it is a true pleasure to have the luxury of time to look through someone's library more thoroughly than the brief spine-gazing stolen in a short visit!
Luckily for me, the owner had excellent, broad taste in books, and I guiltlessly indulged that one curiosity in her belongings, whereas for everything else I only had a practical appreciation.
"Oooh, Williams Sonoma plates, nice!"
"This vacuum cleaner can fucking SUCK, my god!"
The animals were the focus of my attention.
Taking the dog for daily walks, petting the cat into purry states of pleasure, feeding them...then there was the gross-out spectacle of watching the dog eat the cat poo from the litter box.
That was a true event I really wish I could un-see.
The only downside to the test run--and a super, invaluable, can't-believe-I-didn't fucking-check-to-make-sure-lesson--was that the wifi ran out after two days of work, so I had to go home to work every day after.
That wasn't too bad, as it was just a 20-minute walk or 4-minute drive, and I took the dog with me every time.
But I will be sure I get proof of an unlimited connection next time, and not just take the word of the owner, who may only be using it for email.
The upside to the experience was really getting a good idea what I will and won't store away come February next year.
The American-style filter coffee machine is coming.
The half-dozen spiral work notebooks must go, as does everything to do with paper full-stop.
And for everything else I will take, it will be a matter of quality over quantity and minimal living, which I, as a recovering former pack-rat, am very much looking forward to!
After the two weeks pet sitting, I then spent a week in the Dandenong Ranges at my partner's house while his housemate was in Bali.
Coming home after three weeks was very strange; the closer February 2018 gets, the less connected I feel to having a place of my own.
I stopped buying house things months ago, and am only getting rid of more and more.
I'm constantly debating what I will keep and what I will sell or get rid of so that I won't have to pay for it to be in storage.
I have a few months now to secure my first true pet-sitting stint, hopefully for at least 2 to 3 months and in the area I most want to explore.
There are a lot of sites to join and scour for the right match; I only want to care for cats and I need strong wifi, primarily.
I'll be sharing all my coming adventures in alternative lifestyle living, so thanks for reading and please share any tips or suggestions that you have with me too!