It’s not only a job, it’s a lifestyle.
There is a lot to consider as global travelers and the financial resources that would fund the adventure is only part of creating a nomadic lifestyle. Our capacity of earning a certain amount of money to pay for expenses, such as food and transportation, and other essentials and luxuries is a crucial factor, but we wanted to be able to have our own schedule, cultivate opportunities, and place a small footprint on the world we are traveling in.
As minimalists, we literally travel with what we can put on our backs and in our carry-on luggage. Giving up a traditional lifestyle of ownership of brick and mortar, paying utility bills, and car payments, is now making our ‘home’ wherever we happen to be, together. Our family and friends are those we have the pleasure and privilege to meet in countries, communities, and neighborhoods we are visiting.
We have our savings, and at first, this allowed us to live as roaming tourists on a permanent vacation and we enjoyed every moment! All the while we explored remote employment opportunities, I finished writing my novel but recently developed an online travel business, created digital marketing opportunities, and have entered the copy writing industry. This mash up allows us to now create our own work environment wherever we go.
Early on we saw on social media international house-sitting organizations. Curious and with our interest piqued we imagined, “Can we really travel anywhere with free housing?”
While this was our original thought, it’s a crude and uninformed mindset of a thriving, global enterprise. Now that we are fully engaged as house and pet sitters, this is a job but one that allows us to enjoy the hospitality of others who have opened their homes to us and trust us with their animal family and we treat them both with the utmost respect.
What Is a House/Pet Sitter?
Before we dive into the details, let's cover the basics. There are two facets to this industry: house sitting and pet sitting. Usually these go hand-in-hand while other times you might only need to care for a home without also needing to care for a pet. Only house sitting opportunities are harder to find.
With international pet sitting, you'll go to someone's home while they're out of town to care for their pets. The sit might be a few days or a few months. In exchange for you caring for their pets, you're accommodation (a stay at the owner's home) is free.
If you're an animal lover and a traveler, it's hard to find a better money saving gig than this one!
How to Get Started as an International Pet Sitter
There are many outlets that will introduce this industry, I have listed a few farther down in this article that we belong to. A quick search on the internet will provide options but it is important to fully vet the organizations for their quality and safety standards. To get the best gigs possible, this step-by-step guide will help.
Things to look for when finding pet sitting and house sitting platforms:
- Is there an application process?
- Do they do an interview?
- Are background checks performed?
- What are the fees?
- Do they need references?
Sounds like a job, right? Well, it is, and it should be taken very seriously. The investment is worth it with a valuable company.
Requirements to Join Pet/House Sitting Platforms
From my experience, the platforms we used ask us to:
- Pay an annual fee
- Create a profile
- Upload references
The main organization we travel with required an application to be submitted, a written interview where we supplied a resume and references of our character, and work experience was general, but it indicated you were a valued employee at some stage in your career. The firms we chose do a background check and yes, there is a yearly membership fee from $20 at minimum to $200+.
The fee allows us to use the site, apply for house/pet sits, and post our experiences as well as receive feedback of how we did. These then become your references and the more you build up exemplary reviews the more requests you may receive or look more favorably on your applications for consideration.
We created a profile, and initially we used our own personal history and pictures with pets and our recent reviews with property rentals and Airbnb. As each new house-sit experience ended, we then added those pictures, videos, and comments to our profile.
You can choose the types of animals you have experience working with, the locations you’d like to travel in, and even the types of homes where you think you’d be comfortable. We have a lot of experience with domestic and farm animals, this has broadened our resources, but you seriously need to know what you’re doing if you sign up for horses, goats, or pigs. Otherwise, stick to dogs and cats.
Sites to Consider for House/Pet Sitting:
- Trusted Housesitters - This is the site we use the most to find opportunities around the world.
- Mind My House - This is the least expensive site for house sitters and pet sitters.
- Nomador - We are new to this forum but it seems like it's a valuable resource.
- Facebook Groups - There are a number of groups devoted to house swaps and pet sits. While I haven't ever used these before, I do see some good opportunities on them. It's important that you realize anyone can post an opportunity on Facebook and you won't have a platform's support with background checks, referrals, and in case things go south. On the plus side, this is free to use.
You can sign up for as many as you like but it might be easier to manage the traffic on just one or two. You can schedule yourself as far out as a year or keep it within 2-6 months, it’s really up to you.
What Are the Perks?
Do we get paid? No. However, certain sites do offer that you can opt to be a paid sitter. We feel the locations and free housing is enough of an amenity for us and we make our money in other ways that sustain us financially. Just give us good Wi-Fi and a kitchen table and we are all set.
Do they pay for anything? Travel, rental cars, or food? No, but most of our hosts do leave a pantry or refrigerator with goods, and a garden to pillage that we are encouraged to enjoy and many times we are allowed to use their personal cars. Technical details of traveling and staying with a house sit are dependent on what country you’re going to and what the host and you devise together for your stay.
You will usually have a face-to-face meeting with your potential host. Downloading WhatsApp for their chat and video features are very important for communication. Most of the world uses this to receive or make calls, plus sending videos, pictures, and so on.
Also, download a language translator such as Google Translate is very helpful not only with communicating with your host, should you need it but for the local conversations you will experience, it is essential. Although you can rely solely on pet sits in your home country, people, like us, use pet sitting as a way to travel around the world for free.
The Life of a Pet Sitter
This is a lifestyle for us. Every home we are in we treat as if it is our own, taking great care of cleaning and maintaining the features of the house. Some homes have been quite luxurious, fully outfitted with pools, saunas, others we’ve got big gardens to try and manage. Personally, we value small homes that are quite humble but comfortable.
There have been snowstorms dumping up to 2 feet of snow, so we then are running the snowblowers and clearing walkways or creating kitty and pooch paths throughout the yard. Household issues of plumbing and electrics also may be a responsibility, accidents and mishaps happen, we are acutely aware of all circumstances just as if it were our own property. We take our time and treat each home with love and respect.
Although it's a huge perk to get free accommodations, you're taking the place of the home owners while they're away so you'll have some responsibilities to take care of.
The animals we care for are our hosts’ furry family, their very special loved ones that they can’t take with them on vacation. Treatment of them is essential to your review. Doing this job, you must love animals, don’t go into this with the only consideration of ‘free housing’ while traveling.
There are two of us and my partner is stronger than me, this has been very helpful with certain animals as I wasn’t able to perform all the walking and play duties the pet required due to their size and powerful physique. At a recent house/pet sit, one of the animals was a rescued street dog and was very leery of men. That pup and I bonded while my partner bonded with the other animals in the house.
Choosing the house sits is a process where you need to know your limitations and strengths, especially if you are on your own. Researching certain breeds and asking lots of questions about the pets’ habits, activities, and their frolicking area is very important to the success of your relationship with them. Never assume that you know best of what the animal may need. The strictness of their care, feeding schedule, exercise and activity needs are very important and to be followed based on the instruction of the owners.
Getting Around Town
We’ve rented cars when needed, especially for remote households. Mostly we like to rely on public transportation; local bus, train or rideshare services. In Europe and Asia, these systems have been really efficient, and we can get to within about a mile or closer of where we are staying, it’s been very convenient.
Should there be an opportunity to use a house vehicle, you should be ready to provide an international driver’s license and it is up to them to go through the local motor vehicle department and their insurance to ensure the legality of you driving their car. They should leave a noted document in the glove box if you get pulled over or in an accident. A conversation about insurance coverage is a good idea from the beginning.
Choosing the Right Countries
There is no best country to house/pet sit in. However, certain countries are easier to navigate, the cost of living is more affordable in some versus others, and the locations are personal to what you want to experience.
Everywhere we go it is a conscious choice to explore a certain area. The cities and countryside we get to be a part of are places where we would like to explore. Our interests lie in becoming immersed in the community, talking with the locals, shopping at the markets, shops, and haberdasheries. We love getting the local recommendations of the area and really getting to know our home for the time being.
We enjoy roaming the neighborhoods and trails, hanging out at the local pub, living a relatively ‘regular’ life, in someone else’s home, and enjoying their pets. Then we pack up and move on.
How to Deal with Visas Abroad
Many countries have questions about the house sitting industry. It has gone global fast and it is beginning to be considered as ‘working’ so there might be a need to have that visa associated with your stay in that country.
But for the time being, we travel based on what the limitations are of a tourist visa. Generally, a country allows you to stay up to three months on this visa of which you are granted when you land and go through immigration. It's important that you look up the visa options based on your nationality, as it might change from passport to passport.
Should you want to sign up for a longer stay, fully investigate the visa regulations. We stick with short stays, 1-3 months or smaller. We are prepared when we are interviewed by immigration upon arrival, stating that we are just visiting and can supply the officials with names, address, and contact information, should they request it.
Often they ask what we do for a living, we get to be honest in stating we are digital nomads and can list the different industries we work in. We also usually have an exit date and some kind of ticket to verify our departure. Stating you're a digital nomad can be a slippery slope with some immigration officers if they don't fully trust that you're not making money in their country illegally so keep that in mind when deciding how much to divulge.
Happy Pets, Happy Owners, Happy Travelers
Upon our arrival at the happy homesteads, we are usually greeted by wet noses and affectionate kisses, sometimes a little sloppy, but the delighted pets are ready to play with us, their new best friends and house guests.
The warm and appreciative smiles of our human hosts tells us they have confidence in our abilities so they can escape for a little while, knowing their home and furry family are well cared for. We are making new friends and leaving a happy trail wherever we go.
It’s not a job to us, it is our lifestyle, and we are traveling the world, one house sit at a time.
Hero photo by depositphotos.com