In today’s interview, Wanderlusters Charli and Ben, who are housesitting their way around the world, are sharing some of their best, worst and funniest housesitting stories, how they got started housesitting and which housesitting websites they have the most success with. They are also providing some invaluable advice for newbie housesitters.
How did you find out about housesitting? Do you remember when and where you first heard about it?
Having decided we wanted to travel we were then faced with the impossible task of choosing a route and deciding where to start your adventure. When you make the decision to commit to a nomadic existence the world literally becomes your oyster, with an endless bucket list and a fist full of wanderlust your head literally implodes at the possibilities. We knew we wanted to visit South America. Ben had been dreaming of the Far East ever since visiting Malaysia as a child and Charli was desperate to soak up some culture and a little of the good wine in Italy. However we just couldn’t decide where to start. It was just as we were beginning to lose our minds that Ben’s younger sister sent him a link to trustedhousesitters.com. Unfamiliar with the concept we thought perhaps this would provide us with a destination with which to start planning our itinerary. On a whim we signed up, created a profile and began applying for assignments all over the world. A week later we were asked to house sit in Liberia, Costa Rica and the rest as they say is history.
Why do you housesit? What is the main motivation?
We are permanently nomadic and house sitting provides us with rest bite from the stresses of continuous travel. When traveling for any length of time budget is always one of the main factors driving your experience and house sitting has helped us to save 90% of our accommodation costs in the past two years. While the financial aspect is a bonus we find the opportunity to live like a local in areas that we would have otherwise not considered on our itinerary to be the most rewarding part of the whole house sitting experience. We have met such wonderful people during our assignments, the home owners, their friends and neighbours have all contributed to our journey and we now have a wealth of contacts all over the world. Each assignment is different to the last and provides us with an opportunity to learn new skills and educate ourselves about life in a community far removed from the ones we grew up in.
How many housesits have you had and where?
We have had ten house sitting assignments so far:
South Kensington, London, UK
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Liberia, Costa Rica
Playas del Coco, Costa Rica
Ojochal, Costa Rica
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Valla Beach, NSW, Australia
Auckland, New Zealand
Was it hard for you to secure your first housesitting gig? How many applications did you have to send before you got accept for your first assignment?
To be honest I can’t remember how many assignments we applied for before accepting that first sit in Costa Rica I would guess quite a few! I recall I spent the best part of a week compiling our profile, selecting images and applying for assignments we felt we would enjoy. We currently receive an interested response from about one in every five or six that we apply for however I know our comprehensive advert and references help. In the beginning we asked our previous employers and landlords to write a short character review to post on our advert. Having applied for a lot of house sits we now realise how important your profile is. I’m pleased that when compiling our profile we treated it like an employment CV as I think that helped to portray who we are and what we can offer home owners.
What was your favorite housesitting experience to date and why?
We’ve been so lucky over the past two years it’s hard to pick out a favourite! Living beneath Kylie Minogue and Rowan Atkinson while apartment sitting in South Kensington rates pretty highly, although we didn’t catch a glimpse of either during our stay. The views from our last sit in Costa Rica were breathtaking, you could see out to the Pacific Ocean from the plunge pool and the top level boasted 360 windows for incredible views over the surrounding rainforest. While in Australia we looked after the world’s most wonderful dogs, a hilarious duo of border collie and beagle who were the polar opposite of characters. The beagle chose to spend her days laid on soft furnishings in the sun while the border collie had us running the length of the local beach on a daily basis. Our current house sit has another wonderful canine, his insane Frisbee catching skills have won him the nickname ‘acrobat dog’ affectionately given by the children who play down at the beach in front of the house. It’s hard to describe just how much these experiences have benefited our travels, they remain some of our favorite memories from the journey so far. You can read about our house sitting assignments in Australia here.
Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?
So far we’ve haven’t looked after anything too far removed from the traditional list of household pets, however our forthcoming assignment here in New Zealand involves caring for a troop of 12 Alpacas. The owners have assured us that they are easy to maintain and fortunately don’t need exercising. We had visions of walking down to the local village with them each on a lead, getting all tangled and trying to coordinate collecting their poop with a gigantic plastic bag!
Have you had any funny housesitting experiences?
While at our first house sit in Costa Rica we woke in the night to torrential rain, about fifteen minutes later a deafening sound began. It sounded like a low pitched siren and was gradually getting louder and louder. Half asleep and not thinking too clearly I informed Ben that it was a tsunami alert and we had to find high ground. Classic. After running out the door and into the garden towards the car Ben stopped and started to laugh hysterically. He’d noticed the direction from which the noise was coming and the unusual number of toads at his feet. As it turns out the noise was the sound of thousands of mating toads. According to the neighbours at that time each year after a particularly heavy rain fall, toads are known to collect near the mango plantation behind the house and look for a mate. Their loud display was designed to attract females, not alert sleepy house sitters to impending natural disasters. Read about our house sit in Ojochal, Costa Rica, here.
What was your worst housesitting experience? Has something ever gone wrong?
All the home owners we have met so far have been wonderful and I’m delighted to say we haven’t had any negative experiences. I think the fact that we do a lot of research on the local area and spend time talking to the owners to make sure we understand their expectations helps to ensure we have the best possible experience. Read our dive report from The Poor Knights Islands which we visited whist house sitting in Auckland.
Do you have any tips for people who are interested in beginning with housesitting? What would your advice be for people to get accepted for a housesit / be successful housesitters?
The best piece of advice we can give those considering becoming a house sitter is to ensure you fully consider an assignment before accepting it. Before we commit to an assignment we always talk to the homeowner on the phone or via Skype, making sure that they are on our wave length and understand who we are and what we can offer them. Get as much information from the home owner about the assignment as you can, including images of the house and pets. Establish whether you are comfortable with all the responsibilities and set your expectations correctly. The thought of a secluded mansion on a remote Fijian island can shut down rational brain function in the best of us, however understanding what is expected of you and ensuring you’re well prepared will mean that every experience is enjoyable.
Are you signed up to any housesitting websites? If so, which ones, and which ones have you had the most success with?
We are currently signed up with:
MindMyHouse– we have been offered two of our ten sits through this site
House Carers – We have yet to accept an assignment through this site although have been offered a few
Trusted House Sitters – By far the most successful for us, we have accepted five of our ten assignments through here.
Charli and Ben run Wanderlusters, a new website dedicated to providing ‘Wisdom for Wanderers’. Still in the early stages of development those eager to travel can search for real world advice and keep up to date with the latest in travel news. Charli and Ben have set up the site to share their experience of long term travel. Help them spread the Wanderlust and follow them on their travels. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.