Family housesitting: A mother and her son housesit and travel around the globe

In the latest installment of our housesitting interview series, we are talking to Ruth, a single mom who is housesitting with her 8-year old son while they travel the world. Ruth talks to us about how they started housesitting, if it is more difficult to get housesitting assignments with a child, and her favorite and worst housesitting experiences.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, how long have you been housesitting for, do you do it full-time or sporadically, what do you do for a living.

I am a 51 year old single Mum from Australia, with an 8 year old son.  We are currently traveling in South America, and have been traveling the world for 13 months so far.

We first started housesitting in Australia. We were selling our home to come on this trip, and the house was pretty empty, so we had the chance to care for 3 homes in that time.

Then the house sold, and we were asked to housesit a neighbors home. This worked perfectly for the time we had to clean up the house for the hand-over to the new owners.

But our first big housesitting assignment was on an island in Fiji for 6 weeks.  This was a great time as we made friends with the neighbors and locals, as well as having a good ex-pat community we merged in with.

Our last house-sitting was for 2 months in Brazil.  It was 3 hours out of Rio, but we had the most spectacular view overlooking the harbor, the lakes, and river. It was a to-die-for location.

Mother’s Day breakfast overlooking the Rio harbor in our house-sit in Brazil

Mother’s Day breakfast overlooking the Rio harbor in our housesit in Brazil

How did you find out about housesitting?

When I was preparing for the journey of our lifetime, I looked for ways where we could travel slowly, emerge ourselves in a different culture, and save money.

Do you remember when and where you first heard about it?

I read about it in a travel book, and then ‘Googled’ different sites. I came across Globetrotter Girls who recommended various sites, so I joined several.

Why do you housesit? What is the main motivation?

We travel fairly fast given the fact most countries only allow you a 3 month visa. Being a single Mum, and on a budget, this can get tiring and expensive. Hotels can get lonely, and hostels can be dirty, so house-sitting gives us the time to slow down, catch up on his learning, and make new friends with the locals.

This lovely lady allowed me to house-sit her unit in Sydney

This lovely lady allowed me to house-sit her unit in Sydney

How many housesits have you had and where?

We have only house-sat a total of 8 times so far.

6 were in Australia – one having a cat and dog; 1 in Fiji which had 2 cats, and a great garden to care for; and Brazil – which turned out to be more of free labor in exchange for a place to live.  I learned a big lesson with this particular house-sit, and we ended up leaving early, but it all worked out great in the end.

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?

Our first housesitting gig was through friends. Several neighbors and friends asked us, as they knew I was good with plants, and my son was an animal lover. We actually scored our first international house-sit on the first application which was pretty amazing!

My son helping to do the dishes

My son helping to do the dishes

Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?

Yes, I think in one place, we found the responsibilities a little full on. She had us cleaning other houses, her pool & ours, and doing too many chores. It was slave labor for a bit there, and I have learned to ask how many hours they expect you to clean. She also put up photographs of another home, and not the place we were to live. We were quite misled, and it was a costly lesson.

What was your favorite housesitting experience to date and why?

Definitely Fiji. The house was glass fronted on a hill overlooking the beach. I loved the town, the friends we met, and the neighbors we got to know. My son even went to school there. The garden was not too hard to look after, and the cultural experience was incredible!

The patio of our Fiji house-sit overlooking the sea.

The patio of our Fiji house-sit overlooking the sea.

You housesit with your son – Do you find it harder to get accepted for a housesit because you are traveling with your child?

We recently were rejected for a string of housesits because I had a child. Too remote; aggressive dogs; luxury home, and other excuses were given. I don’t mind. If they think we are not the right fit for their home, then it needs to be someone else, as you need a good relationship with the homeowner. However, I have also been approached for 4 housesits in the last 3 months we had to turn down because timing or location did not work for us.

Have you had any funny housesitting experiences?

In Australia we once house-sat a country 2 story home. It was lovely but quite remote. There were no street lights, and we had a hand drawn map to find it. It took us hours. When we woke the next day we discovered the opposite neighbors were really good friends that we had known about 10 years ago from our church. It was pretty cool.

In Fiji, one of the cats loved to find rats and frogs and bring them into the house. I trod on one on the kitchen mat when I woke up and went to make coffee. It wasn’t so fun as I had no shoes on!

Off to Melbourne for our first house-sitting assignment when my son was 3 years old

Off to Melbourne for our first housesitting assignment when my son was 3 years old

What was your worst housesitting experience? Has something ever gone wrong?

Definitely Brazil. The location was remote. The advertisement was misleading. No-one in town spoke English and we spoke no Portuguese. The work load was full on at times and over the top. The bathroom stunk as the septic tank needed replacing so we had to run a fan 24/7. It had not been lived in for a while, so the first night the mosquitoes came out and my son had about 200 bites on his face alone. It was a really lonely and horrible time, but the house / location was pretty lovely.

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?

We have a police clearance and great references. We also put we are Christians in our profile, and that we are traveling long-term. I am also a qualified landscape designer, so people feel pretty reassured about their garden. I also put that my son is an animal lover, so I think that helps.

I think the main thing is to read carefully the advertisement, and to reassure the owner that you are what they are looking for, and you will take good care of their house.

We house-sat in Adelaide when a neighbor went interstate – this was when our house sold and we had to clean it out.

We housesat in Adelaide when a neighbor went interstate – this was when our house sold and we had to clean it out.

Are you signed up to any housesitting websites? If so, which ones, and which ones have you had the most success with?

We use Mindmyhouse,, and Trustedhousesitters. They are all pretty good.

You are not only housesitting and traveling, but also focus on ‘Random Acts of Kindness‘. Can you tell our readers a little bit more about that, and how they can get involved?

When we decided to travel long term, we didn’t want to just ’see the world’. We wanted to make a difference. So my son and I talked, and really it was his idea. He decided to pack up his toys, and books and take them with us to Fiji. So we rang the airline and received permission for 40 kg of donations for he poor. We found a needy village, and some kids near us who had been deserted by their Mum. So we used our money to pay their school fees, buy them clothes and food. Then for the village we raised some funds with our facebook and blog, and we hired a 4WD and drove to a really remote location and then distributed all the items. The kids were so poor they had one shoe, or only a man’s singlet on a teenage girl as a dress with no underwear.  We helped a lot there. It was very rewarding.

In Los Angeles we passed out food to the homeless.

In Bolivia we worked with many of the beggars, glue sniffers, alcoholics and homeless. We gave money to those who could use it (not glue sniffers or alcoholics), and we gave out food and clothing. It was an amazing time.

If anyone would like to donate to our Random Acts of Kindness, they can give give through our Paypal link on our website

Ruth and her son visiting the Jesuit ruins in ParaguayRuth is a single Australian 51 year old Mum who has been travelling the world with her son, who is now 8 years old. They decided to change their lives about 3 years ago. It took 18 months in total to prepare for the journey, but it has been the greatest thing they have ever done.

They will be traveling through South and Central America for the next 6 – 9 months, so if you are looking for a housesitter in that region, feel free to contact Ruth at her website or Facebook

4 thoughts on “Family housesitting: A mother and her son housesit and travel around the globe

  1. Gustaf is a Coding Traveler

    Hi there. Amazing story! You seem like such good people so and i think this article could be the best resume you can send a house owner.

    I had one though bugging me a little reading, how are you thinking about your son’s education?

    1. Ruth Johnston

      We use world-schooling and un-schooling now – using the environment we are in as a living class-room..
      He went to school in Fiji, but then we changed to home-schooling.
      We manage well with on-line educational tools too.
      We use the budget and currency conversion for part of mathematics.
      Geography takes care of itself.
      I find if we are exploring and discovering, he is learning a lot, and then we also google to explore more into what we see.
      The worse thing I ever did was try to push traditional schooling hard at the start.
      Now we have changed our method, I am amazed at how much he has absorbed, and I was told by a fellow traveller the other day they thought he was the brightest 8 year old they had met.
      I think travel opens their eyes to much more than an enclosed class-room.
      Hope this helps in answering your question.

  2. Pingback: House-sitting around the world - our latest interview -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *