Spend Zero on Accommodation While Slow-Traveling the World
The conical peak of Volcán de Agua towered above me. It was one of three volcanic giants in view as I jogged along narrow dirt trails crisscrossing Agua’s slopes in southern Guatemala. On the horizon, wisps of smoke erupted from active Volcán de Fuego, while at night a spectacular show of fiery lava spurted skyward.
Through housesitting, I’ve stayed for free in destinations as diverse as rural England and a tropical island in Thailand. This latest stay was in an elevated, sunlit apartment in a quaint village skirting Volcán de Agua. An expansive balcony looked out over village rooftops, coffee plantations, forested hills, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of colonial Antigua.
My companion during this stay was a cheeky Chihuahua called Yusito, who won my heart with his antics and affection. When we weren’t out running, he loved to chase a ball around the patio or snuggle with me when he was chilly.
Other than the volcanos, a highlight of this stay was witnessing Antigua’s famed Holy Week celebrations. I photographed locals creating elaborate carpets of dyed sawdust and flowers along procession routes between colorful houses, colonial churches, and earthquake-torn ruins.
Thousands of purple-robed penitents then traipsed solemnly to the beat of a funeral march, many shouldering floats depicting scenes of the Passion. As they moved past, they crushed the delicate artwork underfoot, forming a mishmash of color between uneven cobblestones.
Expensive hotel rooms and Airbnb apartments don’t appeal to everyone, nor are they within everyone’s budget. If you dream of living like a local in varied destinations around the world, exploring the area, and immersing yourself in the community and culture while not forking out for costly accommodation, housesitting is a great option.
Housesitting is a mutually beneficial exchange between homeowners and housesitters. Vacant homes are vulnerable. So, allowing a housesitter to stay in their property gives homeowners peace of mind while they are traveling.
In exchange for free accommodation, housesitters usually perform minor caretaking duties such as watering plants. Often, homeowners save on pet boarding costs by searching for pet-loving housesitters to also care for their furry family in familiar home surroundings.
There are housesits available for singles, couples, and even families, some with pets and others without. They can include city condos, countryside cottages, riverside houseboats, and beachside bungalows in a variety of popular international locations in Mexico, Central America, Asia, and Europe. The timespans typically vary from a few days to several months.
I’ve been fortunate to find my housesitting gigs through friends and acquaintances. However, there are also housesitting websites that provide match-making services connecting homeowners searching for sitters with trustworthy travelers looking for free lodgings. As well as worldwide networks, there are also country and region-specific housesitting websites and Facebook groups offering advice and postings.
For an easy way to break into the housesitting lifestyle, offer your housesitting services for a few days to friends and family in exchange for a written reference. It’s also a good idea to take some fun pet selfies during the initial stay and then use these snaps and testimonials when applying for prospective housesits.
Recent housesitting opportunities I’ve seen include these gems: city apartments in Paris and Berlin, both for one week; a farmhouse with vacation apartments amongst the olive groves of Tuscany, Italy for three weeks; and a small estate in Botswana, Africa for three months.
Why not start browsing the boundless possibilities and fuel your desire for adventure? A new year and a new decade is the perfect time to begin afresh and start planning a trip around housesits in your local area or internationally. The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls.
Written by Lucy Brown