This Cost-Saving Secret Will Transform the Way You Travel

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on January 23, 2020 in Save Money

From the window, I watched the sunlight shine through the trees dotting the lush country property in Upper Orara, New South Wales, Australia. Inside the cozy farmhouse, the warmth of a log fire embraced me. My husband, Andrew, was enjoying the full complement of cable TV channels and I the comforts of a lap cat. We would be staying for a month, and it wouldn’t cost us a dime. It was another hard day in the life of a housesitter.

Housesitting is rare in that it’s a true win-win situation. Owners have their homes and pets cared for without hefty pet boarding fees, while sitters radically reduce their travel costs.

From a sitter’s perspective, the benefits go much further than financial. If you let it, housesitting will take you to places you might never have considered, and give you unexpected, lasting memories. Exotic sits I’ve seen online included looking after a three-year-old pig for three months in Belize. Another was a month in a gothic mansion in Transylvania.

One of my favorite sits was in a little town that I’d never previously heard of, also in New South Wales, called South West Rocks. The coastal town has a population of only around 1,500, so there was little competition for space on the sweeping, pristine beaches. Not far away were stunning wineries and golf courses.

In truth, I know very little about most of the places we go to before we get there. This is all part of the adventure.

My husband and I started housesitting in a bid to retire early. Our financial situation meant we needed to work part-time for a few years until we could access our retirement savings tax-free, but a health crisis made us reconsider our life priorities and frankly, travel and fun trumped work and career.

I had heard people speak about housesitting, and after a bit of research, we took a leap of faith. We gave up work, rented out our home, which provides an income stream, and joined four housesitting agency websites. This means that if we’re not housesitting, we’re effectively homeless, which sounds radical, but in practice it’s worked out quite well. When we have a few days between sits, we spoil ourselves with a hotel or go camping. At the time of writing, we have nearly a year of housesitting bookings behind us. This has meant we could afford a stress-free early retirement.

Another benefit of housesitting is the people and animals you meet on your journey. The animals have won a piece of my heart everywhere I’ve been. From Pedro the donkey, Cilla the Schnauzer, and Austin the huge Pointer with a fragile heart, the joy I’ve gotten from these companions has been priceless.

The owners I’ve met genuinely want sitters to enjoy their home and have been generous. They also give a local’s insight into the area, which can make all the difference. Often the trust between an owner and sitter is a powerful bond and you build real friendships.

However, there are a couple of things potential sitters should consider before taking the plunge. I recommend joining a few agency sites, even at the extra cost, as it maximizes your chances of securing a suitable sit. There are always more sitters than jobs, so you won’t get every position you apply for.

Apply for a couple at a time. Spend time writing a good profile, highlighting your relevant skills and experience. It also helps if you think from the owner’s perspective, and show appreciation for the trust they are putting in you.

Housesitting can take you across the globe. It can give you free accommodation and freedom from electricity, cable TV, and internet bills. But more than all that, it can enrich your life in ways you never expected.

Written by Anastasia Tyler