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How house-sitting could help you travel the world (almost) for free


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Can you imagine being able to travel only having to pay for airfares and spending zero money on accommodation in exchange for taking care of someone else’ beautiful villa in Mexico? How does saving thousands of pounds in rent by taking care of someone else’s cat sound? This is all possible thanks to house-sitting.

Credit: Alex Ryder

House-sitting is essentially taking care of someone else’s property - and often their pets - in exchange for a free stay. It is perfect for those who wish to explore the world, for freelancers, animal lovers, writers, digital nomads or people who simply want to break up with their daily routines and experience something new.

Many people are now doing this full-time as a way of turbo-saving. We talked with Alex, a 34-year-old full time professional and part-time food blogger from Bristol. Alex and her boyfriend Dave dreamed of buying their first house, but with deposits outside of London averaging £26,224 in 2017, saving enough money for their ideal home seemed nothing more than a fantasy. However, this didn’t stop Alex, as she found a smart way of saving over £12,000 in one year and a half: house-sitting.

Credit: Alex Ryder

In 2016, Alex and her boyfriend started their journey. During a period of 18 months, they house-sitted 22 times in 14 different places. From Bristol and Bath to Bali, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore. Dave and Alex house-sat their way to a house deposit by looking after 17 dogs, 6 cats, 5 ducks, 2 tortoises and 3 begus.

It is not all a bed of roses, though, as house-sitting is a big responsibility. “Not only are you looking after someone’s pet, you’re living in their home with their possessions around you. It’s important that you take it seriously and really respect their space,” says Alex. “When you’re looking after a dog, it’s important that you bond and earn their respect early on, otherwise, like children, they’ll run all over you!”

That said, house-sitting is still an amazing way to really experience the place you are visiting, and you can even get to live in some fantastic homes whilst saving money. “You get free accommodation but also no bills, and often things like food and on occasions, a car, a bike or travel cards,” Alex says. Thanks to this, Alex and Dave managed to keep their expenses to less than £500 a month whilst abroad.

Credit: Alex Ryder

During their 18 months living out of a suitcase, with stays ranging from two nights to three months, the couple enjoyed living in some wonderful homes. “We once stayed in one multi-million pound mansion which was pretty exciting - it had 8 bathrooms and the dogs had their own bedroom and kitchen,” Alex says.

One of the most wonderful things about house-sitting, however, is getting a more insightful experience of the place you are visiting than you would get as a traditional tourist. When you house sit, you are opening your mind to a new culture and a new way of living. “Staying in a real home shows you the cultural differences between that country and your own, more than a western style hotel which is set up for tourists,” says Alex.

Credit: Alex Ryder

Moreover, living in someone’s house for a period of time connects you to the local community right away. House-sitting is a great way to make deeper personal connections with homeowners, locals and even the pets.

“When we were in Australia, we did a six-week house sit in Melbourne and spent a lot of time with the neighbours and homeowners friends who actually ended up being our friends. We had several meals out with them and a couple of BBQs too. They told us about the best places to go and where to eat,” says Alex.

“House-sitting is very sociable and it’s funny that despite being there when they’re away, you often find you make friends with the owners.” 

Before jumping over to your first house-sitting gig, there are a few things to consider. “I think it’s really important that you meet the people and pets before you move in to make sure you’re all on the same page,” Alex says. “Sometimes there might also be certain rules you need to obey. We advise to only house sit through a proper company like Trusted Housesitters so that everyone is checked and everything is above board. Safety first!”

After 18 months of travelling from home to home and with no place to call their own, Dave and Alex had finally saved enough money to buy their dream house. “At first it was weird - pulling everything out of storage was like Christmas because we couldn’t remember what we owned,” Alex says. “For the first couple of months since we moved to our flat, we both still had suitcases on the floor because we were so used to living like that.”

Credit: Alex Ryder

There is no way to deny that house-sitting has great benefits but also some challenges to keep in mind. Booking a house-sitting gig is not as easy as booking a hotel room, and there are a series of steps to complete before getting started. We asked Alex if she would ever consider becoming a full-time house-sitter: “House-sitting was at times challenging but looking back, just a really amazing experience. But I love my home for now, I’m not going anywhere!”

Credit: Alex Ryder

If Alex’s story inspired you to become a savings savvy too, check out more smart ways to save money with LV= Extreme Savers here

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