Housesitting: A strategy to lower costs and extend travel

housesit costa rica

When I handed in my resignation letter, put what few belongings I hadn’t sold into storage and packed my life into a 55L rucksack, I became a vagabond.

Without bricks and mortar, without a stable income and without fear of regret, I altered the direction in which my life was headed and set off to travel the world.

Long term travel is a romantic notion, one that many aspire to but never achieve.


In my opinion it boils down to finance. The thought of removing oneself from a stream of regular income is a little daunting. In the modern world we tend to financially tie ourselves to possessions, there’s always some form of credit we’re paying off; mortgages, cars or that spur of the moment shopping spree. It’s hard to imagine how we’d remove ourselves from the perpetual cycle of earning and spending a wage.

Not only that, but travel can incur high costs. With airfare and accommodation capitalizing a large percentage of a traveler’s budget, it can be difficult to imagine living in relative comfort with what remains.

So what if I told you that I’d be living rent free in locations across the world for the last 3 years?

What if I told you that I’d found a way to almost negate accommodation costs from eating into my budget?

For those who are familiar with the concept you’ll no doubt have guessed that I have achieved this seemingly impossible feat because I am a house sitter. Signing up to Trusted House Sitters a little over 3 years ago, I’ve travelled the world and lived rent free in 17 properties and 6 different countries to date.

Keeping my spend on airfare to a minimum, my travel style is akin to that of the tortoise rather than the hare. I choose to explore each country for as long as visa restrictions dictate rather than hop from one location to another. Coupled with the fact that I often apply for house sitting assignments back to back, my daily budget is significantly lower than the average traveler.

Many twenty something travelers choose to focus their itinerary plans on countries where the cost of living is lower, as this allows them to maximize their spending power. As a twenty something traveler who is also a house sitter I’m not limited in this way. I’ve greatly reduced the cost of my stay in 2 of the top 10 most expensive capital cities in the world and lived in luxury free of charge.

The truth is that house sitting is the main reason I have been able to sustain my travels for so long.

So what is house sitting? What does it involve and how would you go about incorporating an assignment into your travels?

Hammock housesit

House sitting is essentially an exchange of services. Home owners employ the services of a house sitter to care for their property and pets for an agreed period of time. As a house sitter I am tasked with basic property maintenance, pet care and occasionally I will be asked to maintain a garden or manage the care of a swimming pool.

More often than not my daily responsibilities are no more than I would have in my own property. I follow instruction regarding housework, tend to the needs of any animals and ensure I am present at the house to deter opportunistic theft.

While in my case no money changes hands – some sitters do charge for their services but this means when house sitting abroad it is necessary to obtain a work visa – the exchange of peace of mind for the home owner and rent free living for me, works pretty darn well.

It’s important to note that each assignment is unique, as is each home owner and their needs will vary depending on the circumstance. It’s not uncommon for sitters to literally step into the owner’s shoes so keep that in mind when applying for assignments.

Rural properties often come with more animals, more feeding, grooming and shrubbery pruning but in my opinion that’s all part of the experience. City penthouses and family homes in the suburbs each have their own character, their own insight into life in the locale.

The opportunity to sample cultures from around the globe is something that entices many sitters; I know I tend to seek out opportunities that give me the chance to try my hand at a new way of living.

My CV includes a city townhouse, a rural lifestyle block complete with spitting alpacas, a macadamia nut farm and an off the grid Central American retreat. Each assignment presented challenges but also taught me how to adapt and consider the benefits of each way of life.

The concept of house sitting has altered the way I travel, that is clear. I now plan my itinerary around the assignments I secure and have seen many parts of the world those who follow the tourist trail do not.

Each assignment has afforded me the chance to channel my travel funds into experiencing life at the location to the full, and finance my onward travel when the owners return.

I utilise house sitting assignments to subside the cost of my vagabond existence and I’m proof that you can leave the security of your job in the city without regret.

Posted by | Comments (6)  | April 15, 2014
Category: Hostels/Hotels, Vagabonding Advice

6 Responses to “Housesitting: A strategy to lower costs and extend travel”

  1. Ani Says:

    🙂 I can offer a housesitting complete with (not-at-humans-spitting) llamas and alpacas very near Berlin in Germany this summer, complete with public transport into the capital. 😉
    I discovered this method of travelling when I was already too old for that – or rather – had too much ppl (kids) and animals depending on me to do it myself. Too bad but good for others.

  2. Lars Says:

    thanks for an interesting post. do you know how common this kind of setup is in south america? would be handy to know before one pays a half-annual sign-up fee. also, what is the typical duration of such an assignment? happy travels, Lars

  3. Charli Says:

    Thanks for sharing details of the assignment you are offering Ani! Sadly I’ve already committed to an assignment in the USA this summer otherwise I would have loved to chat about visiting you in Berlin!

    Lars – There are often assignments listed in areas of Central and South America although they do not appear as often as those in the USA, Australia and Europe. To my knowledge most house sitting websites allow you to search their listings before signing up so it might be worth keeping an eye on available assignments. Of course if you are registered with a service they tend to send you a daily email alert listing new assignments. Good luck!

  4. Angela Laws Says:

    There are vagabonds of all ages and from all walks of life! Like Charlie husband John and I (of the retired species)have chosen this affordable travel lifestyle, our coffers are a limited resource house sitting allows us to indulge in our passion for travel giving us new and exciting opportunities just when we thought life may become too ordinary! We’ve sat through five continents in over eight years, currently house sitting in Andalusia through we’ve been in Spain since October 2013, our amazing journey continues!!

  5. laurent Says:

    @ Ani: My wife and I have house and pet sat on many occasions in California in 2012 and 2013. We now live and work in Budapest, and if you are keen to share with us more details abt your house / pet sitting requirements near Berlin this Summer, let me know. Thanks in advance, and safe and productive travels everyone!

  6. Amie Cole Says:

    Hello ,Rolf! Thanks for sharing your experience of this kind of traveling. I have tried several offers for cheap traveling through Reservation Counter ,however, I never thought about house sitting. It seems like a great idea but who is going to give you access to their house if they don’t know you 🙁 It seems just kind of odd to me.
    Just curious – where have you traveled like that?