After three months working with HelpRefugees in Calais, I have a lot to process and, to be honest, I’m not quite ready to write about it yet, so instead, here’s a post about what my life is about right now: housesitting!
You have to LOVE fur babies
They will quickly become your own fur babies and you have to be ready for it! They are precious to their owners, otherwise, you wouldn’t be there in the first place. It’s not a free place to stay, there’s a little bit of that obviously, but the dog or cat you are taking care of becomes your job, your only priority. And they won’t let you forget it!
If I’m being totally honest, most pets owners looking for housesitters are spoiling their pets. So it’s something to keep in mind before agreeing on any assignments!
Just like that cute little black cat I took care of in Edinburgh she was lovely but very vocal. She would meow loudly for every single thing. She wanted to be fed, or wanted fresh water? Meow! Out in the yard, back in? Meow! Her bed was in the bedroom but she wanted to sleep in the living room where I was? Meooow!! Time to go to bed back in the bedroom? Meow! Lonely at four in the morning? Meoww! Who needs sleep when there are cuddles to be had!
Cuddles with a dog when you are feeling lonely? Yes, please!
While I know it doesn’t quite replace having a partner in my life, it’s very lovely to have someone happy to see you come back home at the end of the day. Or someone who gets overly excited to go for a walk to the park!
Sometimes when I am lonely, or slightly down, there’s nothing I like more than having a good cuddle with someone who will not only be happy to be there but also will not ask questions or judge me. Especially if we are cuddling whilst I’m eating a bag of crisps or tons of Oreos (they are vegan!!). The little rescue dog I took care of in Hamburg, Germany, was adorable. She would sleep under the covers with me, warming out my feet without a complaint! She didn’t quite understand the idea of me reading a book, though.
You get to pretend you are a local
Not only you get to pretend you are actually from the town but you might even get to meet other locals too. Dog owners tend to share a bond that is easily overseen by most. But any walk to the park will include some hellos from other pet owners. So not only it forces you to go outside multiple times a day, rain or shine, it also can make it very easy to break the solitude one can feel when travelling on your own. I know some days it makes up for the only human interaction I will have.
My game of choice when I was younger was to play pretend. I would dress up as a traveller and I would get on a train with my doll and an old suitcase. Of course, I didn’t have a real-size train so I would sit on the couch and imagine all the different scenery passing through. I admit it must have looked a bit odd to the untrained eye as I was sitting on the couch looking around, being very quiet. But you should have seen the gorgeous white top mountains, sparkling blue rivers and old stone villages I would picture in my head… I always liked to play pretend, so it’s not really surprising I still love pretending the pets or house are my own for a little while!
Access to fully equipped kitchen
Another thing I really liked is that most places I’ve housesat in, I had access to a fully equipped kitchen. Something I also tend to miss when I’m travelling. There’s nothing like cooking your own comfort food after coming back from a long walk in a new neighborhood. Also going grocery shopping in a different country is always one of my favourite things. It can take a very long time to work out what the ingredients are, especially when you can’t find a language you recognize on the box, but it becomes an adventure in itself! And I don’t know about you, but I love to see the cultural differences in food and what better place to see that than to see what people are adding to their shopping cart.
You get your daily dose of fresh air and exercise
Whether it’s a warm summer day or a very cold snowy evening, the dogs still need to get their business done and their work out in. Depending on the age of the dog, this is also an opportunity to get a decent workout in. Or depending on how many dogs you have and if they listen to you, you may end up chasing them around the park. Or getting your stretching done when one dog sees a squirrel on one side while the second dog decides the river side is suddenly oh so interesting!
Dog and cat hair, everywhere
That’s has got to be one of the downsides, but it’s easily overlooked when you put all the pluses together. The vacuum cleaner and those sticky rolls will quickly become your best friends. But a few hairs on your trousers is a very small price to pay for all the cuddles and the eternal gratitude you’ll see in the dog’s eyes when you get the ball thrower out of the bag!
Flexibility is key
Location and dates might not be ideal, or they might be exactly what you are looking for. I know I have had to change some of my plans or reroute around the housesit gigs I’ve found, but it’s always been worth it. While there are some housesits in the city centers of most large cities, competition to get these is fierce! And if you are like me and are open to discovering new areas, you might end up in a smaller place, slightly out of the city center, where you might make amazing discoveries. The little cafés, bookstores or parks that are never on tourist radars, quickly will become your favourites.
Sometimes you might arrive at one house thinking you will be there for about 5 weeks, but it turns out the owner made a typo and it’s only 5 days… but with a little flexibility and a few plan Bs, there’s always a way to make it work!
It’s a very different way of travelling when you stop for a few weeks and settle somewhere, but I like it a lot as it allows me to relax, get some love, and some sense of having a ”home” before hitting the roads again.
A win-win-win situation
As a pet owner, this is something you might want to consider. Having a housesitter not only means your insurance will like you but you know you can leave with the peace of mind of knowing your pets are in good hands and will get their daily dose of cuddles, while you go explore the world! And for the pets themselves, they can stay in their own homes as there’s no longer a need to go to those sometimes scary dog shelters.
There are multiples sites available out there, but the one I use is TrustedHousesitters. Check it out, and let me know where you end up!
Have you tried housesitting before? Does it sound like something you would like to do?