I’m a housesitter, and keep in superb locations everywhere in the world free of charge | Funds journey

I’m a housesitter, and keep in superb locations everywhere in the world free of charge | Funds journey

My accomplice Nick and I spent final Easter at a farmhouse in a Cotswolds village. We learn books, loved lunches on the terrace and took lengthy walks alongside footpaths between the canary-yellow rapeseed fields. With an aga, unique artwork works and an en suite lavatory with claw-foot tub, this limestone mansion would have price hundreds to lease – particularly within the Easter holidays. However we stayed free of charge, in return for taking care of the house owners’ pleasant cocker spaniels, a long-haired cat and the kids’s hamster, whereas the household went snowboarding within the Alps.

We landed this superb break by Trusted Housesitters, a web site that matches house owners with sitters worldwide (membership £99 for a 12 months). Home Sitters UK affords an identical service, however covers solely this nation (£29 a 12 months). Unsurprisingly given the state of the economic system, firms providing housesitting companies are reporting a increase this 12 months. Trusted Housesitters has seen a 130% enhance in new members in contrast with 2019, and house owners have posted greater than double the variety of requests for UK sitters.

We found Trusted Housesitters in summer time 2013, when Nick chucked in his job and we determined to go away our London flat and go travelling for some time. Cash was tight so we would have liked to get artistic, and determined to provide housesitting a go. Making a profile detailing our animal, gardening and home expertise, we posted it, together with peppy images of us among the many poppies in Italy, and crossed our fingers.

I’m a housesitter, and keep in superb locations everywhere in the world free of charge | Funds journey
Nick and Nicki having lunch on the terrace in Wicklow, Eire. {Photograph}: Courtesy of Nicki Grinhault

We didn’t have to attend lengthy. We have been quickly contacted by Rachel and Frank, who have been determined for a break from their smallholding in County Wicklow, Eire (and have been maybe persuaded by my stint as a jillaroo on a sheep station in Australia). We have been greeted by excited sheepdogs, and launched to their chickens, geese (which produced contemporary eggs every morning), pet sheep and a tabby cat known as Bruiser. Sunny days have been spent with the canine – choosing fats blackberries, strolling within the Wicklow mountains and swimming amongst seals in Clogga Cove. We have been hooked and realised housesitting might assist us journey on a price range.

Sits have included a three-storey townhouse in London and a lakeside pad in Montreux, Switzerland, and we ended our 12 months away caring for 2 Labrador-crosses in a croft home on the Isle of Lewis. That was a magical journey: we explored the atmospheric Calanais standing stones, picnicked on wild seashores the place the Vikings as soon as landed (and the place we witnessed a whale carcass being eaten by ravens) and watched porpoises leap out of a glassy sea.

Almost a decade later, we’re nonetheless housesitting. Nick retrained as a trainer, and we housesit within the UK, and generally overseas, within the faculty holidays, when lodging is costliest (and the necessity for housesitters highest). Though getting free vacation lodging is purpose sufficient to do it, housesitting has different advantages. It’s enjoyable spending time with completely different animals, with all of the comforts of a house away from house. It’s also possible to get to know the neighbours – even in London. Taking care of a cat in Golders Inexperienced one August, we have been invited for dinner by the girl subsequent door (an enchanting literary agent), and ended up sitting her wide-eyed kitten the next spring.

Exploring what’s on the doorstep can result in some superb journey experiences. Just like the time we stayed at a smallholding in Sussex and found the Knepp rewilding venture. On a go to, we noticed stork infants in nests within the oak bushes and the uncommon purple emperor butterfly, and handled ourselves to a bottle of the property’s glowing wine.

Nicki attending the Montreux jazz festival while housesitting a pad on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Nicki attending the Montreux jazz pageant whereas housesitting a pad on the shores of Lake Geneva. {Photograph}: [email protected]/Nick Luft

We’ve performed weekends and month-long stints, and taken care of pets from a budgie to an lovely pair of rescue donkeys, however principally canine and cats. With fixed enticing profiles coming on-line, housesitting can develop into addictive. I nonetheless get a buzz, once we land a free keep in an unimaginable place. One such was a 12-bedroom Edwardian manor in Devon, with three golden doodles to play with within the wooded grounds. It’s additionally a marriage venue, and we slept within the romantic Bridal Suite for 3 weeks.

Housesitting is just not a traditional vacation although, as taking care of pets and nation mansions might be demanding. Additionally, if housesitting overseas, it’s vital to verify prematurely whether or not a piece visa could also be required within the vacation spot nation. On uncommon events housesitting is simply that, however often the primary focus is pet-sitting – and most house owners prefer to be stored within the loop about their pets’ welfare. And, in fact, canine get into scrapes (just like the terrier pup who swallowed the bandage on his poorly leg), cats go lacking (and, fortunately, are discovered, mewing on high of a roof) and a few animals have issues – just like the rescue canine that will spin on the spot each time a automotive drove previous. It’s aggressive too – to earn five-star opinions (a gateway to the most effective sits) you want to take care of household pets as in the event that they have been your personal, and go the additional mile. Our hosts come again to an immaculate house with flowers and a thanks card, and a homecooked meal within the fridge.

With a stronger need to get away from the massive smoke after the pandemic, now we have clocked up 5 housesits this 12 months alone. To save lots of extra pennies, we chosen locations a few hours’ drive or prepare journey from our flat in London. The one I beloved most was 10 days with two black cats in a stone cottage straight out of the movie The Vacation, on a non-public property close to Marlborough in Wiltshire. Not solely did now we have the cats for firm, horses on the gallops and pink kites circling overhead, however a neighbour who took me to see a crop circle and taught me the right way to make crab apple jelly.

Individuals speak about having fun with a house from house, however this fashion we will bag someplace that’s often greater, smarter, prettier or in a nicer location than our own residence – and all with out paying a penny.

This text was amended on 9 January 2023. Textual content was added to make clear that, earlier than travelling overseas, potential housesitters ought to verify whether or not the vacation spot nation could require a piece visa.

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