Our adventure started at a converted school house in the Charente, a region of France known for its verdant scenery and cognac brandy. As we walked through the sunny woods with Rossco (an Airedale terrier) and Ralph (a border terrier) it was hard to believe that this was our lives. Some people save money all their lives to experience this, and we were doing it on a tight budget. It seemed almost unfair. But this was not the beginning of the story… When my girlfriend and I decided to become long term travellers, we knew there would be a few obstacles to face. In this article I’m not talking about finding freelance work or organising visas, either. I’m talking about the hurdle that trips up so many potential nomads: accommodation. We both like our home comforts, so staying in a hostel was out of the question. We both seriously value our own space, so that meant couch surfing and homestays were also out. Because of our work commitments we didn’t have time to help out on a farm: so that meant no WWOOFing either. Although we both had some savings, we didn’t want to blow it all on a six month trip round the world only to come home and have to start from scratch: bye-bye hotels.
It seemed like all of our options were exhausted, until we discovered house sitting.
House sitting is a simple service exchange: you look after someone’s home and pets while they go on vacation. In return you get to live in their house rent free. Usually there are a few tasks they expect you to carry out, for example walking the dog and watering the plants. The amount of work involved really depends on the house sit you take on. For example, big houses with swimming pools are great to live in but keeping the property and pool clean can be a huge time sink. Once we decided that this was how we were going to go travelling, it was time to see what kind of house sitting assignments were available. There are a few websites dedicated to house sitting, and they’re by far the best place to look. We found 90% our house sits through Trusted House Sitters, which seems to be a lot more active than the other websites. (Tip: use the code ‘hscouple’ to get 25% off which will give you a 12 month membership for just short of $60, or $5 per month. One house sit, even if it’s just for a few days usually pays this off, but if you really want to get value for money why not apply for one of the longer term house sits on the site. They last anything from two months to a year and can end up saving you a fortune.)
We set up our profile and started looking
We applied for lots of assignments, and for a while it was a bit disheartening as we didn’t always get a reply from the homeowners. We kept at it, thankfully, and soon we found ourselves facing nine months of back to back house sits in France!
So, this was where our adventure really began, at the converted school house in the Charente that I mentioned earlier, walking through the sunny woods with Rossco (an Airedale terrier) and Ralph (the border terrier). The adventure continued in Salies de Bearn, a town not far from the Spanish border. The house was in the middle of being renovated, but that was fine by us. We were happy hanging out in the pretty garden by the huge swimming pool, basking in the last rays of the September sunshine. After that we had a very fun month helping out on an alpaca farm. Although we had discounted WWOOFing from our travel plans, an alpaca “farm-sit” popped up on Trusted Housesitters one day and we just couldn’t resist. The farm’s owner was happy for us to spend time on our own projects thankfully, and we had fantastic fun learning about the proper way to grab hold of an alpaca to clip its toenails.
Our French adventure ended with five months in a rambling home in a very remote village; right in the middle of the Madiran wine region. We were there over Christmas, which was great as we got to enjoy the property’s roaring log fire – and some of those famous wines! We even got invited to the local hunters harvest dinner, which made us really feel like part of the community. There was loads of fresh game, caught by the local men and cooked by their wives, and it was an amazing evening. Some people pay a lot of money to experience this kind of thing, and here we were doing it for just a few bucks. During our time in France we realised that house sitting is a very inexpensive way to travel. Not only is the accommodation free, you also save money on things like food. Whether it’s picking fresh produce from the vegetable garden, or whipping up a wallet friendly feast in the kitchen, it’s no surprise that it works out a lot less expensive than dining out every evening. The only cost involved in house sitting is getting to the property. Of course there’s also the initial outlay for an annual membership to a house sitting website, but when you consider how much money you could save throughout your travels the cost of a membership is worth every penny (or cent). You can find out more about James and Jemma and their house sitting adventures over at thehousesittingcouple.com
Disclaimer: This post is the opinion of thehousesittingcouple. It is not sponsored but we do make a small commission if you choose to sign up with trusted house sitters.