Hi - we are Simon, Donna and Araya - the '3 on the road'. We have been house sitting full time since 2013 which has allowed us to slow travel around Europe, Asia and now in the U.S. During this time we have looked after many wonderful homes and pets...
In 2012, we were living in France while my husband worked as a pilot just over the border in Switzerland. His job required him to be away from home a lot as well as glued to a cell phone. It was very stressful, as are many jobs.
Then came the surprise-the unexpected (we thought impossible) bundle of joy. Araya! We had been trying for a baby for 7 years, and had practically given up hope. Our plan had become to make as much money as possible and retire early, but she changed everything.
We began thinking there must be another way. We don't want to work our way through these early years of her life, putting her in day care to only see her in the evenings. We wanted to be there for the first steps, first words etc.
Simon decided to quit his job and we were going to travel for a few months before moving back to the US. Then I saw it - owners of a castle in southern France needed someone to care for their 2 dogs and 2 cats while going away over the winter. I thought that looks interesting. Why not apply...
The rest is history. The owners chose us to take care of their home for 3 and a half months, and thus began our life as house sitters. We have now been on the road full time for over a year and a half, and we have completed 18 house sits in Europe, Asia and the US.
So if you are wondering exactly what we do- We take care of people's homes and pets free of charge while they are away in exchange for free accommodation. The home owners save on boarding or kennel costs while the pets get to stay in their own environment. We get to travel and still have pets while saving on accommodation. It is that simple, and wonderful!
As well as house sitting in an amazing French Chateau, one of our highlights was house sitting a tropical paradise in Laos. We had to take care of 4 dogs, 3 cats, 2 chickens, a guinea fowl and a fish pond. One of our duties included taking the 4 dogs to the Mekong twice a day for a long walk, and we had to drive them in a tuk tuk. It was such an adventure driving through Vientiane with Simon at the wheel, Araya on my lap(no seat belt) and 4 very large dogs in the back. We were like a tourist attraction to the locals!
The experiences gained from house sitting versus a vacation are unforgettable. The gardener and house keeper cooked a traditional Lao lunch for us one day, we became known as regulars at our local vegetable market, and we befriended monks and practiced English with them. I really don't think that we would have had these experiences as tourists.
We have learned so much from house sitting. Here are a few of the benefits and things that I have realized from this life on the road.
1-We still have a home. I don't think that I could handle going hotel to hotel with a 2 year old. When we are accepted for a house sit, the home owner knows that they will have a toddler in their home. Many times this means that homes come already equipped with toys, plenty of space for a travel cot, a kitchen and dining area for proper meal times, or Netflix with great cartoon access. It helps us settle into daily routines such as napping, but we still have the adventure of new surroundings.
2-We still have pets. Simon and I have both had pets and we want the same for Araya. This can be tricky if traveling. While pet sitting, we have had the chance to care for numerous animals. The only downside is it gets really hard saying goodbye to them. I have cried on several occasions when saying goodbye and Araya will call for particular cats and dogs several months after we have parted. It is a worthy downside however, because these animals get to stay and be cared for in the comfort of their own home.
3-Long term travel is affordable. We have very little outgoings. Think of the money that you would save if you didn't have to pay for your home! We don't have rent, a mortgage, utilities, and insurances to pay. That leaves very little for us to cover every month. We have often joked that it would be more expensive for us to stop traveling and settle down!
4-Flexibility is key. We have a routine down of how to pack the car, how to pack and unpack the suitcases, what food to arrive with for the first day, etc. However there is always a new kitchen to navigate, new bedrooms to settle into, and new play spaces to set up.
I remember in Laos, we had a borrowed crib for Araya. It was very high and she could have easily fallen out. After trying many things to block her in, we wedged her between a wall and huge boxed up car windshield. It made me laugh, but she didn't seem to notice. Now, after having lived in numerous homes, she easily wonders around any new environment and settles herself in. As long as she has her sheep to sleep with and her bag of toys, she is happy.
5-We really don't need much. My husband is a nomad. Having less is more to him. This is something that I have had to learn. When we first went on the road full time, we had 2 car loads of things such books, exercise equipment, DVDs, and who knows what else filled those bags.
Now we are down to 1 car load. This includes 2 suitcases, a computer bag, highchair, travel cot, a bag of toys and a guitar. That's it. It keeps things simple and I think that we still have too much sometimes.
6-Araya is collecting friends from around the world. One of the downsides of full time travel can be finding children for her to connect with. House sitting has answered this problem. As we are generally in one place for an average of 3 weeks to a month, we have time to meet the neighbors. For example, on our current house sit, we have met 9 children who live on our street. Everyone is happy to meet the new kid, share their toys, and introduce her to their friends. It is a joy to watch and we are meeting great other parents along the way too!
6-We appreciate the little things. One of the first things that I see every morning is my daughter's smiling face. I make her breakfast, she watches Caillou or Dinosaur train, we tend to the animals and homes that we are caring for and we plan our day. We don't eat out a lot, we don't have designer clothes or expensive gadgets , but we are together.
House sitting is allowing us to have this lifestyle. Check our "House Sitting Guide" I think the best way to put it is we live everyday life in beautiful locations, in other people's homes and with other people's pets. Long may it last...