It’s 6:30am and sunlight is streaming in through the windows. I’m not usually a morning person but the jungle comes alive at sunrise and the sounds rouse me from my hazy slumber.
You might think that I am perhaps on holiday in a glamorous resort or on an eco-vacation, maybe even a yoga retreat. Well although all of the above do sound very appealing I am actually house sitting on a cashew farm in southern Costa Rica.
In my opinion, this is a far more enjoyable alternative.
I’ve been charged with caring for a hillside property overlooking the Pacific Ocean, along with the owner’s boisterous golden Labrador Jack, who has a penchant for tennis balls and an insatiable desire to play fetch.
I’m in heaven.
Each morning we head out for a walk around the farm and Jack bounces ahead of me absorbing the many smells wafting up the mountain from the village below. As we make our way down to the beach Jack disappears into various driveways and returns with some of his four legged friends who have made it a routine to join him for his daily constitutional.
Although I’m not being paid for my services I can’t think of a better exchange. I am able to live like a local in this little piece of paradise, care for a wonderful dog, meet the neighbours and immerse myself in community life without paying a cent in accommodation costs.
Since I first registered to be a house sitter I’ve looked after 12 homes in 6 different countries. Each assignment has offered me an insight into the inner workings of the locations I’ve visited, and taught me a huge amount about the world in which I live.
In Australia I learned the basics of macadamia farming, New Zealand taught me how to herd a troop of alpacas and bathe a dog terrified of water. I have learned to speak Spanish, make an exceptional Nicaraguan gallo pinto and have experienced life in the frigid temperatures of a Canadian winter.
While none of these experiences will feature prominently on my employment CV they have all enriched my experience of travel, offered me a fresh perspective on my own capabilities and of course allowed me to keep my daily travel expenditure to a minimum.
So how did I manage to secure so many desirable house sitting assignments? I’ll tell you.
Step 1: I Signed Up With a House Sitting Service.
Over the course of the last few years I’ve been a member of a number of services that offer a platform on which home owners and house sitters can connect. My experience was varied and at times frustrating so my advice to you is to research which services offer assignments in the locations you wish to visit.
I have had the most success with Trustedhousesitters.com, they appear to have the most comprehensive portfolio of assignments in locations all over the world and as someone who wants to house sit abroad to me that is very appealing.
Step 2: I Created an Engaging Profile
Your profile is essentially your house sitting CV so treat it with respect. Be informative and show character but keep it engaging and ensure you put across your credentials as eloquently as possible. Try the home owner’s shoes on for size, imagine you are interviewing yourself. What would you look for in a successful house sitter profile?
Include recent photographs of you engaging in hobbies or playing with pets and source some relevant references. If you’re completely new to house sitting ask your current landlord or employer to give you a character reference. I would avoid asking people to reference your ability to care for a home unless they have first-hand experience of your suitability.
Step 3: I Applied for Assignments
This is the fun part! Sign up for the daily email alerts and have an inbox full of potential holiday destinations waiting for you each morning.
Decide on the locations and dates for which you will search, read each advert thoroughly and understand the responsibilities involved. Do some pre-emptive research into the locale to make sure you would be comfortable living there, and then send a message of application.
You can construct an application template but be sure to include relevant references to the home owner’s advert when applying. This will translate the fact that you have read and understood their needs and genuinely believe you can fulfil the duties they require.
Be polite and engaging, offer to chat with the home owner over the telephone or Skype and invite them to forward any questions they may have. An honest and transparent approach is always the most successful.
Step 4: I Was Offered House Sitting Assignments!
It can be very overwhelming when you receive your first positive response so don’t lose all rational brain function and agree to an assignment before you are sure that you are comfortable with every aspect of it.
Take the time to do some additional research and don’t forget to consider logistics such as the cost of flights and visas if house sitting abroad.
Once you experience the joys of house sitting you’ll soon catch the bug and want to sample local life in more unique parts of the world.
I’ve become hooked on the thrill of living like a local and have already secured a further four assignments that will take me to the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand, an island in the Caribbean and an apartment in New York over the next 6 months.
Where will your house sitting adventures take you?
About The Author: Charli Moore is a house sitter and travel addict with a penchant for dark chocolate. In 2011 she and her other half Ben waved ‘Adios’ to the corporate world and jumped head first into a life of perpetual travel. You can follow the adventures of this writer/photographer team over at Wanderlusters or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.