International house & pet sitter
Christopher and his partner Andrew have been travelling and house sitting around the world full time for several years.
Christopher graciously agreed to grant me an audience as he opened up about how house sitting has transformed his life.
How did you first hear about house and pet sitting, and when did you realise this could be a lifestyle option for you?
I first heard about house sitting in a travel article in the Sydney Morning Herald, plus my partner knew some friends in Melbourne that had been house sitting for a number of years.
At first I didn’t realise that it could be a “full-time” lifestyle. We had made the decision to relocate our lives to New Zealand and so used house sitting in different parts of NZ to get a feel for where we might put down roots there. But, after our second house sit we realised we could make it work as a lifestyle choice and not settle down in any one particular place. That was 3 years ago!
Can you please tell us about your first house sitting experience? Were you nervous about being in a stranger’s home caring for their precious pets?
Our first house sit was in Christchurch, New Zealand, for 3 weeks. I was so nervous! I don’t think I relaxed the whole time we were there.
We had to take care of 3 chooks (chickens) as well as an extensive garden. Those chooks were the most pampered chooks in the world and the owners almost considered them as their children. But all went well and it was quite exciting to get our first house sitting reference.
What attracts you to house sitting?
The travel opportunities house & pet sitting afford you are endless. You do really get to experience life “living like a local”. Plus, in most cases it truly is “slow travel”.
You get to spend more time in a place and really get to know it from a different perspective than as you would as a tourist just passing through.
Do you also get to travel "freestyle" without looking after homes and pets?
Quite often we will have gaps between house sits and that gives us the opportunity to explore different parts of surrounding areas by staying in B&Bs or hotels.
What inspires you to travel full time? Why not just stay home and take shorter trips through the year?
I have always loved travel and get very itchy feet if I am in one place for too long, especially if I’m in my home town of Sydney for a while. I just want to get out and explore new and exciting things and places. Because Australia is so far from anywhere, the option to take shorter trips overseas becomes very expensive. I much rather base myself somewhere for a longer time and get to know the place really well than just a quick “fly by night” visit.
Being a full time traveller can be costly. What is your greatest expense and how do you minimise spending?
The biggest expense by far is the actual transportation itself, be it flights, trains, buses or boats. However, with some very strategic spending we accumulate points and use them when purchasing flights. Whilst it takes some time in researching reward flights it does pay off in the end and can save a lot of money.
Where in the world has house & pet sitting taken you, and where would you love to go next?
So far we’ve house sat in the USA, Mexico, New Zealand, UK, various states of Australia and Switzerland.
The next place I’d love to go would be Canada or the Greek Islands.
You work online. What kind of work do you do and what challenges do you face as a digital nomad?
Working online basically allows me to live this nomadic lifestyle. I build and maintain websites and manage social media for a small number of clients. I have even picked up some work from people we’ve house sat for previously, so you just never know where the work may come from.
The only real challenge to being nomadic is working in different time zones but it can usually be worked around without too much difficulty.
What is the most useful item in your luggage and what has been the craziest thing you’ve travelled with?
Packing cells and ziplock bags are the most useful items in my luggage. They keep everything well organised and makes packing and unpacking quick and easy. And that comes from someone that hates packing!
We laugh when we think about the most useless thing I’ve ever travelled with – a cookbook. Too heavy and I source most recipes online anyway.
What is your favourite kind of souvenir to collect during your travels?
This might sound naff but I now generally collect memories, not things. I use photography to collect memories of my travels.
Travel certainly opens up all kinds of wonderful food options.
What has been your best ever meal when travelling?
It’s hard to pick just one, but if I could only choose one meal then it would be the best pizza I’ve ever had in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Mama Mia Pizza is a small, quaint cafe in suburban Roslyn, where they served us a typical Italian-style pizza .
How often do you return to Sydney, and do you have a home base?
I return to Sydney at least once a year, and that may be for varying lengths of time. Usually dictated by events in relation to family and friends.
Whilst we have a home in Sydney, it is leased out on a permanent basis, so even when I am in my home city we are still house sitting.
How do you overcome loneliness when travelling for long periods at a time?
I’ve never felt lonely when travelling. There are always interesting people to meet and striking up a conversation when travelling is usually pretty easy.
With the technology available these days it is easy to stay in touch with family and friends at home.
How has your life changed as a result of house sitting?
Life prior to house sitting was just the usual typical 9-5 existence and very predictable. I would have one major trip a year for usually a month and would have a few short trips during the year.
Now, I just never know where I might be in 6 months time. One email from a home owner requesting you to house sit for them could send you off to a place you had never even contemplated or perhaps heard of before.
My life now couldn’t be more different from my previous life. And the unexpected bonus is the wonderful new friendships I have made of both home owners and house sitters, around the world.
Do you ever get sick of living out of a suitcase?
Yes, sometimes. It’s more about only having a limited wardrobe for an extended period of time, that’s what I get sick of. When I look back over my photos I often think, “oh, I’m wearing that same shirt yet again”.
Finally Christopher, do you have any words of wisdom you can share with others contemplating a life of travel and house & pet sitting?
Be flexible, be open, expect the unexpected and trust your intuition. It’s a fantastic lifestyle but is certainly not for everyone. But at least give it a go to find out if it is for you.
Christopher, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about your house sitting and travelling life.