It was just an experiment…
These last 3 months were a trial run in a new lifestyle experiment. The goal was to be a house sitter up and down the west coast of the US while visiting friends and family. I’d apply to be a house sitter in homes needing one in a time period that worked for me, try to get accepted into as many ‘house sits’ as possible, and build up reviews from home owners. Then, I could potentially be recognized as a legitimate house sitter internationally and stay in real, functioning homes instead of staged air bnb’s, hostels and hotels.
Part of the exercise was to see if I could actually become a preferred house sitter. It looked very competitive, the more I read about it. To come in with zero experience or endorsements seemed ambitious. I also wanted to see if it was a sustainable lifestyle, or if it was too good to be true. (Live for free while traveling? That sounds too good to be true.) I wanted to see if I could save money while traveling to gorgeous places, trading a seemingly easy task of taking care of someone’s home, mail, pets and plants, in exchange for a free place to live. If I could continue writing for a living, which I love, and actually sustain a lifestyle based on exploration (without tapping into savings and future retirement), I was in.
How did I start…?
I applied to about 20 house sit opportunities on my flight back to the States from South America through Trusted House Sitters. Within a day, I had been contacted by one and booked my first house sit: a week in Santa Barbara. The next day, I accepted another- and the next week, another. Suddenly, I started to get responses from nearly all I had applied to. Some I even had to turn down. Within two weeks, I had most of my fall booked with back to back house sitting gigs, all in areas near friends and family.
My housesitting ‘job’ took me to places like Boulder, Colorado, Portland, Oregon, Bainbridge Island- outside of Seattle, Washington, El Sereno (Northeast Los Angeles), Marina del Rey (Los Angeles), San Francisco, and Lakeport, California. I’ve been able to ski in the Cascade Mountains with cousins, pick up a newfound love for open water swimming with my brother, go on too many hikes to count with dogs I was sitting, pick nuts, fruits and vegetables in all the gardens I’ve cared for… which happened to include walnuts, purple and orange tomatoes, yellow round cucumbers, zucchini (the size of my leg), grapefruit, figs, apples, and grapes. I’ve woken up to views of mountain ranges, the morning sun reflecting off of lakes, the sparkling lights of a city, the ocean crashing on beaches, and fog rising up through endless rows of trees. I’ve gotten to know the Pacific Northwest, which I had only visited a couple of times and always over hurried wedding weekends or work-related excursions. I’ve used kitchen equipment I’ve never heard of, slept in beds I loved (but would never have bought myself), studied libraries with spiritual books and buddhist artwork, and made connections to wonderful people I hope to know the rest of my life. I was able to cook for friends and family I hadn’t seen in years, have solitary time to write, explore new cities, states and neighborhoods, and become the sole care taker of some of the coolest pets I’ve ever met. In every one of these places, I felt like a local. I loved having family and friends nearby (who I was used to seeing only once every 5 years), and I loved having responsibilities, my own space, and (in most cases) my own transportation.
This lifestyle allows me to write, hang out with animals, explore new places, live in lovely homes, spend a good portion of my day exercising and reading books… and still have plenty of time to connect with the outside world. I’ve also gotten 5-star reviews from every one of the homes I’ve sat for, with write-ups stating they couldn’t imagine having had a better sitter. This is ideal for my ‘resume’ and for potential referrals needed going forward. Economically, I’m making about 1/10th of what I used to, but I’m only spending about 1/10th of what I used to as well, so it’s evened out. As I hear of people getting trapped in expensive lifestyles and saddled with heaps of debt or committed to a job that works them to the bone, I want to shake them and say ‘you don’t have to live like this’. But we all have to come to our own conclusions, and I suppose not everyone can be as easy going as I tend to be when it comes to living in strange places and dealing with someone else’s problems (like on one occasion, a surprise flea infestation).
I came to the conclusion that not only is this a sustainable lifestyle for me, but the ultimate lifestyle. I’m never stressed about being too busy, my expenses are minimal, and almost everything has taken on a new and exciting charm.
As I sit here writing this post, I have 2 dachshunds asleep at my side, passed out after vying for my attention for the last hour. I’m in a beautiful house (that should be in Architectural Digest), on a beautiful island, in a beautiful area of the country. I have everything I could possibly want at my fingertips. Though there’s always the next location to look forward to, the only downside to this lifestyle is saying goodbye at the end of the stay.