*Ping* “Jenny, you have a new message from homeowner xyz….”
An email with those words always sends a little thrill through my body. The prospect of a new house sit is exciting. What part of the country will it be in? When? For how long? What cute doggie might I get to look after? What’s around there that I can explore? Will the house be nice? Will I have a view? Will it be near a beach? And most importantly, can I fit it in with my travelling schedule?
In my year in New Zealand I house sat at five different places, ranging from a length of four days up to nine weeks. Each house sitting assignment was unique in its own way, with both good and bad points, and I’m glad I did all of them. I wish I had been able to do more.
So now I’m going to give you the low down on house sitting. In a three-part series I’m going to tell you the benefits of house sitting, what’s not so great about it, and finally a full guide on how to make it work for you.
First, the good:
1. Saving money
Let’s face it, as budget travelers we’re always looking for ways to keep the costs down. And in New Zealand, accommodation is easily one of the biggest expenses. Just a bed in a hostel dorm room can cost anywhere from $22 to a whopping $38 per night, and if you want to go for something a little more private and get a motel you’ll be lucky to find one for less than $100 a night.
One of the benefits of house sitting is that you can minimize those costs. In my year in New Zealand I estimate I spent around 140 nights house sitting, which, based on a rough average of $27 per night in a hostel dorm saved me a whopping $3780. That’s huge. And it amounts to even more savings if you’d be more likely to stay in a motel than a hostel.
There are other financial advantages too. A house sit meant I had a kitchen to use, so for long term ones I could buy food in bulk and make use of freezer space. This meant I could also much more easily take advantage of the vouchers that supermarkets offered for petrol discounts.
2. Privacy and solitude
This might not be a perk for everyone but for me it definitely was. Hostels are fine but they’re also busy, crowded places where people are noisy and sometimes inconsiderate. A light sleeper like me has a lot of trouble getting enough rest and even during non-sleeping times I often found myself getting annoyed at those who were more rambunctious than I (Is this a sign that I’m getting old? I think it might be). At a house sit I had the whole place to myself, quiet nights, tranquil space to think in, a shower I never had to wait for and a kitchen where I didn’t have to fight for space.
3. Kitchen and garden privileges
As I mentioned above, at a house sit I always had kitchen all to myself. Not only did this mean I could cook big, complicated meals that I would never attempt in a crowded hostel kitchen, but I could also ‘borrow’ spices and condiments that I might not normally be carrying with me, thus varying my food more than usual. Sometimes there would be a garden with fresh herbs and veggies I could use, occasionally fruit trees, and if there were chickens, fresh eggs.
4. Having pets
I would dearly love to have a dog, but with my travelling lifestyle there’s simply no way I could make that work. One of the huge benefits of house sitting was that I often had an adorable canine to take for walks and to snuggle up with, and once also a cat and at another place a rabbit (although he wasn’t so willing to snuggle). And they’re great for company. Dogs are wonderful, attentive listeners and always want to play or take you for a walk.
At my first house sit there was a flock of about 10 chickens and a rooster, and besides giving me eggs they also were a constant source of amusement. There always seemed to be something bizarre going on with them. I had no idea that chickens could be so entertaining!
5. Getting to know the locals and the surrounding area
House sitting offered me an opportunity to get to know some actual Kiwis, rather than just other travellers I met in hostels. At my first house sit there were only two other houses in the same bay and while we all kept our privacy, I was able to spend some time with those neighbours and get to know them a bit.
House sitting for Linda and Mark in Wanaka led to me becoming friends with them, staying on after they returned, and visiting them again when I was working in Wanaka as well as later in the year when I was passing through town.
It’s also a chance to get to know a town or area in a deeper way than you would if you were just passing through and staying in a hostel. There’s time to attend community events, get involved if you wish, and explore everything there is to see and do in the area. And it’s very likely that you might end up in a part of the country that you would never have seen otherwise.
6. A solid internet connection at home
This is a big deal in New Zealand, where internet access in hostels is rarely free and usually limited to 100mb or something ridiculous like that. I often took advantage of the opportunity to Skype with my family and catch up on emails, travel planning, and blogging.
7. Learning experiences and confidence
I’m not going to lie to you, some of these were mixed blessings. But when bad things happened at house sits (oh, and they did! See my next post!) I had no choice but to step up and deal with them, and each time I learned something new and came out of it with renewed confidence in my own skills and problem-solving abilities.
So there you have it: seven benefits of house sitting. Convinced yet? Well, read my other post where I talk about seven drawbacks of house sitting and see what you think after that!
Then if you still think house sitting is for you, here’s my full guide to house sitting so you can get started!
Have you tried house sitting? What are some of the advantages you’ve discovered?