In some ways I’m like a grandmother (or Nana, Gigi, G-Mom, or whatever you prefer):
I come over,
love and spoil and kiss the kiddos up,
then when their parents get home,
I hand them over and get on my way!
No, I’m not talking about actual grandchildren, but the fur babies I take care of on the road!
When I started setting out the details of bringing my life-long dream to travel the world fulltime without a set home into play, I knew that finding the least expensive accommodations was going to be a big part of it.
Of course there were the obvious options of staying in a hotel, renting an AirBnB or some other type of rental, staying with friends, and/or hanging for a while with family. And no, lest you ask, buying an RV was never part of the equation!
I was so happy to give up having to care for an entire house when my oldest graduated from high school, then a smaller apartment two years later when my youngest received his diploma, that there was no way I was adding a mobile residence to my list of responsibilities.
So one of the best ways I found to accomplish this low-budget travel desire was
About two years prior to the launch of my grand adventure I started doing some research into the various reputable housesitting sites out there and was also fortunate to have a travel writer friend who had been housesitting all over the world for several years. She even wrote an excellent book about it called Break Free: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting.
There are two primary benefits to housesitting. For the sitter, it’s not having to pay for travel accommodations, and the homeowner doesn’t incur the often-hefty expense of having to board their pets. In almost all instances housesitting is a no-money exchange between the two, and almost all of the residences have pets.
So that’s where my “grandma” experiences come in: I get to love on and enjoy some of the cutest, funniest, sometimes sneaky, and loveable fur babies one can imagine!
My very first formal housesit (I’ve done it for friends before) was in Ft. Lauderdale, where I spent 3-1/2-weeks caring for Pixie and Spike, two cute Pomeranians who definitely kept me on my toes!
In Texas, I had another multi-week gig in Arlington with Jefferson (a Terrier mutt) and Truman (a Labrador mutt), the latter whom the owner thought was a boy at the time of adoption years ago (it’s a long story), but she is definitely a lovie and a girl!
Austin was another fur baby fun time with Eli (a Border Collie) and Pushkin (a female black lab), and it was so fun to watch how she’d patiently sit and let him groom her every night!
Charlie and Maggie (both King Charles Spaniels), and Farley the cat, were my charges in Georgetown, TX where sleeping most of the time was definitely the order of the day!
I really got a lot of walking in (and a lot of hills!) with Sadie and Twyla in San Francisco. From the beach, to the park, to the marina, we definitely had a great time!
Tucson was a blast with Sunny and Breezy, both Beagle mixes with very keen senses of smell and who alerted me to any type of animal passing within several hundred yards of the house!
And an originally planned two-week sit in Groveland, FL turned into an over 3-1/2 month detour when COVID hit. To date this has been my longest housesit, and where I really got to know Roxie (a Beagle), Sir. Charles (a Basset Hound), and Zoe (a Beagle/Basset Hound mix).
I will say that outside of the regular routines and mealtimes detailed by the homeowner, fur baby-sitting is just like caring for an infant or toddler who can’t speak. You have to watch for a lot of visual cues when it comes to their unique quirks like coughs, scratching, barking/meowing, following you everywhere you move in the house, and so forth.
Each quirk, movement, and overall behavior means something different for every pet and you of course don’t want to miss a critical “message.” So there’s definitely a lot of drawing on your prior experience and skill sets if you’ve owned pets before, as well as listening to your intuition.
And although I’m not a human “Gigi” yet (please God, let that not be for at least 5-8 more years – are you reading this kids?!), I totally get it when I hear grandparents say the love watching the little ones, but when the parents come home they’re ready to give them back!
Housesitting Magazine is a great place to learn more about this fantastic way to travel, and you can also check out housesitting websites like Trusted Housesitters, Mind My House, House Carers, Housesitters America, and Luxury House Sitting.
I love you all, my precious fur babies!