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A Life Less Ordinary

Ask a House Sitter – What Do You Do between House Sits?

For house sit assignments to line up perfectly, house sitters have to be pretty lucky. Finding consecutive house sits in highly desirable locations is pretty rare, unless you are able to secure every sit of your choice and all the dates are flexible. Or, you are in an ideal position where home owners consult with you to see when you are available. That would be the dream of all house sitters: having different owners bombard you with invitations, so you can choose which situation and location works best for you. Unfortunately, home owners are the ones to pick from an array of sitters, since the demand for house and pet sitting jobs is higher than the supply. So, what do we do to fill the gaps between house sits?

During the year that Mark and I looked for house and pet sitting assignments on the East Coast of the US, the answer was simple: we would return to our home base, a room above the garage in my in-laws’ condo. This is our official residence and where we stay on past and present New England visits. Since mid-October 2016, we find ourselves on the West Coast, without a base. We contemplate buying another camper, so we can travel more to the regions we are interested in, but also to have a home in between sits. We are on the look-out, but for now we only have a tent, sleeping bags and an air mattress. Once winter is over, camping might be an option to fill short gaps. Working on our computers, though, will be hard in such an environment.

Lobster dinner on our last night with the in-laws, October 2016

Renting an apartment is cost-prohibitive and difficult for short periods of time. Staying at a cheap motel for a few days is possible, but the cost would add up quickly. We are on a budget after all. That being said, if we could combine the stay with some sightseeing in an interesting place, we are certainly up for it. A better solution, however, is to visit friends we haven’t seen in a while and combine the logistic advantage with an even bigger social one. Luckily for us, we do have friends in many states and countries. 🙂

On the pier of Ocean Beach with Amy, Skylos and Jaxx

Another arrangement that usually works for both house sitting parties is showing up the night before a sit, to go over all the requirements and tasks (and meet the pets while everybody is still present), and – if the owners agree and/or come back home relatively late in the day – stay one extra night to touch base on how the sit progressed. I always send many updates and photos to the owners while they are away, but communicating in person after each sit proves helpful and brings conclusion.

Without a base on the West Coast, Mark and I faced five days of uncertainty after our three-month house sit with Herk in Rocklin, CA ended on January 9th. The owner would come home pretty late that day, so we could easily stay until the 10th, but then what? In this situation, the wife returned earlier than her husband. She preferred to have some company and thought it would be good for Herk to have us a few days extra as a transition. We took her up on the generous offer and stayed until January 12th. Being in a familiar house and environment made it easy for us to stick to our work schedule instead of moving about those weekdays.

Terri from Second Wind Leisure Perspectives, a blogger I virtually met thanks to another blogger, Janis, graciously invited us over to stay at her home for a couple of nights, when she found out we were in the Sacramento area and could use accommodation. So, late afternoon on Thursday the 12th, we met Terri and her husband Hans at their place. We moved into the guest room for two nights, had a nice time together and even fitted in a walk with her and her dog. On Saturday morning, we departed for Fairfax for our next one-week house sit.

On January 21st, we left Fairfax, CA again for a fun weekend with friends. The first night, we caught up in earnest with Mark’s friends from the years he used to live in the Bay Area. We already went out for dinner with Kathy and Steve while in Fairfax and they had invited us over for that Saturday night. There were so many adventures to share, but time flies when you are having fun!

The following day, we drove to another set of friends who live in the Bay Area. I had seen Shane and Ava in Moorea, French Polynesia, on their 10th anniversary vacation a couple of years prior, but for Mark, it had been a while. Again, it was nice to catch up with them and we stayed for one night. That Monday, we drove all the way south to Costa Mesa to meet the next home owner and her cute seven-month-old puppy Jaxx. We all shared the little apartment the first night, since she had to leave extremely early.

The next gap would be three days, between this 2.5-week house sit in Costa Mesa, Southern California and a one-week sit in Oakland, Northern California. When our time down south drew to an end, we started to make plans for the few days in between. My blogging friend Janis (yes, the Janis from above), who lives in San Diego, a city we have amazing memories of and which we looked forward to visiting again, invited us over for a two-night stay at her house. The third night, we would spend in Morro Bay, either at a friend’s house or in a motel, to break up the long drive back north. Just when we were ready to commit to the plan, Jaxx’ owner asked us whether we could stay a few days extra, so she could extend her vacation in the Philippines. Since this would make everything incredibly easy for us – we didn’t have to move all our belongings or pack up a few times, and it perfectly filled the gap – we obliged and stayed in Costa Mesa until February 14th, the evening of which we were expected in Oakland.

Owner Michelle took a nice photo of the two of us with Jaxx

The arrangement was perfect, except for one thing: we were looking forward to meeting Janis – and another friend, Amy – in San Diego that weekend, and seeing some of the city’s wonderful sights. The solution? Mark, Jaxx and I drove south on Saturday to meet up for lunch with Amy and Skylos, a woman and her dog we met on our Central American camper travels and who we hadn’t seen in 11 years.

In the evening, I finally met Janis from Retirementally Challenged and her husband Paul. We had a great evening together, that flew by way too fast. Enjoying San Diego’s beauty was postponed until further notice.

Liesbet and Janis

Mark and I have been fortunate filling the gaps between our house sit assignments, thanks to friends and “strangers”. The day we leave Oakland, we arrive in Sebastopol, CA for a two-month sit we are really looking forward to. While we have enjoyed catching up with friends and hopping around a bit, it will be nice to remain settled for a little while again.

36 Comments

  1. I love it when things work out like that, but I could feel the added pressure and stress that comes from filling gaps when I was reading your post — we’ve been there a time or two ourselves.

    • I think it is important to have an attitude believing that “everything will work out in the end”. Of course, that is easier said than done when there is so much uncertainty, so I always try to have a back-up plan that might form a decent alternative. That way, a solution is available, even though it might not be the prime one. 🙂

  2. You have a great network! Interesting to see you meeting Janis since I “know” you both.

    • I hope you get to meet Janis (and me) one day, Anabel. It is such an interesting experience, meeting someone for the first time, but feeling like you “know” each other already. Before blogging, I had never experienced something like this.

  3. So glad that you got to meet Janis. I met up with her this past October and greatly enjoyed that visit!

    • We really liked spending time with Janis and Paul and hope that there will be a repeat in the future, hopefully with a bit more time on our hands. It would have been nice to stay with them for the whole weekend. Glad you met her as well, Donna!

  4. Liesbet, this was fun to read about how house-sitters plan and organize their sits! You are the best guests and are welcome back to our place in Sacramento any time! Good luck in your search for a trailer for the in-betweens. As resourceful as you are, you will find something quickly!

    • Oh… Thank you, Terri. We might be back. 🙂 We have a specific camper in our head, so we are waiting for a used one to become available and, when it is the right one, at the right price and in the right condition, we might jump on it. Many ifs and we are not in “desperate need” yet, so we are pretty chilled while keeping an eye on the market.

  5. It’s funny how blogging friends can feel like long-time friendships… to me it’s the best part of writing a blog – and reading the blogs of other kindred spirits. It was so great to meet you and Mark. I hope the next time you come to San Diego you can stay longer, and the weather is nicer. I’m really looking forward to reading about your stay in Sebastopol… what a beautiful spot!

    • We hope so, too, Janis. There are so many things we haven’t talked about yet! I hear you about the kindred spirits, so weird how a virtual relationship can easily be turned into a real one; it’s awesome. And, as I mentioned before, you guys are always welcome in Sebastopol!

  6. Hi Liesbet! Nice to meet you and to read about your travels. I’m a blogger friend of both Janis and Terri so that made it even more fun. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought that house-sitting could be a good solution to “travel” but you’ve helped to make it clear that there are logistics to the plan that must be considered. I’ve also considered having a house sitter when we travel, especially for our fur-baby Kloe. Nice to know you are out there and that is a possibility. Good luck on your travels and your stays! ~Kathy

    • Thanks for swinging by, Kathy! If you haven’t yet, I hope you get to meet Terri and Janis in person one day.

      House sitting is a pretty amazing concept – a win-win for both parties in my opinion – and after a year and a half, my husband and I are still enjoying the lifestyle. Sometimes, we crave a bit more freedom or we wished home owners would come to us, so we could pick where to live for a while (sometimes this happens), but you can’t have it all. 🙂 If you ever want some more information, let me know. I am hoping to write more informative posts about house sitting and living on a budget in the future, but I always get distracted by wanting to share our experiences seeing new places, going on hikes, taking care of sweet puppies and such…

  7. Funny how everything works out – when you are willing to make it work! This all sounds pretty stressful to me; I guess there is no adventurous lifestyle that is without a lot of logistics!

    • The in between periods or not knowing where to go next can be a bit nerve wrecking, but it is part of the adventure, right? 🙂 At this very moment, all the stress in gone. We are in a beautiful place, with an awesome dog and in a comfortable, roomy and artsy home for two months. After that, we have plans until the end of June, so we are set for while. You are so right about the logistics, though. We have planned a trip back east without our car and it will be tough to figure everything out smoothly. For that reason, I like to just keep doing what I am doing and not travel for a while, because it is so much easier! But, there are six-month doctors’ visits to attend… 🙁

  8. You’re lucky to have such great friends! On an unrelated note, I had dinner with a couple this week who raved about the excellent customer service they received regarding their Wirie 🙂

    • When emails arrive, are noticed and are read, we can usually figure something out about our West Coast gaps. 🙂 Thanks for the heads-up about The Wirie. Happy customers make us happy as well! People only call or email us when they have an issue (Wirie-related or not), so it is very nice to hear positive stories!

  9. Wow, the logistics of this makes my head spin! Do you have to spend a ton of time online arranging these visits and housesits? I would assume so.

    Hope this isn’t a tacky question, but do house sitters get paid, or do you work in exchange for room and board? I’m surprised there’s so much competition for jobs, since every time my bf and I leave on vacation, it’s very difficult to find good pet sitters. We always end up using his mom and sister, and that’s not ideal, since they can’t stay for very long each day.

    Then again, we’re not in California! I imagine that would make a huge difference.

    • I do spend a fair amount online, looking for, checking out and applying to appealing house sit ads. And communicating with owners. Once we have a mutual interest, we have a video Skype call to get to know each other. Some house sitters ask for money (usually local ones who have their own house to maintain and pay for) and some home owners ask for utility money. We think the house and pet sitting exchange is a fair one and do not want to introduce money in it. It is a mutually beneficial situation where we get to live for free and the owners get responsible sitters who care for their pets and their home when they are away, so no cost for a kennel, and presence in their house as a safety measure. And, it is better for the pets to remain in their familiar environment and stick to their regular schedule. 🙂

      You should be able to find free sitters! Check out Mind My House (www.mindmyhouse.com). It is free for owners to post a listing and once you have created your ad, you will be surprised at how many people apply! All you have to do is pick the right person or couple for you! There are other (free) sites to do this as well.

  10. You’re definitely adaptable, Liesbet! Is couch surfing an option? I know very little about it. Do you have to be able to offer a home in exchange? 🙂

    • I have heard about couch surfing, but we haven’t done this. I think we might opt for it when we feel sociable… I don’t think you need to offer a home in exchange, but you probably should bring a gift or wine or food, and we rather do that for and with “real” friends. 🙂

  11. I so admire your flexibility and go with the flow attitude. Wonderful to see you connecting with another blogger. I’m smiling as I type thinking of our evening together. Sending happy wishes and hoping the house sitting stars keep aligning for you.

    • Thanks, Sue. I am really enjoying this new and unexpected blogging perk of meeting new and interesting people! We are “set” until the end of June as of now, so no worries for a little while.

  12. It’s interesting to read about the house-sitting lifestyle, and dealing with the gaps. I think the uncertainty would be hard. I have done some extended travel (by extended I mean months, not years) and I have found that after a certain length of time I miss having a home base.

    Jude

    • The uncertainty is manageable when the time in question is still far off. Then, when those dates get closer, the panic factor increases. 🙂 Luckily, there always seem to be alternatives for the in-between periods. Parts of me would like to have a place we can call home as well; a comfortable, personable space to return to. But, the “negatives” (cost, restrictions, responsibilities, stuck in one place…) outweigh the positives for us, so we do not have such a place, and haven’t had one for a very long time. Maybe, we get a camper or something small like that again soon, which we can call home. No room for all our souvenirs, though. 🙂

  13. Liesbet, you guys are certainly masters at juggling schedules and being flexible. I imagine that once the weather warms up that camping will be an option. Terri and I aren’t house sitters, but in warm weather we’ve tent camped for pretty long periods. Our longest was 5 months. For us, we’d do a couple of weeks camping and then get an inexpensive hotel for a few days to catch up on laundry, etc. We also learned that it pays to keep track of the weather. If we were due for a long stretch of rain, or dangerous storms, we’d find a hotel. Best of luck. ~James

    • Wow, five months of camping!!! Even with intermissions of motels, that is impressive, James. We do have a tent and an air mattress (which we haven’t even used yet, so it is nicely folded and not taking up much space right now), so we are looking forward to the warmer months! Not sure about you, but we do need to work on our computers daily and that would be hard from a campground. Unless, there are covered picnic tables in the shade with a WiFi connection. 🙂 I would have never guessed that checking the weather on land would be important as well; not after doing this multiple times a day during our eight years on the water!!

  14. What a great travel log Liesbet. It was neat learning all what goes on between the scenes with house and pet sitting. What a great idea to travel as house sitters. Have you considered expanding your horizons to perhaps another continent? 🙂

    • This current lifestyle fits us perfectly, Debby. Adventurous enough for our “in between travels time” and yet full of the comfort and amenities we crave for a little while. 🙂 Yes, we have considered house sitting abroad, but, right now, we don’t have a “need” for it yet, since this country has so much to offer in terms of scenery and exciting destinations, and I have to be here most of the year if I want to apply for citizenship in two years. Also, we are on a pretty tight budget, so flights would put a dent into that (the only time we ever fly is to see friends and family on the East Coast or in Belgium) and, we have a Prius we are very happy with and which holds all our belongings. That being said, we are looking for a sit in British Colombia over the summer and one in Mexico or the tropics next winter. 🙂

      • Wow, what a fantasticly organized plan. No doubt, your plans make a lot of sense. And yes, there is much to be seen in North America. Enjoy it all. 🙂

        • To enjoy it all, we need to get a camper again and make travels and adventure a priority. Soon, hopefully. For now, we “take” what we can get. And, hopefully, the plan is more than just a virtual reality. People who live in these amazing places tend to stay home during the best time of the year… 🙂

  15. Might have to pinch that idea “what do you do between housesits” 🙂 Yes, we certainly miss our motorhome [converted bus]. Though having said that we don’t want to go back to living in another fulltime. Good read, thanks Liesbet.

    • We are hoping to get a small and “worldly” camper whenever I have citizenship in the US (so I can come and go here freely) to combine house sitting and travels across the continents. It seems to be the perfect combination between adventure and comfort to us, right now. Or, if we ever have more money (for all the expensive plane tickets), we can start house sitting internationally!

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