Accommodation is a huge expenditure when it comes to travel. It consumes most of my daily budget, but is something I simply can’t do without. Safety is still my number one priority and so, while it is tempting to plop down on a local’s couch or book the cheapest hostel without lockers or proper security, I am okay with paying a little more. Depending on where I am in the world, the cost and quality of accommodation varies. Twenty dollars will give me a lavish private room in Thailand with breakfast delivered to my door, whereas that same amount will barely pay for a dorm bed in Germany (no breakfast included).
I am an advocate for hostel living; they are great places to meet fellow travelers and still save a few bucks. However, planning to spend a few months in Europe rather than a few short weeks would require a little creativity in regards to accommodation. Though I had contacts from past trips who offered a spare bed, this was not likely to cover every single night. After a little online research, I found the perfect answer: housesitting.
Whether it is for insurance reasons or pet responsibilities, homeowners can’t take off for an extended period of time without finding someone to check in on their place. Because of this, there is a large amount of travelers who offer up their home to someone responsible enough to water their plants and feed their dog. Since I am capable of doing both, I figured I was a perfect candidate to watch someone’s home. I imagined my mornings spent sipping a hot cup of coffee, stroking one or two cats and then venturing off in the afternoons. House sitting would provide a base to explore the rest of a country.
There are a few house sitting websites to choose from; Trustedhousesitters being the most popular. At the annual subscription fee of $95, I searched for a cheaper option and found Mindmyhouse. For only $20, I was able to create a profile and start sifting through posts. Flexible with both the dates and location, I messaged any homeowner with an assignment longer than one month. It didn’t matter whether the assignment was at the beginning of my trip or the end, I just wanted something that would allow me to stay in Europe for longer.
When a few homeowners replied, I had to decide where I really wanted to be. I could have accepted a couple assignments, as the dates didn’t overlap, but I thought it best to simply give it a try before dedicating my entire trip to house sits. One assignment that stood out was a six week house/cat sit in Cambridge, England. Being centrally located and close to London, I could explore this expensive island while staying somewhere for free.
Having a lovely chat with the homeowners over Skype, I asked them questions about the place and they inquired about my experience. Since I am single and often, the go-to person for cat sitting, I sent them a few references they could follow up on. Within a week, they decided to trust me with their home/cat and had me sign a contract (provided by the site). A couple months later, I flew across the Atlantic and spent my Christmas in Cambridge. During my stay, I made a few local friends and the cat eventually warmed up to my presence. I would definitely do it again.