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Interview with Solo House Sitter Nicola of See Nic Wander

written by House Sitter Interview Series November 12, 2019
Interview with Solo House Sitter Nicola of See Nic Wander

Welcome to our first ever guest post!

We have long been adamant about only publishing posts written by us, but recently we decided to bend our own rules. As we continue to write about how to transform your life through house sitting, more and more readers have been reaching out with some variation of the same question:

“Can I, as a [insert type of person] be a house sitter?”

We always answer with a resounding, “YES!”

But it’s one thing for us to say this, and another to read real-life stories of house sitters that are standing in your shoes. We’ve created this house sitter interview series to profile all the varying life paths of successful house sitters.

Today, our super special first interview is with Nicola of the travel blog, See Nic Wander. She shares her expertise on traveling as a solo female house sitter, including some helpful tips for all of you out there who may want to house sit on your own. Follow her house sitting adventures on Instagram and Facebook!

Introduce yourself! Tell us a little more about who you are and what you do. 

Hi! My name is Nicola and I’ve been traveling for the last two years as a house sitter, online English teacher, and travel blogger. I love helping people find ways to travel longer, even on a tight budget.

Tell us a bit about your house sitting story. What inspired you to start house sitting? How and when did you make it happen?  

About two years ago, I was working as a teacher in a traditional school. I knew I wanted to see more of the world, but I didn’t know how I would really pull it off. A colleague of mine introduced me to online teaching and I became very excited about the possibility of remote work while traveling. 

But I still wasn’t sure what I would do about accommodation. It seemed like finding private places to stay would get expensive fast. I also knew that staying in hostels with potentially spotty wifi and no privacy wouldn’t really work for my online teaching job. 

So I started doing research and reading travel blogs about ways to travel on a budget. I found a blog about house sitting and a light bulb turned on. I could house sit to save money on accommodation while traveling longer, and I’d get to meet new furry friends! It sounded like the ultimate win-win!

I didn’t have anywhere in the world I particularly needed to go, so I made an account with Trusted House Sitters and applied to any house sit that looked interesting that worked with my ideal departure date. 

I must have applied to fifty sits but within a few days, I heard back from a family from the UK who needed a sitter for their two dogs, two rabbits, and two guinea pigs. We confirmed the details and I booked my flights shortly after. From there, I house sat around Europe for several months then spent a few months house sitting in Asia. 

Do you house sit worldwide, or do you focus on a particular area of the world? Do you house sit full time or do you have a home base? 

Right now I still have a home base back in the States with my family, but I spend a lot of time traveling and moving from place to place. 

For me, it was easiest to find house sits in Europe since house sitting is more common there. It’s also relatively easy and inexpensive to go between European cities to get from house sit to house sit, which is a big plus. 

House sitting is also common in North America and Australia, but I haven’t tried it in either of these regions yet. I have successfully house sat in Asia but since it’s less common, I wasn’t able to link up back to back house sits. There are typically fewer sits to pick from and they’re more spread out geographically. 

What are the biggest benefits of house sitting – both in general and/or as a solo sitter? 

The biggest benefit of house sitting is that you can travel for longer without draining your bank account. You also get to meet amazing new pets and live in a more residential area than you would if you were staying in a typical accommodation. 

When I was house sitting solo, I really liked having the companionship of pets and the built-in neighborhood community. My house sit hosts often introduced me to their neighbors and friends so I had connections in place from the minute I arrived. 

Solo House Sitter Nic and Dog

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a solo house sitter? Have you ever found it difficult to find sits as a solo sitter?

It can be challenging to manage all of the responsibilities of a larger home or more pets as a solo house sitter. For me, sticking to just 1-2 dogs or cats was a good limit for balancing quality time with the pets and exploring new places. 

Some listings prefer a couple or pair of sitters if the property is bigger or if the pets have specific requirements. Usually, they say this outright and while it can be a bummer to miss out on a huge private seaside villa, I wouldn’t want to get in over my head. 

I’ve also found that some listings for smaller apartments specifically request solo sitters. This is common in Europe where centrally located apartments might be too cozy for more than one person to stay long term.

So even though you might have a harder time securing large properties with many animals, you might find hosts that prefer just one person for space reasons. 

Do you look for specific types of house sits as a solo sitter, or is anything fair game? 

To save money on traveling between destinations, I usually look for sits that are at least two weeks long. I also look for sits that have high-speed WiFi so I can keep in touch with my family and do some work online during my stay. 

When traveling solo, I look for sits that are close to a city or village so that I have opportunities to socialize and don’t get too lonely. I’ve stayed in a few places that were farther from town and it made tasks like getting groceries or going out for a meal more of a challenge. 

While I enjoyed the natural beauty and quiet, I missed getting to meet new friends. I learned that sticking to more central locations is a better fit for me. 

What’s been your favorite house sitting experience so far? 

Totally by accident, I landed a house sitting opportunity in downtown Cologne, Germany in the middle of their annual Carnival Festival. I had no idea such a fun festival would be underway during my stay and the atmosphere was so energizing. 

On that house sit, I also had two cats that I bonded with quickly. They were the sweetest little companions and we had so many lovely evenings cooking dinner and playing together. 

It was wintertime when I was there, so when I look back on my stay I remember how cozy and joyful that time was. 

If you have an upcoming house sit, I definitely recommend you research any local festivities or events going on during your stay. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find. 

two cats on a bed

What are your top three tips for people who might want to try house sitting on their own?

I often get asked about safety when traveling and house sitting alone. While I’ve personally never had any issues with safety while house sitting, I understand that this is a common concern and there are a few things you can do to stay extra safe during your stay. 

Solo House Sitter Safety Tips

  • If you’re nervous about safety while house sitting solo, look for house sits with dogs. Dogs make good companions and can double as a layer of safety. If the thought of house sitting alone makes you nervous, having a few loyal pups by your side at night might make you sleep a bit sounder. 
  • Make sure you have a Skype call with your hosting family before you commit to a house sit. This is important because it allows you to make sure that the home and pets are what you’re expecting. It also gives you a chance to “virtually meet” your host and ask important questions before traveling. 
  • Choose a house sit host that has good reviews on the platform. If you’re using Trusted House Sitters or another big platform, previous house sitters will be able to leave a review of their host for future house sitters to read. Not every host will have this because some people might be new to the site, but it’s a good place to start. 
  • Look up emergency numbers for the place you’re visiting and have them written down somewhere handy during your sit. When I travel solo, I also leave a list with my address and local emergency numbers with my family back home for added peace of mind. 

General Solo House Sitter Tips 

  • For solo house sitters, remember to look for house sits that are near a village, town, or city. Unless you are looking for something very quiet, it can be lonely to stay far out in the countryside for an extended period. 
  • Ask lots of questions before you house sit. This is the best way to make sure you and your host are on the same page and have the same expectations. As I mentioned above, I always make sure to Skype with my host before confirming the details to chat and make sure my abilities are in line with the responsibilities. Here’s a list of questions I ask before every house sit!
  • It can be hard to get your first house sit without having any reviews on the platform you’re using. One way you can get started is by doing some house sits in your local community before traveling abroad. You’re more likely to get picked if you’re local since you can meet up with the homeowner in advance and there is less risk since you’re not flying in from another country. This is also a great way to see if you like house sitting and learn what responsibilities you can handle on your own. 

House sitting is an awesome way to travel longer on a budget. If you love pets and are flexible with your travel plans, house sitting might be a great fit for you too.

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