Welcome to another installment in our House Sitting Interview series!
We’ve created this house sitter interview series to profile all the varying life paths of successful house sitters. Readers ask us all the time whether they can house sit – as a retiree, woman on her own, as a family, with pets, etc. – and we always adamantly say “yes”! But it’s one thing for us to say so, and another to read about someone that’s been in your shoes and started house sitting.
Today we are so excited to introduce you to Trish! We met Trish very serendipitously in Zdravo, our favorite vegan restaurant in Sarajevo. We’d just finished our delicious meal and were on our way out of the cafe when Trish said hi and struck up a conversation. (Thanks Trish! We’re so glad you did.)
We quickly learned that she was a fellow full-time house sitter, on the eve of her flight to Asia to continue her house sitting journey over there. What a small world! That was back in November, and we’ve loved reading about her experiences in Asia in this interview. We have yet to visit Asia, but Trish makes us want Singapore to be our next travel destination, once safe travel opens up again, of course. Trish used to own a pet sitting business before she started house sitting as a means to travel the world. She has some great tips to share in this interview – we found ourselves nodding in agreement throughout! So without further ado, here’s the interview – enjoy!
[NOTE: At the time of publishing, the coronavirus pandemic is in full swing. Barely anyone is house sitting at the moment, us and Trish included. While most house sits have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, we hope that this interview provides some house sitting inspiration for the times when we can all get back to house sitting and traveling!]
Introduce yourself! Tell us a little more about who you are, where you’re from, what you do, anything else you’d like to share.
Originally from Ohio, I’ve also lived in Oregon, Missouri and Washington D.C as well as France and the Czech Republic.
I’m interested in simple, minimalist living and enjoy eating healthy, organic vegan food. Big loves include dogs, bikes, sunshine and dark chocolate. I’m very clean and tidy.
What inspired you to start house sitting? How and when did you make it happen?
When my 15-year-old dog moved on to greener pastures, I knew a chapter in my life had come to a close. I decided to use this as an opportunity to bring back something that was missing during those otherwise lovely dog years: international travel.
Of course I was missing my dog a lot, so borrowing the company of other people’s pets while travelling made sense. Having had a full-time petsitting business in Washington, D.C. for five years, I knew the job to be a good fit. It seemed like a mutually beneficial situation for me and my prospective hosts.
After selling my house, I visited my parents in northern Ohio in a disconcertingly open-ended kind of way. Thankfully, the perfect sit came along in about a month: a fluffy, adorable English Cream Retriever puppy in Portland, Oregon. Not long after, I signed up for a three-week dogsit on a houseboat in central Amsterdam and another in Oslo – and the adventure began!
Are you a full time house sitter or do you have a “home base” somewhere?
It would be so nice to have a home base somewhere! I really miss having my own kitchen and bike. A pair of scissors and a wall calendar would be so great! For now, I’m a full-time nomad with two backpacks and an unwieldy bag of random groceries.
Related reading: Is Long-Term House Sitting Right for You?
Are you open to house sitting anywhere, or do you have any preferences? Have different cultural contexts made for different house sitting experiences?
The list of countries I’m actively seeking out has narrowed in the past year, but I’m open to sitting anywhere. I’m more interested in checking out new-to-me countries, although there are a few I’d happily revisit (Croatia and Japan come to mind).
Climate is important to me, so no December sits in northern countries, or July in the Middle East. Some countries have smoke, rainy and even monsoon seasons. New Zealand keeps trying to trick me with their July winters, but I haven’t fallen for it yet! (Count me in for January though, NZ!)
The housesits are as individual as the hosts themselves, who have been from all over the world: U.S., Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Portugal, France and the U.K. So far they’ve all been expats though, with the only “local” hosts being in the U.S., so the cultural piece could be missing because of that.
When I was sitting in Vietnam, I volunteered with a dog rescue operation there. The extreme cruelty and hatred towards dogs there, which I saw both online and in daily life, was a cultural pill that was hard to swallow. Sitting that fluffy, adorable puppy that everyone instantly loved and wanted to pet in Portland, Oregon was a much happier and more life-affirming experience!
Do you look for specific types of house sits or pets, or is anything fair game?
For me, any sit requiring significant travel should be at least three weeks. If I’m already in a place I love (e.g. Singapore), a night or two works, as I might otherwise be paying for accommodations. I adore dogs, but a few cool cats have crossed my path and I’d love to add some other animals to my resume. (Looking at you, tortoise owners!) I’m pretty particular about the house itself: clean, bright, quiet and minimalist are my top criteria, and warm climates are particularly enticing.
What’s the biggest benefit of house sitting that you’ve experienced so far?
Being able to spend so much time in Singapore has been such a treat! Somehow the sits lined up with very few gaps in between, so I’ve managed to eke out two months – and enjoy the company of nine new pets – here already. This has allowed me to get to know the city in a very relaxed way, which is my style of traveling.
Related Reading: What is Slow Travel and Why Do It?
The more time I spend here, the more I find things which never would’ve turned up in a whirlwind trip, like my current workspace on the 11th floor of the National Library, with 40-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking downtown and the bay. It also means I get to revisit favorite spots like Little India and the Botanic Gardens. Staying in different parts of town has been really fun too, and taking the bus everywhere has helped me get oriented.
[Short answer: free accommodations!]
What’s been your favorite house sitting experience so far? Favorite place you’ve house sat in?
The Portland puppy-sit was a heartwarming experience. We were in a swanky high-rise in busy downtown Portland, and that puppy was such a crowd-pleaser! It was so much fun to see people’s faces light up and break into genuine smiles, and every second or third person stopped to ask if they could pet him. I’ve never been so popular in my life! The puppy himself lapped up the attention, and we would often hear “That totally made my day” or “That’s the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen”. Spreading joy wherever we went was a magical experience, and being a part of his growth and learning for three weeks was so rewarding. I’m looking forward to seeing him on my next visit to Portland.
As for places, Singapore has been my favorite so far. There’s so much to love: it’s clean, green, safe and generally gorgeous, with cultural diversity, stunning architecture and top-notch public transportation, just to name a few things. The days are sunny and long – it’s my first winter opting out of a Northern climate, and I suspect it won’t be my last. After two months, I have yet to get bored – there’s always something new to explore. It’s just all-around brilliant!
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far (if any)?
I may be too sensitive, but it bothers me when hosts aren’t considerate. Note to hosts: be upfront about your pet’s behavioral issues, have your house clean (including litter boxes!), leave enough supplies for your pet, leave some space for your sitters to hang clothes and put their things.
[Alternative Travelers note: Definitely not too sensitive! We feel the same way – read our article on Preparing for House Sitters for more]
Also, it’s common courtesy to let your other applicants know once you’ve chosen a sitter, so they aren’t making plans around your sit. A cut-and-paste message is fine, but don’t leave prospective sitters hanging after they’ve made the effort to apply.
A little appreciation goes a long way – I’ve had hosts pick me up at the airport, cook me dinner, stock the fridge, leave a welcome basket of sitter treats, buy me last-minute travel items on Amazon, empty their closets for me. One Singapore superhost even let me stay in her guest room between sits!
Friendly chats and helpful tips on the neighborhood/city are so heartwarming, and I can’t help but feel a bit more invested in the care of their pets.
And when sits go to other sitters, I appreciate hearing back from the host, especially if they happen to mention why they chose the other applicants (e.g. they preferred a couple or someone who was already in town).
Another challenge is eating healthy and staying in shape. Back in Oregon, I had my own kitchen with all the supplies and appliances I needed to prepare my own healthy, tasty meals. I’ve found it difficult to eat as healthy as I’d like while travelling, as even when I have a kitchen, I’m still usually missing a key ingredient or piece of cookware. This week I made the mistake of buying a six-pack of kiwi, which have been to four houses so far and have yet to ripen the slightest bit. And although I get some exercise just walking around, I miss having my own bike and yoga mat. It takes some discipline to keep up an exercise routine while travelling! This is a work in progress for me.
Related reading: Mobile Travel Kitchen Set
Many of our readers would like to house sit on their own, but they’re concerned about safety issues, getting lonely, or dealing with unexpected situations alone. Did you have any of these concerns (or did you have others)?
DEALING WITH SAFETY/LONELINESS
Stepping outside your comfort zone is important, but be sure you’re balancing that with basic sensibility. Research the places you’re considering to find out what kinds of safety issues or scams you might face if you went there. If you’re travelling for the first time, you might consider countries generally recognized for safety and where English is more commonly spoken.
I’m pretty independent, but it can get lonely in new places when your friends and family are far away. Couchsurfing is a great way to meet locals, expats and fellow travelers. Meetup activities are a good way to get together with groups of folks who share an interest, from writing and computer programming to swing dance and dragon boating. As an introvert, hiking is a personal favorite, as conversation feels easier to navigate.
You can also join city-specific groups on Facebook. Expat groups can be a particularly useful resource, and there are usually special interest groups like Dog Lovers or Vegans.
Also consider volunteering with an animal shelter! I spent six weeks catsitting in Saigon, and loved my twice-daily walks with shelter dogs Mango and Greta. There was a cattery next door and other animal rescues around town, so lots of options to fit everyone’s availability and preferences. Fellow volunteers are another source of potential new friends and can become a valuable part of your support network.
When all else fails, go sit in a café or library to be around other people. I always choose sits in “sociable” neighborhoods – with easy access to cafes, parks, grocery stores. Anything that looks rural or isolated would not be a good fit for me.
DEALING WITH ADVERSITY
Travel is fantastic for learning to deal with unexpected challenges on your own! It isn’t always comfortable, but helps build character and resilience. When you hit a low point, take note of it, journaling if that helps, and remember that things have a way of working out. Life will take you to interesting places if you’re open to the challenge.
Do you have any advice for people who might want to try house sitting but are nervous about taking the leap?
For anyone nervous about taking the leap, start with a sit or two in or near your hometown to learn the ropes and see if petsitting is a good fit for you. You can do this through a platform like TrustedHousesitters or volunteer to help family and friends who need a short-term sitter. (Just be sure to get a reference from them after the sit!) Having a few five-star reviews will help you get the more competitive sits when you’re ready for something more far-flung.
What are your overall top tips or suggestions for newbie house sitters?
Fill out your profile with photos of you with pets and information about who you are and why you are a great sitter. Always be upfront about your experience and skills. At a minimum, you need to be a responsible person who loves animals!
Be sure to read listings thoroughly, noting any initial impressions or hesitations. Always do a video chat (Skype, WhatsApp, Google hangout) and make sure you get any questions or concerns addressed before agreeing to any sit. Whatever your needs, whether a nice kitchen or strong wifi, be sure to ask! Also try to suss out any issues the pet may have – whether pulling on leash, barking incessantly or destroying the house when left alone. Ensure all the stars are in alignment before committing.
Related reading: 10 Tell-Tale Signs of Bad House Sits
Is there anything else you want to share about your house sitting journey?
The above reflects my own experience, but you’ll learn what works and doesn’t work for you as you go along. Believe in yourself, keep a list of self-care techniques in your toolbox and don’t panic when things go wrong. It’s all part of the adventure!
Connect with Trish and follow her travels and house sitting adventures on Instagram @TrishKandik!
Thanks again to Trish for the wonderful interview!