Living Abroad as an International House Sitter
If you have ever dreamed of living abroad, you are not alone.
There are a growing number of boomers who have packed up their belongings in order to establish residency in a new country. Americans and Canadians often wander south to warmer climates found in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, or Ecuador.
Northern Europeans have moved in droves to Spain, Italy, Portugal and other locations. However, did you know that there is a way to live abroad without settling in one specific location or setting up housekeeping for good? I am referring to international house sitting, a form of long-term travel that I embraced eight years ago.
International house sitting provides a way to travel without being a tourist. If you prefer cultural immersion to standard tourism, this is a great alternative. Unlike tourism, you don’t get to wander to far afield.
After all, you have made a promise to take care of a house and all of those things that homeowners worry about when they are away. That could include pets, plants, overseeing gardeners or other hired help and anything else that you and the homeowner have agreed upon in advance. Yet, once your duties have been administered, you will be left with lots of time to explore the local attractions.
I have lived abroad for as long as eight months at a time while taking care of other people’s homes. Spain, England, Ireland, Prague, Malta, Mexico, the isle of Saba in the Dutch Antilles, Italy and Portugal are a few of the countries that I have had the pleasure to explore, often while house sitting.
I even lived on a 57-foot boat in a marina in Baja California while caring for a feisty little Dachshund called Rowdy. If this sounds too good to be true, let me reassure you that I am not the only person in the world who has reaped the benefits of house sitting. The competition for these lovely little assignments can be fierce.
Although I have the utmost respect for the expatriate lifestyle, at this point, I do not have the desire to follow that path. However, I do follow expats wherever they go. That is no exaggeration either. Most of my house-sitting assignments are for Canadian, British and American expatriates. I look after their domains when they return to visit family. It benefits both of us.
They get worry-free time away. I get to live in some very fine abodes with all of the amenities of home at no cost. Trust me, if I were to travel only as a tourist, I would never be able to afford eight months abroad while paying for hotels, rental cars and food in restaurants. I have to leave that kind of travel to the rich and famous. Yet, house sitting allows me to live for up to ninety-day stretches in most countries on my American passport without a visa. Ninety days accommodates some serious cultural immersion.
Of course, since I do a fabulous job caring for the homes of my clients, I usually get asked to come back. If I enjoyed it the first time, you can bet that I jump at the chance to return. Repeat assignments feel more like going home.
Usually, I have already forged relationships with community members, established friends, know my way around the town and am on a first-name basis with shopkeepers.
I love sitting in my favorite outdoor café while sipping coffee and chatting with the owner. Spain, Mexico and Ireland have become second homes to me. I have spent a growing amount of collective time in these countries. At this point, I have longstanding friends that open their guest houses to me whenever I want to return.
Living abroad is truly special. It is so different from tourism that I cannot even think of putting them in the same category. Both have benefits of their own, but if you are looking for the opportunity to take the slow ride around the world, stopping to dally along the way, house sitting may be the way to go. I am a “professional dallier”. I dally a lot. House sitting has given me the opportunity to travel in the most relaxed way imaginable, taking my time to savor those spaces between the coming and going that let me know that I am, indeed, living life with my eyes wide open.
Teresa Roberts retired early from a career in education to travel the world as an international house sitter. Along the way, she accidentally became an author/blogger/freelance writer, adding digital nomad to her evolving job description. Although insisting that she is still retired, Teresa writes a weekly blog on her website Creative Paths to Freedom, exploring the topics of creative living, travel adventures and life without debt. Her essay, How to Travel Without Being a Tourist, will appear in the book 65 Things to Do When You Retire – Travel, to be released in February 2013. Teresa\’s published books include Finding the Gypsy in Me – Tales of an International House Sitter and Creative Paths to Freedom – How to Live Your Dream Life ASAP. She could be the poster girl for finding adventure at any age and on any income. Sharing her story as a guest speaker is also very rewarding. Feel free to contact Teresa at www.findingthegypsyinme.com.