Housesitting and the Importance of Saying Yes

It all started with an invitation… and we weren’t even the ones being invited. My brother and sister-in-law had dinner with friends who suggested they visit San Miguel de Allende, a colonial town in the center of Mexico. These friends manage vacation rental property in San Miguel and they thought B & SIL would enjoy the beautiful city.

Convinced, B & SIL decided to book a 2-week stay beginning July 1 and asked if we’d like to join them. We, of course, said “yes!”

San Miguel de Allende

Then, at my book club meeting, I happened to mention our upcoming trip. One of the members said that she knew someone who lived in San Miguel and when her friend traveled, she often needed a house- and pet-sitter. Would I like to be connected? Ummm… “yes!”

After exchanging a few emails, this friend asked if we’d like to stay in her home the month of June while she was housesitting for someone else in another part of Mexico. Even though we weren’t planning on going to San Miguel until July 1, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up, so we said “yes!”

Once we committed to a 7-week stay in San Miguel – 4 weeks housesitting and 3 weeks in an Airbnb – we contacted good friends of ours who often housesit for us while we are away. Their enthusiastic “yes!” assured us that our house would be well cared for… while we were caring for another person’s house and cat… while that person cared for the house and the dog of another.

Our home away from home.

I follow several blogs written by full- and part-time housesitters and that lifestyle has always intrigued me. Although it can be fun to travel from place to place, slow travel – staying in one location for an extended period – is especially appealing to us. Housesitting makes slow travel extremely affordable because there is seldom any monetary compensation involved. The homeowner knows that their home and, if they have one, their pet will be well taken care of, and the sitter enjoys the comforts and convenience of staying in a home for little or no cost.

I’m pretty sure that this won’t be the last time we will housesit when we travel. I’ve already checked out a few of the housesitting websites for opportunities (there are tons) and the homeowner (and now our friend) in San Miguel has assured us that we are welcome to sit for her again when she travels.

There are lots of lodging alternatives when traveling today. In addition to traditional hotels, we have other options such as Airbnb, home exchanges, and housesitting. Each has their pluses and minuses, benefits, and trade-offs. The important thing is to research the various alternatives, consider your personal preferences, and, most important, choose to say “yes!”

Author: RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

77 thoughts on “Housesitting and the Importance of Saying Yes”

  1. Hi Janis! Thanks for the “tease” of your trip. 🙂 It sounds as though your house sit worked out well for you. We haven’t done it for anyone else but we have had people pet sit in our home and will be doing it again next month when we travel to Lake Chapala MX. There is a little bit of uncertainty to the process, especially if the people are complete strangers, but so far everything on our end has worked well. It definitely is an excellent way to travel AND far more economical too. Looking forward to Part II! ~Kathy

    1. Yes, just a tease 🙂 I have so much to talk about it’s hard to know where to begin (or end). I can understand the uncertainty involved when you don’t know the person(s) staying in your home. This was different because we were introduced by a mutual friend… and it turned out that I actually had met this person long ago, but that was a long and complicated story so I decided to skip over it. Btw, I saw a few ads for people looking for housesitters in Lake Chapala.

  2. How very cool! We travel almost exclusively airbnb – it is the best. I always check the reviews and we have never (knock on wood) had a bad experience. House sitting seems like a cool way to go as well, I may have to check that out.

    1. We’ve done a lot of Airbnb traveling too and, for the most part, have had great success. This one we stayed at in San Miguel was outstanding. I love having so many traveling options. And, in this case, being older seems to help… the homeowners aren’t too worried that we’ll have all-night keg parties and trash their homes 🙂

    1. Your comment reminded me that, as an older teen/young adult living at home with my folks, I had a few opportunities to house sit for friends of my parents who traveled a lot. It was nice to be on my own for a while, and still have my folks nearby if I needed anything.

  3. I just read Liesbet’s guest post on house sitting! I’m glad this worked out so well for you, Janis! I hope by the time we can retire and look into the world of housesitting, it isn’t too big of a business! We are contemplating taking our new travel trailer (as soon as Hans buys his truck) to San Diego this winter and driving into Arizona and camping. If one can’t house-sit one can simply take the house (and dogs) with them 😉

    1. Terri housesitting is BIG business and becoming more competitive each year we have been housesitters. As I advise all people wanting to become housesitters, it helps to do a few housesits before you head off to travel. The post you read about Liesbet was of course on my blog.

  4. Wow. How great was that? Everything fell into place perfectly.

    That’s what I like about Global Vilunteers: staying in one place for two or three weeks. Your way is even better. I’ll have to check it out.

    1. One of the nice things about staying in one place for a while is that you feel freer to explore opportunities you wouldn’t have if you were there for just a few days. There are volunteer opportunities aplenty and they usually are thrilled to have the help!

  5. Your post made me feel homesick for Mexico. I’ve been to San Miguel many years ago, and will never forget our delightful holiday! We stayed in a villa—airbnb was not in existence then, of course. Hot weather, cool drinks, and delicious local food, it was all there for our enjoyment. I’d love to go back!

    1. It’s still beautiful but (as everyone there told us) it’s gotten much more crowded over the years. We were their during the rainy season so it wasn’t too bad, but I can only imagine the crowds during high season. Lots of ex-pats who visited one time and decided to buy.

      1. I stayed at a B&B once with a resident cat. At the time I thought it odd because some people are allergic and some don’t like cats but the owner was ok if she lost business because of her cat.

  6. That was such a great opportunity Janis – who could pass it up? I started following Liesbet and she wrote of house sitting … being adventurous will keep you young!

      1. Janis – I never thought of that idea and didn’t realize so many people did that – it’s a great opportunity to see other parts of the world for a fraction of the cost, not to mention that it is like a cruise where you arrive, unpack once and are set for the duration of the trip. The lugging around of luggage/unpacking and repacking did get to be a drag sometimes when I took a multi-country or multi-city trip back in the day. (I always overpacked to begin with.)

  7. Now I don’t read many blogs where saying ‘yes’ is positive, Janis. Usually we are reading about saying ‘no’ instead of trying to be everything to everyone. This is a wonderful opportunity for you and you certainly couldn’t say ‘no’ to that. I hope you have a great time and I’m inspired reading about all these bloggers who have taken this way to travel. I’ll look forward to your posts 🙂

    1. Yes to positive opportunities, No to commitments made out of guilt. 🙂 Although some people are able to housesit full-time, I think, for us, it would be a great way to travel now and then. I like having my home/nest to come back to.

  8. We are big home exchangers (as you might know) and are currently in Europe basically going from home exchange to home exchange. No money is exchanged and the whole system is based on trust. I would love to do housesits as well, as that gets one longer stays and often the added bonus of caring for animals. I looked st some sites once but it seemed that people “hire” mostly those that have earned good reputations over the years (makes sense) but obviously hard to get started. So word of mouth is probably a great way. Great you were open to added time. We have not been to SM but would love to visit one day as we have heard such good things!
    Peta

    1. It probably is difficult to get started as a housesitter because of the trust factor. I think we might try a few in our city (so the people have a chance to meet us face-to-face before deciding to “hire” us) first to get a few good reviews. I also think that our age is in our favor since they wouldn’t be worried that we were partiers. Home exchange is another great way to go. We haven’t done that yet but we are slowly working on getting our house to be more turn-key. I hope you get the opportunity to go to SMA. We loved it… but felt that we were about 20 years too late (a feeling we get a lot as we travel 🙂 ).

  9. Good start Janis. You mentioned that no money is exchanged while doing housesits, this is true. Though what is needed is a reasonable income to sustain the accommodation in between housesits and the travel to and from the housesit. It is always advisable to leave days off in between housesits in case of delays etc. Plus, there can be a cancellation as friends of ours have found out and are now having to try and get another, which is not easy. Many people with experience do get the housesits, and most of us have “worked” hard to get a good reputation and spent years doing it. We all started off with just one housesit.

    1. You are right, it starts with a single housesit so people shouldn’t be too discouraged. It occurred to me that, with this sit, we should have gone through a formal process even though we knew that we would get chosen. That way, the homeowner could give us a great review. Oh well, next time. I don’t think too many people could housesit full-time like you. I imagine that most just do it now and then. But, you are right, even though the stay is free, there are usually expenses are either side of the sit. I’m so sorry that your friends have had a cancellation. I imagine that happens now and then with both the homeowners and the sitters. Things come up and have to be dealt with.

          1. Yes, great when younger as in younger than 70!! I have lots of different hobbies I want to pursue and will need a house to do them in. Always looking ahead to the next stage and planning. Not exhausting so far as we have enough down time doing nothing.

  10. Fascinating. I don’t know of anyone in real life who house sits, or anyone who has done what you did. I’m always in favor of anything that works, so let me add my “YES” to the comments.

    1. I follow a couple of blogs written by people who live this lifestyle… before I found the blogs I had no idea either. We are always more comfortable having someone (trusted, of course) stay in our home while we are away. If we had pets, it would be even more important since kennels aren’t a great option. It’s fun to visit the formal housesitter websites and see what’s available.

  11. So great to hear about the positive experiences of house-sitting. I’ve put it on my list for getting someone to sit our house… when we take our (yet to be planned) cross-country road trip! LOL.

    1. That’s great! Having someone stay in our home makes us more comfortable and, when we are gone for a while, plants need to be watered and general upkeep needs to be done. I hope your cross-country trip includes a stop in San Diego!

  12. It is nice that you were in a position to say “Yes” to this opportunity. I don’t think I would seek out house sitting situations, like some of your readers, but if something like this presented itself, I know, I would be all over it. However, I might, at some point consider a home exchange, on a casual basis with people I have a level of comfort with. Can’t wait to read of your adventures. After seven weeks, you must have felt like a local.

    1. Like I mentioned in another reply, I think we need to start a home exchange for bloggers. When we got home, I was talking to a neighbor about our trip and he mentioned that he and his wife will be housesitting for friends in Maui this October. THAT would be a great housesit!

  13. I have had a gentleman from Florida house-and-cat-sit for me twice thru TrustedHousesitters.com. You pay a yearly membership fee and can arrange for as many sitters during that year as you want. You can also BE a sitter. The site caters to pet owners who travel. Worked great for me!

    1. That was one of the sites I looked at. I love being able to stay in a home (with a kitchen and a comfortable sitting area, unlike a hotel) and have a temporary pet. Since my husband and I are currently pet-free I really miss furry cuddles, so it’s great to get a “fix” now-and-then.

  14. Coincidentally, our 19 year old daughter is currently housesitting for local friends who are away on vacation. She said she feels like she’s the one on vacation! She is especially enjoying all the canine cuddles since she still misses our beloved Alaskan Malamute who has been gone two years already. As one of your other readers commented, this has been a great opportunity (and learning experience) for her to be independent while having local help available if needed.

    Congrats on your willingness to say yes to such a wonderful opportunity, Janis! A seven week stay in Mexico is such an excellent adventure!

    1. That’s a great opportunity for your daughter! How nice that it worked out well for both her and your friends. I am very grateful that we could say yes to being away for such an extended period. Retirement definitely has its perks!

  15. What a fun way to travel! Like you, I prefer to stay somewhere long enough to really get a feel for the local culture, and what better way than to live in someone’s house for a couple of weeks? When I was in college, I house-sat in professor’s homes during the summer. It worked great: I didn’t pay rent, and they didn’t have to pay for someone to take care of their dogs and watch their house. Before reading your post, I hadn’t thought of it as a way to travel as an adult as well!

    1. Housesitting really is the perfect win-win in many cases. When I was younger and living with roommates, having the opportunity to spend time by myself in a house (bonus if there were dogs or cats to take care of) was such a treat. Now that I’m older, it’s still a treat for other reasons. I definitely prefer a home to a hotel when staying for an extended period and you can’t beat the price! Of course, having dogs or cats to care for is still a bonus 🙂

  16. Glad to hear that you seized the moment without hesitation. From what I’ve heard, San Miguel is a big arts community. I always think of artists as free spirits so your enthusiastic ‘yes’ was in good keeping.

  17. Janis, this sounds like such a wonderful adventure! I can’t wait to hear about your experiences! The closer we move toward our travel van plans, the more we will need to figure out what happens at home. I’m interested to hear how this works out for you! ~ Lynn

    1. There are so many travel and lodging options now… and each one fills a specific niche. I love the ease and simplicity of housesitting (says me after only one experience 🙂 ) and, when you want to stay in one place for an extended period, it really checks a lot of boxes.

  18. What an excellent opportunity! I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me as an option, but I, too, really enjoy being a “slow” traveler, and I prefer staying in one place and getting to know it before moving on. Good for you and bravo for the enthusiasm in saying “Yes!”

  19. I love this post! Saying “yes” opens so many doors for us. while it often starts with an impulsive and exciting feeling, the sky is the limit! Hurrah for everyone’s yeses to make this all work out. Also of importance is… the people you know and the social contacts you maintain. You never know where that leads to. I’m so glad this house sitting opportunity left you desiring more in the future. 🙂

  20. I visited San Miguel de Allende more than thirty years ago and really loved the community. I always meant to go back. What a wonderful opportunity you had to spend a good stretch of time there. It must have given you a chance to really start to get to know the place.

    Jude

  21. Not that Boise, ID can compare to San Miguel de Allende, but if you ever need a house to sit, I bet I could turn my keys over to you! Alas. No pet to sit, any longer. She passed last month. 😦

  22. We just signed up for House Sitters America but am always interested to hear about other housesitting sites as well. We really enjoyed San Miguel. A housesitting gig there sounds wonderful.

    1. I think we will start with House Sitters of America and, maybe, Trusted Housesitters and see how it goes. All seem to have a cost (although not too bad) and a specialty (location, type of sit, etc.). I hope you write about your experience!

  23. It sure sounds like everything came together beautifully for you guys. I can’t wait to read about your adventures in San Miguel de Allende and central Mexico.

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