In my series “Interviews with Housesitters”, I will be introducing you to various people who live life differently via slow travel and housesitting.
Liesbet and I have been following each other for a while now, well, since I started getting involved with the Blogging Community. I have thoroughly enjoyed our interactions and have found Liesbet very informative, fun and a straight talker, a personality trait I find a breath of fresh air. Then if you are like me you start reading more about her travelling life you too will be inspired at what these two have achieved and enjoyed as a team.
Meet Liesbet and Mark
Liesbet was born and raised in Belgium but calls herself a world citizen.
Since being a teenager, her two passions have been travel and writing. That’s mainly what she has been doing since her graduation as a teacher, many years ago. Her explorations backpacking and camping led her to many parts of the world and into the arms of her American husband Mark.
With him, she continued her adventures by truck camper, sailboat, and camper van. The closest they’ve ever come to settling down is choosing a lifestyle of house and pet sitting in North America. She is in the process of writing a memoir about the last decade of her unconventional life. Her blog Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary reports on her writing journey, travels, housesits and expense reports.
What made you chose housesitting as a way of life?
After my husband, Mark, and I sailed full-time on our 35ft catamaran for eight years, while maintaining an income, we were pretty exhausted. We decided to sell the boat in Tahiti and return to the United States, we but didn’t want to settle. A friend had told us about house and pet sitting when we visited him in New Zealand six months earlier, so we decided to give that a try in the US. It turned out to be the perfect lifestyle for us. We enjoy and appreciate living all over the country, rent-free, while taking care of dogs, sightseeing during the weekends, and being able to do our work in comfort.
What was the process you went through to become a housesitter?
I signed up for three house sitting sites, created an attractive profile with dog-loving photos, collected a few “character references” from friends and family, started the first housesit close by to gain experience, a 5-star review and a “real” reference, and launched into full-time house and pet sitting, first in New England, then out west.
How long have you been housesitting?
Almost three years.
For yourself, what are the positives and negatives to housesitting?
Being able to love, cuddle, walk, and spoil dogs without owning one, work and live in a comfortable and convenient environment, not spending money on accommodation, meeting interesting people, exploring new areas every time we move, having the ability to get to know places in-depth.
For us, there is only one negative: we don’t have a social life. While living and traveling by sailboat and camper creates like-minded communities to be a part of, our current social life happens mostly online. Unless one of our friends moves through the area where we have a sit, which has happened on a few occasions. We would like to house sit internationally one day, but the big negative then will be the high cost for plane tickets and possibly car rentals.
What do you look for when choosing your next housesit?
Since we both work from home, the fast and reliable internet is our primary requirement. The area has to be somewhat attractive, and we avoid “Trump territory”. We also ignore listings that require a lot of extra work (more than the usual pet care, cleanup, watering of the plants and standard yard work), because we are busy enough with our jobs. Since my husband is allergic to cats, we don’t apply to sits with indoor cats. We try to get to know the homeowners a bit via email and a video Skype call before we commit, to make sure there are no red flags.
Do you prefer long term or short term sits? The pros and cons are?
After a decade+ of traveling, we were pretty burnt out when it came to moving frequently. Once settled in a place, we like to be able to enjoy the area, the dogs, and the home for a while. Plus, once our electronics are installed, and we know the lay of the land, it’s comfortable and enjoyable to be in the same place for a while. I don’t see any cons about long-term sitting unless you pick this lifestyle to travel a lot and desire to see many places in a short amount of time.
In the past, when we still had our Toyota Prius, we sometimes took short-term sits to fill gaps between house sits. We never stayed in a hotel or paid for accommodation those first eighteen months.
What website do you use? Or have you developed your own?
I have a “sitting” section on my blog that showcases our profile, reviews, and posts about our house-sitting experiences. The same profile and photos are listed on a few websites as well. We started with House Sitters America, Mind My House and Trusted House Sitters. Then, when seeing an attractive sit on House Carers, we signed up for that service as well. Last year, we canceled our membership with THS and more recently with House Carers. As we plan to combine travel and house sitting in the near future, the two remaining sites we belong to offer enough choice.
When not housesitting, has your accommodation changed over time?
When we started our house and pet sitting lifestyle in 2015, all our belongings fit in the back of our car. We managed to string house sits together, with only a few small gaps. Those days, we either prolonged the last house sit a bit, stayed with family on the East Coast, or crashed with friends.
One year ago, Mark and I bought a camper van, which gives us security in between house sits and a permanent roof above our heads. During the weekends, we have taken it camping in the areas of our sits, and soon it will be our “official” home on wheels.
What’s one piece of advice you would share with someone who was contemplating their first housesit?
House and pet sitting is based on trust, respect, and common sense.
If you are a responsible, caring, and attentive person interested in this exchange, you can do it. Communication skills, honesty, and a love for animals are a must as well. Once you create an attractive profile and gather some experience (represented in positive reviews), you’re off to a good start. Before you commit to any sits, I highly recommend you have a video Skype call (or at least a phone call) in addition to email exchanges, to make sure you’re on the right page with the homeowners.
Social media links:
Liesbet’s current blog: www.roamingabout.com
Liesbet’s sailing blog (2007 – 2015): www.itsirie.com
Liesbet’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/liesbet.collaert