Interviews with Housesitters, Life of adventure

Housesitting in America – Liesbet & Mark

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

Mark and Liesbet in Tahiti_edited

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?

Positives:

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.

Negatives:

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?

Long-term sits.

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.

Have fun!

 

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

Housesitting in America

78 thoughts on “Housesitting in America – Liesbet & Mark”

  1. Hi Terri! Thanks for swinging by here on Suzanne’s site. For some reason, I don’t see your comment here, but I received it in my inbox and the text above my reply says “Leave a reply to Terri Webster Schrandt”, so I assume WordPress will fix itself at some point. 🙂

    I hope we get to meet again in the near future. Maybe this fall/winter in the San Diego area? Tough to make plans for us now, but a winter in Southern California, Arizona and Baja California sounds mighty nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Liesbet and Mark are such interesting people (hi!) and I have had the pleasure of meeting them both as well as seeing Liebset in San Diego while she was housesitting last winter. I admire their lifestyle and their experiences are always wonderful to read!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That’ll be a fun experience! Trains in Europe are much more efficient and organized than here in the US. But, this is the first time we haven’t had an email from Amtrak telling us that our train will leave late. So, we are still on schedule. Two more hours to go until take-off. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wild donkeys as your neighbors, how nice! Mark and I are looking forward to moving into our camper van “Zesty” full-time in a few days as well, with house sitting as travel breaks along the way. Have a wonderful rest of your summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for your lovely comment. The bloggers I have come to know are a wonderful supportive bunch and that includes Liesbet. Great that we are all giving you more encouragement to get out and explore this beautiful world we live in. Enjoy your motorhoming it is a great way to travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So interesting and thought provoking too, to hear of different ways of living. Just as I am writing this I am interrupted by the sound of a donkey braying loudly outside the window of our van! We are just part time van travellers, but becoming increasingly restless and encouraged by the reports of all you wonderful bloggers. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Duwan! Your situation is quite unique, as it is like coming home, over and over again, when you return to your old neighborhood. How nice to then reconnect with animals and people! The “funny” thing is that we will actually have to do the same, next time my husband and I visit my home country. Since my parents sold their house a month ago and will move to a one-bedroom apartment soon, we have to house and pet sit on our future visits. And, when in Belgium, we will socialize with friends and family there. 🙂

    I agree about the symbiosis, but I hadn’t looked at it like that before. I do remember feeling a twinge of envy when some home owners leave on their vacation, wishing I could go on a vacation as well, as house and pet sitting has never been a holiday for us (we work from home). But, we do savor all those weekends in different places.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. And, that part will become even trickier now, Jo, as we have made another change to our lives, which I will report on later. Life, and however we want to live it seems to revolve about balances and compromises. 🙂 Thanks for hopping over here, and I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Interesting to find a blog just about house sitting. My husband and I house sit too, but our situation is a little more unique than most. When we aren’t traveling by sailboat or van we come back to the neighborhood where we used to own a house and spend 4 or 5 months in that one neighborhood moving from house to house taking care of pets. Usually, our sits are short term – a week or two, but we are starting to get longer sits. Right now we are spending 5 weeks in the house we used to own taking care of a sweet cat while her owners are traveling in Ireland.

    One of the cool things about house sitting it the symbiotic relationship of it all – the house sitter enables the homeowner to travel at the same time allowing the house sitter to travel and experience new places in a slightly different way!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Thanks, Liesbet, for sharing your thoughts and tips on housesitting. Good to see you here.
    Hi Suzanne – I’ve been following Liesbet’s blog for a while. Great to be connected to your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

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