The heat from the blazing wood fire has dissipated overnight and I have awoken to a crisp, chilly, autumn morning on a farm in rural Yorkshire. I am warm and toasty under the thick duvet, and I don’t want to get up. When I pull the covers away, I will feel how cold it is. I can’t wait any longer as the dogs are trying to tell me that they want to go out. Sally, my old girl, my trusty Springer Spaniel, pushes her wet nose against my arm. Time to get up!
We are house-sitting in Potter Brompton, a little village a few miles from Scarborough. Sally and I are looking after Chip and Twiglet, two male spaniels aged 5 and 9, and 6 chickens. They live on a lovely farm with an eco-friendly converted barn as the main lodging and several outbuildings for wood storage, farm office and an art studio. The owners create beautiful pieces of art in their spare time, which are proudly displayed throughout the house. This home reverberates with passion and positivity. I can feel my creative juices flowing with excitement and it is a reminder of my journey so far; a reminder of why I decided to start house and pet sitting.
Where it all began
Twelve months ago, I took a leap to follow my dreams and pursue my passions of travel and art. I sold my shares in a veterinary business I co-owned, to venture into something new and exciting with my dog Sally. I proceeded to sell or donate to charity mostly everything that I owned, except for a few personal items and my car. My first opportunity to travel after being tied to a business for so many years, was a 2 month trip to northern India, Thailand and the UAE. I needed some time to think about what this opportunity of freedom had presented to me. The world was my oyster – as they say – and I had a life changing opportunity to create something new for myself.
I still didn’t really have a plan for the rest of my life but I knew that I wanted to be able to travel more and spend more time being creative. These things were for sure: I did not want to be in an office, nor did I want to travel to work every day or be an employee. I wanted to be able to work from anywhere in the world and to be location independent.
So what happens now?
On my return from my trip, I decided to rent a room from a friend for a few months. This gave me the opportunity to brainstorm, think about what I could do and how I could do it. I started joining forums to learn more about this lifestyle choice; signed myself up for various courses; started studying and enhancing my skills. My plans were underway to get my remote working business off the ground.
Initially, I was motivated and enthusiastic. As the weeks went by, my head began to fill with frustration, doubt, fear, discomfort. I questioned myself as to whether I had made the right decisions and whether I was being sensible. Perhaps I just needed to play it safe – maybe go back into employment? But I knew I would hate that. I was conscious that my savings would eventually run out and I had to use the time and money wisely. Eventually I realised I was panicking. I was starting to get comfortable, losing my focus and needed something to push me.
Luckily, circumstances forced me to make a decision – I needed to move out of my friend’s house. This reminded me that I knew I didn’t want to be in one place. I needed to throw myself in to the deep end and test my business idea out – to see if I could really make it work.
House-sitting: could this be the answer?
I had heard about house and pet sitting through forums and blog articles. People said they could travel to different parts of the world and in exchange for free accommodation, they agreed to look after other people’s pets and their home, while they went on holiday.
“What a brilliant idea”, I thought, “I love animals and I have some veterinary nursing experience from my previous business”. Perfect! But what about Sally – could I take her along? Well, it turned out that I could!
So I decided to put most of my stuff in storage and try out house and pet sitting with Trustedhousesitters. I registered for 12 months, built my profile and started applying for suitable house-sitting assignments. To my surprise, I managed to coordinate 4 consecutive house-sitting gigs over a 10 week period with no gaps in between, before jetting off on a trip to Hong Kong and Japan. On my return, I had one more sit before this current one. Each assignment was between 1 and 5 weeks long and took us to London, Bath, Kingsbridge (Devon), Arlesey (Bedfordshire), Brighton and now Scarborough. We have stayed in some lovely places – grand Grade II listed houses, country cottages, converted barns, town houses; some rural, some urban; and we have met some amazing and very interesting people along the way.
And ofcourse, the best part, is that we have spent time with some truly wonderful pets: Zelda, the tortoiseshell cat; Basil & Jessie, the labradors; Percy, the dalmation; Noelle, the labrador-cocker spaniel cross plus Maxwell & Marley, the tabby and grey cats; Molly, the greyhound, plus Gregory, the axylotyl, and 2 goldfish; Chip & Twiglet, the spaniels plus their 6 chicken companions.
We rely on the available space in the car, so we move around with only the essential “stuff” – some clothes, shoes and toiletries; a small amount of art supplies; Sally’s food, medication and bedding (I’m convinced she has more stuff than me); and my home office (laptop, tablet, smartphone, printer, some stationary). So far so good. Lots of adventures and good times, and business plans are ticking along.
Sally – super spaniel
Most of all, Sally has been amazing and has adapted so well to every visit we have had. From being a crazy, high energy spaniel in her younger years (like all gun dogs), in her more mature years, she has proven to be very adaptable and easy going. She can even mingle with chickens without making an attempt to kill them! Our relationship has evolved over the years, and once again, Sally and I have created a new bond with our latest adventures. I could not do this without my 14 year old girl by my side. She has been a star.
And I am fortunate enough to have wonderful friends and family who have looked after Sally when I travel out of the country.
It’s the end of another lovely day in Yorkshire. We have just been for our afternoon walk, and I have just watched a beautiful sunset in the clear sky. I am now sitting in front of the warm fire with 3 sleepy dogs at my feet. As I watch the flames dancing, I can say that I am thankful for where my journey has brought me and the things I have experienced along the way.
Of course my reasons for house-sitting may be different to those of many others, but all the same, house-sitting has opened a whole world of new opportunities for me.
Here are just a few:
- New connections – I have met such wonderful people who love travel and animals, from a variety of backgrounds. Hopefully many of whom I will stay connected with.
- Pets and exploring – I get to spend most of my day with lovely animals, going for lots of walks and checking out places I would never normally have visited.
- Work – I have the opportunity to build my location independent businesses without the pressure of rental charges and other home related bills. I do have storage and travel costs, however, with some careful planning with my assignments, I make sure my mileage is minimal.
Here is a video summary of my house-sitting adventures to date:
I would recommend house and pet sitting to anyone who wants to try an alternative way to travel. You can do it all over the world, meet like-minded people who love travel and animals, see some amazing places and save money that you would normally spend on your accommodation.