We Expanded Our Travel Options As Trusted Housesitters

In Gentle Journeys by SusanLeave a Comment

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In May 2022 we were in the midst of an exploration of the west coast of France. To be precise, we were in Brittany in the little village of Paimpol and we were thinking about how to do our travels throughout Europe during the upcoming peak summer season. It was a first for us because summer travel is crowded and not so budget friendly.

Then we remembered Trusted Housesitters,  a UK company founded in 2010. When our five companion animals were still alive we considered this option for their care. After we found the perfect local caregivers we shelved the idea. But, this time, we could be the sitter with house sits taking us to destinations where we could live like  locals and not tourists. Besides, we were missing our furry family. How fun it would be to combine our extended travel plans with caring for someone else’s companion animals.

Today we are Trusted House/Pet Sitters and loving it.

Getting Started

On the day we signed up we wrote our profile, added the maximum of 12 pictures and solicited three references from friends whose pets we had cared for.  We also included our Airbnb reviews to establish credibility.  And we were in business.  

I didn’t think we were done visiting France so Jamie set up filters specific to France with the dates we had in mind. But none of the available French sits matched up with our travel plans. 

We had all of June, July, and August to fill with the exception of a one week commitment to  be volunteers at Englischhaussen, an intensive week of English language conversation for adult German students. We needed to look more broadly throughout Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Jamie set up search filters that showed listings that were:

  1. For cat(s) and/or dog(s) - no livestock, reptiles, fish or rodents,
  2. From countries, regions or cities where we anticipated traveling, 
  3. Easily reachable by public transportation and didn’t require a car once there, 
  4. Matching our dates, and 
  5. Hadn’t received too many applications. (Since then the application process has been limited to a maximum of five sitter responses at one time.)

Cooper on an Adventure

That first week we responded to nine opportunities out of the hundreds of pet sit requests listed. It was up to us to determine if the particular listing was desirable to us both in the terms of location, to notify the host of our interest, and to “pitch” our profile in the introductory message.  

In the beginning we were a little worried.  Even though our experience with garden care and pets is enormous given our own household, the fostering we did, and my work with the Humane Society, we knew our newness to the program and lack of reviews might work against us. But, it didn’t. 

Within the first two days of applying we heard from three people.  Two of them agreed to Zoom or WhatsApp with us to determine whether or not we had a reasonable match. The third person was looking for someone in Switzerland who could be a repeat sitter. We could understand her position since we chose the very same for our furry family.

It’s a bit like online dating I suppose. Not that I know first hand about online dating. Thank goodness I was well and truly attached before that phenomenon.

Those first two calls ended up with sits in Germany and bracketed our Englishhaussen volunteer work nicely. To fill out our time before heading to Germany we accepted a sit in Antwerp, Belgium.  We were off and running.

Our Summer Pet Sits

Our time in Antwerp couldn’t have been a better indoctrination to the way Trusted Housesitters works. Our hosts were as new to the program as we were. One of the hosts picked us up at the train station and we had a pleasant evening getting to know a lovely couple over dinner. When they left for their Spanish holiday, we stayed in a well appointed home with a dream kitchen and their two cats and dog.  Everyone at the local dog park knew about us coming and we had a built-in network of people who spoke English to further extend the welcome. The experience reinforced the serendipity of taking a chance on a location we never planned to visit. 

The Castrop Kitties

Our second sit was for three cats in a small German town close to Dortmund. The deck and garden with a big patio umbrella were a welcome respite from the summer heat. And the cats responded to us like we were their long lost pals.  It was a nice introduction to Germany. I even tried to do some language study.  I still love saying “Morgan” to everyone I see.  

In total, we spent three months in Germany and it included one more pet sit of three weeks for a young dog.  It wasn’t a glamorous location and some people might not like it, but I was completing a yoga certification program and didn’t mind having no distractions. 

We purposely took September to ourselves to explore the Alps  and do a bike trip along the Danube River.  After that, our plan was to head to Ireland for October. Pet sitting in Ireland seemed the best way to be a local. 

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Our view from the apartment in Antwerp.

Our Time Pet Sitting in Ireland

During our month in Ireland we had two pet sits. The first was for two lurchers in a small village that was a short bus ride from Cork City. This was our shortest sit - just a long weekend.  

Lottie

It turns out that two birthdays were being celebrated - mine and our host and we were both having a novel birthday experience. Upon their return we celebrated with a vegan chocolate cake they had purchased especially for us and a Tex/Mex chili Jamie put together. The common caring and thoughtfulness was so representative of the beauty we’ve experienced as house sitters.  

Our fifth pet sit happened in a charming, small beach community south of Dublin on the Irish Sea. Once again, we were picked up at the train station and welcomed with dinner. And, once again, as we walked our little charge, Lottie, around town, we met the locals who knew Lottie, her person, and of our arrival.  We felt like we belonged while beach walking, attending a concert, and dining outside on a few sunny October days.

Pet Sitting in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is the home of Trusted Housesitters and the number of pet sits on offer increases tenfold. We didn’t plan to spend months pet sitting in the UK but there were just so many great options we took them all and we’ll end up staying in the UK for three months. We lined up five sits for November - January in  Bristol, Hove/Brighton, Blackheath (London area), Sutton Coldfield (Birmingham area) and Cardiff, Wales.  Unfortunately, Sutton Coldfield ended up canceling but we will still complete nine sits total. 

As I write, we are in Bristol with a lovely cat named Amber. Her people are on an exotic honeymoon and we’re discovering Bristol which seems plenty exotic to us.  Especially when we think of all the locations we are headed to next and how much we will be learning about the Midlands and southern sections of the United Kingdom.  We’ve planned our travels so that we have two seven-day “vacations” between pet sitting commitments to explore an even broader spectrum of the country.  So, in addition to these sits we have been to Conwy, Liverpool, Shrewsbury, Salisbury and will go to Cambridge, Bath, and have a visit with friends in Milton Keynes. 

Lexi Could be Naughty At Times

What's Next?

We could just do this forever in Europe but we finally turned off our filters because looking for pet sits became hypnotic.  Jamie would be notified by email every morning of new sits that met our criteria. We would go down the rabbit hole looking at them all, imagining the place, trying to decide if we should extend our travels and keep applying.  

The process of selecting a pet sit opened our eyes to so many places we never thought about visiting. We learn about people’s pets, how they live, why they are traveling, and about their part of the world. It’s given us opportunities to stay outside big cities in houses with gardens and have the best of both worlds. It feels so comforting to have the human (and animal) connection while traveling, especially since we’ve now been traveling for over two years. And it’s nice to know we are helping someone out while they are helping us out. It’s the little things that make the world go round. 

We plan to reset our filters and turn everything back on when we return to the United States.  We’re pretty sure pet sitting will help us find a new community to call home. I would say we are hooked! 

About Trusted Housesitters

Trusted Housesitters have 120,000 members worldwide.  There are two separate membership categories. All members sign up with the goal of being a sitter or hiring a sitter. Annual membership fees are $129 for a basic membership and $259 for a premium membership.   

We elected the premium membership plan because the benefits are quite nice. Our profile sports a special premium badge which we thought might be helpful for pet owners to understand that we are serious.  There’s also cancellation insurance that provides up to $1500 in accommodation costs should we arrive to discover the owner’s trip has been canceled for any reason.  We thought this assurance would be valuable given the current state of travel during the pandemic.  

You can set up a free account just to investigate the available sits and sitters.  If you decide to join, please use our link to receive a 30 percent discount on your membership.  We also receive an extension of 3 months on our annual membership for each referral.  

Susan Carey retired in 2017 after a long business career.  She writes about her experiences as a vagabond in Europe.  Susan shares her gentle life with her husband, Jamie.

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