Spending time in a different city or country, living in a different home—for free: housesitting sounds like a lot of fun. But what is it really like? And what is it like when you do it completely on your own? Flow’s Bente finds out for herself when she house-sits in England.
Where is the house for heaven’s sake? Am I walking in the right direction? And, come to think of it, where on Earth is everyone? It’s a Saturday afternoon after all—around 3 p.m. —and there’s nobody on the streets of this quiet English village. I must look a charming picture what with the 10-kilos of luggage I’m hauling around on my back and front.
As I search for the house, I wonder what I was thinking when I signed up for this, and if I can actually do it. Which of course is completely pointless, as there’s no going back now. And so I walk on, looking for my very first house-sitting ‘assignment’, here in the English countryside.
It wasn’t exactly my intention to walk along these English streets under two rucksacks. I didn’t even know it was possible to house-sit in a country that was unfamiliar to me. Until, that is, I came across trustedhousesitters.com, a website that brings together homeowners and sitters from all around the world. The homeowners get someone who will look after their home while they go away; the sitter gets a free stay.
Without giving it a second thought, I created an account and paid the registration fee. But there was more: I needed to provide references from family and friends, had to describe my experience with pets—and whether I also wanted to indicate there and then which countries I would like to go to.
But what surprised me most about the whole thing was its grandeur. I saw a luxury treehouse in Scotland, a goat farm in Switzerland and a gigantic villa with swimming pool and private forest in France. And more and more houses kept coming up online, from all around the world. One, and this is no joke, was an entire resort on an exotic island with its own beach; there was an apartment in the center of New York and a log cabin somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Fortunately, there was also the average terraced house.
Because this was my first time, I decided to take the modest path. I chose a house in the Cotswolds, a beautiful part of England, where I would look after two cats for a full week. And the rest of the time, I would walk in nature and eat scones in the village pub. I sent the owners a message and waited. I received a reply two days later. There was a Skype conversation and an hour later, the deal was complete.
And this brings us full circle to where I am now: walking through the streets of an English village, in some discomfort and completely lost. And just as I take out my map to have another look, I turn a corner and see the house. It’s easily recognizable from the photos I saw online. Looking every inch the charming picture—sweaty and hunched under a huge backpack—I walk up to the front door. Nervous, but simultaneously curious about what is to come.