Sam and Veren are leading and trusted voices in the world of house sitting.
Could house sitting be the ideal lifestyle for creative people, digital nomads, or those who feel stuck where they are? Sam and Veren are full-time world-traveling house sitters who also run a vegan lifestyle blog Alternative Travelers and are the authors of the newly released House Sitting Handbook.
In this interview, they answer all our pressing questions about house sitting. They also share their experience and talk about all the benefits such as: gaining control of your life and career, the freedom to be creative, dealing with your quarter-life crisis, global travel, and, most importantly, hanging out with cool pets. Read the interview below!
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, could you explain what house sitting is?
House sitting is an arrangement in which a person, the house sitter, takes care of someone’s home (and usually pets) while they are away. We do exchange-based house sitting in which no money exchanges hands. We get a rent-free place to stay, and the home and pet owner gets free home and pet care in exchange. Some people do paid house sitting, but these are usually local businesses, where people live in one place (paying their rent or mortgage), and pet owners can hire the same pet sitter again and again whenever they go on vacation. The type of house sitting that we do a win-win for both sides, as we get to travel without paying for accommodation, and pet owners also get to travel without paying for costly pet care.
Why did you guys start house sitting?
We started house sitting in 2016 as a way to “escape from New York City.” We were working ourselves into the ground, just trying to keep our heads above water in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. We needed a way to test out other options, but we didn’t want (nor could afford) to make the leap and fully move somewhere else. House sitting popped up on our radar, and we thought it was a perfect option, so we gave it a try. We wanted a relatively low-risk way to try living in another place, and we found exactly that with house sitting. Our first house sit was amazing, and the rest is history!
You chose to house sit full time and made it the main part of your lifestyle. Why?
Yes, we house sit full-time now, meaning that we do not pay rent or maintain a base anywhere. We chose to do this partly out of practicality. It’s much cheaper to house sit full-time than to live in one place – and it’s more fun! House sitting reduces our overhead dramatically, which enables us to work on our passion project turned business, our website, AlternativeTravelers.com. We never would be able to spend so much time building this endeavor without house sitting.
House sitting freed up time so that we could dig deep into fulfiling our personal desires and goals
We also choose to house sit full-time as a way to explore places that we may want to live someday. We love this lifestyle now, but eventually, we may want to settle somewhere fully. House sitting allows us to discover what it’s like to live in different places. We specialize in long term house sits of 1-3 months, which lets us get a good feel for a place.
Are there any challenges to house sitting or traveling frequently?
There are challenges to house sitting full-time. First, it can be anxiety-producing at times to need to line up house-sits back to back. Though we rarely need to pay for a place in between house sits, having money for short term accommodation in between helps. There are overall trends when it comes to house sitting (such as where house sitting opportunities pop up frequently), but nothing is certain. House sitters don’t set the dates, pets, and homeowners do. So there is a large amount of uncertainty to the full-time house sitting lifestyle.
There’s a lot more that goes into house sitting than just wanting to house sit somewhere and making it happen. In fact, that’s not how it works at all! We always have to be checking the house sitting website that we use for new listings. If the house sit fits our general criteria, then we need to send an application message right away and arrange for a conversation. We are very picky about the house sits that we take, so that means that we must know all aspects of the arrangement so that we feel comfortable (and excited about) the situation before we confirm.
Additionally, house sitting full-time means that once we have committed to a new house sit, we will not back out unless there are extenuating circumstances. It’s a responsibility that we take seriously. So if a family event suddenly comes up when we are committed to a house sit, we either don’t go, or one of us might go (the advantage of house sitting as a couple). We also can’t just leave the house sit to go somewhere else because we don’t end up liking the house sit. We’ve heard stories of house sitters leaving their posts because they were bored with the area, and that’s just not cool! House sitting full-time listings like we do can be an amazing lifestyle, but it also comes with very real responsibilities, which can feel restricting for some.
Did house-sitting help you tackle any uncertainties you had in your life/career?
House sitting has definitely helped us tackle life and career uncertainties. When we first started house sitting, we knew what we didn’t want out of our lives and careers. We just weren’t sure how to achieve it. We didn’t want to work at whatever jobs and retire at 70 with no money. We wanted to start investing in ourselves and enjoy our day to day lives more while working towards a more secure future. Just making the rent and putting aside a little bit of savings has the illusion of security, but all it takes is one rent hike or job loss, to pull the rug out from underneath you. We wanted something less precarious and more control in our lives.
We soon realized that house sitting enabled us to step out of our fast-paced routine and reflect on how we could achieve this. Without having to work 40-60 hours a week just to afford a place to live, we suddenly had much more free time. It’s hard to try to figure out “what you want out of life” when you’re so busy, a perpetual state that describes most of us. House sitting freed up time so that we could dig deep into fulfilling our personal desires and goals — a process that continues to this day.
we wrote The House Sitting Handbook because we want to spread the word about how amazing house sitting can be
How can house sitting be used to address a quarter-life crisis?
As we mentioned above, house sitting can provide that much-needed space and break from our “regular lives” to dig deep into what’s really going on with us. With a quarter-life crisis, often, we don’t really know what we want. Maybe it’s just a lingering sense of unease or feeling of being lost, that you’re not doing what you want to be doing. When you’re house sitting, you’re outside of your regular, distraction-filled routine. Outside of your normal routine, you can read, reflect, journal, write – whatever it is that helps you address your quarter-life crisis head-on.
Is house sitting financially challenging, or is it a moneymaker?
House sitting can be financially challenging. The type of house sitting that we do, exchange-based house sitting, is not a moneymaker because no money exchanges hands. But we get monetary value in other ways. Not paying rent is the biggest one, but we usually get other perks as well. Often, people lend us their cars to use while we house sit for them, sometimes they lend us passes to historical or natural sites in the area, and usually, they offer us free reign of their cupboards.
Still, house sitters need their own source of income to purchase things like groceries and transportation, but also to enjoy the area. People who live somewhere full-time and house sit occasionally will likely have a job that can provide savings for a house sitting trip. Full-timers like us will need online income or at least some savings. For this reason, house sitting is very popular with retirees and is becoming increasingly popular with the digital nomad crowd.
That all being said, house sitting can indirectly be a moneymaker, in that it provides you a low cost, low-risk way to reduce your overhead so that you can invest your time, energy, and focus on endeavors that can make you money.
Why is house-sitting a great choice for creatives?
House sitting is such a wonderful choice for creatives because it gives you a space where you can do your creative work. Again, it can be as simple as just removing yourself from your distractions in order to get a project done. Maybe you want to write a novel, but every time you sit down to do it, different things in your home call out for your attention. In a different environment, you can remove those distractions and get inspiration in a new place.
Usually, creatives don’t have a ton of money but might want to get away to work on a project for a bit. House sitting is perfect for that! There are house sits for every type of environment that you work best in, from rural cabins to apartments in a bustling city.
Do you have any epic, funny, or scary house sitting stories?
Some of our best house sitting stories come from the first-ever house sit that we did in Salt Lake City, Utah. In fact, as we do this interview, we are house sitting for the same guy in the same city, four years later! On our first house sit with him in 2016, we stayed at a luxury condo building with two hot tubs on the roof of the building, overlooking the dramatic mountain ranges that surround the city. It was incredible. There was even an indoor pool and gym!
We also loved his cat, who was such a character. The cat’s owner insisted that we take the cat on a road trip, so that we could see the beauty of southern Utah’s five national parks – and to get the cat out of the condo! We had to smuggle the cat out of the building, as technically pets weren’t allowed in the building (despite the fact that ⅔ of the building’s residents owned cats, thanks to a woman that worked at a local cat rescue). So we had to smuggle him out in his carrier, placed in a shopping cart piled high with pillows. We opened a can of cat food in his carrier to keep him quiet in the elevator ride down! Once we got in the car, he wanted to be out of his carrier immediately. He roamed around the back seat for a bit before he settled on Veren’s lap for the duration of the journey. He was used to road trips as his owner took him on them a few times a year to visit relatives a few states over.
It was an epic trip and one that we still reminisce about to this day! Sadly, the cat has since passed away, but he certainly will live on in our memories. That’s definitely another challenge of house sitting long term – saying goodbye to pets that you may never see again.
What are some common misconceptions about house sitting?
There are so many, but some of the biggest ones revolve around the misconception that house sitting is like booking a hotel or Airbnb. One of the most common questions we get is, “I’m going to X place during X dates, how do I get a house sit there?” It doesn’t work like that! Pet owners are the ones that set the dates, and house sitters respond to those dates. That means that you must be flexible to house sit, either on where you go, or when you go (ideally both). Trying to house sit in a specific place during specific dates is a recipe for disappointment.
Another common misconception is that house sitting is only for certain types of people. Not true at all! If you love animals (most house sits involve pets) and can provide proper care for them in their home, then you can house sit. There’s a lot more that goes into it (such as great communication skills), but there really is no set house sitter demographic.
Why did you write your Book on House Sitting and what do you hope readers get out of it?
Mainly, we wrote The House Sitting Handbook: Live Your Dream Life Through House Sitting because house sitting can absolutely be a way to transform your life. We simply couldn’t live the lifestyle we live now without house sitting. People constantly tell us we live a dream life, yet believe that such a life is out of their reach. That’s just not true, which is, in large part, why we wrote this book. We wanted to inspire others to use house sitting to change their lives, and to show them exactly how to do it from start to finish and beyond.
Another reason we wrote the book is that house sitting is still in its infancy. Even the biggest house sitting website worldwide (and the only one we use), TrustedHousesitters, only started in 2011. There’s just not a lot of people doing what we do, and especially not full-time. Even if you don’t want to house sit full-time, learning from someone who does can really give you the expert a leg up. There’s a ton of people who want to house sit, but the overwhelming majority give up before even getting a house to sit, mostly because they just don’t know what they’re doing or misunderstand how this all works. Even though we have written a lot of articles on house sitting, articles can only go so far. House sitting is something where you need to understand the whole picture and all the moving parts to have a good experience. In a book format, we could go much further, dispel common misconceptions, get very detailed on every aspect of house sitting, from how to set yourself up for success before you even start, to completing a house sit and being ready to apply to even more house sits (if that’s what you want).
In the end, we wrote The House Sitting Handbook because we want to spread the word about how amazing house sitting can be, whether you want to do it full-time like us or occasionally, as a way to travel at a much lower cost. It’s really a fantastic way to participate in the sharing economy and help budget travelers travel more.
Where can people buy your book?
Our book is available exclusively on our website, so people can go to The House Sitting Handbook page and purchase there in whatever format that they prefer!