I meet Donna on her House Sitting Cafe Facebook page and once we got chatting she asked to interview me about how I got into housesitting - it's worthy of a share.
Tania is a New Zealand illustrator, graphic designer and owner of her own business 'Drawer Full of Giants'. Since transitioning into working remotely in 2011, Tania became a full time globetrotter and house sits extensively. Tania also offers her business services as a volunteer to non-profit ministries around the world.
1. How did you first learn about house sitting? It was perfectly timed. I was coming to the end of selling everything I owned and giving up the family home of 9 years, when friends asked if we'd (my daughter and I) be interested in house sitting for them as they went overseas for 3 weeks. I'd never heard about house sitting before and just saw it as a perfect transition before leaving our hometown and helping friends out. While there, we were able to finalize our plans and get rid of the dross of our belongings. It was also there on this 1st house sit that I realized what a boon this would be if this could go on longer. 2. Why do you house sit? I love slow travel and have learned to "live off the smell of an oily rag". At first house sitting was a quiet breather between volunteering gigs while overseas. But then it grew into the solution to sustainable living while working remotely with my globetrotting lifestyle. I love sits lasting 2 or more months where I can place 'roots' for a time and have a place to work. As an illustrator through my business Drawer Full of Giants, I love a good internet connection, a large kitchen table where I can draw, then cook a good meal in a kitchen and hang my clothes that living in back packers, or a rental (due to a tight budget), doesn't allow. House sitting eliminates all my business overheads and even though I live out of a wheeled duffel bag and carry-on I still have the luxury of being in a comfortable home with a pet to love. Even if it's for the shortest of times I feel I am 'home' and have learned to transition very quickly into new places. House sitting is also something I can do/share with my family. For the past 4 years my daughter (22yrs, living in Australia) and my parents (retired and avid part time house sitters themselves since I began) have all joined me for Christmas house sits, with the permission of the home owners. We've enjoyed a month or more of being together as a family around Christmas trees that aren't ours, collectively looking after homes that aren't ours and loving pets that don't belong to us, yet all the while keeping our personal family tradition alive on the day. I'm still loving the variety of life that house sitting offers nearly 4 years on! 3. How many house sits have you done? Where? As of writing (July 2015) I've sat for 22 house owners in New Zealand, Australia and Canada and have been asked on several occasions while in the USA yet wasn't able to due to volunteering.
4. How do you find assignments?
Wherever I am in the world I pay an annual fee to belong to a house sitting site applicable to that country. I create a profile and actively look and apply to home owner advertisements and I also have a Facebook page where I share about my experience and have people asking me of my availability to sit. This year (2015) I'm experiencing a few word of mouth requests, as I've chosen to stay in one town for the year. 5. What's been your most interesting experience?
I had a 5 week house sit in Vancouver, Canada with an older couple who hadn't had a house sitter before. Upon arriving they noticed I hadn't hadn't managed to change over some Canadian currency and wanted to give me $200 cash. I'm not accustomed to such generosity and was loathed to accept it telling them I had my own money, but they both insisted that I take the gift (The hubby was/is a CEO of a mining company). Once at home I learned that their daughter, who was the same age as myself, would be sitting with me as well. This was unusual and I felt somewhat redundant to say the least until I learned that the daughter actually had a health issue and could put her in hospital at any time and if that being the case, I'd be the back up sitter for the house and both dogs. I adapt well and saw it was all part of the adventure. The hubby then gave me the keys to his brand new truck (months old) to use at my pleasure (as well as petrol money! Which I normally pay when using a homeowners car), then informed me that I'm to help myself from the pantry and fridge as they'd just stocked the lot for us and then left us both with $3000 cash to use as we wanted!! I am a simple kiwi girl from a working class family and not at all used to this kind of generosity. But I did my best to shoulder a good attitude about it, as they wouldn't hear of my "I just can't accept" speeches. Over the 5 weeks the daughter and I became fast friends and she kept her health. Everyday once I stopped working, she took $100 out of Dad's stash and took me out to eat and sight-see, she even insisted on buying any personal items I needed and even took me shopping. I kept fluctuating between the feelings of gratefulness and guilt, as I did have my own money. When the parents returned they wanted me to stay longer to get to know me, so I stayed an extra week. During this time they treated me like another daughter and after a night at the casino (having declined the invite) they gave me a further $600 of their winnings! Never in my life had I been treated like this or looked after so thoroughly since being a child in my parents care, and I ended up asking them tongue-and-check their thoughts on adopting a 42yr old woman? They were such a delightful family who really embraced the spirit of hospitality and free giving. This was by far my most memorably house sit that I don't think could be matched, nor was it normal by any stretch of the imagination.
6. Any hidden cons of being a sitter? As yet I've not come across any hidden cons - I've been blessed with lovely genuine people to sit for.
7. What's your top tip for making house sitting a success? Being open, warm, friendly and communicative through email while family are away have served me very well. 8. Have / would you use a house sitter yourself? If I had my own place and had pets I would most definitely use a house sitter.
Have a question about house and pet sitting? I'm happy to answer, just flick me a message.