Thank you, Donna, for inviting me back to the stage of Retirement Reflections. I enjoyed my performance last time, and today is no different.
Far from retired
My husband, Mark, and I are not settled and not retired. And, we never will be. At least not in the conventional way of owning a house debt-free, concluding a 40+ year career, having a home full of stuff, and receiving a reliable social security check. Why? Well, for starters, we are ‘only’ in our forties. Also, we don’t have a house, haven’t held a ‘normal’ job for 15 years (me) and 13 years (Mark), have no rooms, closets, attics or basements to store anything, and, even though we file taxes in the US (Mark and I) and Belgium (me), we barely make more than minimum wage. We do put some money aside for the future, but expect we will have to keep generating an income, creatively, for many years to come.
Part of the retirement environment
All that being said, we have found ourselves surrounded by 60-plussers everywhere we roamed, no matter the lifestyle we adopted this past decade. Retirees are becoming more adventurous. They enjoy being mobile and switching up their surroundings. Some full-time, once the house is sold or rented out, others in stints. We met many matured RVers when we lived in a truck camper and traveled throughout North and Central America, made plenty of retired friends during our eight years of cruising aboard Irie, our 35’catamaran, in the Caribbean and South Pacific, and are in touch with retirees who house and pet sit just like us. The only difference between them and us is that we differentiate between workdays and weekends.
Ever considered house sitting?
While my first two examples might be a tad too adventurous and risky of a lifestyle for many, the idea of house and pet sitting does have a lot of sensible merits. Mark and I started doing this full-time, because being on the go constantly, while having to work full-time, became unbearable. After eight years of struggling with internet and electricity, and trying to keep on top of our challenging life, we were utterly exhausted. We wanted some comfort and conveniences, without settling down. Most house sitters, however, do this part-time, as a means to explore an area in-depth, feel like a local, and save on hotel costs.
What is house and pet sitting?
The concept has been around for a long time, and you might have even done it… watch your friend or family member’s home and pets while they were away for a weekend. A few years ago, websites popped up to accommodate a similar exchange between ‘strangers’: home owners and house sitters. Both parties sign up to become a member for, say House Sitters America or Mind My House (free for home owners; house sitters pay a small yearly fee) and either post their profile (sitters) or listing (owners) with photos on the site. Via searches and email notifications both sides get connected when there is mutual interest, and… voilà! In our arrangements, no money is exchanged: we don’t pay rent or utilities, and we don’t charge for our care taking services. Home owners ‘hire’ house sitters for days, weeks, or months, depending on their situation; some travel abroad for a long-term work assignment, others leave on a two-week vacation or a weekend at the beach. Pets include dogs, cats, reptiles, goats, horses, birds…
Advantages of house and pet sitting
The list of pros about this concept is extensive in my opinion. For homeowners (if they don’t mind ‘strangers’ living in their house, a feeling that is eased after email communications and a video call), the fact that their house is inhabited and taken care of during their absence, and their pets are loved, walked, cuddled, fed and watered, all in a familiar environment and manner, is priceless. They leave without any worries.
As a house sitter, you live rent-free and you have the opportunity to move locations as much and for as long as you want. You explore different areas, nationally or internationally, you are part of a community, discover cultures and foods, and enjoy what your new environment has to offer (fancy kitchen appliances or hot tub anyone?). If you are an animal-lover, this arrangement can’t be beat, especially if you are not in a position to have your own. Walking dogs will keep you fit, snuggling with them makes you happy, and you learn the nuances of different breeds and demeanors. Going to the local grocery store is always an adventure, and GPS is your best friend when navigating new territory. Yes, you have to be responsible and committed to making all this work, but, once your term is up, you can move on, be free, and leave the house and pets with their rightful owners. You are untethered… like handing the grandkids back after a day of babysitting. What are you waiting for?
Have you ever considered house and pet sitting? If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.