When we announced on Facebook that we've just secured a house sit in say Norway for 3 months, people were amazed. Hell, we are amazed as well. We've been quite fortunate in our travels. We tend to gloss over the fact that there are drawbacks to being a house sitter. It's easy to lose sight of this while shopping around TrustedHouseSitters and other house sitting sites and seeing that you can travel around the world and not pay for your housing.
Well, we here at Visa-Vis like to bring a dose of realism when it comes to house sitting and travel in general. We do, after all, have a page called "When Shit Goes Wrong", inspired by our travel mishaps. So without further ado, here it is:
Drawbacks of Being a House Sitter
Other People's Knives
One drawback of being a house sitter is that you will be living with the personal effects of total strangers. We humans imbue a special power to objects when we choose them, handle them and live with them. This of course goes beyond knives. The chairs in your house sit may not be comfortable…for you. The kitchen may have a faucet that sprays sideways. The artwork and books and pictures on the walls will all be chosen by other people, and imbued with their intentions and power.
So if you are a person who really loves to be surrounded by your own cherished objects, house sitting may not be for you.
You Are Responsible
You are totally responsible for the lives entrusted to you and the home you are staying in. It’s hard to conceptualize the gravity of this until something goes wrong. I’m writing this post in a word document instead of as a draft in our site because the power has gone out. I’m thinking about the food in the fridge and how quickly it could go bad. I’m thinking about how I may need to figure out the propane heater and candles for lighting as it gets dark and cold. The wind blew down a piece of the roof and knocked down some slate tiles that could have hit and killed the chickens. And now I’m thinking of the various health problems we’ve had with these chickens - prolapsed vent for one poor gal and two that were egg bound. These are lives. These are little beings. They are yours to keep and protect.
This is also one of the reasons you should house sit! But it is worth putting down as a drawback to house sitting. It’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking about how great it would be to live in Vermiglio, Italy rent free for 3 months, but you really need to consider where your house sit is before applying.
Do a little research to find how reliable the transit system is, or if you will have a car available to you so that you can get to the grocery, or the vet.
Another factor to feeling isolation while house sitting is language. Quite often your partner is the only person you will hear speak your native languages and it can take it’s toll. Facebook and email and Skype go a long way to helping keep this form of isolation at bay, of course, but there really is no substitute for hearing your native tongue while randomly walking down the street!
One morning Miss Kitty Grey came home limping from her night out. There was no blood, but she wouldn't put any weight on it, nor did she want us touching it. We washed it and tried to put a bandage on it, but that didn't last. After another day she was looking rather despondent and thin. Her little paw was becoming swollen, so we took her to the vet. She made a full recovery, but this incident, along with some health issues with the chickens we were sitting for became our sole focus until they were in the clear. Never forget the reason you came to house sit. Sure the Brittany coast is a great perk, but you may have to postpone those desires every now and again.
Sidenote: while we both had cats growing up, our parents generally took care of all the health related issues that would arise. So it's a new found set of anxiety around their well being!
We were told that the weather during our house sit in Brittany, France would be terrible. Wet, cold, soggy, muddy and overcast. The homeowner told us that the French translation of the name of our village in Brittany was literally "muddy hill". She was worried how we would handle it until I told her to search Google for “Minnesota winter”.
They quickly agreed that 30-50 degrees with 3 days of rain a week was balmy compared to a Minnesota winter where the roads turn two icy grooves meant for your tires. Point being - there is a reason the homeowner is traveling and in need of a house sitter! In our case our homeowner was heading to the south of Spain - a wise choice.
None of these considerations are insurmountable. There are rain jackets for inclimate weather, technology for feeling isolated, and the vet nearby to fix your injured kitty. It's a matter of perspective and expectation. If you research your house sit before applying or before accepting the gig, you'll be much much better prepared for anything that may happen.
Now all of this might seem like complaining, right? There are indeed a load of perks to house sitting. But there is always another side to every coin, and you should consider all the benefits as well as drawbacks to being a house sitter before you make a promise to a homeowner.