A Day in the Life of a Housesitter

by Christy on

It’s a typical day housesitting: we wake up and find ourselves in the middle of German suburbia, where the streets are filled with skateboarding kids and every yard has its own trampoline.

Housesitting in German Suburbia

One side of the small-but-trendy housing development is edged with wide open farmlands, another is covered in a long expanse of woods, and the third opens into the small town of Mascherode.

Except for the kids (who are taught in school), few people in Mascherode seem to speak English. There’s a supermarket, and a small bakery where locals pick up fresh rolls for breakfast, and dozens of old traditional German buildings scattered throughout the village.

The bakery sells the most scrumptious pumpkin-seed rolls (which we’ve been consuming like fiends), and we make regular visits.

Housesitting in Germany; Traditional German Building in Mascherode

None of our language skills are applicable here, so we compensate by relying heavily on our most trusted communication technique (which we’ve dubbed “Smile and Point”) and ordering six rolls each time, because that’s the only number we know how to say in German.

It’s sechs… and yes, it’s pronounced like “sex”. Which is the only reason we know it.

We’re clearly very sophisticated international travelers.

Kali and Lucy at our German housesitting gig

We take Lucy, the family’s adorable rescue mutt, on frequent walks to explore the area.

Everyone in the neighborhood seems to know and love her, so we frequently find ourselves employing our second technique, “Smile and Nod”, while the people petting Lucy chat at us in German.

I imagine they’re mostly asking why we’ve stolen Lucy, but I’m hoping if we continue to just smile and nod they might not call the police.

Woods behind our German housesitting gig

So mostly we take Lucy into the woods behind the house for our long walks. The two cats, Molly and Daisy, often come as well, but they slink along behind as if embarrassed to be in our company.

Scattered throughout the woods are deep pits overgrown with underbrush. Before they left, the homeowners informed us that these were crater impacts left by bombing raids during the war.

On occasion someone will still find an intact bomb in the woods and the neighborhood gets evacuated for a while.

As you can imagine, we find this news very reassuring.

Housesitting cat licking her lips

Back at home, the cats’ favorite past-time seems to be clearing the entire neighborhood of its mouse population.

We dispose of two dead mice in the course of seven days and incompetently rescue another… which isn’t our most dignified moment.

As all three animals chase the stunned mouse in circles around the backyard, Kali and I hop around alternately trying to protect the poor thing (sans shoes) and trying to herd everyone inside… where they almost immediately escape, since we can’t close the door without locking ourselves out.

It takes a full five minutes to reinstate order, but the mouse finally makes its escape and we collapse by the snails on the windowsill to catch our breath.

Lucy and Molly, the pets at our German housesitting gig

Right before the family left one of the kids asked if we would watch her pet snails. She then proceeded to inform us that if the snails look dead we can just flush them down the toilet, and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Since flushing dead snails down the toilet struck me as potentially very traumatic (for me, apparently not for the kid) I watched them like a hawk, protected them from the crafty cats, and fed them twice as much snail food as they probably needed.

I’m happy to report that no snails died on our watch.

Housesitting in Germany

And this is how we spent our week. Watering the plants, bringing in the mail, teaching Lucy how to shake, taking a few glamor shots of the pets for their humans’ update email…

Housesitting’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

And it’s actually pretty awesome.

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Christy @ Ordinary Traveler October 3, 2011 at

It’s like playing house, but you get to try new places and houses all the time! Those photos of the animals are sooo cute! Great catch of the cat with its tongue out!
Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted: Travel Shot: The Art of Labor

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Christy October 3, 2011 at

It’s so true, Christy! You get to live in other peoples’ houses and experience something different all the time! We’re getting some great ideas for our future house – kitchen gadgets and design details and certain things we’d have to include (uhm, like heated floors). It’s funny planning/dreaming. :)

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Stevetwitter: vangrizz October 3, 2011 at

I love the “crater impacts left by bombing raids”, that’s never what you want to hear.
Looks like a real tough gig, and my daughter thanks you for including all the pictures of the animals although she’d still like a photo of the surviving mouse.
Steve recently posted: Five Places We Probably Shouldn’t Have Taken Our Kids

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Christy October 3, 2011 at

I wish we could have gotten a photo of the mouse, but it was pandemonium! I thought I was going to have a heart attack, and then the cats were running around with their claws out and Lucy was picking the mouse up in her mouth (do dogs typically chase mice?) and shaking it…. wow. A photo of that scene would have just been ridiculous. :P

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jill- Jack and Jill Travel The Worldtwitter: jacknjilltravel October 3, 2011 at

Hilarious !! I’d love to have this job. Curious to know – what entertaining things do the snails do? As in – why would anyone have pet snails?
jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted: Tripping on San Pedro in Hatun Machay

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Christy October 3, 2011 at

I have no freaking idea. They weren’t entertaining at all – and I should know, as I watched them more than I should have. Pet snails make no sense! At least with fish you can puff your cheeks at them. :P

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Jeremy Branhamtwitter: budgettravelsac October 3, 2011 at

Honestly, this is the best way to travel. Not only do you get to slow down and stay in one place for a while but you learn to live like the locals do and even get to meet some of them. House sitting seems like a great way to travel and hope to do this in the future!
Jeremy Branham recently posted: 5 reasons to travel to Europe in the Fall (and where you should visit)

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Christy October 3, 2011 at

I really is. I’d recommend it for almost any traveler (probably all but the pyromaniacs and the ones who spend their travels in a perpetual state of intoxication).

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Kit Whelantwitter: kitwhelan October 3, 2011 at

Love this post! My partner & I are hoping to try some housesitting next year. Free stay + cute animals = awesome travel experience.
Kit Whelan recently posted: How Airbnb Earns Their Baksheesh

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Christy October 4, 2011 at

The free stay is nice, but the cute animals are the clincher. :)

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Caanan @ No Vacation Requiredtwitter: NVRguys October 3, 2011 at

Ordering six rolls at a time just because that is the number you know cracked me up. I have to say though, I see right through it. You are ordering six rolls at a time so that you can hunker down and shame eat pumpkin seed rolls. It’s okay. We would do the same.
Caanan @ No Vacation Required recently posted: Lose the Weight

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Haha. Ordering sechs rolls not only made us giggle (oh wow, we’re so mature) but it also let us eat six rolls every day. You don’t even understand how good these were, Caanan – six rolls barely scratched the itch! :P

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guytwitter: quirkytravelguy October 3, 2011 at

Sounds like a great housesitting experience! But I have no sympathy for mice, as I’m dealing with those now, and I wish I had a cat to hunt them down.
Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted: My first NYC summer: Seinfeld, Grandma and Yo-Yo Ma

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guytwitter: quirkytravelguy October 3, 2011 at

By the way, do you inform your house-sittees of your travel blog? I’m curious whether those folks end up reading your accounts of the experiences.
Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted: My first NYC summer: Seinfeld, Grandma and Yo-Yo Ma

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Good question! We sort of do – we certainly don’t hide it, but we didn’t include it on our housesitting profile (that seemed strange to us for some reason). But when we chat with folks it usually comes up, and if they’re interested we’ll give them the address. We really suck at self promotion in person so we’re never like “hey, you should read our blog!”, but we don’t deliberately hide it from the people we housesit for.

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Melissatwitter: longhaulproject October 3, 2011 at

Such a great blog. Your descriptions really made me laugh and, let’s face it, there’s nothing better than cute animal pics. Lucy seems like a cutie and that cat! We have one who looks a lot like that but she’s very skittish and we’d need a long lens to get so up close and personal. Look forward to reading about your next adventure…. where in the world next?
Melissa recently posted: It’s the little moments that make a marriage

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Thanks so much, Melissa! :) All of the animals were so adorable and really affectionate (our favorite!), and Molly didn’t mind too much when I got close to take those photos. She was a little like “watch yourself, human!” but then went back to licking her leg. And we’re currently in Berlin, where we’re spending a month! So far it’s fabulous – we haven’t even had reason to go further than this neighborhood yet. :)

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Eileen Ludwigtwitter: eileenludwig October 3, 2011 at

Sounds like you are having fun and it is working for you
Eileen Ludwig recently posted: Klout Subway Tuna Fish Sandwich Perk Ten Dollars

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Thanks for the comment, Eileen – housesitting is actually more fun than work, especially when there are pets. :)

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Annie - FootTracker October 4, 2011 at

omg, if I order everything by six/sechs….I think I will gain lots of weight in Germany. haha~

Btw, if the cats decides to bring a mice to you guys and drop it in your room, besides for their entertainment purpose, it is also because they see you as their friend/family, and wants to feed you or let you have fun too XDD (My boyfriend’s cat brings back mice all the time as a sign of appreciation )
Annie – FootTracker recently posted: SF (12) Zen Mode Away From Study @ Ocean Beach

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

That’s kind of sweet, in a “call of the wild” sort of way. But I think if we had a cat we’d try to train her to bring back other presents to show her love. For instance! There was a news clip about a cat who would go out at night and steal things around the neighborhood and bring them back to the house! Clothes and toys and decorations left outside…. this cat took it all! Maybe we could try something like that. ;)

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Land Yacht Ahoy October 4, 2011 at

Looks like a great time in Germany.
During our 5 month trip, (here in the States not Germany:( we stayed at our cousins in the country. Their cat would bring up half eaten rabbits. This cat was a SERIOUS hunter.

We really enjoy following your Blog.

PS. I see your using the Thesis Theme in Wordpress. What is the plug in your using for the comments/reply’s and allowing commenter to select a post from their blog? Would like to try it out on ours.

Thanks
Mark
Land Yacht Ahoy recently posted: Safe Travel USA Top 5 Expenses Of Living In A Motorhome Year Round.

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Eww, half eaten rabbits? That would be so bizarre to find on your doorstep!

We’re using the CommentLuv plugin for Wordpress, and it’s quite awesome! Super easy to install and use — you can download it at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/commentluv/. And if a commenter registers at the ComLuv website, I think the plugin can more easily update the list of posts you can choose from? Though as far as I know registering isn’t required. :)

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Sabrinatwitter: countryskipper October 4, 2011 at

I’ve never house sat before, but it sounds like a great way of actually experiencing how life in a specific area or country is like. These days, with a steady job, too little vacation time, too many relatives to visit across the globe, it doesn’t seem like an option, but I wish I would have found out about this sooner… say, back in my college days… oh, all the new places I could have seen :) Oh well, who knows what’s in my future… if I ever find myself with too much time on my hands, I might give house sitting a try :)
Sabrina recently posted: Only in Texas: Kolaches

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

You can still consider it, Sabrina! There are a lot of options in the U.S., and some of them are for really short periods (like a weekend to a week). Which, depending on how far it is, might make it less cost-effective to travel for such a short time, but it could still be a cool way to see a new place! I’ve also found that most shorter housesitting gigs are posted because they have pets. If you ever find yourself bored, you should go to one of the housesitting websites (we use Mind My House and Trusted Housesitters) and just browse all the listings (which you can see for free). You might find some that would work! :)

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Sabrinatwitter: countryskipper October 5, 2011 at

Great Idea! I’ll keep these bookmarked. You never know. Maybe I can make it work one of these days. Just not sure if the sign-up fee is worth it for such a short time. But that’s something I can decide then.
Sabrina recently posted: Only in Texas: Kolaches

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Yeah, the fee is a pain. Mind My House is a lot cheaper (I think like $20 a year instead of $60), but even if you find a place through searching for free (and then pay the fee to contact them), it’s still not guaranteed that you’ll get a response back. Blah.

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Kris Koellertwitter: kriskoeller October 4, 2011 at

Looks like a nice way to go local. I’m sure the pets enjoyed having someone around.
Kris Koeller recently posted: Daily Photo: The Louvre at Sunset

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

We probably never would have found ourselves in this small German town otherwise, but we thought it was fantastic. I think that’s one of the neatest things about housesitting – you never know where it’ll take you!

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Andrea October 4, 2011 at

Ahhh – what a life! =) The pets are so adorable…how do you get any work done with them around?
Andrea recently posted: Fish Feet: Our Garra Fish Pedicure in Budapest

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

It helped that they were willing to cuddle and sleep on our feet while we were working. ;)

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Jonathan Look, Jr.twitter: lifepartII October 4, 2011 at

Vonda and I have been thinking of trying a house sitting one of these days. Do you find working out schedules difficult?
Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted: Tzotzil Chamulan Worship Service in Chiapas

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

I think if you were trying to housesit all the time (go from one housesit to another), it would be difficult. But we alternative between housesitting and staying in short-term apartments via Airbnb which makes it a lot easier. We basically just look for well-matched housesitting opportunities and then fill in the gaps with other travel. You can also find some really long housesitting options (three to six months… and maybe even longer!), so that would make it easier to schedule if you don’t mind staying in one place for a bit.

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Sailor (@CruisePictures)twitter: CruisePictures October 4, 2011 at

This is really interesting. I think we have to try something like this too. Cute pictures!
Sailor (@CruisePictures) recently posted: Cruise Experts 2012 Best of Alaska Cruisetour

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Thanks, Sailor!

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John D. Wilson October 4, 2011 at

Wise way to travel.
Am getting more interested in this way of “sleeping and eating”.
Thanks for sharing your adventure!
Cheers,
John D. Wilson
John D. Wilson recently posted: A tourist cannot go wrong by visiting Italy – history, food and more!

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

It is a great option for “sleeping and eating”… and playing with cute pets and experiencing a local culture and discovering new locales! :)

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Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelistatwitter: eurotravelista October 4, 2011 at

Housesitting sounds great and is something I will do at some point. Dead animals is one of the reasons I really don’t like cats. We had one for awhile and it was awful to open the front door to a half eaten bird! The rest of your adventure sounds fantastic!
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted: An Evening in Edinburgh

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

I know some folks have trained their cats to not bring those kinds of presents around. I think if you strongly discourage it from a really young age they’ll stop… hopefully? There were also just a TON of mice running around this area, though (we’d see them running through the fields on our walks), so I guess maybe here it was just too tempting and easy to catch them.

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Nina October 4, 2011 at

Very cool! Love the pet pics too!
Nina

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Thanks, Nina! We’re obvious filling a large Koa-sized void in our lives. :)

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Stephanie - The Travel Chicatwitter: thetravelchica October 4, 2011 at

You make it sound so glamorous… except for the potential active bombs part.
Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted: 3 Strategies to Taste the Best Wines at a Wine Expo

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

Haha, we are the epitome of glamorous! ;)

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NLM October 4, 2011 at

Yes, the bomb part got me, too. Funny–keep smiling through the chaos.
Nancy

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

We figured we were safe since so many people use the trails through the woods…. but we were particularly careful to stay on those trails. Dormant bombs? Not my idea of a fun discovery!

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jenjenktwitter: jenjenk October 4, 2011 at

GREAT shots!! pumpkin rolls would be my new best friends…that sounds so freaking fantastic!
jenjenk recently posted: Oklahoma State Fair

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

We actually exhibited quite a bit of restraint with the rolls because we were sure we’d find more in Berlin (where we are now). And we haven’t!! Sure, the bakeries around here have similar pumpkin-seed rolls, but they’re flat and dense and taste nothing like the heavenly-goodness we discovered in Mascherode. It’s really quite devastating.

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robin October 5, 2011 at

Well done on the snails thing – you’ve acquitted yourselves well there.
robin recently posted: Migration

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Christy October 5, 2011 at

I know – glad we avoided a snail catastrophe!

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Ruth October 5, 2011 at

Very entertaining! Sounds like a rough job. :-}

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Christy October 6, 2011 at

Oooooh yeah. But luckily we’re up for the challenge. ;) Bring on the dead mice!

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LAbackpackerChicktwitter: LAbackpackrChik October 6, 2011 at

Tough life ;)

I got a subscription with Caretaker.org but so far nothing good. I’ll check out Mind My House. My boyfriend and I really want to live in other countries, not just travel. It seems like such a mutually rewarding experience. I hope we get some house sitting gigs in Latin America soon.
LAbackpackerChick recently posted: Where I’ve Been and How I Did It

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Christy October 6, 2011 at

I’ve looked around the Caretaker website, but we haven’t signed up for it yet. Mind My House has a few annoying aspects, but the fee is pretty low ($20/year) and the site is very active — we’ve actually connected with all our housesitting gigs through there! :) I haven’t seen a lot for Latin America, though – there seem to be a ton more opportunities in the U.S. and Europe compared to other places. It would be super cool to housesit there, though! :)

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Jadetwitter: vagabond3live October 10, 2011 at

The dogs and cat are my favorite part! I haven’t considered house sitting but maybe when we head to the UK I’ll look more into it.
Jade recently posted: Let a VW Bus redefine your California Road Trip

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Christy October 11, 2011 at

The U.K. is a fantastic place to housesit – there are so many more opportunities there compared to other countries! Trusted Housesitters in particular seems to have a lot of postings in the U.K.

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Christina (Jandal Road)twitter: christinahegele October 10, 2011 at

I loved reading this! Not just because it’s of course excellently written, but because it so reminds me of my home country. The pumpkin seed rolls are dearly missed in London. And nobody speaking English apart from the kids… sounds just like where i grew up in Bavaria!
Christina (Jandal Road) recently posted: Discovering Vancouver: Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

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Christy October 11, 2011 at

Thanks, Christina! It was such an awesome experience – we felt like we got a little taste (okay, a big taste with the pumpkin rolls, lol) of living there. It would be an awesome type of place to grow up. :)

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travelyn November 10, 2011 at

Love the pics of the cat and dog. How do you get a job house sitting in Germany! Sounds like a great idea. Are you moving around seeing other places or just visiting the bakery. Those pumpkin seed rolls sound irresistible!
travelyn recently posted: Romantic Road | Attractions Germany |Small Group Tour

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Christy November 10, 2011 at

We use two websites, MindMyHouse.com and TrustedHousesitters.com – but soon we’ll be writing a post explaining in more detail (we’ve gotten a ton of questions lately!). We actually spent that week trying to fix Kali’s computer and catch up on work, so we didn’t really do much other than explore the small village there. We even turned down a guided tour of the Jägermeister factory because we didn’t have time! Usually housesitting isn’t like that, though, it was just a stressful week for us.

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Taani March 2, 2012 at

Hey that’s amazing, but how do you find out about housesitting options? The only ppl I’ve ever known to housesit are for friends…

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Christy March 2, 2012 at

Hey Taani, thanks for the comment! We use MindMyHouse.com and TrustedHousesitters.com – both require a yearly fee, but it isn’t too much and there are a ton of housesitting opportunities on both sites. You make a profile (the more in-depth, the better), and contact housesitting gigs that look interesting to you. It’s competitive, but totally worth it. :)

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gabi klaf May 16, 2012 at

hi guys. so nice to meet you. just found you accidentally and loving it. we’re a family of five traveling the world for 15 months now and loving it. we loved house-sitting in panama! we’re now in southeast asia and read some of your articles about thailand. what can i say, you guys are just adorable. look forward to following more, much love, gabi
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Christy May 17, 2012 at

Awww, thank you so much for the comment, Gabi! That’s so cool that your family housesits around the world as well. We’d love to visit Panama at some point, but so far we haven’t made it to Central or South America yet. Someday! Where are you in SE Asia? Are you enjoying it there?

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