Entry number 4 in the 2018 Housesitting Blog Competition, run annually by HouseSitMatch, comes from Glen and Jacqueline Lamb. As international house sitters Glen and Jacqueline travevl around the world from one housesit to another. Read on to discover their take on how house sitting worldwide enables authentic travel. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE – FIND BUTTON AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST. Only one vote per email will be counted, so vote for your favourite. Last votes counted at midnight on 22 December (GMT).
What is authentic travel?
The term ‘Authentic’ can have several definitions and mean different things to different people. For us ‘authentic travel’ means exposing ourselves to a real/genuine travel experience to discover first hand the culture and typical lifestyles of real people in that location.
Spending a few nights in a hotel ticking and off the top 10 ten sights to see on Trip Advisor, or staying for two weeks in an all-inclusive resort in Turkey where you never leave the boundaries of the Resort does not, in our opinion, give you an authentic travel experience. House sitting worldwide on the other hand has enabled us to have really authentic travel experiences.
– Some of our authentic travel experiences –
Below you’ll find a few of the many authentic (and not always awesome) experiences that we have encountered because of our house sitting around the world, but would have missed otherwise:
- Talking with monks
- Sharing a songthaew (truck) in Thailand with chickens
- Watching the annual Bumps on the banks of the River Cam. (This is a boat race held since 1887 between the various University Colleges in Cambridge)
- Walking dogs through wheat fields and deer, ‘bouncing past’ just a few metres from you
- Rescuing your owner’s cat from playing with a green snake, not knowing if it’s poisonous or not.
- Spending Songkran (water festival) in Hua Hin and getting soaked (and loving it)
- Being given an ‘offering’ of a dead mouse by your Jack Russell
- A night out at The Proms
- Visiting medieval villages in Catalonia, Spain dating back to the 12th century
- Volunteering at Dog Rescue shelters
- Watching French bull fighting (called Course Camarguise) in a small village. This is very different to Spanish bull fights and the bulls are not harmed at all!
House sitting worldwide
Now a possibility in many countries house sitting is growing in popularity as an activity, and we are noticing ‘house sits’ becoming available in ‘new’ countries every month.
House sitting in Keyna
Some friends of ours house sat in Kenya earlier this year, for example. But unusually they had no pets to look after, unless you count the 30-40 wild monkeys that frequently inhabited their back garden. We’ve had many authentic experiences, unfortunately not as ‘exotic’ as that African sit, but I will share a few of them with you.
House sitting in Spain
We travelled to the small village of Riogordo for a house-sit in Spain, on the Costa Del Sol. The home is in a rural area surrounded by hills with olive and almond trees and situated 5kms from the local village. Our access was via a one lane road, or track for a better word.
The house we cared for was situated on a hill and offered beautiful 360 degree views. Our closest neighbours were a hundred metres away and so it was very peaceful. Except for the serenity of our evenings being interrupted by the chiming of bells, not from church bells, but goats. Paco the goat herder would bring his flock of 100+ goats to graze on the vegetation beneath the olive and almond trees. It was a welcome interruption and his ‘working’ dogs ensured the goats didn’t stray onto the flower beds and eat our homeowners prized roses.
On our first visit to do our grocery shopping, we had forgotten about ‘siesta time’ and discovered all the businesses were closed. Nobody spoke English here and our Spanish is very basic but we managed somehow and this is all part of the authentic experience of travelling and pet sitting.
Discovering new countries and local living
House sitting in Thailand
Another authentic experience was house sitting in San Sai, Thailand which is 10kms north of Chiang Mai. We were sitting for an Australian couple who lived in a small gated community called a Moo Bahn. This Moo Bahn was resided mostly by Thai families. When we required the services of the gardener, who spoke no English, we would hang a picture of a man with a lawnmower on the gate and this was his message that the garden needed his attention!
Just a short walk away we shopped for food in a small wet market and a few shops. Local fruit and vegetables were available here along with non-refrigerated meat and other animal parts. Located side by side the stalls selling food items were small alcoves selling all sorts of items and even a hairdresser in the smallest space we’ve ever seen.
Where are the other travellers?
The reality is that we never saw any other farangs here ie. ‘non-Thai’ people shopping here. We presume they did their shopping at the large Big C Supermarket several kilometres down the road. But we enjoy buying from the local markets and learning the numbers. Speaking a few and how to say “how much” in Thai proved to be extremely useful for these interactions. I do have to mention here that the word “beer” is understood all over the world.
When we wanted to venture into Chiang Mai we would walk out onto the main road and wave down a yellow truck (songthaew). The 30 minute trip was a fixed price of 15 baht (about AUS 60 cents; 30p GBP), so very cheap.
Chiang Mai is one of our favourite Asian cities. And if you can look past the malls and western restaurants, you will discover many authentic Thai experiences. There are more than 300 temples and at a few select temples you can sit and chat with a monk. It’s a unique opportunity to ask them, anything you want.
Enjoying Britain from a local perspective
House sitting in Yorkshire
Not all authentic experiences need to be in a rural location, however. And travelling by house sitting worldwide has taught us that. We spent a few weeks house sitting in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, in a 300 year old cottage that was built even before Australia was discovered!
Enjoying local culture by house sitting
In the nearby town of Harrogate we noticed adverts for a Night at ‘the Proms‘ Concert. The Proms is a full eight week programme of concerts in classical music. And it is a significant event in British culture because this series of annual concerts offers access to live classical music at moderate prices to engage as wide an audience as possible. And so it is popular. We enjoyed a truly authentic experience sitting side-by-side with the British people and we joined in enthusiastically waving our Union Jack flag and singing along when they played “Rule Britannia” at the end.
Why we love house sitting worldwide
To summarize, we love house sitting worldwide and the unique experiences it offers. It’s not always fun and the travelling from one house sit to another and waiting can be a challenge. Waiting at airports can be tiresome, but we wouldn’t change a thing considering all this lifestyle offers.
By Glenn and Jacqueline Lamb
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