Housesitting offers a range of fantastic opportunities for affordable travel and living like a local while you care for pets and property of your hosts. One housesitting family we’ve been following carefully for the five years they have been on the road kindly offered to talk to us in an interview. Tracey and Rob and Makai aka Expat Experiment are housesitters on HousesitMatch .
In our #HouseSitChat the housesitting family shared some of their fun petsitting and travel experiences on our HouseSitMatch You Tube Video channel. They also described the challenges and benefits of travelling and homesitting as a family, and earning their living as they go as digital nomads. Here is a written summary of that video.
Can you house sit with a family?
Many people wonder what it takes to be a housesitting family. Where do we find our housesitting opportunities? How do we manage travelling with a young child who needs to be educated? Does our child miss the company of other children? We were passionate about travel and feel that we are all learning as we travel around the world, meeting new people and experiencing new adventures.
One housesitting family discovers long term travel
Please introduce yourselves and tell us about why and how you became a housesitting family.
We are Rob and Tracey Tullis, Canadian citizens, and five years ago after a wonderful holiday in Buenos Aires we could see ourselves living there or somewhere like it that we wanted to travel and take our son with us, we are a family unit after all. Our original plan was that we would start in Columbia and work our way down South America and see how and where we liked living most.
After three months in Columbia we ended up in Ecuador and that’s where we first came across a housesitting opportunity for 6 months. As a long term post we found some added stability as a housesitting family.
This housesit was a perfect starting point for us, it was a French Canadian couple in Panama who wanted to return home to spend time with their first grandchild. We applied for that housesit, we secured the sit and it became our introduction to the homesitting family lifestyle.
We enjoyed the house sitting travel so much that by the time the housesit finished in Panama I had found a series of other housesits in England and across Europe. Our housesitting lifestyle started coming together.
2. Can you tell us what are the advantages of travelling by housesitting as a family?
The biggest advantages for a housesitting family are-
- You are living in a home, it is more comfortable
- You have access to a fully stocked kitchen to utensils and spices you wouldn’t find in a hostel or AirBnB
- Being in a local neighbourhood, visit local parks, see a more real side to the city
- Many of our hosts have children and we are given access to their games and toys, it’s like living as a regular family
- The internet is generally better which is essential for us as Digital Nomads
- The TV these days is often connected to the internet so we are given access to a strong media connection
- Staying in someone’s neighbourhood we are given the inside track on the best places to visit, to shop and to see
- We’ve always had pets, and when Makai was born we had two dogs, Makai loves the animals
3. How do you manage your working lives when travelling as a housesitting family?
As discussed, the internet is critical for our housesitting and travelling lifestyle. In order to fund this lifestyle we both need to work, and Makai needs to study. So good Wi-fi is pretty important for our housesitting family.
We do have a bit of a schedule Monday to Friday. Tracey will usually get up pretty early to get her work started, she has a regular stream of small projects at the moment that fits well with our lifestyle.
Makai and I will usually get up and work together on his education between 9am-12pm.
Homeschooling vs World Schooling
We have the benefit of Rob’s mum who was a primary school teacher for 30 years so we are in step with the local Canadian education district, and the specific curriculum for his age group in our province.
We don’t traditionally homeschool, however, we want him to be prepared to reenter school education if he ever wants to do that.
The programme we have is a general overview of the school curriculum for his school year and we supplement with other world schooling experiences that include a skills based selection of courses, and more culturally based learning :
- Online courses
- Field trips depending on where we are
- Live online math
- History with a cultural context for where we are
- Preparation of local foods
In the afternoon, we will usually set him up with a series of place relevant topics, either videos, or online games and studies, or even a visit. We always cover the Canadian history and we love giving him the history and insights to the places we are visiting.
For example, we were homesitting as a family in Mexico, and so we were able to visit the third largest pyramid in the world at Tlachihualtepetl in Puebla.
When we were housesitting in Turkey we all learned about the Ottoman Empire and it’s wide ranging influence. We now housesit on a regular basis in Britain and Spain and there is so much accessible history and culture in both countries that every family outing can be framed as a learning opportunity.
Child-centric and age appropriate learning
When he was younger we spent a lot of time focusing on his core skills and stayed very close to the curriculum. We knew that was essential. Now that he is older we give him a little more latitude allowing him to discover skills that interest him. It’s more child-centric today.
For example, he was keen to learn about how video games worked. So we found him an age appropriate platform which enabled him to create his own game environment so he could learn the basics of coding. There are lots of websites that provide excellent support like RaspberryPi to help with skill based learning.
The older he gets the less structured it is on the School-based learning and the more it is about learning from the world around us.
4. Do you share the responsibilities for the revenue you raise as you travel as Digital Nomads?
When we first started out we were travelling solely on savings. Our progression to earning our living online was a slow when we first started. If Rob had more work then I would work with Makai on his schooling.
Over tine we both developed ways of earning income online in the digital sphere. We try to stay as flexible as possible to ensure we are able to capture the work and deliver the projects between us.
Split of roles and responsibilities
Tracey has a regular reliable stream of small projects and income from a platform where she is registered.
Rob typically gets larger projects but not as frequently, people seek him out for his skills.
One of our biggest learnings in this process is that we always wanted to prioritise our passive income strategy.
We have a passion for building websites. Our strategy is to continue to build our passive income. So Rob manages our websites and the execution to ensure we grow our affiliate income.
If we had not focused on our multi-revenue streams we’d have returned home. We would have run out of savings pretty quickly.
For more defined roles Rob does all the travel arrangements. But we always decide as a family where we want to travel.
5. We love housesitting as a family
As a housesitting family we have been able to discover that we can structure our own individual lifestyle around our group family needs and interests.
We truly love housesitting for many reasons because it has influenced out travel lifestyle, how we learn about the world.
Even after all this time we still factor it in as part of our plan. Right now we are making enough money that we could rent or stay in an AirBnBs, in between our housesitting family assignments. However, we love housesitting especially because it allows us to make wonderful friends all over the world.
Making friends all over the world as trusted house sitters
When you travel for short breaks in new destinations all the time you don’t make such good friends. Housesitting is an intimate experience that allows you to learn about people in their context.
Now after five years as a housesitting family, we have made such wonderful friends with homeowners for whom we’ve sat, and people we have met along the way. We know the pets, their routines, the properties and how to care for them.
It helps us see the world in context, knowing people and where they live. We love being a housesitting family!
Our whole family loves the pets
While not all homeowners are keen to have us house sitting with a child, the majority of homeowners who have invited us into their homes are happy that we have a son. They can see that he loves to engage with and play with the pets, they get a lot of attention from Makai. He is high energy and the pets are usually high energy too. Makai always wants to get to know the pets, he tracks our regular housesits by the pets personalities!
Homeowners know that their pets will be entertained and engaged and well looked after.
Top Tips for Families thinking about Housesitting
- Don’t shy away from the fact that you have children – focus on the positive attributes and the benefits of children in a housesit
- Be persistent, don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed
- Prepare a good profile with lots of photos, a video so the homeowners can get to see you and hear you talking
- Look for housesits that are obviously family friendly
- Make the applications for your housesits very personal and appropriate for the assignment and for your housesitting family.
Once you start your journey as a housesitting family it gets easier and easier!
FURTHER READING ABOUT HOUSESITTING AND TRAVELLING IN SPAIN