The housesitting lifestyle appeals to different types of people. On HouseSitMatch we have a wide range of sitters from retired and semi-retired professionals who have a lifetime of experience caring for homes and pets in exchange for free accommodation as they travel, and we have an equally wide spectrum of digital nomads who housesit full time taking their sitting responsibilities very seriously and their careers with them wherever they go. Increasingly, we have a growing number of young people adopting a housesitting lifestyle before they settle down to careers or jobs, caring for other people’s homes and pets in exchange for the opportunity to discover a new part of the country or further afield. One of our new housesitters, Nick Caley, has started writing for us about his ‘Boomerang generation’ and the options they consider before returning home to the fold.
Why the ‘Boomerang Generation’..?
We know the boomerang for its remarkable ability to return to the thrower. They have been used for thousands of years in a number of ways: as entertainment, as a weapon, and most notably, as a tool to hunt birds and small animals. The skillfully tossed boomerang that meets its prey, however, does not return to the sender. As a recent anthropology graduate I can’t help but notice how the indigenous tool seems to have become a symbol for my own and many of my peers’ situation. As another academic year ends in a flurry of rushed essays and exams, a fresh batch of graduates will leave their campuses in the hope of finding work and a new place to call home. Most of them will be successful claiming greater independence and responsibilities for themselves, though many will not. The “boomerang generation,” like the eponymous projectile, will return to their origin – the parental home.
In the UK, 49% of all 20-24 year olds lived in the parental home in 2013 (ONS), many of them having recently finished a degree or related training course. Comparably, somewhere around 3.3 million 20-34 year olds lived with their parents during the same year (ONS). Rather than seeing the phenomenon of the boomerang generation as a problem, or as a ‘bad shot’ of sorts as the metaphor implies, I’d like to think of it instead as an opportunity. As early adopters of the offerings of “the Sharing Economy ” such as HouseSitMatch, there is potential for people in our situation not only to turn this situation to our advantage, but to do so in a way that benefits home and pet owners too.
Ask a recent graduate just why they decided to return to the nest and you’ll get various answers. In the UK, it is most often explained by hefty house rental prices and limited access to mortgages, not to mention the limited social housing available. Combined with the steep increase of student debt, insecure jobs for graduates, and the shrinking of the public sector, many young adults find themselves in an economic situation worse than that of their parents. Of course, I’m speaking here for those people, like myself, lucky enough in the first place to have had a university education. The question on our minds is “what next?” Moving back in with mum and/or dad is not without benefits. The seduction of abundant food, central heating and familiarity can be strong, as can the chance to live rent-free! But what does that mean for independence and responsibility?
And why the housesitting lifestyle..?
And what about travel? For those with itchy feet – with a hunger to travel and desire to encounter the unfamiliar – finding themselves without an income and anchored to the family home can feel like limbo. Even with enough money to do so, many recent graduates could not justify travel in this scenario; there is pressure to stay productive and to keep learning. Traditionally, recent graduates who are unemployed cannot have it all. Though a little imagination belies what some people take to be inevitable. HouseSitMatch users already know that there are more ways to travel affordably than the traditional plane, train, hotel and hostel routes.
The housesitting lifestyle is the savvy option for the boomerang generation. Obviously there is massive appeal to live rent-free and discover new places, though it is undoubtedly all more than just a holiday there is a duty, a real sense of purpose to housesitting. With its’ own set of responsibilities, house and pet sitting offers the chance to learn and demonstrate the skills that employers want such as the discipline to commit to routine pet care, management of multiple pets, home and garden maintenance according to a homeowner’s wishes.
The housesitting lifestyle offers a space somewhere between work and travel
The housesitting lifestyle occupies a space somewhere between work and travel, combining elements of both without the respective inconvenience and costs. It brings together homeowners and housesitters, establishing trust and reliability. Most importantly for recent graduates, it is a way of avoiding stagnation. Perhaps the most common complaint of people in our situation is that employers don’t seem to give us a chance to show what we can do. In the old and hackneyed reasoning, one struggles to find work because of a lack of experience, and similarly, one struggles to become experienced for lack of a job. The housesitting lifestyle can break this cycle delivering a demonstration of responsible handling of home and pet care assignments, independence and the discipline to work to please the homeowner.
And so for the recent graduate who is tired of hearing about poor job prospects, about how to become more professional and settling immediately for long-term employment (for we are bombarded by this on a regular basis), housesitting is a refreshing notion. Whether as a permanent digital nomad or as a more casual traveler, it can ease the pressure of that “what next?” question, or, in its increasingly uncomfortable and familial form: “what are you going to do now that you’ve finished university..?” At its core, housesitting is a way of buying time without wasting time, in fact one can find practical ways to be productive and cost efficient while searching for that best next step after university.
It is easy to criticise young adults living at home. Two typical headlines, “the Boomerang generation are forcing their parents into debt” and “millenials get cosy at home,” appear high up on the list of search engine results, echoing the stigma surrounding people in this position. Today, recent graduates do not have to subscribe to such a pessimistic outlook. Those in want of work and a place to live are not a hindrance, their time and effort is a resource yet to be used. Through house and pet sitting, we might be able to rethink what the “boomerang generation” means. Rather than returning solemnly home, limited and unspent, anyone considering the housesitting lifestyle are more likely to travel whilst they search for a job. Some even make a living out of it. For an unemployed recent graduate to find themselves flung across the globe to be a steward of someone’s home and pets – in, say, Australia for example – it is clear that they belong to a different kind of boomerang generation. Perhaps a boomerang generation with more options offered online via the ‘Sharing economy’.