For serial housesitters Denny and Eden Rudin, gone is their hectic, working-world life in the U.S., with car and mortgage payments and high medical costs. “With housesitting, we find it’s actually cheaper than our life was back in Arizona. Plus, we get to see new places,” they say.
“I never imagined I’d be staying in the homes of people I didn’t know, taking care of their pets and valuables in exchange for free accommodation,” says Denny. “If someone had mentioned it to me five years ago, I would have thought they were crazy.”
Back in Arizona, life was both sweet and fast-paced. Denny co-owned a stock car track, and Eden was the owner of a local ice-cream shop. So when the entrepreneurial couple decided to travel, it seemed natural that they would stumble upon housesitting.
While looking at rental property in Granada, Nicaragua, they heard of another expat who needed a housesitter. They accepted the assignment and for the next year lived rent free throughout Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
“Housesitting allows us to see places off the beaten path, by living in a real neighborhood,” says Eden. “Housesitting has taught me to appreciate the little things about a new location. Even exploring the local grocery stores is fascinating.
“We estimate we’re saving $10,000 to $12,000 per year or more by not paying rent,” she says. Their monthly budget now is about $1,500, which includes travel to and from housesits.
In 2014, Denny and Eden decided to retire to Belize; they had vacationed there some years before. But soon after settling into life there, they visited the colonial city of Granada.
“We fell in love with Granada,” says Eden. “There were great restaurants, nonstop cultural events, and plenty of social activities, too. Denny and I enjoy the free concerts in the park, as well as large expat gatherings that happen weekly. And since Nicaragua allows visitors to stay for 90 days at a time with only a tourist visa, that made life easier, too.”
When they do get the urge for some retail therapy, they simply hop on a bus and within an hour are in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. There they can find large shopping malls, movie theaters, and even massive members-only warehouse clubs. “And to think the bus ride costs us just a few bucks each,” says Eden.
With their heart now set on Granada, they went back to Belize, sold everything except what would fit into a few suitcases, and headed to their new home. “We carry all that we own with us, making it easy to get around,” says Eden. “There’s no need to carry many clothes. Instead, I have just five outfits, and when something wears out, I get to buy a new one.”
Eden spends her free time blogging, researching their next housesit, networking with other expats, and learning Spanish. She says, “We both eat better now and our stress levels are down.” She’s lost 15 pounds since selling the ice-cream business. Denny enjoys painting and writing, and has written a few fiction books that he now sells online.
The Rudins plan to continue their nomadic, housesitting lifestyle until Denny is too old to get around (he’s 73) or it’s no longer fun. They are headed to Europe on an inexpensive repositioning cruise out of Panama that will leave them in Portugal. (“For around $350 each we can enjoy a mini-vacation on the ship that includes both food and unlimited alcohol.”) They have lined up housesits in Portugal, Spain, and Morocco that will take them into the fall.
Since Denny no longer “does” winters, they will find housesits in warmer climates after that, moving to Asia and beyond. “Travel has taught us self-realization, given us inspiration, and filled us with even more curiosity,” says Denny. “We love our new lifestyle a lot and have no plans to stop.”
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