How to Travel the World Rent Free

Since leaving our all-American life in 2013, with three kids in tow, my husband and I have spent time in 23 countries and counting. As housesitters, more than half of our time wandering the globe has been rent free, which saves us an average of $2,500 a month…approximately what our home in Seattle, with utilities, cost us.

Our first assignment was in Basilicata, Italy, tucked between the southern Apennines and the Mediterranean Sea. Our neighbor taught our family how to make pancetta on New Year’s Eve. Then there was the pizzeria we watched over during the off-season in the Alps, while the owner took a much deserved break. We often looked after businesses that were closed for the off-season and answered the phone or took queries as part of the arrangement.

I remember the apartment in Barcelona, Spain, that was for sale and felt desperately vacant—until we breathed life back into the echoing spaces… I remember the vulnerable grapevines in Aix-en-Provence that needed to be tucked in and watched over for any late winter frost… I remember the ritual of opening the shutters each morning at the villa we tended over a Tuscan winter. The ochre sun, as it hit the terracotta floors, bathed the house in a buttery light.

All of these diverse experiences came to us through housesitting.

While renting an apartment or home can give you more of a sense of place than a hotel, housesitting adds even more richness. Because you are literally stepping into someone’s home and community, real life starts immediately.

There is a housesitting opportunity to fit almost any lifestyle change you may be considering. Housesitting assignments are as diverse as the people offering their homes. Some are free in exchange for property responsibilities, such as pets and gardens. Some opportunities require payment for utilities. Others may pay a small salary for varied tasks such as booking customers in the off-season or making the occasional meal at a B&B.

The beauty of housesitting is that opportunities are available both on and off the beaten path. The savings we make allow us to spend more time in places, like the south of France or London, that would usually be out of budget for our family. Housesitting makes it not just possible but profitable as housing was the largest expense in our life before this journey.

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