Five things I’ve learned as a travelling house sitter

Confessions of a Globetrotting House Sitter: living up to canine expectations, bidding adieu to excess stuff, conquering travel jitters, maintaining family ties and living for today.
Lawrie with huskies in Maroochydore
Picture of Lawrie Masterson

Lawrie Masterson

Lawrie Masterson is an award-winning journalist from Melbourne Australia. In August 2018 he and his partner Kirsty Carter sold everything they couldn't fit into two suitcases, told their families not to wait up and embarked on an open-ended tour of the world.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

It’s a long time since I slept in my own bed. Come to think of it, I don’t have a bed. It was sold with the rest of my belongings before my partner Kirsty Carter I embarked on our life as full-time international house sitters.

Unfamiliar surrounds are just one aspect of this life to which we’ve had to adjust — and, mind you, they are usually quite nice, unfamiliar surrounds.

But it has been a big change and, looking back, there are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Be the person my dog thinks I am

I should always try to be the type of person the dog thinks I am. Dogs are the best, aren’t they? Always pleased to see you, trusting, usually not too demanding of your time, but just eager for your company. We’ve looked after dozens of dogs along our house sitting journey and loved them all. Feed ’em, clean up after ’em and make sure they have a warm place to sleep and they’ll think you’re even better. If only we could all live up to the image they must have of us.

Less stuff I don't miss

Possessions and an extensive wardrobe are not necessary. Right now, I own two pairs of shoes, one pair of which is on the way to oblivion. I have two pairs of respectable causal pants, half a dozen T-shirts and a vacuum-sealed bag with some stuff for colder climates. That’s it. I don’t own a car, books, artworks or collectables, let alone a house. I don’t miss them. House sitting has taught me I don’t need them. I can’t even remember what my previously extensive wardrobe looked like (well, apart from that one charcoal Armani jacket).

Travel anxiety not required

I don’t have to panic. (In case you’re wondering, travel anxiety is a real thing. Check this out if you want to know more.) Regardless of the situation, a panic attack is not going to solve or even improve it. So you might be stranded overnight at an airport in a strange city where you don’t even speak the language. Take a deep breath, then go and find a hotel for the night. Get online or on the phone, chat up the airlines and make sure you’re good to go tomorrow. It might cost a few extra dollars, but if you’re sensible you’ve already budgeted for little setback like this, and factored in extra time to get to your next house sit.

Family time

Family remains super-important. My mob is fairly extensive — four siblings, two sons and two grandkids. It’s always tough not seeing them for months on end while we travel the world house sitting, so it’s vital we stay in touch. Platforms such as WhatsApp and FaceTime have made this somuch easier and more pleasurable, so it is a matter of taking the time to pick up the phone or open the laptop. They have busy lives, too.

Live for today

Live for today. When you think about it, that’s all we have. You’ll never get yesterday back and it’s impossible to deal with tomorrow. House sitting can be an unusual way of life — and it’s probably not for everyone — and it helps to “stay in the moment”. Not to be too profound, but I read a Sanskrit proverb once that said yesterday was just a dream and tomorrow only a vision, but today well lived would make every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Happiness and hope — we can all do with those.

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