Rewired not Retired by Chris Don

My wife Caroline and I have ended up spending 4-6 months of every year overseas since my retirement. She found the website www.trustedhousesitters.com (annual fee is R1690 – the code RAF52854 will give you a 25% discount) which, when you join and set up a profile as a sitter, will give daily updated access to hundreds of houses/flats/estates needing sitters worldwide. You can then filter down to the country, area and dates you are interested in and up will pop all the relevant properties to peruse and then you have the option to apply for the ones that interest you and thus begins a dialogue with the homeowners who sometimes request a Skype call, phone call or email with you. There are generally animals to look after ranging from dogs and cats to birds and fish and sometimes there are sits available on small holdings with horses, chickens etc. There is no payment either way, so the owner gets their property and animal/s looked after and sitter gets free and mostly comfortable accommodation.

Our experience with Trusted House Sitters has been very favourable. It has allowed us to explore UK (up to now) and we have travelled the length and breadth of the country from Cornwall up to Scotland, saving a fortune on accommodation costs but it’s also a more relaxing way to travel as you can unpack, live like a local, meet the neighbours, cook at home (if you choose) and relax for part of the day ‘at home’ with the animals. It is so good to have an excuse to walk a dog and explore the neighbourhood!

You will need to rent a car in England as many properties are in country villages and we also joined “English Heritage” or “National Trust” (about GBP45 per person per year) and can then visit, for free, over 1000 sites including castles, houses, gardens, museums etc. Most sits are for about 2 weeks which allows us to get to know an area and catch up with school/university/relatives/other friends who live in the area. It is possible to find longer sits but we enjoy the variety of planning a house-sitting journey and moving on to see a new area.

We have been lucky enough to sit in central London in a beautiful townhouse in Sloane Square, walking the dogs in Hyde Park. We also looked after one chilled cat in a picturesque Cornish village giving us unlimited time to explore. Another sit was in a historic cottage near Glastonbury and there we enjoyed daily dog walks on surrounding farmlands.

We looked after an aviary of birds in a village in Kent which only took us an hour to feed and water in the mornings again leaving loads of free time and sometimes you look after an animal that gets into your heart and you know you have to get back there again in the future.

We have explored Scotland doing several lovely sits, one in Edinburgh during the festival which was lucky. We hope to begin some sitting in and around Europe, thinking of France where our daughter lives but the opportunities are endless – America, Australia, Far East, Scandinavia. I’ve even seen the odd house in Cape Town coming up on the trusted house-sitting profile! Retirement really need not be boring.

[Note: Chris and Caroline live in a gated complex in Cape Town and can lock up and go. A friend comes to check on their home and drives the car from time to time]