This post was last updated on June 20th, 2015
House Sitting is all the rage right now with travel bloggers and digital nomads who, like us, are trying to balance their penchant for wanderlust with wanting a few creature comforts. If you haven’t heard of house sitting yet, don’t worry—while it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon, it seems only recently that the craze has really caught on. Before we get into our experience of house sitting in the South of France, here is a quick explanation to get everyone on the same page:
What Is House Sitting:
Everyone loves a good vacation, right?! So do homeowners, and while they are away, they need trusted individuals to take care of their belongings and furry friends. In exchange for offering a bit of TLC and keeping things in order, you get free accommodation.
House sitting gigs can be found all around the world for all sorts of time frames, ranging from a few days to many months. If you’re a traveler with a flexible itinerary, then house sitting can be great as you not only get free accommodation, you also get to live like a local, enjoy the comforts of a home-away-from-home, and (often) take care of adorable pets.
House sitting isn’t for everyone. After all it is a job, which requires you to be respectful and responsible over another person’s possessions. You’ll have to follow certain house rules and routines that might limit your ability to go out and explore the surrounding region. And you never know what crazy mishaps might happen, which you’ll have to be prepared to deal with. But for the right person, house sitting is an amazing way to stay in incredible places for free.
House Sitting in the South of France
France actually wasn’t our first time house sitting; we also did it in Costa Rica last year. But we haven’t really talked about either experience, so we wanted to give you a quick inside look to what it’s really like to house sit.
We had two different house sitting gigs in France. The first one was in an adorable town called Azille, a short drive outside the popular tourist destination Carcassonne. We were watching over a house in the center of town with the sweetest pup we have ever met: Ralph.
Seriously though, Ralph had a temperament like we have never seen before. From the moment we first sat down on the couch, Ralph was there, in our laps, staring up at us with his lovable puppy eyes. And for the next ten days, that’s where Ralph pretty much stayed.
There were a few other tasks like watering the flowers and putting food out for the cat, but our primary job was to watch over Ralph, which we were more than happy to do. In exchange, we had the house as well as a car to use. Most of our days consisted of walking Ralph through the surrounding vineyards and taking day trips to nearby Carcassonne, Minerve or any of the hundreds of family-owned wineries in the area. It was kind of like heaven.
We were also very lucky that our visit to Azille corresponded with the town’s annual feria, five days of music, food, drinking, dancing and bull running. When there was live Sevillana dancing and fresh paella, it took a second to remember if we were in France or southern Spain!
Unfortunately we lost most of our good photos from this house sit as they were still on Dan’s camera when it was stolen in Paris. But you get the idea from these iPhone photos.
So that was our first house sit in France. The only downside was having to say goodbye to Ralph as we really did become quite attached to him by the end of our stay!
After Azille we spent a week in Paris before our next house sitting gig began. This time we were headed to the other south of France, a short drive outside of Bordeaux.
This time we were tasked with watching Buster, Rosie and Stevie Wonder (a blind cat). The house and garden were stunning, surrounded by vineyards and not much else. Luckily the home owners were also kind enough to let us use their car, allowing us to hop into town to go to the supermarket or drive around the French countryside.
Because we were watching two large dogs this time, it wasn’t as easy to have them sit on our lap and go for day trips. This meant we spent most of our time actually at the house, doing a bit of writing, playing with the dogs and enjoying the spectacular scenery. Of course, we did make it to Bordeaux our last day for a few wine tastings. There was no way we could get that close to the iconic wine region and not sample a glass or two.
So what was it really like to house sit for a month in the South of France?
You can probably tell by now that we thought it was pretty amazing. The first house sitting job allowed us an inside look at village life, with the unique experience of taking part in feria and using our time to go on a few day trips with Ralph. The second house sitting job was an ultimate retreat. Surrounded by nothing but French countryside and with three loveable pets to keep us company, it was rejuvenating and relaxing. (Not to mention the house was seriously beautiful.)
As we mentioned before, house sitting isn’t for everyone. Not everyone would be entertained by going for long walks through vineyards and feeling confined to staying at home all day long. But for us, working house sitting into our travels is a welcome relief. We already have our next gig set for New Years Eve in NYC. That should be a bit different from the South of France…
How to House Sit:
There are a variety of websites out there that match potential house sitters with homeowners. Typically these websites have a small annual fee attached, but the initial price tag is worth it for the long-term savings. We use the following two sites:
TrustedHousesitters: Annual Fee: $89.88. This is the largest and fastest growing site. As a result, you’re competing with a lot of other eligible sitters for the same job. (Jobs are often filled within the same day of posting.) But there are also many, many more jobs available, giving you a bit more flexibility in location and dates.
MindMyHouse: Annual Fee: $20. This site is smaller with most jobs in North America, Mexico, Costa Rica and Europe. If you’re not sure if house sitting is right for you, the small fee makes this a great starter option, but based on our success rate, you’ll definitely want to sign up for TrustedHousesitters if you are serious about finding a job.
If you’re looking for more resources on how to best fill out your profile, apply for jobs, and correspond with homeowners, then consider the following resources:
Hecktic Travels has an eBook that gives the secrets behind their extreme housesitting success.
Globetrotter Girls also has an ultimate guide to house sitting, as well as a ton of resources on her blog.
So what do you think? Have you ever house sat before? Does this sound like a resource you would like to add to your travel hacking arsenal?
Trusted Housesitters is an affiliate link. We recommend them because we used them personally to housesit in France.