How to start keeping pets and traveling the world with free accommodation | Tech US News

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Before I moved from Seattle to Florida, my friend asked if I wanted to take a two-month hiatus to stay at her house in Albuquerque and pet her three-legged cat, Mocha.

Two months without rent or bills? Punctuation

She and her husband arranged all their pet care through an app, so they asked me to sign up. It cost $100, and even though I felt it was a casual deal between friends, it would save me at least $3,000 over the two months, so I complied without complaint. That little request, that $100 investment, that app would revive and reinflate my life so dramatically over the next half year that I would eventually mark the era with a tattoo.

It’s not like I’ve never heard of pet sitting. I don’t know why I had never seriously considered it before, why it wasn’t until I went through the app that it seemed like a real option.

I saw Airbnb, but with pet faces instead of prices. Each listing included pictures of dogs or cats, goats or chickens, and houses, with a description of responsibilities and comments. For my part, it asked for a general description of who I am, an explanation of why I wanted to live in the house, then my experience with animals, age, when I was available, and the countries I would be interested in visiting. Although I chose any country, most of the places are posted from places where people actually have real vacation time, like the UK and Australia.

I packed my stuff into an $81/month storage unit and flew to New Mexico, where I began an experience that not only saved me a ton of travel, but allowed me to live. I enjoyed the open-ended budget and adventure so much that I kept going, completing more than 17 pets and spending 134 free nights in other people’s houses, from Santa Fe to Seattle to London.

You could save a lot of money with pet sitting; if you need to pay off debt, if you need to free yourself from the pressure of bills or living expenses, or if you’re new and have no other way to pay for accommodation, it could be for you. Pet sitting can be a perfect option for single travelers, who are often financially penalized for traveling alone. They have to pay per single occupancy. They don’t divide Uber. It’s good to take a break. Also, when you are alone, an extra security measure makes you feel more secure. I didn’t worry about anything while I was with, say, a 135-pound Newfoundland named Dozer in Sante Fe.

Take advantage of the trust economy

There is a currency that beats under the world of the house, and it is the economy of trust. To thrive within it, leverage what’s called your reputational capital. Wonder how anyone knows you’re not an ax murderer. Do you have social networks with followers you can link to? Do you have a job with a high trust factor, such as nursing or teaching? Or maybe you have a connection with a trusted organization that you can promote. Don’t be shy about selling yourself and your confidence.

Part of being trustworthy is being honest about what you can and cannot do. I love horses, but I wouldn’t pet a horse alone. It wouldn’t be fair if someone could come who knows how to take care of them. (Now an alpaca, I’d try.) If you’ve never cared for a pet, just be honest. A family still lets me take care of pygmy goats on an island in Seattle, no experience necessary!

Don’t forget that as much as they trust you, you also trust them. Get their full name and search on Google. Do your minimal due diligence. I like to find people on LinkedIn or Facebook if possible.

Meet in person or at least by video beforehand and ask the hosts about previous sessions to gauge how easy they are to please. Ask them what is most important to them in a pet sitter. You can get a sense of whether they are calm or tense. I’ve found that people who open their homes are generally super easy going. They were my kind of people.

Get into the game by setting up notifications

I’m very important in my approach, so I don’t have push alerts for almost anything other than pet care posts. You can get notified when a home you’ve favorited adds dates or when a listing arrives that meets the conditions you’re looking for. I have a few searches set up for places I want to go: Hawaii, Colombia, New Zealand, and Banff, as well as times I know I want to travel. It often comes down to who responds the fastest, so you have to be on it.

To help me be one of the first people to apply, I wrote a quick cover letter in the notes app on my phone with fill-in-the-blanks to customize it for each session. You want to give yourself an edge, but be sure to add details about why you’re the best person for that particular session. Mention anything you have in common with the owners or experience you have with that type of pet.

Set Your Pet Up For Success (Communication Is Key)

Each pet is a little different, so once chosen, make sure to set expectations. Many people offered to eat the food in their cupboard or fridge, which was lovely, especially if they had a quart of M&M’s in the pantry. Make sure it’s cool before snacking. Talk about everything from how long you’ll walk the dog to how often you’ll brush the cat. Be sure to read the written instructions beforehand so you can ask questions before you travel.

Go further during your sitting

No host has given me less than five stars because I tried so hard. I washed the sheets, cleaned more than I had to, left things better than I found them. I remember the thought going through my mind that I wanted them to think I was a good pet sitter. And in that I realized that I became a good pet sitter.

There’s nothing more reassuring than seeing your pet having a good time, so take lots of pet photos and send them along. It seems like an extra service and a pleasant surprise, and the owners often appreciate it very much. But make sure you ask. A British couple we sat down with really wanted to relax and not hear about their four wild kids.

Be prepared for when things go wrong

What if something bad happens? The app I used has a 24/7 vet advice line, and the written instructions ask pet owners to leave you their own vet’s contact information. Owners often left the number of neighbors and close friends as well. Don’t be afraid to lead the safety conversation. In one house I asked where the fire extinguisher was and they realized they didn’t have one!

Keep some savings for things like repairing the shower bar if you hang your toiletry bag on it and it crashes to the floor. (In the end, they told me not to worry.) But other things might not go to plan. At one point, a pet passed away before I got there and my services were not needed. So I had to figure out my own accommodation.

Consider pet sitting near the house first

For the past few years in Seattle, I’ve been priced out of the type of trip I used to take when the city was less expensive: the weekend trip to the mountains. I regret now that all that time I could have been looking for pet care, which would have been free. Now, where I live in Florida, I have a keen eye for beach houses.

Isn’t it, you might ask, a little weird to live in other people’s houses? Yes, a little! But he had a bigger goal that mattered more. After two years of quarantine, I wanted an adventure. After a decade of living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, I wanted to spend money. Yes, I’ve lived in strangers’ houses. I also greatly increased my payments on my credit cards, up to what I had been paying in rent. And instead of paying my electric bill, I took cooking classes. Instead of paying for Wi-Fi, I ate blue corn pinon pancakes in coffee shops and bought handmade earrings and scarves in small shops in Old Town. i lived a little It was all worth any weirdness I might have felt about being in someone’s shower.

The tattoo I ended up getting to remember my experience, I got it in London: a lit match at an angle, as if about to light something. After being locked in place for so long, I lost the ability to see that things could surprise again. It’s a reminder that you never know when something new will happen. Maybe you can even surprise yourself and find yourself at someone’s house, a new furry friend on your lap, a new view out the window.

Paulette Perhach is a freelance writer and writing coach covering creativity, personal finance, business, life design, and travel.

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