Housesitting in Andalusia in Spain. Photo by Jessica Holmes

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I’m watching the sun rise slowly over the Andalusian hilltops, hues of orange, pink and purple spread across the pale blue dawn sky. It’s going to be another beautiful day; no weather forecast is required.

With my eyes, I trace the ridges and crests of the hills that surround us, noting the patchy dark-coloured scrub and lonely trees that dot them, the dry orange earth stretching in between them, trying to understand the landscape.

It’s only when my husband hands me a coffee which smells as divinely alien as the view in front of me looks that I realise I’m not dreaming, we’re actually here, housesitting in a tiny town in Spain.

Our Journey from Conventional Life to Endless Adventure

Jess with sausage dog housesitting in Spain. Photo by Thomas Holmes
Jess with sausage dog housesitting in Spain. Photo by Thomas Holmes

Neither of us had ever gotten on with conventional life. We had been restless in our early twenties; travelling as far and wide as we could together. A two-year backpacking trip that took in 12 countries and 4 continents propelled us towards the inevitable realisation that we wanted to see as much of the world as possible.

Returning to our home town, we felt it was expected that we would “settle down”, and so we did. We both got jobs. Tom studied to become an accountant and I joined the police. We bought a house, got a cat and got married. We were happy, but something niggled at us.

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That something grew and grew until we realised that where we were wasn’t where we wanted to be forever. Over a summer of lockdowns, isolation and solitude in the COVID-19 pandemic, we allowed our dreams to come to the surface and had many conversations about the countries we wanted to visit, animals we wanted to see in the wild and conservation efforts we’d like to help with.

It felt mischievous in a way, as though even in just dreaming of it we were rebelling against what society expected. We discussed how we wanted to travel more, possibly forever, and not to be tied to one location. We knew that when the world reopened, the time would come.

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From Detective to Digital Nomad

Jess with dogs whilst housesitting in UK. Photo by Thomas Holmes
Jess with dogs whilst housesitting in UK. Photo by Thomas Holmes

The problem was that I couldn’t do my job remotely. Tom had been successful in finding a company where he could work fully online, but police work can’t be done remotely, especially investigating major crimes.

In the midst of the pandemic, I’d landed my dream job as a Major Crime Investigation Officer – the police staff equivalent of a detective, in the Major Crime Team. I was investigating the most serious offences there are; sudden death and murders, and I was really enjoying it. I know that sounds odd. And trust me, it’s nothing like what you see on TV. With a surname like Holmes, what can you expect?

I had a bit of an identity crisis whilst continuing my extraordinary work. I felt like Jekyll and Hyde, two different people, split right down the middle. Did I want to be a strong career woman or did I want to travel the world? Did I want to settle down or did I want to run free? Would I work long hours or would I see the sun rise over the Pyramids of Giza? Would I stay in my home town forever?

I felt so torn. But then I remembered that I wasn’t discarding the other in choosing one thing. I could always go back to policing, but one day, those Pyramids wouldn’t be there. I knew that deep down, I belonged on the road.

Housesitting: Our Key to Sustainable and Flexible World Travel

Housesitting in Rutland, UK, looking after a fox red Labrador. Photo by Jessica Holmes
Housesitting in Rutland, UK, looking after a fox red Labrador. Photo by Jessica Holmes

We were already aware of housesitting as a concept as we’d met a family in China in 2016 who were doing it to facilitate their travels, but it was through word of mouth and not a website. There are now several websites and apps that enable housesitting, the biggest being Trusted Housesitters, Nomador, MindMyHouse, Housesitters UK (which also has America, Canada, NZ and Australia-specific sites) and many more.

The website we use is Trusted Housesitters, as although the annual sign-up fee is slightly higher than the rest, it’s got the most sites available worldwide, and the app is very user-friendly.

Some websites, such as Mindahome, are great for those who are travelling with their own pets. There is a filter on the website to see if the homeowners allow you to bring your pet with you, which makes searching and applying for housesits a lot quicker and easier. On all of the websites, you can filter by location and animal type, so if you’re not experienced at looking after exotic animals, you can stick to the regular domestic types.

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Embracing Full-Time Housesitting

In between housesits in Ksamil, Albania. Photo by Thomas Holmes
In between housesits in Ksamil, Albania. Photo by Thomas Holmes

Housesitting allows you to travel the world at your own pace – you can pick shorter housesits and hop around more if that’s your thing, or you can look for longer sits and get to know an area better.

We tend to look for housesits that are at least a month long. This allows us to unpack properly, explore the local area, and travel on a greener spectrum: slower, over land and less frequently. It also gives us more stability as we both now work remotely and find that we get into our groove more if we have longer in each place.

After the lockdown restrictions were lifted, we began doing housesits close to our hometown—short, local weekends away that cost us nothing. We love animals, so the addition of pet care was no issue for us.

In doing this, we built up lots of good reviews, which then made securing sits easier in the long run. In the background, our discussions of our love of travel and how we could travel whilst we worked remotely continued.

And then, a lightbulb moment. We realised that housesitting could be the perfect solution. But we’d never heard of anyone doing it full-time. Was it a thing? Could we do it? We decided that we could. I quit my job in Major Crime, we rented out our house, and we booked six months’ worth of back-to-back housesits to begin our new travelling lifestyle.

18 Months of Housesitting Success

That was 18 months ago, and since then, housesitting has taken us all over the world. We feel freer than ever before and are able to save money as we work remotely as we have no rent, household or utility bills to pay. We’ve looked after pets of all different shapes and sizes, from cats and dogs to sheep and ferrets.

There have been easy housesits and difficult housesits, rural mansions and city apartments, pets that we’ve fallen in love with and others who have been a pain in the bum. My book, The Housesitter’s Guide to the Galaxy, has loads of information, tips and advice on how to housesit successfully. It may just change your life.

We’re finally doing it—long-term, sustainable, and budget-friendly travel and I can’t see us stopping any time soon.

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Author Bio: Jessica Holmes has always had a passion for travel and a strong connection to nature and animals. She found housesitting, which led her to quit her dream job as a police investigator and travel around the world full-time. Her book about her journey and guide to being a successful housesitter; The Housesitter’s Guide to the Galaxy, is available on Amazon and Waterstones online. Her blog documents her travels and housesit escapades. Follow her on Instagram @hitchedhikingandhousesitting for inspiration on how you could also travel by housesitting. The “Hitched Hiking and Housesitting” podcast is available on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Podcasts. 

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