Interviews with Housesitters, Life of adventure

Housesitting in America – Liesbet & Mark

In my series “Interviews with Housesitters”, I will be introducing you to various people who live life differently via slow travel and housesitting.

Liesbet and I have been following each other for a while now, well, since I started getting involved with the Blogging Community.  I have thoroughly enjoyed our interactions and have found Liesbet very informative, fun and a straight talker, a personality trait I find a breath of fresh air.  Then if you are like me you start reading more about her travelling life you too will be inspired at what these two have achieved and enjoyed as a team.

Meet Liesbet and Mark

Mark and Liesbet in Tahiti_edited

Liesbet was born and raised in Belgium but calls herself a world citizen.

Since being a teenager, her two passions have been travel and writing. That’s mainly what she has been doing since her graduation as a teacher, many years ago. Her explorations backpacking and camping led her to many parts of the world and into the arms of her American husband Mark.

With him, she continued her adventures by truck camper, sailboat, and camper van. The closest they’ve ever come to settling down is choosing a lifestyle of house and pet sitting in North America. She is in the process of writing a memoir about the last decade of her unconventional life. Her blog Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary reports on her writing journey, travels, housesits and expense reports.

What made you chose housesitting as a way of life?

After my husband, Mark, and I sailed full-time on our 35ft catamaran for eight years, while maintaining an income, we were pretty exhausted. We decided to sell the boat in Tahiti and return to the United States, we but didn’t want to settle. A friend had told us about house and pet sitting when we visited him in New Zealand six months earlier, so we decided to give that a try in the US. It turned out to be the perfect lifestyle for us. We enjoy and appreciate living all over the country, rent-free, while taking care of dogs, sightseeing during the weekends, and being able to do our work in comfort.

What was the process you went through to become a housesitter?

I signed up for three house sitting sites, created an attractive profile with dog-loving photos, collected a few “character references” from friends and family, started the first housesit close by to gain experience, a 5-star review and a “real” reference, and launched into full-time house and pet sitting, first in New England, then out west.

How long have you been housesitting?

Almost three years.

For yourself, what are the positives and negatives to housesitting?

Positives:

Being able to love, cuddle, walk, and spoil dogs without owning one, work and live in a comfortable and convenient environment, not spending money on accommodation, meeting interesting people, exploring new areas every time we move, having the ability to get to know places in-depth.

Negatives:

For us, there is only one negative: we don’t have a social life. While living and traveling by sailboat and camper creates like-minded communities to be a part of, our current social life happens mostly online. Unless one of our friends moves through the area where we have a sit, which has happened on a few occasions. We would like to house sit internationally one day, but the big negative then will be the high cost for plane tickets and possibly car rentals.

What do you look for when choosing your next housesit?

Since we both work from home, the fast and reliable internet is our primary requirement. The area has to be somewhat attractive, and we avoid “Trump territory”. We also ignore listings that require a lot of extra work (more than the usual pet care, cleanup, watering of the plants and standard yard work), because we are busy enough with our jobs. Since my husband is allergic to cats, we don’t apply to sits with indoor cats. We try to get to know the homeowners a bit via email and a video Skype call before we commit, to make sure there are no red flags.

Do you prefer long term or short term sits?  The pros and cons are?

Long-term sits.

After a decade+ of traveling, we were pretty burnt out when it came to moving frequently. Once settled in a place, we like to be able to enjoy the area, the dogs, and the home for a while. Plus, once our electronics are installed, and we know the lay of the land, it’s comfortable and enjoyable to be in the same place for a while. I don’t see any cons about long-term sitting unless you pick this lifestyle to travel a lot and desire to see many places in a short amount of time.

In the past, when we still had our Toyota Prius, we sometimes took short-term sits to fill gaps between house sits. We never stayed in a hotel or paid for accommodation those first eighteen months.

What website do you use?   Or have you developed your own?

I have a “sitting” section on my blog that showcases our profile, reviews, and posts about our house-sitting experiences. The same profile and photos are listed on a few websites as well. We started with House Sitters America, Mind My House and Trusted House Sitters. Then, when seeing an attractive sit on House Carers, we signed up for that service as well. Last year, we canceled our membership with THS and more recently with House Carers. As we plan to combine travel and house sitting in the near future, the two remaining sites we belong to offer enough choice.

When not housesitting, has your accommodation changed over time?

When we started our house and pet sitting lifestyle in 2015, all our belongings fit in the back of our car. We managed to string house sits together, with only a few small gaps. Those days, we either prolonged the last house sit a bit, stayed with family on the East Coast, or crashed with friends.

One year ago, Mark and I bought a camper van, which gives us security in between house sits and a permanent roof above our heads. During the weekends, we have taken it camping in the areas of our sits, and soon it will be our “official” home on wheels.

What’s one piece of advice you would share with someone who was contemplating their first housesit?

House and pet sitting is based on trust, respect, and common sense.

If you are a responsible, caring, and attentive person interested in this exchange, you can do it. Communication skills, honesty, and a love for animals are a must as well. Once you create an attractive profile and gather some experience (represented in positive reviews), you’re off to a good start. Before you commit to any sits, I highly recommend you have a video Skype call (or at least a phone call) in addition to email exchanges, to make sure you’re on the right page with the homeowners.

Have fun!

 

Social media links:

Liesbet’s current blog: www.roamingabout.com

Liesbet’s sailing blog (2007 – 2015): www.itsirie.com

Liesbet’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/liesbet.collaert

Housesitting in America

78 thoughts on “Housesitting in America – Liesbet & Mark”

  1. Hi Terri! Thanks for swinging by here on Suzanne’s site. For some reason, I don’t see your comment here, but I received it in my inbox and the text above my reply says “Leave a reply to Terri Webster Schrandt”, so I assume WordPress will fix itself at some point. 🙂

    I hope we get to meet again in the near future. Maybe this fall/winter in the San Diego area? Tough to make plans for us now, but a winter in Southern California, Arizona and Baja California sounds mighty nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Liesbet and Mark are such interesting people (hi!) and I have had the pleasure of meeting them both as well as seeing Liebset in San Diego while she was housesitting last winter. I admire their lifestyle and their experiences are always wonderful to read!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So interesting and thought provoking too, to hear of different ways of living. Just as I am writing this I am interrupted by the sound of a donkey braying loudly outside the window of our van! We are just part time van travellers, but becoming increasingly restless and encouraged by the reports of all you wonderful bloggers. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment. The bloggers I have come to know are a wonderful supportive bunch and that includes Liesbet. Great that we are all giving you more encouragement to get out and explore this beautiful world we live in. Enjoy your motorhoming it is a great way to travel.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That’ll be a fun experience! Trains in Europe are much more efficient and organized than here in the US. But, this is the first time we haven’t had an email from Amtrak telling us that our train will leave late. So, we are still on schedule. Two more hours to go until take-off. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting to find a blog just about house sitting. My husband and I house sit too, but our situation is a little more unique than most. When we aren’t traveling by sailboat or van we come back to the neighborhood where we used to own a house and spend 4 or 5 months in that one neighborhood moving from house to house taking care of pets. Usually, our sits are short term – a week or two, but we are starting to get longer sits. Right now we are spending 5 weeks in the house we used to own taking care of a sweet cat while her owners are traveling in Ireland.

    One of the cool things about house sitting it the symbiotic relationship of it all – the house sitter enables the homeowner to travel at the same time allowing the house sitter to travel and experience new places in a slightly different way!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Duwan! Your situation is quite unique, as it is like coming home, over and over again, when you return to your old neighborhood. How nice to then reconnect with animals and people! The “funny” thing is that we will actually have to do the same, next time my husband and I visit my home country. Since my parents sold their house a month ago and will move to a one-bedroom apartment soon, we have to house and pet sit on our future visits. And, when in Belgium, we will socialize with friends and family there. 🙂

      I agree about the symbiosis, but I hadn’t looked at it like that before. I do remember feeling a twinge of envy when some home owners leave on their vacation, wishing I could go on a vacation as well, as house and pet sitting has never been a holiday for us (we work from home). But, we do savor all those weekends in different places.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Liesbet, for sharing your thoughts and tips on housesitting. Good to see you here.
    Hi Suzanne – I’ve been following Liesbet’s blog for a while. Great to be connected to your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It all sounds like great fun, doesn’t it, and it’s easy to see the advantages. I do know that both Liesbet and Mark work hard at balancing the budget and ‘staying afloat’ 🙂 🙂 Thanks for showcasing them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And, that part will become even trickier now, Jo, as we have made another change to our lives, which I will report on later. Life, and however we want to live it seems to revolve about balances and compromises. 🙂 Thanks for hopping over here, and I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Very interesting. In fact on our TV this week they interviewed a couple who have been house sitting there way around the world for years. Sounds like a fabulous way to see the world. Happy travels and thankyou for stopping by my blog this week. It was great to meet you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. More and more people seem to live an alternative lifestyle these days and the media is picking up on it. I have sailing friends who recently were interviewed on a TV program called Today. I don’t watch TV, so am not too involved, but on social media, you see one news article after another about sailors, house sitters, people in vans, “leaving everything behind and setting out on an adventure”.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Liesbet! Good to see you on Suzanne’s blog. I love the idea of house and pet sitting and have just had a small taste of that experience in Mexico (the hardest part was saying goodbye to my temporary kitty). I don’t think we would ever consider doing it permanently but, after reading your and Suzanne’s blogs, a whole new world of travel possibilities has opened up for me. I hope you and Mark get back to our area one of these days so we can see you again and spend time swapping stories.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Janis! I’m so glad you had a wonderful time in Mexico. I hear you about the sad need to say goodbye to the animals. In our past, however, we usually had the next sit lined up, so we could hop from dog(s) to dog(s) without missing the furry company. It hasn’t been until recently, during and after our last pet-free house sit that we really started missing pets. And, we still are…

      We hope to be back in Southern California in the fall or winter, and meet up with you and Paul (and others). We plan to stay ahead of the cold winter this year. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Your post reminds me of the one time I tried housesitting for a coworker in my brief time between leaving the convent and getting married. I lived in a small studio apartment at the time and she thought I might appreciate a full home — and simply asked that I water her plants. I was excited to do so! I packed for the week and headed over. But after I left the house to run errands, I returned to an open door. I was certain I had closed and locked the door — so the open door unnerved me. I called her – but regardless of her assurances that it was most likely the wind, I did not feel safe. I packed up my things and returned to my small studio apartment. I’m so happy that you have had a more positive experience!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry to hear about this less than pleasant experience during your one house sit, Janet. I think if I would like in my own place in a certain area (small or not), I’d rather remain there than move into a friend or colleague’s house, which brings takes effort and hassles. Yes, I’m quite lazy. 🙂 In our situation, though, moving into someone’s house brings a lot of advantages, especially when we don’t have to move often. But, it always takes about half a day, to move our stuff from the camper in the house and get settled.And afterwards, the reverse procedure. We always count on a full day moving out and cleaning the house.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Liesbet and Suzanne
    What a wonderful interview.And what an amazing lifestyle you both have. I have one question. When you and Mark take time on the weekend to visit the sites, do you do day trips, overnights or both?
    Laura

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Laura! To answer your question: both. If the sites are close by, we just go for the day. During our last two house sits in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, we had use of a car from the home owners, so that made short sightseeing trips easy.

      When we have enough energy and time to pack and prepare the camper after the Friday workday, we would go away for the weekend. On our first month-long house sit in Santa Fe last summer, we took Zesty on a two-day trip every weekend (after sleeping in on Saturday), because there is so much to see and do in that area and we had no idea we’d be back. All this is easier when there are no pets to take care of.

      When there are dogs present, we ask the owners how they feel about us going camping with them. When they are OK with it, we take the dog with us everywhere we go, whether it is for an hour, a day, or a weekend. It’s great fun. When the dogs we pet sit are older or fragile, we respect the owner’s wishes and mostly stay home during the weekends.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for your comment Karen, I believe that quality time with friends and family overrule quantity. I could give you quite a few examples of family members and friends that live close to each and very rarely see each other. Every choice is made weighing up the pros vs cons. I think Liesbet has got a lifestyle that has more positives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for swinging by here, Xenia. You of all people know that the biggest pro of house sitting is being able to spend time with doggies. 🙂 I still have to think about Elvis and Frida, the two Italian Greyhounds in San Diego, each time I see your photos of Eivor and Pearl. Such precious creatures! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Liesbet, the one thing I love about you is that you actually had a dream and followed it rather than saying ‘one day’. I can’t imagine having the courage to ignore the normal lifestyle, dictated by society and taking off and sailing the world. I admire you so much for grabbing life with both hands. Your memoir will be very interesting to read. Thanks Suzanne for sharing Liesbet’s story with us and wishing both of you a beautiful weekend.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading the interview and leaving this wonderful comment, Sue. The whole “dream” thing is a funny one. I never really had the dream to go travel, I just enjoyed it and one thing led to another. You could call it a restless attitude or a sense for adventure – I have no clue where it came from. When I left Belgium in 2003, I had no idea I would never return. I guess I’ve been fortunate to do whatever felt good from a young age and just kept doing it, without knowing any better. 🙂 Have a fantastic weekend as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for featuring Liesbet on your blog, Suzanne. I too have been following Liesbet for some time and, like you, I find her openness and honesty refreshing and completely trustworthy. Housesitting is not for me, but I enjoy reading of Liesbet and Mark’s experiences. Liesbet, the absence of a social life hadn’t occurred to me. That would be a big loss, one that could only be a little bit filled by your online friends. However, knowing you, I’m sure you have a plan to correct that problem in some creatively imaginative way!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Karen! Thanks for visiting and commenting here. Mark and I are getting an overdose of socializing while with our family and friends these weeks, to last quite some time in the future. 🙂 But, yes, we did miss a social life during most of our house sits. Luckily, we have friends all over the country (and world) who either traveled through our area or who we house sat close to. Our future is looking bright in regards to meeting friends again, though, once we get back to Zesty and travel north. And, then there are all my amazing blogging friends to connect to. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Coming from a sailing community (and camping one), I can understand the ‘no social life’ point. Living on land is a very different lifestyle – it just takes time to adapt. 🙂

    Global housesitting is very tempting as we already do it for friends here in Italy and have done in Australia.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You and I have so much in common (sailing, camping, photography, lust for adventure), that you might as well follow suit with the house and pet sitting! You’ll love it. Such a perfect balance and mix of “mundane”, comfort, and diversions. The best of both worlds. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s good to see you here (and everywhere else as well :-)), Sam. Traveling by canal boat is an adventure we have to add to our mode-of-transportation-and-travel-for-the-future list! I love those two dogs of you. We might have that in common again soon as well.

      Liked by 2 people

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