PERTH couple Peter and Debra Holst have spent the last seven years housesitting around the world taking their retirement dreams to the next level.
It all started in 2010 when they were cycling through France and met a couple who talked about having left their animals at home to go on holiday.
“We both wondered how they managed to leave the animals and go on holidays and they told us about the housesitting concept,” said Debra.
“Following that trip, we were asked to housesit a chateau in the Champagne region and then the couple we met cycling asked us to housesit for them and it just snowballed from there,” she said.
The Holsts’ returned to Perth in 2011, rented out their house and began their housesitting sojourn across 13 countries, often with return visits to various homes.
They are currently on their 91st housesit in France but have visited Thailand, Turkey, Guatemala, USA, England, Belgium, Switzerland and spent a festive season in the Yukon.
“If you are a retired couple – it keeps your whole retirement and the time you have together alive – it’s an exciting thing for us to move around,” Debra told Have a Go News.
Looking after people’s animals is one of the things they really enjoy.
“The more housesitting you do, the more you enjoy the animals and it’s quite fascinating to housesit for animals we’ve never had before – not only have we looked after dogs and cats, we’ve looked after ducks, sheep, pigs and even a one a half metre iguana.”
They say that all the animals have individual personalities which makes each housesit interesting and different.
For Peter and Debra housesitting provides a low-cost travel option and though it may cost a lot to get to some of the destinations, the accommodation is free and often the use of a car is included.
The couple take out an annual travel insurance policy through Nomads which allow Australians to renew their policy while they are overseas.
Their number one recommendation for those interested in house sitting is to strive to make certain that the home owners do not worry about their house and pets while they are away.
The couple’s next priority is to ensure that the owners return to a really clean house, yard and car.
“You have to live in the house like its your own home and we say to the owners prior to us coming – write out a list of emergency contacts, your animal’s routine and the commands they understand, so we can keep everything as normal as possible.
“When we arrive, we take photos of things and make sure everything is back in the same spot when we leave, including light and power switches.
“Most of the time we know how to operate everything in the house before the owners depart,” she said.
In the seven years away the Holsts say that France has become their favoured destination, so much so that they applied and received visas for long term visits.
“France has the wow factor, it has everything we enjoy, we are very much into hiking and cycling and we take our bikes everywhere we go.
“We particularly love the Pyrenees and we find the French people lovely and the food and scenery superb.
“France has got everything that we like. We have some sort of attraction to the place and it’s where we love staying the most,” they said.
Debra and Peter hope that by sharing their story they may inspire other people to take up the opportunity to housesit too.
After their many years on the road they now only work with the website TrustedHousesitters.com because they’ve found that they operate in a professional manner and are happy to promote them.
“It’s only $99 per year to be part of that site – it’s a win-win situation for both parties, some homes are not luxurious but it’s the experience you gain from each housesit – it’s the experience of living somewhere different and not just the actual house you live in,” Debra said.
Debra stresses that if you do choose to housesit that you don’t cancel on the owners if you get a better opportunity.
It devalues the industry and it’s something that can really affect people’s plans.
“Some people just enjoy a two-day or a one week housesit, but we like anything from a week to three months.”
And will this intrepid couple return to Perth anytime soon…
“We have no plans to come home – housesitting is indefinite for us,” they said.
TrustedHousesitters.com launched in 2010 and provide a global community of pet lovers who help each other travel.
The site is available in 140 countries and it costs $99 for members to list their homes or to register as sitters.