A housesitter - or house sitter, as they say in Britain - is someone who cares for someone else's house (and pets and garden and pool) while they're away.
Finding someone trustworthy to mind your home while you travel is priceless, so if you're mature (at least in mind if not in age) and want to sit tight in one place and live like a local for weeks or even months, housesitting could be right there in your future.
"House-sitting is essentially a reciprocal exchange of services that is mutually beneficial for homeowner and house-sitter," according to Dalene and Pete Heck, authors of How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World, the bible for potential housesitters everywhere.
According to the Hecks, this is the best way to travel if you're planing on staying in one place any length of time.
You'll stay in a well-furnished house or appartment
Tired of cheap hostels and dirty hotels? They do have their charm and as we travel they tend to be our mainstay. But who doesn't dream of a powerful hot shower, a modern well-stocked kitchen and plumbing that works? If you've been on the road for any length of time, you'll appreciate the possibilities.
The roof over your head is free
That's right. As a housesitter you don't pay rent - although, and it's only fair, you do pay for your expenses. You'll have to pay for all your phone calls, and depending on the housesitting agreement and the length of your stay, you may have to pay for some utilities as well. It'll still cost far less than a nightly room, and you can't begin to compare the surroundings.
You'll be living in a real home
There's a lot to be said for living in an actual home. If you're traveling solo you'll know it can get lonely at times, especially if you're traveling long term. Caring for someone's pets and garden for a time can help shed that feeling of displacement and make you feel warm and fuzzy for a bit.
Housesits are flexible
If you only have a few weeks, you'll still be able to find housesitting opportunities that are relatively short-term. But if you need a place for several months, you'll have your pick of the lot if you go about it right.
They give your travel some structure
You may want to break up a long trip into chunks. Much as you may like open-ended travel, it could be reassuring to have a few firm housesits along the way, something to aim for while you're on the road.
You can road-test becoming an expat... save on the cost of food... travel the world more slowly... enjoy a staycation... according to Dalene and Pete, the benefits are extensive.
This is where Dalene and Pete's book comes in. They take a lot of the mystery out of housesitting by providing you with clear instructions on what to do, when and how. Here are just a few of the issues they tackle:
Not everyone is cut out to be a housesitter, and homeowners can be quite particular about whom they choose so make sure you start well in advance. You'll get a better pick of houses and dates because most housesitting opportunities are assigned on a first-come first-served basis.
How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World also contains extensive information on what homeowners look for in a housesitter, as well as checklists to get you started on your housesitting job - just to make sure you start off on the right foot.