I Fund My World Travels Just By Hanging With Cool Pets: Here’s How

man sitting working on a laptop with a cat in his lap
Photo courtesy of Jake Belknap
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My partner and I are currently spending six weeks in Montiano, Italy, a small rural village in Tuscany. Here we have three cats whose personalities are as varied as their fur (fluffy and friendly, carrot-colored and cantankerous, Manx pattern and melodious) and a German shepherd who would prefer to eat wild pears over her dry food. We both look forward to trading off solo trips around Italy.

Montiano isn’t the only place I’ve been able to visit over the past six months. During that time, I have been freelance writing and traveling as a digital nomad. To cover most of my accommodation costs while simultaneously working remotely, I’ve been pet-sitting.

Pet-sitting is a wonderful opportunity for homeowners and sitters: The sitter gets free accommodation and work space, while the homeowner gets a trustworthy person to watch their house and pets. Both parties end up saving a lot of money, and it’s great for the animals to stay in their own home.

I started in London, where my partner and I cared for two black sister kitties for six weeks.  We enjoyed a three-story town house in Chiswick, a swanky residential area in West London, which was a short tube ride away from the downtown hotspots.

Next up was Gokceovacik, Turkey, a small, rural village in the Southern Turkish hills near the yachting hotspot of Göcek. We spent three weeks there, doing two separate petsits. Between the two houses, we cared for a total of 25 cats and 6 dogs. The peaceful mountain retreat was perfect to get work done and go for relaxing walks through the forest.

Climbing down the mountain, we headed back to London for a second round, this time for two weeks. We had the lay of the land and got right into the swing of things (so back to cuddling the cuties).

Following London, we headed to Basel, Switzerland, for a two-week petsit. We again had two cats, this time brothers in a sweet penthouse apartment in the middle of the city. Museums, the Rhine, cafes and supermarkets were within walking distance. Germany was a 10-minute bus ride away!

This summer, we went back to Gokceovacik, Turkey, to visit our favorite mountain mutts and kitties, this time for a month. Turkey is a different world in summer. Again, coming back to a situation we knew allowed us to plug into our routine and not miss a beat professionally.

How We Set it Up

As with anything in today’s world, go to the internet to get started. My partner and I use several pet-sitting websites to find clients. The main ones are the UK resident and ex-pat sites Trusted Housesitters ($119 per year) and Mind My House ($20 per year) and the France-based Nomador ($89 per year).

These sites are based in one country, but they have users all over the world. Although they are all pay sites, they are well worth the amount we have saved on housing expenses. Trusted Housesitters has a dynamic map that adjusts as you search for assignments and the best availability making it worth the higher price. Mind My House is a great platform to get introduced to petsitting. Nomador is another good choice to start with as they are the only petsitting platform offering a free option with up to three applications.

We also get many of our assignments from connections through past clients. The basic rule of life works here: Treat people right and they will treat you right.

Getting Down to Business

Pet-sitting is a walk in the park (sometimes literally) if you are retired or on vacation. However, while working full time, the trip is not just walking dogs, feeding kitties and visiting local attractions. The draw of adventure is there, but it is possible to get remote work done at your temporary home or apartment with some good routines.

While on an assignment, I’m able to keep a normal work schedule of five days per week. I take care of the animals before breakfast, have a quick workout to clear my head and then get to work.  

A couple of daily dog walks and kitty snuggles are a small price to pay for free rent, internet, utilities, and more.

I would not be able to afford this lifestyle without the thousands of dollars I save by pet-sitting. Why pay for a co-working space when some loveable animals will gladly keep you company without turning on some obscure Indie band at an obnoxious decibel?

Jake Belknap (@JauntingJake) is currently making his way across Europe while pet-sitting various animals along the way. In 2017, he left his classroom and his country to pursue a digital nomad lifestyle as a freelance writer.