I know the moment I fell in love with Marcus. I was housesitting in the English countryside and caring for two terriers. On an early date, I suggested we take the pups for a long walk through the winding country roads. Secretly, it was a test: How canine-compatible were we?

We were so engrossed in our conversation, we walked farther than intended. The younger terrier was in heaven, exploring off-lead and getting a great workout. The older girl, however, was lagging and getting weary. Before I knew it, Marcus scooped up all fifteen pounds of her muddy, wriggling little body and tucked her into his coat. He carried her the whole way home. That was it: I was a smitten kitten.

Our relationship bloomed through each succeeding housesit. Since I housesit in Mexico six months each year while I rent out my house in Los Angeles, and he lives in London caring for his mum while he rents out his home in rural Wales, housesitting provides us the opportunity to be in the same postal code.

First, we housesat together for two weeks in Cardiff for two lively whippets. We explored the docks, the canals and our lives during our marathon dog walks and chats. Next, we spent a month together in Twickenham, a stone’s throw from the Thames, where Marcus charmed a feisty calico – and me. We dined in riverside restaurants, played Scrabble in the local pub and competed over whose lap the cat would choose while we cuddled on the couch watching movies.

That fall, he flew to Mexico to join me in my recurring housesit for ChaCha, the rambunctious, smart pit/lab rescue I care for every spring and fall. Within moments, he had ChaCha eating out of his hand – both literally and figuratively. She reveled in the double-dose of playmates and I reveled in sharing the stunning views of Lake Chapala with my new British beau.

Since then, we’ve helped newly arrived Syrian refugees in Berlin while wrangling 2 bunnies, vaulted Gibraltar Rock while pampering a kitty and grazed our way through London food markets while caring for an elderly dog.

A part of the gig economy, housesitting is an exchange where petowners engage a housesitter to care for their home and pets while they are away. Typically, homeowners cover all the household and pet care expenses while the housesitter enjoys the home and surroundings for free. Although some housesitters are paid, usually it’s a quid pro quo and no money exchanges hands.

Housesitters come in all shapes and sizes: Singles, couples exploring the world together, families, young adults, retirees, fulltimers like me, others who sit periodically during their holidays …and people like Marcus, who housesit with their honeys.

My advice for maintaining a long-distance relationship: Always have a new trip planned before the current one ends. I plan my housesits months in advance, which gives Marcus plenty of notice to take time off from work and find a substitute caregiver for his mum. Knowing when we’ll next be together eases the sting of the good-bye.

The truth is, after nearly 4 years of housesitting with Marcus, you’d think I know this guy inside and out. But, there’s so much more – of our relationship and of the world – to explore!

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When not planning her next housesitting tryst, Kelly Hayes-Raitt writes about her experiences in the Middle East with refugees. She’s just published How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva and blogs at http://www.HouseSitDiva.com.