I admit it: I sleep around. I can’t afford to live in my own home in Los Angeles, so I rent it out while I travel fulltime and launch a second career as a writer and journalist.
My “first” career was as a political consultant specializing in communication and coalition building. I was often the spokesperson for campaigns promoting and defending civil justice, environmental protection and women’s and consumers’ rights.
Then I ran for public office, got my derrière kicked and decided to take a sabbatical from politics. In my mid-40s, broke and broken, I traveled to the Middle East to work with refugees and write about their experiences.
Unable to live in my home while it was rented out, I initially stayed in writing colonies where I’d been awarded residencies or I crashed with friends and family. Later, I discovered housesitting as a more flexible way to live and write.
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.
But I didn’t just wake up one morning and declare, “I’m going to become a housesitter today!” My lifestyle evolved. My first housesit was for my cousin, a 3-month gig in North Carolina caring for her deaf cat DeeDee and Pouncer, a proud tomcat I taught to use a litter box. (Uh, that’s a whole other story!)
But, as these stories inevitably go, there was a man involved. While flying back from a reporting trip in the West Bank, I sat next to a handsome Brit. As our courtship unfolded, I decided to spend some time in London, but didn’t want to put too much pressure on our fledgling relationship. I joined a housesitting web site and landed a 2-month housesit in London during the summer Olympics! The guy disappeared, but I fell in love with London – and with the concept of housesitting.
I’ve been travelling fulltime since 2009. That year, I drove across America 4½ times, packed and unpacked 64 times and slept in 58 beds, thereby earning my “sleeping around” creds.
Since then, I’ve housesat in some of the world’s most glorious cities: Berlin, Amsterdam, Hanoi, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Maputo, Mozambique. I spend half of each year at a recurring housesit in Ajijic, Mexico, living in a 4-story house with panoramic views of Lake Chapala. It’s where I spoil ChaCha, the rambunctious pit/lab rescue I’ve helped raise for the last 8 years.
I’ve learned to trust – in myself and in my future. I’ve learned to live with uncertainty and I’ve learned (almost) to embrace new possibilities when plans fall apart.
My advice to anyone trying to reinvent herself? Assess your assets! Once I realized that my home – which had felt like a strangling albatross with its outrageous mortgage – was an asset I could rent out, new opportunities emerged – like housesitting!
The truth is, after nearly a decade of fulltime traveling, I’m still reinventing myself. But isn’t that the fun part?
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When not sleeping around, 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.