International travel is something that many people aspire to incorporate into their schedule. However, paying for accommodation while visiting a foreign country can often take a huge chunk of your available travel fund and ignite that age old debate of whether to travel within budget or embrace a credit card blow out.
How to find accommodation for Free
Like most travellers we are always on the lookout for ways to stretch every cent we spend and we have found a superb way to do just that when looking for accommodation abroad.
Two years ago we embarked on a period of travel, one of undefined length and very loose itinerary. While researching how we were going to make our money stretch the entire width of the globe we stumbled upon the concept of house sitting, and since then we’ve looked after 14 properties in 6 different countries.
The best part of it all is that the experience has cost us almost nothing.
What Is House Sitting?
Before you skip to the comments section and quiz me as to exactly how we’ve managed to live almost entirely rent free for the last two years let me explain how to find accommodation for free.
For those unaware of the concept house sitting is essentially an exchange of services. Individuals, couples or families register as house sitters and offer their services to home owners in need of property and/or animal care for an agreed period of time.
House sitters take on the role of the home owner and offer a caretaking service ensuring the property, and any furry compadres, are maintained in line with any requirements laid out prior to their stay.
Who Can Become A House Sitter?
The answer is simple. Anyone.
It is because each assignment is unique that there are no restrictions in place regarding who can become a sitter. We’ve met people from all walks of life who house sit, families, retirees and even nomads like ourselves. Old, young, rich or poor there are no prerequisites, if you believe you are a suitable applicant then you’re free to apply.
Why Should I Become A House Sitter?
Aside from the financial savings to be achieved house sitting offers travellers the chance to walk a mile in the shoes of a local, to sample local life and cultures. While hotels can be convenient for layovers, house sitting offers the chance to really connect with the locations you visit.
At each property we’ve cared for we’ve been introduced to the owners friends and neighbours. We’ve been welcomed into the community, invited out to dinner and drinks, to play golf, to join a patchwork class, taken to the skies in light aircraft and into the rich waters of the Coral Sea.
What Are The Assignments Like?
Each assignment is unique and all your responsibilities will be detailed by the home owner and agreed before you begin.
Our first assignment was in an eco-house on the side of a mango plantation in Costa Rica. We were tasked with maintaining a constant presence in the house and caring for the owner’s cat. While we were a little nervous after accepting the opportunity this was soon replaced with bubbling excitement. We began counting down the days until we were able to experience local life in the small town of Liberia and immerse ourselves in the culture of Pura Vida.
There are so many great assignments on offer and it’s really easy to get a little over excited at the thought of caring for a remote island home or for a troop of alpacas in the New Zealand countryside….
Yes, funnily enough our last assignment was to care for a troop of alpacas in the volcanic heart of New Zealand’s North Island. While every house sitting assignment has offered us plenty of new experiences our time as alpaca herders was rather memorable!
We were charged with caring for a stunning hill top home with views out over the South Pacific. The property boasted a hot tub on the deck, fresh fruit in the orchard and some furry lawn mowers in the surrounding paddocks! Learning to make fresh lemonade was a real highlight and I’m pretty sure I developed an addiction during our stay!
When applying for assignments it’s really important that you ensure you’re 100% happy with the home owner’s requirements. While we often look upon more challenging responsibilities as a chance to learn a new skill, it is vital that you feel comfortable with all aspects of the opportunity before accepting.
By following this simple rule we’ve always had a superb experience at every assignment and have expanded our CV of life skills rather significantly!
What Factors Do I Need To Consider?
Logistics // We can all lose the capacity for rational thought when offered a dream house sitting assignment however don’t forget to consider how you will get yourself to and from the property. Account for airfares, vehicle hire and visa costs when considering assignments abroad.
Safety // Ensure that you read up on travel safety tips applicable to the location in which you’ll be house sitting. It is likely that you will not be subject to any risks the like of which you would not already encounter at home, however when travelling abroad it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with local protocols.
Payment // Decide if you would like to receive payment for your house sitting services. We choose not to charge as we believe this will make our application more appealing and the trade-off of accommodation / property care is more than adequate. Be aware that you will need to apply for the relevant employment visa if charging for your services abroad.
How Do I Become A House Sitter?
There are a number of websites that connect house sitters and home owners and when we first left the UK we signed up to every, and any one we came across. In hindsight this probably wasn’t a great idea as we found some offered more location specific assignments and others had a poor user interface.
When our subscriptions were up for annual review we actually continued using just one service Trustedhousesitters.com. We found that they had the most comprehensive portfolio and most importantly, we seemed to have the best response rate when applying for assignments.
Signing up to any service is simple. Essentially you’re creating an online CV that details your hobbies and interests along with exactly why and where you are looking to house sit. We have found it is best to make your profile as informative as possible and upload some up to date photographs along with any references you may have.
How Do I Secure Assignments?
The first step in securing your dream sit is to create a successful house sitter profile.
The name of the game is to showcase why you’re the perfect house sitter and give prospective home owners an insight into your character, interests and skill set.
When Constructing your profile you should:
- Be informative; discuss your hobbies and interests, share details of your employment history and qualifications that may assist in your role as a house sitter.
- Discuss what motivates you to house sit.
- Detail relevant experience
- Illustrate your profile with photographs.
- Detail any relevant references. If you’re new to house sitting asking your current landlord and employer to act as a referee is a great place to start.
Once you’ve signed up with a house sitting service and created your profile I highly recommend opting in for the daily email alerts that detail new assignments. In our experience submitting your application soon after the advert goes live increases your chance of securing the opportunity.
Then sit back and wait until details of your dream house sit land in your inbox. Apply for the assignments that fit with your itinerary and keep all available limbs crossed for positive replies!
House Sitting has completely transformed our experience of travel. We’ve formed some lifelong friendships, learnt an unimaginable array of new skills and lived like a local all over the world, and it’s all thanks to the opportunity to house sit.
In 2010 Charli & Ben made the decision to live a life less ordinary and six months later embarked on an undefined period of travel. Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house sitting assignments in each country they visit.
With no time limit restricting their experience they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure.
Have you ever thought about using house sitting in your travel or vacation itinerary? Share your comments with us below.
How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland
Find out how all about How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland, including visiting Geysir and Gulfoss and staying at Vatnsholt Hostel.
Everyone that visits Iceland cannot miss the Golden Circle tour. But the ultimate question is whether you should see the Golden Circle with a tour company or self-drive the Golden Circle in one day yourself? I highly recommend doing the latter.
And if you want to self-drive the Golden Circle, these travel tips will help you on your next adventure to Iceland.
How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day
Tour companies can be significant. But being herded onto and off a bus all day as you try to get around all the sites along the Golden Circle route seems ridiculous. Wouldn’t you rather have the freedom to stop whenever you wanted to take some photos, go toilet, or chill out staring at a waterfall?
What kind of rental car do I need in Iceland?
Depending on the time of year and your travel plans, you should be fine just getting a small sedan. We hired the cheapest car from Hertz, and it worked out perfectly. Since we covered a vast distance during our entire trip, we wanted to make sure it was fuel-efficient and comfortable.
If you are heading there in winter (November – March), you may want to consider picking up a 4×4. Some roads can be closed, and the roads are very icy/snowy. Check the Iceland road conditions on this official website before heading out.
What is the best Golden Circle route I should take?
There are no set routes if you self-drive the Golden Circle. You either head clockwise or anti-clockwise. But the best part of the Golden Circle route is that you will have to try hard to get lost. That’s not saying it can’t be done because we somehow missed the turnoff coming out of Reykjavik, but you have to ignore all the big signs pointing out the attractions along the way.
You are starting from Reykjavik, head in a clockwise direction towards your first stop, which will be the Continental Divide between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. You can go diving here and wander around for a good hour, exploring the many pathways.
Or if the wind is howling and it is freezing like it was the day we did it, run around for 10 minutes grabbing some photos, then bugger off again.
The next major stop along Highway 35 on your Golden Circle route is the Geysir minefield, aptly known as Geysir.
Stinking like rotting eggs, the sulfur and steam rise from the ground as you pull up to the information center and cafe. This is a perfect stop for a bit of coffee and a late brunch snack. If you do stop to warm your insides, then this also gives you time to judge your visit between any tour buses that might show up. Just wait half an hour, and they will all be herded back onto their diesel belching coaches, and you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity by yourselves.
The final major stop around the Golden Circle is the cascading Gulfoss Waterfall.
We were a little underwhelmed as we were there at the end of the winter season, and a lot of the water was still trapped beneath the frozen lakes and glaciers to the north. Still, it was beautiful with the ice creeping up the frozen canyon walls from the bitter northerly winds while dripping icicles hung precariously over the waterfall’s lips.
Make sure you take the steps down into the canyon and walk along the river pathway. Well worth the mini-hike, and you can feel the spray from Gulfoss as you explore the path.
While these are the three significant stops along the Golden Circle, these shouldn’t be the only reasons you stop.
Around every bend, along every straight, and over each hill, there are many photographic opportunities to snap. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape. So while Adela was quite happy to keep her toes warm under the car heater, I was busy running around the car like photography loony.
Plus, have you seen how adorable the Icelandic horses are?
What time should I leave on my self drive around the Golden Circle?
Luckily as you are your boss today, you get to have a sleep-in and a leisurely start to the day. Most tour companies will leave before 8 am to have enough time to make it around all the sights and still be back in Reykjavik by 5 pm.
We left at 10 am, perfect because most tour buses were a couple of hours ahead of us. This allowed us to have a lot more space at the major attractions and not jostle elbow to elbow trying to get the best photographs. We also didn’t return to Reykjavik (see below), so we could take our time at each stop.
Where to stay if you self drive the Golden Circle in one day
While most people will base themselves in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, we decided we wanted to stay further along the South Coast as that was where we were headed next. Our choice was simple, the beautiful Vatnsholt Hostel in Selfoss. Plus, it is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights.
Vatnsholt Hostel Review
Vatnsholt is located just over an hour from Reykjavík off Highway 1. It is a perfect location after you have driven the Golden Circle as you don’t have to go back into the city.
Our room was private inside their old home, which had been renovated. There are other rooms there, with a big shared kitchen and lounge, but we were the only ones staying in Vatnsholt Hostel at the time.
The kitchen inside our apartment was perfect, and they had this crazy fancy shower with about 40 buttons inside. We spent ages just trying to figure out how to make it work! They also have free WiFi and are one of the best restaurants that I have ever eaten at. The breakfast buffet selection in the morning is never-ending (get the waffles), and make sure you eat dinner there at least once.
The owners are amicable and went out of their way to ensure we were comfortable, and well looked after. Make sure you ask Johann and Margret to show you the dancing goat video.
There wasn’t much of a social atmosphere as it was the end of the winter season. A busload of tourists did show up around midnight to watch the Northern Lights one of the evenings, but we didn’t chat to them.
$60 US for a private room for two people.
We fell in love with Vatnsholt Hostel and would have stayed longer if we had the time. Unfortunately, we had to buzz off along the coast for a few days, but it would be the perfect base if you had an extra week or two in Iceland. The owners have also lived in the area for years, so they have plenty of local knowledge that you should use, such as finding the private geothermal hot pools up in the hills…
It is the best place to stay if you plan to self-drive the Golden Circle in one day and then explore the south coast afterward.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Vatnsholt Hostel, and thanks to HostelWorld for organizing, but as always, our thoughts are always our own.
Have you driven than the Golden Circle before? Or did you take a tour bus? What were your highlights?
Minimize your environmental footprint when you travel
The world is full of so many miracles of natures, sites with history, and distant locales with simply delicious food. It’s no surprise that many succumb to the travel bug. Yet an appreciation of the world also comes with the need to take care of our planet, which is why many people are focusing now on their eco-footprint when venturing afar. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to help make an impact after the coronavirus. Likewise, click here to work on yourself in the meantime.
Our article describes ways to travel more ecologically friendly by being mindful of your transportation mode, switching to alternative power, reducing waste and carbon footprints, and choosing reputable and green-friendly travel providers.
Sail the Ocean Like Greta
This option may be more in line with some of our recent lotto winners, but it’s absolutely worth a mention. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg chose to cross the Atlantic ocean in an emission-free catamaran instead of flying by plane or other high-emission travel. While there probably aren’t too many catamaran’s and captains available, it’s still a great idea to remember that travel and vacation by wind power are an eco-friendly option.
Go Electric for Roadtrips
Electric cars of old meant short trips, low power, and frequent plug-ins. But times have changed. Modern electric cars are packed with horsepower and have a lengthy battery life, making them fantastic cars for road trips. In fact, CNN notes that by 2040, more than half of new cars will be electric. Reduce your reliance on fossil fuels while you take in the scenery. Electric cars reduce noise pollution too.
Pack Light when Flying
If you must fly, reducing the weight you bring is a simple consideration that can help save in long-term greenhouse gas contributions. The more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. In addition to helping cut down on air pollution, you’ll also eliminate the risk of excess baggage fees or getting your bag rerouted.
Another friendly flying tip is to book non-stop flights when possible. Take-offs and landings are where the most fuel is wasted, so choose your flight path wisely.
Bring Your Own
When it comes to food and drink, you need to be strategic. You can’t bring a bottle of water through airport security, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle. Simply fill this at a drinking fountain after you pass through the scanners and avoid plastic bottle waste as well as bottled water company ethics. On the other side of security choose food served with compostable plates or cutlery if possible. If you’re unsure of the food options coming up, pack some items that provide their own packagings – like a banana, apple, or avocado.
When you do eat and drink out on vacation, try to eat and drink local. Local foods create a lower carbon imprint since they don’t need to be transported as far. In addition, there is less difficulty in getting these foods to market, so they will taste fresher and require fewer chemicals and additives. If you’re shopping at a farmers market or just for souvenirs, bring your own reusable bag with you on vacation.
Check Your Hotel’s Reputation
Many hotels now are embracing green measures. Check to see if your hotel meets architectural LEED standards, or otherwise uses upcycled or recycled building materials. Look to see if they are associated with any environmentally supportive organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, or any of the local and national sustainability initiatives in their area. Look for the simple things, like if the hotel embraces smart laundry – avoiding fresh daily towels or linens without reason. Do they use single-serve shampoos, or offer bulk dispensers to reduce plastic waste. Last, see if your hotel participates in additional carbon offset measures, and volunteer to support these initiatives if possible.
Travelling is good for the soul, but it’s time to make your travel good for the planet too. Choose your method of transportation wisely, traveling by ground or sea if you can. If you are limited by time or terrain and choose to fly in the smartest way possible, by reducing weight and excess plastic packaging. Select non-stop flights and shop smartly while you are away. Stay at green-friendly hotels and review their impact during your bookings. Every step counts when concerning the health of our planet. Your small choices can lead to big results long-term if you keep these eco-tips in mind.
The Often Overlooked Benefits of Rail Travel
Out of all the modes of transportation, planes, trains, buses, ships, rail travel might be the winner for long distance trips.
Why? Well, for one thing, there’s the sights that one can see, then there is the ability of the individual to meet others and enjoy a whole different experience while also potentially contributing to a cleaner environment as well by maximizing for efficiency.
Yes, trains could offer one of the most immersive travel experiences that you could enjoy in your lifetime.
Rail travel doesn’t really rush you from one location to the other like you are a part of a flock of sheep (looking at you, airplanes). Instead, it gives you ample time to kick back, relax and enjoy the extended time it takes to get you to your destination.
Due to that reason, tailor made train holidays have gained quite some traction among those who want to not only travel the world as much as they could, but actually explore all of what the planet has to offer in all its natural glory. You can’t argue with that approach either – I, for one know that when I travel with friends or family, my journey has to absolutely live by that motto.
Granted, rail travel might not be for the fast-moving business people that have to make it to important meetings in quick fashion, but it is definitely the right mode of transportation for those who have got some extra time on their hands either due to a vacation from work or a break from school – or just because they have taken a leaf out of Richard Burton’s book and decided to travel across the world as a way of life.
If you fall under any of those categories or are just an adventurous soul who wants to enjoy their time off of everyday chores, then rail travel might just be the experience that you are looking for.
Here are a few reasons why experiencing rail travel could give you a little – or a lot of – something that you would cherish for the rest of your life.
The Scenic Sights Are to Be Held With Awe
No matter how many flights you have caught within your lifetime, watching a sunset through a plane could never beat the same sight when it is witnessed through some luscious mountains on the ground (trust someone who has experienced it firsthand).
While this is mostly due to the extra time that you get to enjoy the sight while traveling by train, the “backdrop” aspect of the scenic locations is what makes it a thousand times more magnificent.
This added effect of natural sight staging is not only reserved to sunsets, but depending upon the route of your journey, could very well extend to you witnessing sparkling waters as your train jumps through bridges as well. You may find you are practically hugging the clouds as the train goes through highpoints of elevation; or you coming face to face with glaciers as the railroad moves inches away.
Simply put, by getting into a train for your journey, you sign yourself up for an adventure of exploration, something which a compactly packed airplane or a single-worldview cruise ship cannot offer.
The Food Provides an Unforgettable Gastronomic Experience
When you are traveling, and especially when you traveling abroad, having great food is one of the most pressing concerns that you may have in terms of adaptability to the new location.
While food travelers like the legendary Anthony Bourdain may have introduced an entire generation and more to come to the gastronomic offerings of different cultures, it still does not change the fact that your taste palette – and more dangerously, your stomach – might not be as adaptable to newer cooking techniques.
No matter how bland airplane food could be, you end up wolfing it down in fear of what you might be offered at landing, but that bland concoction of ingredients itself does not go very well with your system.
On the other hand, when you take a bespoke, well-designed journey through a train, you open doors to let yourself enjoy a wide variety of foods that could rival a Michelin-star restaurant (that is, at least by the opinion of those who travel frequently by trains).
The menu in extended-journey trains is designed in such a manner where you could try various dishes each day of your rail travel, and still end up with plenty of options that you could enjoy on your returning journey home.
This provides rail travel with some well-earned brownie points. It makes sense too – after all, if you have to live in the train for a few days, why not live your best life while doing so?
The Cabins, Seating, and Entertainment Offerings Could Rival a High End Hotel
And not a creepy hotel from American Horror Story that would give you the heebie-jeebies either, but something that could provide some serious competition to high end vacation destinations.
From well-decorated and comfortable sleeping cabins to one of a kind parlor seating, depending on the train you select for your travels, you could enjoy an array of comforting spaces that would make you feel like you are on a moving vacation.
The entertainment spaces in these trains also seem to offer the world to their passengers. The details that are present within is what really makes the trip.
Think about it, you can enjoy a cocktail in a more extravagant fashion when you see sip while looking upwards through the glass ceilings that let you have a clear view of the morning sky or starry night thousands of miles above. Being able to consume drinks at the well-stocked bar built within the train does not hurt the experience either.
Similarly, the parlor and other common entertainment areas in such trains could also provide you with customized entertainment options, where you could read a book while sitting by the panoramic windows or enjoy a movie through one of the screens within the train’s fixtures.
All in all, the entertainment options in these modern trains have the ability to transport you back to the glory of yesteryears without the added hassle of living without technology. Only those who have experienced this mode of travel could really resonate with these words – which is why, if you haven’t done so, then this would be the time to book your rail travel vacation.
Rail Travel Strikes the Perfect Balance Between Relaxation and Activity
Rail Travel is great because it incorporates technology and simplicity, one can find the perfect balance between rest and relaxation as well as the ability to be active.
So, if you are planning to take a vacation soon, make it one that is centered around rail travel. While you might not witness a murder on the Orient Express, you could still enjoy all the amenities which that train had to offer – actually, much more than that, minus the homicide.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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