It was our last week of this two year trip. The weather in Rio had not been that kind to us, with rainstorms every day dampening our spirits and diminishing our ability to explore our final destination in Latin America.
However, having more time to spend in our hostel wasn't necessarily the worst thing in the world.
Those of you who have followed our 'life on the road' monthly updates will know that we do sometimes fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to advance planning and last minute itinerary changes. On this occasion however, it was a little more serious; we had somehow conspired to leave ourselves with, well, nothing to go home to.
Of course, we did have our respective families eagerly awaiting our return but, given that we live in pretty much opposite sides of the UK, that would also mean splitting up as soon as we stepped foot on UK soil. And, after so long practically living and moving side-by-side from Mexico down to Brazil, neither of us was ready for that. It would have been just too big a shock to the system on top of everything else that we would be dealing with at that time. Plus, we had spent so many hikes and long bus journeys drooling over the thought of the foods we would have when we got home, that going to clear our the local Sainsbury's stock of houmous, cheddar cheese, PG Tips, proper ketchup, baked beans, chocolate Hobnobs and Haribo Tangfastics, was a ritual we wanted to do jointly.
So, we needed a few days on our own in London.
But, with our homes having been carried on our backs for the last two years, our options were limited. We didn't have an apartment and couldn't secure (or afford) one at such short notice. The most affordable Airbnb was a garden shed in Zone Three (that's not a joke!). And, a hotel room or a hostel dorm back in Blighty didn't really appeal for our grand homecoming!
Andrew's friends were generous enough to let us have their spare room, but as genuine and kind as the offer was, we didn't want to put them out or overstay our welcome beyond a couple of nights (a big reason why we've never tried couch surfing).
We were stuck.
Back in 2015, we had both recognised that we were close to suffering another case of travel burnout, or travel fatigue as we prefer to call it. The symptoms were clear - no interest in the next destination, a reluctance to have any sort of adventure and an overwhelming desire to just stay in bed and binge on English-language TV shows. It was clear that we needed to give ourselves a break; a chance to unpack the bags and set-up home for a while.
After some research, we signed up for house sitting, something we only discovered via the travel blogging community. If you haven't heard of it until now, then let us give you brief explanation:
Traditionally, people who were going on their own holiday had very few options when it came to their pets. They may require more care and attention than can be given by a friend popping in every day, they may not be a good fit with expensive kennels, catteries or hoppity hotels or they'd simply prefer to have their best friend looked after in their own home. Out of that frustration, TrustedHousesitters was born! People would put themselves forward as trustworthy options to stay in a home whilst the owners went on holiday, keeping the place safe whilst giving their animals all the love, walks, care, feeding and belly rubs they may require. Pet owners received free and reliable pet and house sitters, whilst house sitters got a place to stay and pets to love like their own for a few days or weeks!
For us, it sounded like a great solution to our predicament. Our present nomadic lifestyle prevents us from having pets and we are HUGE, RIDICULOUS animal lovers (you know, giving every single one we see a name, a backstory, and yes, often imaginary outfits), whilst the benefits of being able to set up a temporary home somewhere at that stage of our Latin America travels was way more important than the added financial benefits of not having to pay rent/hostel fees for a while. We wanted a kitchen to ourselves, we wanted a wi-fi connection that we wouldn't have to share with thirty other people, we wanted shelves, we wanted our own bed with sheets that fit, we wanted a washing machine, we wanted a fridge filled with only our food, we wanted to buy food in bulk, we wanted a workspace that was ours and ours alone.
And, it was just a big, juicy cherry on top that, on our very first house sit in Chile, let us look after this guy:
Mario and Pfiffi (that's Fee-Fee) were ours for six whole weeks in Santiago, Chile. They were both former street dogs with so much personality and, well, we pretty much fell in love with them (even though Pfiffi did steal our cheese and homemade biscuits and Mario was a nightmare to control in the park around other dogs!). We walked them twice a day, we gave them baths, we handmade their food (we had never met vegan dogs before), we gave them belly rubs.
In return, they made us feel right at home in a foreign city, in someone else's house.
The house sit gave us what exactly what we needed.
It also allowed P&C - their owners - to go off exploring Europe for six weeks, safe in the knowledge that things back home were being taken care of (especially given that our stay coincided with one of the biggest earthquakes Chile has ever had!). It gave us a break from being on the road and a chance to let our wanderlust be rekindled. It allowed us to be able to say we 'lived' in Chile for a little while, rather than only 'travelled'. It allowed us to remember what it was like to have a home and a little bundle of loveliness to greet you every time you opened the front door.
To this day, we still reminisce about those dogs and our time with them pretty much every week (although we haven't quite forgiven Pfiffi for that cheese incident).
And so, back in our hostel in Rio, with the rain pouring down outside, we went back to TrustedHousesitters to see if, possibly, house sitting would help us out of another jam - and help out some people whose pets needed some obedient humans to entertain them for a few days.
In comparison to the limited number that had come up in South America which were in sync with our route, there were dozens for London, even with such short notice. One listing caught our eye straight away - two 10-month old cat siblings and an 8-month old French Bulldog in the part of London we had both lived in before leaving. And the dates were, almost, perfect!
We leapt upon it and sent out our application. A couple of days later we were having a late night Skype with their lovely English and Irish owners to see if we were a good fit.
Given our pretty well-documented obsession with Frenchies and Boston Terriers - and that our love of dogs is almost matched by our love of cats - we think our suitability and desire to care for the three pets was clear.
And, just like that, we had somewhere to stay in London! After a couple of nights with Andrew's friends, we would have four days there, allowing us to acclimatise to being back in our homeland, catch up on some website work and devour Thai takeaway and much missed comfort foods, binge on cups of tea and the BBC, whilst looking after and playing with THESE adorable guys:
And, guess what? Two weeks later we were invited back again - who could say no to those adorable faces?
Now, as we write this post, we've just begun another sit in London. This one is a few weeks, rather than a few days, and is again with two beautiful cats and an adorable dog. It's in a part of London we haven't really visited too much before but, for us, that's one of the positives of being a house sitter.
For us, sitting has gone way beyond being about the financial savings that are possible by having a 'free place to stay' for a few days or weeks. Of course, that's obviously a great incentive and, at this stage in our Along Dusty Roads adventure, a real help with our finances and ability to settle in one place for a period. We'd struggle to think of any other arrangement which would allow us to stay in an expensive city like London without a long-term contract and big deposit, without being part of a hippy commune or squat.
However, if we were just doing it for the free accommodation, then we would not be good house sitters. We are Trusted Housesitters because we love to travel, because we love having a home, and because we love something with four legs to share it with.
We've written this post to outline why we love house sitting and we will be house sitters for the long haul. Our experience with TrustedHousesitters as a community and a network of pet-lovers who love to travel has been fantastic and, at two extremely important junctures of our lives in the last two years, it has been pivotal in helping us to continue living the lifestyle we've chosen, as well as helping others to take their own adventures with peace of mind that their home and beloved pets are in good hands.
We would recommend it to anyone embarking on a long term adventure. And, if you're a person who loves to travel but have pets at home, then it's a no-brainer.
And, if you're interested in becoming a house sitter yourself - and joining their excellent on-line community of pet and travel lovers - then this is the time to sign up! Yep, TrustedHousesitters are having an epic Black Friday sale, and offering 25% off all their membership plans - but just from Friday 25th - Tuesday 29th. Just follow this link!