(CNN) â Traveling the world while staying with other people for free may sound too good to be true. But a semi-retired couple from Norfolk, England managed to do just that.
Jonathan and Julie Ashworth, who are both in their 50s, sold their home in 2017 and now spend their days traveling the world while looking after other people’s homes and pets, in exchange for free accommodation .
The couple’s house-sitting adventures have taken them to destinations including France, Thailand, Australia, Spain and California, as well as much of the UK.
They have stayed in many homes, including villas and country homes, and cared for many cats and dogs, as well as horses, chickens, hamsters, rabbits, a kunekune pig, and even a pet. ‘a turtle.
The Ashworths, who are currently at home in Australia, booked their first home in 2018 while looking for ways to travel more on a budget, and say they have never looked back.
British couple Jonathan and Julie Ashworth started keeping their home in 2018 and say they’ve never looked back.
The Global Petsitters
The site works similarly to Airbnb, with the owner and house keeper leaving reviews for each other. All members are required to pay an annual fee to join.
As they were new to the practice, the couple opted to sit locally in order to build their profiles, and often went to visit the owners in person before securing their stay.
“We didn’t have the critics to start with, so we wanted to have direct contact with them. [the owners] to reassure them that we were good guardians,â says Jonathan.
Both are big animal lovers, which is an important factor since the vast majority of homes involve looking after a pet of some sort.
“There are a few houses that don’t allow pets,” says Julie. “But most come with pets. You need to be a pet-loving traveler.”
Once they had racked up a significant number of positive reviews, they started applying for houses sitting a bit further away.
The couple then traveled to America, where they spent around three months housesitting in California, and managed to take trips to Yosemite, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, before heading to Javea, Spain , for a seven week home in a beautiful villa with private pool while caring for two ridgeback dogs.
The owners gave them permission to use their Vespa during their stay, and they were able to spend time exploring the area while the dogs were resting.
The Ashworths’ many house sitting gigs, including sitting two Ridgeback dogs at a villa in Spain.
The Global Petsitters
While housekeeping may seem like child’s play, it’s rarely as simple as showing up at someone’s house, watering a few plants, and walking the owner’s dog every day.
The Ashworths are extremely committed to making the experience as positive as possible for owners and pets, as well as themselves.
They see house sitting as an opportunity to travel and live like locals rather than a vacation, and go out of their way to ensure that the animals in their care have a great time with them.
The couple regularly send videos and photos of their getaways to owners to keep them up to date and try to “get the animals on vacation” while they stay in a home.
âThere is no better response from an owner than to say that they are totally reassured by our presence,â adds Jonathan. I’m having a session.”
To ensure they are well prepared for each home, the duo arrive a few hours before the owners leave, or sometimes the day before, so they can meet face to face and have the opportunity to discuss their concerns.
“Sometimes you love a lot of pets and you really have to commit,” says Julie. “You really have to make sure that you are aware of the responsibilities and that you can do everything.”
They were due to travel to Cape Town and London after finishing at a Spanish villa in March 2020, but the global pandemic put an end to their plans.
Julie and Jonathan, who were booked until the end of the year at that time, had all their future home stays canceled due to border restrictions and were forced to return to the UK, where they stayed in a trailer until they could start guarding the house again.
Aside from the inevitable cancellations caused by Covid, the Ashworths say it’s rare for a homeowner to retire from a home, especially since they, along with caretakers, are required to pay an annual fee to use the guard platform.
âObviously it’s important that we don’t have cancellations all the time, especially if we’re traveling overseas,â says Jonathan.
“If someone cancels and we lose our flight money, it doesn’t work out very well for us.”
While most of their stays at home have been smooth, the toughest was at a home in Santa Monica, Calif., where they cared for a “fierce” rescue dog that took a long time to get to. to install.
Julie feeds chickens while sitting in a seven-bedroom house in the UK in 2018.
The Global Petsitters
âWhile it was one of our toughest stays at home, it was one of the most rewarding because we conquered it,â admits Jonathan, who has since taken a rescue dog course to s ensure he is better prepared should a similar scenario occur.
Although the Ashworths admit to hearing a few negative stories from fellow house keepers who have brought homeowners home or gone to stay at properties very different from those pictured, nearly all of their experiences have been good.
âWe were very lucky,â admits Julie.
Jonathan, a former school swim teacher and property manager, and Julie, who previously worked as a school secretary, have a small internet business that brings in enough money to cover their expenses while they’re away. home around the world.
The practice has grown in popularity in recent years, with a number of platforms, such as HouseSitMatch, Nomador, HouseCarers and MindMyHouse, as well as Ashworth’s favorite Trusted House Sitters.
Now that they’ve established a strong reputation as house sitters and racked up 54 five-star reviews on Trusted House Sitters, the couple tend to get the most house sitting requests they apply for.
âWe are really in high demand, which is very nice,â says Julie.
Although they have a list of destinations they would like to travel to, it’s often not the actual home or location that draws them to a particular request.
“We have different reasons for applying for different house sitters, but very often it’s for the animal,” admits Julie. “We are animal lovers. Sometimes we see a pet and fall in love with it.”
They were granted a travel exemption to visit their son in Australia at the end of 2021 and managed to combine the trip with two stay-at-home bookings near his home in the seaside suburb of Manly, Sydney.
Jonathan relaxes on the beach with a dog named Fox during a home in Bang Tao, Thailand in 2018.
The Global Petsitters
They are currently completing a seven week home and caring for the owner’s Cavapoo, a cross between a poodle and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
“This accommodation would easily cost us Â£1,000 (about $1,357) a week,” says Julie. “Plus, we have the company of a cute and cuddly little pup.”
Once back in the UK, the Ashworths hope to visit Canada and South America. However, it has been difficult for them to organize anything too far in advance due to the ever-changing travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic.
Besides the money they saved on accommodation costs, the Ashworths formed strong friendships with many landlords for whom they made homes.
“We almost always keep in touch, so many of them will be lifelong friends,” says Julie. “We often get pictures of a pet we took care of months ago, which is really nice.”
Both believe that house sitting has opened up many new doors for them in every way, and say they would recommend it to anyone.
“This [house sitting] can help so many people,â adds Julie. âSo many of our friends and family say we’re ‘living the dream’ and that’s how we feel.