It is the summer of 2016, and I am poring over my laptop trying to finally find a real answer to the question I’ve been asking myself for years. I have another year of teaching ahead of me, but I know that by this time next year, I’ll actually have to make good on this idea I’ve got stuck in my head.
I could teach English in a foreign country; my relatives taught in South Korea and loved it. I envision my classroom full of eager students by day, and walking alongside my fellow English teachers through the colorful streets of Seoul while we sample the (vegetarian) street food by night.
I could volunteer abroad; I could see myself back in the small Costa Rican town Dad and I fell in love with when we visited last month. Who wouldn’t love volunteering on an organic chocolate farm or an organic coffee farm or another wonderful farm of organic wonderfulness?
I could really go for the shoe-string budget and live out of hostels, seeing a new city every few days and meeting fellow world travelers while living off of PB&Js. Now there’s an idea…
To go this route, I would need to have a job in my destination country so that I could sustain my travels for a longer period of time. Teaching English seemed like the logical course, so I got my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate to broaden my options. My TEFL course and I hunkered down through the cold winter as we prepared for the exotic tropical paradise to come.
The school year ended, I moved home and I had an amazing time with my family while I waited. Most of my research on getting ESL (English as a Second Language) jobs abroad said to wait until you are on the ground in the country you want to work in and then job hunt. It makes sense, since schools want to interview you to see if its a good fit before signing papers— so I waited. Still, I wasn’t quite sure what I was waiting for.
As the first few lazy days of summer passed, I began looking for a summer job to make a bit of extra travel money — but I ended up getting much more than I bargained for. I got a job teaching ESL online and it was love at first sight. I get to make my own schedule? Awesome! I can do this job from anywhere with an internet connection? Sweet! Super adorable and fun students? Heck yes!
It didn’t take long for me to realize that this didn’t have to be a part time summer gig. This could be my job abroad.
I read a lot of travel blogs in preparation for going abroad and one mentioned house sitting, which is a pretty cool concept. Homeowners need someone to watch their house and pets while they are away; house sitters take care of the pets and home in exchange for free accommodation. (My favorite kind of accommodation!) For longer trips away, it is helpful to have someone to keep an eye on things at the house. Sounds like a win-win to me!
My boyfriend (who also has the travel bug) and I made a profile on Trustedhousesitters.com, which is one of the bigger house sitting sites. At first, I looked primarily for sits in Costa Rica, but I quickly noticed that most of the house sits were in Europe. Since there wasn’t anywhere I needed be and my only real requirement was “good internet connection,” I cast a wide net and hoped for the best.
Within a few hours of applying to several enticing sits, I got a response! I accepted a two week housesit in England, in a small town about two hours outside of London. Once we had our first sit secured, tickets were booked and backpacks were packed – more on how I moved abroad in a 44L backpack later. With the number of house sitting opportunities in the UK, it wasn’t hard to line up several consecutive sits in different parts of the country. Public busses and trains are excellent, and so far we have been able to easily get from sit to sit.
I spent two weeks in a small suburban town outside London, a long weekend in the coastal town of Hastings, and now I am spending a month in Somerset, nestled on a hill between a beautiful countryside and a charming downtown. Next month, I am heading to Belgium. I’ve cared for six dogs, two rabbits, and two guinea pigs so far, and those stats will diversify over time. I’ve even seen listings that want someone to look after ALPACAS! Three amazing host families have welcomed me into their homes and towns.
House sitting while teaching ESL online isn’t the path I thought I would go down, but I’m so glad I’m here. Now lets see where this thing goes…