Thanks to some wonderful travel blogs, in particular The Professional Hobo, we came to the realization that there were people out there looking for someone to watch their home while they were away, typically for free! Being on a budget and wanting our money to last we signed up for two house sitting sites (Trusted Housesitters and House Carers) nearly 5 months before we left on our trip. We decided on these two as they both appeared to have lots of opportunities in New Zealand and Australia our first 2 long-term spots. Less than a month after joining we were in contact with a couple looking for housesitters in New Zealand!
The couple, J and T, seemed very nice and the housesit sounded perfect for us. Luckily they thought we sounded like a good pick and they chose us. The assignment was to begin in September and was approximately 5 weeks, caring for 2 dogs on a large piece of property outside the city of Wanganui on the West Coast of the North Island and included use of a car. We emailed back and forth finding out more about the dogs, area and expectations. We were even invited to attend Bat gammon on Tuesdays and Fries on Fridays with their group of friends at a local pub when we arrived. We knew this was going to suit us well!
We arrived in Wanganui 2 nights before J and T were leaving on their trip and were picked up at the rental car office by J. She welcomed us and showed us the route to the house where we met T and the dogs Ergo and Kaz.
We were shown around the house and the property, which consisted of a nursery business they run and given nice thorough instructions for feeding the dogs and working things around the house. We also met 2 of their employees who would be taking care of things while they were gone. The house was full of character and the deck overlooking green rolling hills full of grazing sheep and birds was breathtaking.
Over the next two days we got to know J and T and were shown all around town and told of sights not to miss! We were even able to attend a Bat gammon night and played a few games with T and friends. We also learned more about Fries on Friday, a weekly get-together of friends at the pub, where they had a pint and “solved the problems of the world.”
We are now coming close to the end of our housesit, with only about 12 days remaining. We have seen a lot, although due to rain we have also spent a lot of time at the house. This is not really a bad thing since we were able to save even more money and get some writing and research done. We love the dogs and have had a wonderful time settling into the house. It has been so nice to be in a proper kitchen and be able to cook dinner every night.
We did attend Fries on Friday a few times and enjoyed talking with lots of locals! We have become friends with Claudia, one of J and T’s employees and have truly enjoyed our time with her and her family. They invited us to dinner at their home and a BBQ on the beach among other things.
We also were able to see our first NZ sporting event when Claudia’s girls (age 8 and 10) competed in a big district wide cross-country match! We have seen the must sees of Wanganui and the surrounding areas and have found several favorite things to do here.
Our first experience with an international housesit has been a good one, but there are some things we have learned! In the future I don’t know that we would do a 5 week housesit. It is a long time in one place, but not long enough to be able to take a class or join a gym or get involved with volunteer work. For us we started getting a little antsy about 3 and a half weeks in. Part of this was due to the rain and part was due to the location. There wasn’t a ton to do in town and we had done most of the day trips that we could in the area. Since we needed to be back by 4pm to feed the dogs we were not able to go too far. Another reason we are getting so antsy is because we’re very excited to explore more of this beautiful country and everyone we talked to said how amazing the south island (our next stop) is.
We would definitely do another housesit and hope to find a couple more along our journey. I think we would research the area and surrounding areas a little better as well as the weather! Stay tuned for highlights from the Wanganui area and surrounding day trips that we have done.