Tracey Tullis can be found writing about house sitting and travel over at The Expat Experiment. This post about trying expat life was originally posted there.
Many people dream of living life abroad. Some envision doing so when they retire and others, like us, decide they want to take the leap sooner. A few of the challenges that “would be” expats deal with include deciding where to move abroad and how to afford to investigate that destination long-term before making a commitment. Deciding these things can be daunting, but there are ways to make the process a lot less intimidating.
How can you try expat life affordably to make an informed decision?
First, understand there’s no need to make a commitment to one place right off the bat.
And, second, there is a way you can make living abroad for weeks or even months really, really affordable. Even if those places are among the most expensive travel destinations.
The answer is … become an international house sitter.
You can try expat life comfortably and affordably by house sitting! People who are already expats around the world return to their home countries for extended periods seasonally, to visit family, or to receive healthcare. A lot prefer to have their homes occupied while they’re away. Some have pets they want to leave behind in capable hands as well. This is a perfect opportunity for you to try out living in a new country.
In fact, house sitting opportunities exist in expat communities all around the world. Especially during the summer and over holidays. House-sits can last weeks to several months, or even a year. Providing you with a chance to explore a new country for a period that suits you. The benefit of house sitting over staying in a hotel or renting an apartment is the money you’ll save on accommodation and food costs.
Having access to a kitchen to cook some meals will help you save money by not eating in restaurants too often. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the culture by shopping at markets for groceries. House sitting is an opportunity for you to live in a residential neighborhood, in a typical house (but rent free), just as if you were living in your potential new country. This kind of experience is invaluable for anyone considering a move abroad.
We tried expat life in Panama house sitting for 6 months.
We spent six months house sitting in Los Alto de Cerro Azul, a holiday/expat community in the mountains an hour outside Panama City, Panama. The couple we were sitting for were Canadian. They wanted to return home to spend time with their first grandchild.
They had two dogs that needed caring for. And their home could not remain empty because of environmental issues that can arise when a home is shut up for long periods of time. This worked perfectly for us because the home and area were stunning. The amount of time we could stay would allow us to really get to know what life would be like living there.
We shopped where the locals shopped and dealt with challenges expats faced living in the community.
Our time in Panama was very affordable. We spent only $46 USD a day for all of our living expenses (groceries, eating out, visiting attractions, gas for the truck, and a visit to the dentist). The living costs definitely fit our budget. But, challenges with weather, driving, and the pervasive influence of American culture were all deal breakers for us pursuing residency in Panama.
We learned many valuable lessons about house sitting and expat life in Los Altos de Cerro Azul. Valuable information that we could not have learned without living like locals in the community.
Living like expats house sitting in Turkey and Spain.
People from around the world choose to expatriate to the Turquoise Coast in Turkey. Stunning beaches, cheap prices, and incredible weather are just a few of the things that make this stretch of coastline so attractive. We jumped at the chance to house sit in this area to find out what it was like to live there.
Here were our key findings house sitting in Ovacik, a small village in Southern Turkey, living costs were very affordable and it is a culturally rich area despite its touristy atmosphere. We managed to live comfortably on $27 USD a day. That included everything; groceries, transportation, attractions and eating out in restaurants. We loved the markets and all of the fresh produce and seafood available in Fethiye, a nearby harbor-side city.
We loved this area of Turkey because of the things listed above and the hidden gems we learned about from the expat homeowner we house sat for. She showed us the restaurants and businesses loved by locals. We benefited from her expertise and were able to get a good feel for what life was like in the area in just one month.
When we house sat in Spain we lived like locals in Fuente Mar, a small community between the towns of Vera and Garrucha along the southern coast. We spent two months there and were stunned how affordable it was to live well.
We knew it would be cheaper than living back home in Canada but were surprised to learn how cheap costs were compared to other countries we visited. Living costs in this area of Spain ended up being the cheapest of all the places we’d visited! We spent $25 USD and lived like kings.
We loved the culture and the community in the area. Everything we wanted was within walking distance including a bustling outdoor market and the beach. The holiday/expat community where we were house sitting was lovely, safe, and close to everything we could want or need.
If you’re interested in becoming a house sitter HouseSit Match is my favorite house sitting platform. I know the personal service on their site is the best, especially for new house sitters. If you have pets at home, house sitting could benefit you two ways. Enlist a house sitter to care for your home and pets while you try expat life rent free with house sitting abroad. You’ll save tons of money on travel costs and avoid the worry having to board your pet in a kennel.
The bottom line is …
We could afford to try living life as an expat in three different parts of the world because of house sitting. Living in local communities, shopping, eating out, and socializing with locals helped us make informed decisions on where we’d like to pursue residency abroad.
There is no doubt in our minds that house sitting makes learning about life in a new country much easier. Homeowners are resident experts and they’ll share their expertise with you. I can’t think of an easier or better way to gain this knowledge. Knowing the places that locals love as soon as you set foot in a potential new home is invaluable. House sitting is a great way to try expat life easily and affordably.