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February 4, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Housesitting gigs can take you anywhere — even a Sequim poodle ranch

Have you ever considered housesitting as a mode of inexpensive travel?

Last weekend my family and I visited our friends George Hastings and Celeste Bennett, former Shilshole Bay Marina neighbors who sailed away to Mexico a few years ago and then spent a couple years living, writing and teaching there.

George Hastings and Celeste Bennett care for poodles (and two horses) in exchange for free rent at this house on the edge of Sequim. They got the housesitting assignment through www.housecarers.com. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell/The Seattle Times)

They sold their sailboat in Baja, and when they’d had enough adventure and blistering summer heat in Chiapas, their next move was to — a farmhouse in Alberta, a housesitting gig they had arranged through an online service.

From there, they moved last fall to another housesitting situation, this time on a Sequim poodle ranch, where we caught up with them.

Yes, from sailors and teachers they’re now poodle minders, caring for four big, smart standard poodles whose owner is attending graduate school in California.

In exchange for caring for the dogs, along with two horses, Alfalfa and Elvis, they get free rent and utilities in a pretty nice, big house (with room for guests) on a few acres of land in the Olympic Peninsula rain shadow. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from beautiful hikes around Dungeness Spit, with broad views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They’re loving it.

George and Celeste told us of two online services they’ve used, www.mindmyhouse.com and www.housecarers.com, which help homeowners find suitable housesitters and vice versa. Typically, housesitters pay a fee to register on such sites, from $20 to $50, while homeowners pay no fee. Often, pet care is part of the duties, and gigs seem to range from a week or two, to several months.

A check this morning of MindMyHouse showed housesitting offerings ranging from two weeks of cat-sitting in England’s Cotswolds, to three weeks in a mountain village in Transylvania, to caring for two dogs, three chickens, cats and plants on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Housesitting can appeal to young people trying to save money for their own home purchase, or retirees aiming to stretch their Social Security, or to anyone who loves to sample new places and cultures in an affordable way.

“It’s nice, because you get a viewpoint of living in a place, not just visiting,” George said of their housesitting experiences.

Our friends expect to spend 15 months in Sequim. Their next housesitting goal is Europe, maybe for a year.

0 Comments | Topics: cheap travel, housecarers.com, housesitting

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