One of the trickiest things about traveling via housesitting is scheduling housesits so that we don't end up, quite literally, homeless. Since making schedules coordinate is one of the trickiest things about life in general (I see all of you balancing work, kid's activities, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc) it makes sense that it's hard when living a nomadic lifestyle as well.
When we started out on this epic adventure we had exactly three housesits planned. We knew we would be in Cyprus for 6 weeks, then we had a 2-week gap before being in Wales for 10 weeks, then we had another 2-week gap before being in Cornwall for Christmas. We set out on the road trusting that we would be able to fill those 2-week gaps, as well as start booking 2019 when necessary. It was nothing if not a leap of faith!
There are several important things to think about when scheduling housesits. First, you need to know the dates that your homeowners need you for. Second, you need to ask about the leeway on either end of those dates. You generally want to arrive at least one full day before they leave so you can learn the pet routines and make sure you will be able to care for them well. But sometimes travel costs change drastically from one date to another, so can you come 2 or even 3 days earlier if it's cheaper? When it's time to leave do they want you out the next day or do you have time to wait for the cheapest flight?
Each of our housesits has been a little bit different, depending on the homeowner's hospitality, their needs, and our needs. In general, everyone has been incredibly flexible, allowing us to arrive a few days early, leave a few days late, or in one case leave just a few hours after they arrived home. We were lucky to fill our first 2-week gap with a housesit in Germany, and then our second 2-week gap turned into a road-trip around the UK with Steve!
The third thing to think about, if you are housesitting abroad, is visas. The US passport can get you into a lot of countries without a visa, but there is a catch - the time limit! Some places allow only 90 days, some 180, and some countries share with each other, so it's not a guarantee that you'll reset just by going to a new country. We learned this lesson just a little bit too late.
Because we started in Cyprus, we looked up the visa laws for that country and saw we could easily do 90 days. We also saw that it didn't overlap with any other countries so we thought that would be the case for a lot of the places we wanted to go. Then we went to Germany, and since we were only there 2 weeks we knew we wouldn't be running into any time limit. Then we went to the UK, where the US passport gets you 180 days out of a 365 period (slightly less than six months). You can do those 180 days all at once, or spread out over the year.
When we booked our first housesit of 2019 in Street, England, we knew we would be getting close to our 180 days in the UK. But we figured, it's all good, we'll start going to other central European countries after that! Well, turns out, that's not so easy. Remember how I said some countries group together to count as one area? (Thanks EU!) Well, most of central Europe is a part of what is called the "Schengen Area", in which the US passport gets you 90 days. But even if you spend some of that 90 days in France, some in Italy, some in Spain, etc., it all counts towards that 90 days. And then you have to be OUT of any Schengen country for 90 days before you can return.
Which means, when we stepped foot in France on March 1st, the clock started ticking on our 90 days. By the end of May, we need to leave and be in a country that is not counted in Schengen, and we can't go back to the UK for any length of time because we've already been there for 164 out of our 180 days (that will reset for us on September 19th.)
So what were our choices? Ireland was the most appealing choice. It is not UK and not in Schengen, so we could go there. Otherwise non-Schengen/non-UK countries include places like Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine...lovely places, I'm sure, but not ones high on our wishlist. Nor, incidentally, have we seen very many housesits pop up in these locations. (We did contemplate one in Bulgaria but it involved helping to get dogs adopted while partially running an Air BnB and seemed complicated...)
We started watching for an Ireland housesit, hoping one would pop up starting at the end of May so we could leave France before our time was up. But we also started talking about everything going on back in the States this summer. Joel wrote this post about how it's hard to be away from family at important times, including 3 of our nieces who are graduating this summer. One of my closest friends is getting ordained this year, and another had a baby after we left that I haven't met yet. My denomination's annual conference will be deciding some important things in June and I can only vote if I'm there. My brother's birthday is in June (which should be celebrated as a national holiday, just like mine) and one of my favorite cousins is getting married! Not to mention just the simple fact that we haven't seen our family or friends for 9 months and counting... with everything going on and the visa scheduling problem, we felt like God was telling us it was time go back for the summer.
But just the summer! We plan to continue our housesitting adventure after spending some quality time with family and friends. We'll go to London in July to use up the rest of our UK days (after celebrating the fourth on home turf) and then it's off to Australia! We have a one month housesit booked starting in September (for the daughter of the people we housesat for in Street) but we are still looking for one starting at the end of July.
Ironically, mere days after we decided to go to the States and told all of our family and friends to expect us, a housesit popped up in Ireland for exactly the dates we needed (caring for one adorable kitten!). I kind of felt like it was God saying that we would have been taken care of no matter what we decided. Nevertheless, I am so excited to be back in the States for a while to spend time with family and friends. The flights worked out cheapest to leave a bit earlier in May than we thought, so we'll actually be home in time for Mother's Day! (You can imagine how my mom felt about that!)
We'll definitely be keeping the blog going over the summer, and if you think Iowa is boring stay tuned here for me to show you that it's not. My mom already has a list of 20+ things we can do to have fun and share about with all of our readers!
Also, a note to family and friends we will see in May and June - we are on a budget with a capital B so expect us to be total cheapskates. Mom, I am taking you up on all those Facebook posts about how your children can come eat your food and sleep in your beds anytime! We won't have a car so we'll be bumming rides and that might effect who all we can see, so please keep that in mind. Basically it's costing our whole monthly budget for May/June to fly back, so we are going to try and save as much money as possible. We are also going to try and earn some extra money if we can - I have some pulpit supply dates scheduled and Joel might do some work for some friends of ours.
All that to say - if you are going to travel long-term, be sure to do your research on visas! And if you are in the States (particularly IA/IL where our families mostly are) and want to see us this summer, send me a message!