Category Archives: World Travel

How to survive a Chinese spa

I’d heard a lot about spas here in Shenzhen and how different they were to western versions, and I was keen to see how they compared. One of my students offered to take us to D-Club, a luxury spa in the Futian district and it really was an experience unlike any other!

Read the story of how our day unfolded here:

http://www.saporedicina.com/english/luxury-chinese-spa-experience/

Lovin’ Bloglovin’

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I’ve been wondering lately how to manage all the interesting blogs and information that I read. It seems that we all love to write and share our experiences. But as it becomes more and more easy to create stylish information based websites, I find myself drawn to so many articles.

And the problem is that I wander.

I wander through all the links and find inevitably that I’ve lost the original article I was so interested in reading! I guess I’ve been so busy getting lost deep within layers of internet searches that I haven’t had time to find Bloglovin’

After dallying briefly with Feedly I sort of gave up – but thanks to a great travel blog I was linked to last night I finally found Bloglovin’

So far so good – and here I am now “claiming my blog”. I was instructed to write a new blog and insert the relevant code but none of my latest blog posts are ready. So as I’m an impatient girl, I’ve written this short entry to test that it works!

For anyone reading these few short paragraphs, please, please take time to look at my “real” articles! I’m a global traveller living with my partner, Ian Usher, and partaking in a lifestyle adventure that I hope will see me through the rest of my life!

Two years ago Ian and I began travelling the world after a chance meeting in London. DivergingRoads.com tells our story as we meander happily through our lifestyle adventure, finding ways to make a living while experiencing as many cultures as possible.

I hope you find some inspiration here to live your life exactly as you want to.

More coming very soon!

House Sitting Websites Compared

Which house sitting website is best?

Updated 16th Sept 2017
Exclusive House Sitting Magazine discounts available on this page – see below

House sitting websites compared – If you are new to house sitting or pet sitting, then you’ve probably discovered that you’ll need to subscribe to a website to get access to assignments.

So, which house sitting website should I choose?

platforms montage - Which house sitting website is best?

We compare house sitting websites and detail the best services provided. We review the top 5 international house sitting platforms and give links to some of the country specific sites in popular countries like the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

  • Trusted House Sitters
  • Nomador
  • House Carers
  • Mind My House
  • House Sit Match

Without doubt Trusted House Sitters is the largest and most popular international house sitting website, with a wide range of assignments in countries around the world.

HOUSE SITTING WEBSITES COMPARED

All of the subscription costs are shown in USD $ unless indicated


www.TrustedHouseSitters.com

Operated Since: 2010
Price: $119 USD per year (special 25% discount offer – see link below)
Average Active House Sits: 1500 – 2000
Countries: International
Photo Upload: Yes 13
Video Upload: Yes
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: Yes (3 different levels of check available)
Facebook Group: trustedhousesitters
Twitter Page: housesitting

TrustedHouseSitters is the largest and most well known of the international house sitting websites. You will find house sits from all over the world, but they are particularly strong in Europe, Australia and the USA.

They have the most house sitting assignments to choose from. Although they are the most expensive, the huge choice will increase your chances of selection. Home owners are charged the same rate as house sitters for membership – this means that home owners are generally committed to the assignments they list, and less likely to be “testing” the water as can happen on some sites where home owners list adverts for free. If you want to join as both a house sitter and a home owner, the combined subscription is $149.00.

This website is also run as a professional business with a team of 26+ people including a 24/7 customer care team. The website has been improved and updated time and time again over the years.

There are a number of helpful filters, including the option to select house sits that are “family friendly”.

A possible downside for the “newbie” house sitter is that it might be more difficult to get on to the house sitting “ladder” due to the number of members. Make sure you set up “email alerts” and apply to house sits as soon as possible. Spend some time creating a stand out profile and video. Our advice would be to select an additional regional site to increase your chances of selection until you get established.

Definitely one to have at the top of your list. Some of our best house sits have been found through this platform!

We are pleased to announce that we have partnered with TrustedHousesitters to offer readers of House Sitting Magazine and website a special 25% discount for a limited period only. Simply click the link below – no code should be required, discount will be applied in whatever currency you pay (if discount doesn’t show use code HSMAG25 at checkout): http://trustedhs.co/HSMAG

TrustedHousesitters 25% Discount


www.Nomador.com

Operated Since: 2014
Price: USD $ 89 year / $ 35 qtr
Average Active House Sits: 500 – 1000
Countries: International, specialize France & Europe
Photo Upload: Yes
Video Upload: No
Reference Upload: Endorsements and badges (no external references)
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: Yes
Facebook Group: nomador.community
Twitter Page: Nomador_Com

Nomador is newer to the scene but is already gaining ground on the three other most popular sites. This site was originally operated as a French house sitting site called Ilidor. Its French connection means there are still a lot of house sits in France, but the business is now truly global. So, international registrations are becoming much more prolific. We found the site a little more difficult to navigate in terms of pre-registration browsing, but once signed up it is full of great tools and helpful advice for house sitters and home owners alike..

The website’s modern design has a unique trust-based identity upload area for passports, driving licenses and other forms of ID. This identity check provides extra reassurance for homeowners. Your uploaded information is not shared and it is disposed of once the verification is complete.

Nomador also has a unique “Stopover” feature where home owners can register to offer free accommodation to members in-between house sits, or simply to build friendships. They also have a filter for assignments that are suitable for persons with reduced mobility. The ethos of the platform is to grow the sharing economy and build “community” – we think they have really succeeded with this!

The rate is the same for both home owners and house sitters. There is also a “Discovery Option” available FREE OF CHARGE which allows new house sitters to apply for up to 3 assignments. This free option extends to home owners too, but with some restrictions.


www.HouseCarers.com

Operated Since: 2000
Price: USD $ 50 year (free for home owners) (special 10% discount for House Sitting Magazine)
Average Active House Sits: 300-400
Countries: International
Photo Upload: Yes (14 images)
Video Upload: Yes
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: Being introduced (2017)
Facebook Group: housecarers
Twitter Page: housecarers

HouseCarers is another long-standing, highly rated international site, with listings in countries around the world. Definitely worth considering, and the website has had a major overhaul so the user interface is much easier to use and with more features than before.

They have a limited FREE TRIAL although you can’t upload photographs or contact home owners. You will get daily alerts so it could be worth a try just to see what you get offered. There is no charge for home owners on this site.

We secured our first long term sit of 2016 with HouseCarers. We looked after a beautiful luxury property in Australia, with a pool and a fabulous view! We were very happy with their service and the ease of use of the website.

We’ve also negotiated a special 10% discount for house sitters – click here of on the image below.

House Carers Discount


www.HouseSitMatch.com

Operated Since: 2013
Price: GBP £ 35 / £ 75 (basic and premium plans)
Average Active House Sits: up to 50
Countries: International but good for UK
Photo Upload: Yes – 2 on basic / 7 on premium
Video Upload: Yes – on premium plan
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: No
Facebook Group: housesitmatch
Twitter Page: housesitmatch

HouseSitMatch is another relative newcomer to the house sitting scene. Initially the site focused on house sits in the UK and Australia but new countries are being added all the time. Their strength in Europe is currently in the UK and Spain.

They don’t have so many house sitting assignments, but founder Lamia Walker, offers a very personal service and their current ratio of home owners to house sitters is only 1:1.5, so your chances of securing a house sit assignment are much higher.

The premium subscription is worth the extra money as you can load more pictures and a video. The website offers lots of great resources, has a new member chat facility and we’ve heard that this is a good website to contact if you are interested in family house sits.

Home owners pay the same as house sitters. There are often special offers in the Facebook group, so it’s worth checking there if you are thinking of joining.

We will be definitely be trying out House Sit Match when we return to Europe.


www.MindMyHouse.com

Operated Since: 2005
Price: USD $ 20 year (Free for homeowners)
Average Active House Sits: 200
Countries: International
Photo Upload: Yes
Video Upload: No
Reference Upload: Yes
Police Checks: Yes
ID Check: No
Facebook Group: not active since 2013 – use twitter
Twitter Page: MindMyHouse1

This is another good international website that gets regularly updated and improved. The site is inexpensive to join at USD $20 a year and so we would suggest it should be added to your top three as a matter of course. You’ve nothing to lose really at this price!

It has a good messaging system and a great search system with a useful map locator. There’s lots of relevant information to help you get started and they have some good downloadable resources. Home owners join for free.


COUNTRY SPECIFIC HOUSE SITTING WEBSITES

Not all house sitting sites cover international assignments. Some prefer to focus on one particular country, such as the UK, or a region such as Australia & New Zealand.

If you are planning to house sit in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand or Mexico, then you might find it beneficial to also subscribe to one of these more regional websites.

We’ve always found that HouseSittersUK has worked very well for us when we’ve been looking for sites in the UK, and I think if we were looking in Australia, we would definitely look to sign up to a similar site there The “House Sitters” network has sites in a number of countries, but you do have to sign up to each one which can be expensive if you are an international sitter.

Remember that many home owners will have signed up to the larger international sites as well, so you need to weigh up whether you think it’s worth it.

House sitting websites in Australia (including Tasmania)

Australia is a great place to house sit. Many Aussies love to travel and usually for extended periods. This means properties are available throughout the year in some great and often interesting locations and there are more country specific websites here than in most other countries.

If you are an Australian looking to house sit primarily in your home countries then one of more of these sites are worth subscribing to and we would definitely recommend: www.aussiehousesitters.com

If you are planning to spend an extended period of time in Australia house sitting long term, then we would also suggest you sign up to an Australian specific website.

However, if you have subscribed to House Carers and Trusted House Sitters you will have a large selection of Australian assignments available to you. We suggest you browse the sites of your international subscriptions first, and compare to your country specific selection to see what sort of duplication of assignments exists.

http://housesittingtasmania.com.au/

www.happyhousesitters.com.au

www.aussiehousesitters.com.au

www.mindahome.com.au

www.housesittersaustralia.com.au

www.australianhousesitter.com.au

www.yourhomemyhome.com.au/

And remember that www.housecarers.com are based in Australia, so whilst an international site they have a lot of experience of Aussie house sits and feature many.

House sitting websites in New Zealand

www.housesitters.co.nz/

www.kiwihousesitters.co.nz

House Sitting websites in the USA & Canada

Given the size of America and the number of house sitting opportunities that exist, there are very few country specific house sitting websites available. Although an international site, you will find that TrustedHousesitters has a lot of USA sits available.

This is probably why House Sitters America do so well. They charge only $30 a year for anywhere in the USA. Some sites charge by zones or states so this really is a good deal. The website runs and operates easily using the same format as House Sitters UK, a company we’ve had great personal success with.

Update March 2017 House Sitters Canada is the newest addition to the world’s largest network of regional House Sitter sites. For a limited period of time they are offering FREE membership while they build their database of members.

www.HouseSittersAmerica.com

https://www.housesitterscanada.com/

House Sitting websites in the UK

House sitting in the UK is extremely popular and there are two great country specific websites. We are subscribed to House Sitters UK and I find their website really easy to navigate.

We had instant success when we joined up, finding two consecutive house sits within just a few weeks. They have a great instant messaging system, cost only £20 for a year and currently have over 100 assignments listed.

Again, as with Australia, you should compare how many of these assignments are featured on the international websites if you are only looking to house sit temporarily in the UK.

www.HouseSittersUK.co.uk
www.MindaHome.co.uk

House Sitting websites in Mexico

www.housesitmexico.com/

With an influx of expats from America and Canada, Mexico is becoming a popular choice for house sitting and assignments are increasing all the time. Destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, Merida and the Yucatan in general, offer year round opportunities.

To help facilitate the growing demand, HouseSitMexico has just been relaunched (2016) with a smart new interface, and the option to select different regions within this large country.

They charge $39 USD for 3 months membership, or $79 USD for a year. Rates are the same for home owners and house sitters. If you are both, there is NO additional charge. Once a member you can use either service.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

House Sitting Magazine – The ultimate lifestyle magazine

House sitting magazine is an unbiased free online publication that is available to download as an Apple or Android app version, or if you don’t have a mobile device, you can read a simple PDF version on your computer. You’ll find lots of informative articles about how to get started in house sitting. Download Issue 1 for the best “getting started” articles or go to the resources page on the website.

Sign-up for our Udemy House Sitting online course for only $19

If you want to learn how to become a successful house sitter or pet sitter take a look at our comprehensive online course at Udemy.

This course covers all the techniques used by successful house sitters. We’ll show you all the tips and strategies you’ll need to secure the assignments of your choice time and time again. You’ll discover all the secrets to becoming a credible, well respected house sitter, even as a newcomer.

You can get this course for only USD $19 (a 50% discount) by clicking this link:

Udemy Online Course – Become a Pro House Sitter and reduce your world travel accommodation

Of course house sitting isn’t just about free accommodation. There are responsibilities that are an important part of the relationship between home owners and sitters. These should never be taken lightly. This course guides you through the process of becoming a professional house and pet sitter, ensuring that the experience is win-win-win – for you, the home owner and the pets!

Or watch our video introduction here:

House Sitting – Introduction to becoming a successful international house sitter

Join our Facebook Group and Reddit Community

You can also join our subreddit where you’ll find lots of useful resources, house sitting articles and a question and answer forum:

https://www.reddit.com/r/housesittingforum/

and our House Sitting Magazine Facebook Group where you can discuss all sorts of topics.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/HouseSittingMagazine/

We hope you’ve found this “House Sitting Websites Compared” article helpful – message us if you have any questions – we’d love to help you get started!

 

House Sitting in the UK

It was tough leaving the USA and even tougher selling the RV, our home for six months while we traveled around the southern states. But now we were back in England looking forward to house sitting in Reading.

I had grown up close by, so it was interesting to see how Reading had developed from my memory of a dingy, soulless town into a vibrant, modern city.

We were looking after an apartment that overlooked a park and the River Thames, just a short walk across the bridge to the city center. We had no car but we really didn’t need one here as the we could almost see the train station from our balcony!

This is one of those house sits that nearly didn’t happen. We were scheduled to look after Karen’s country home and her dogs for three weeks while she traveled. But a personal issue meant that she had to cancel and so no longer needed a sitter. However, she knew that we were flying in from the US and that it was too short notice for us to easily secure another assignment, and so she offered up her second property that was in the process of being sold.

Our house sitting home in Reading
Our house sitting home in Reading

This is what’s so lovely about the house sitting community. On the whole, and I believe because no money changes hands, everything is handled on the basis of trust and respect. People don’t want to let each other down, and Karen was amazing in this respect. When we arrived at the apartment, she’d even stocked up the fridge for us and put the heating on. What great hospitality.

So what exactly is house sitting?

House Sitting is a trend that’s become extremely popular over the last few years. It’s now a recognized alternative to a regular vacation and a great accommodation option for longer term travel.

Some people (and we’re almost in this category), house sit as a way of life. It’s an inexpensive way to visit and live temporarily in different countries and cultures round the world.

Sunny morning on the River Thames
Sunny morning on the River Thames

Instead of leaving a house vacant, home owners use house sitters to care for their property, possessions and pets. This can be anything from a few days to a few months, or even longer. By registering on international house sitting websites such as Trusted House Sitters, you can choose properties all over the world to stay in free of charge!

Continue reading House Sitting in the UK

Goodbye to America and goodbye to our RV

Our US road trip is sadly at an end!

We’ll soon be the previous owners of this wonderful 1998 Fleetwood Pace Arrow motorhome. It has just passed 81,000 miles – a low average of around 5,000 miles per year. We bought this vehicle at PPL in Houston six months ago and have just enjoyed an amazing trip of a lifetime. We’ve driven over 5,000 miles and have lived full time in the RV for the whole six months.DSC04310

Our journey is just coming to an end, but if you are considering buying an RV, this article contains some information that might help you with your buying decision. Whatever type of RV you decide to buy, we hope you too get to experience life on the road in the same fine style we did.

Original Specification and add-ons

Our vehicle came with all the original paperwork and maintenance records going right back to the day it was bought as a brand new vehicle. The original owners paid for all of the optional extra add ons, which made it a very high specification model.

•    Awning made by Coleman Faulkner
•    Power roof vents
•    Extra TV in the bedroom
•    Dual air conditioning system
•    Powered hydraulic leveling jacks
•    Remote electric mirrors
•    Rear vision camera system
•    Higher quality interior trim

On comparing this model with some of the other vehicles of a similar age and type, we found everything to be a very high quality and finish. The value of the extras alone totaled $12,000 in 1998. The original price paid for this vehicle with all the add-ons was over $77,000!

Ian’s favorites

“With previous experience of driving big trucks (in the mines in the outback of Australia), I have tended to do most of the driving on any narrower or trickier roads. I am also the one who usually parks the vehicle wherever we stay for the night. However, Vanessa, after very little practice, has learned to drive the RV with ease and confidence.

The back-up camera is a great assistance. You can set it to just come on when you select reverse gear, or you can have it on all the time, so the image doesn’t go off when you come out of reverse gear – this is often a big help when positioning the vehicle at a fuel pump.

DSC04008But above all, my favorite feature is the leveling jacks system. Once parked in place, from the driver’s seat you can simply set the vehicle level using the power jacks and the spirit level on the engine hood.

Many times at campsites we watched people with blocks of wood or plastic wedges, setting them under the wheels, guessing the level of the vehicle, before driving up onto these precarious platforms. They would often repeat the operation over and over until they got it right.  See picture above. No fun in cold or muddy conditions.

The power jacks are quicker, safer, and so convenient. You don’t even need to get out of the RV if it is raining – just level-up from the driver’s seat when you park, then put the kettle on!”

DSC04131

Vanessa’s favorites

“We took a long time to decide on this particular RV. I really liked how well looked after it was. In comparison to many others, there were no smells of stale tobacco, damp or other odors. However, one of the main things that influenced me was the design of the bathroom.

I liked that you could close two doors to create a large bathroom giving complete privacy in that area. Or you could close just one door to make a large en-suite bathroom. With hanging space in two additional wardrobes it is a good practical use of space. But the toilet does have a door and is enclosed for privacy.
Image00017The whole bathroom area dries out very quickly because of this open design, so it never has that damp musty smell that many smaller bathrooms acquire.

The bathroom sink is easily accessible too – if the kitchen sink is full or in use, you can still refill the kettle, or rinse something off in this extra sink.
DSC02498I also like the kitchen area. The fridge is a decent size, and there’s an oven too, not just a microwave, as you’ll see in many older RVs. If you can’t run the generator (campground restrictions), the option is there to use the gas oven. There’s a microwave too, of course. The finish on the table and counter tops is lovely. In fact the whole RV is very well finished and I really like the window blinds with their day and night options.

IMG_1437The vehicle always felt very secure when we locked up at night. The windows are pretty high and we could double-lock the door. We checked and with the night blinds down, no one could see in. This really has been a lovely cozy home for the last six months and I will miss this nomadic lifestyle.”

Maintenance

During our six months of ownership we had only one major problem to deal with, when the radiator sprung a leak. It was the original 1998 radiator, so it had done very well.

This was replaced with a brand new unit at Texas Fleet Maintenance in Austin. They did a great job, and we haven’t had any overheating issues since, even on the steepest grades. We climbed up over 11,000 feet on the I-70 across Colorado from Grand Junction to Denver with no problems at all.

The only other job we had to do is top up the hydraulic fluid for the jacks. It’s an easy job which takes just a few minutes.

Image00020

We have lived in this RV through extremes of temperatures from 40 degrees to well over 100 degrees. We have experienced torrential rain and storms with not a single leak to be seen. We’ve used the heating system and the air conditioning extensively and found them both to be more than effective in their respective temperature ranges.

Buying an old vehicle is often considered a risk, but we are very happy with the decision we made. It is, however, important to buy a vehicle that has been used regularly. More problems occur with vehicles that have been in storage for long periods of time. Low mileage doesn’t always mean low maintenance. It’s better to find an RV with slightly higher mileage that has had regular use, regular services and regular system checks.

If you are thinking about buying an older RV – in my opinion don’t hesitate. Use common sense, drive the vehicle, check out all the systems and make sure there is a comprehensive history. Ask lots of questions.

Or you could visit PPL in Houston – we would happily recommend them to anyone. All vehicles are sold on consignment, so there is no pressure to buy. No high powered sales people on your case from the moment you enter the door – as was our experience in some other centers!

Our road trip was a great, once in a lifetime experience and if you follow in our footsteps, you too could soon be eating breakfast, as we did,  on the edge of The Grand Canyon!

IMG_2435

Our Journey

Over the past six months we covered over 5,000 miles and saw some amazing and beautiful parts of the US. We spent a couple of months visiting the lovely state parks of Texas and then traveled west toward and along the border with Mexico.

After a brief visit to Guadalupe Peak on the Texas border, we journeyed on to The Grand Canyon where we spent a couple of weeks exploring both the south and north rims.

Then on to Bryce, Zion and Arches National Parks before finally heading to the higher, cooler mountains and ski towns of Beaver Creek and Vail.

We headed back to Houston before flying to the UK. We met some amazing people along the way and experienced unrivaled hospitality from  the American people. We certainly hope that we might someday experience our “second” trip of a lifetime and find another wonderful Pace Arrow to experience a different area of the US!

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