Trust and Travel (and House-Sitting)

 

Jorge handed over the key to his Jeep and walked us through some of the features. Within a few minutes, we were behind the wheel and on our way.

We had just met Jorge and Sheila in person an hour before (enabled via a match on a house-sitting website, a steady exchange of emails, and one Skype call). Not only did we suddenly have access to their new vehicle, but the key ring also contained the necessary hardware to get into their home. And they were leaving it all with us, in the hands of virtual strangers, for almost three months in the rural woods of Wisconsin.

KeysWhy? Because they were off to Central America to do the exact same thing, to care for a property belonging to another (whom they had never met before either).

Trust is at the root of house-sitting, as it is for so many acts of travel. Couchsurfing, booking tour operators, even the act of stepping outside your door sometimes means having faith in the humanity around you – faith that no one is out to strip you of your possessions or harm you in any way. Believing in the basic goodness of humankind is necessary; fear of the opposite will leave you housebound and missing out on what the wide world has to offer.

And with house-sitting, it goes both ways. Not only are Jorge and Sheila trusting us with the care of their home and chubby kitty, but we were committed by the cost of plane tickets and almost three months of our time. Would we be comfortable there? Is it safe? Was it everything they said it would be? We have been stung a couple of times before – due to non-disclosure of a safety issue at one house-sit, and having to thoroughly clean our living quarters at another on the first day. Neither discouraged our overall enjoyment of each gig, but both experiences taught us a little about house-sitting due diligence.

(Note that trust is also required of your OWN instincts. We have turned down one house-sit on the basis that our personalities weren’t meshing with that of the home-owner. With Jorge and Sheila, we had no such concern.)

Just a minute before the big handover, Jorge had said: “The thing that impresses me the most about house-sitting is the concept of trust. That there are people all over the world, ready to hand over their houses to people they don’t know.”

Just after the handover, we got in the vehicle, found their address on the GPS and followed the directions. Through the windy roads of northern Wisconsin, we had to trust that we wouldn’t get lost.

And they have to trust that we won’t change the locks on their gorgeous home and make roots in the Wisconsin wilderness for good.

Wisconsin Cabin in the Woods

 

(They should be wary. That might happen.)

 
 *****

Want to learn more about house-sitting? Then be sure to check out our eBook on how to get started!

 

34 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own

  • Hmm. Three months of Wisconsin winter? Bet you were the only applicants!

    • November 6 2012

      We’re tough folks from northern Canada! We can handle Wisconsin, trust me. :)

  • November 5 2012

    What a beautiful, cozy-looking home you’ve found yourself in! I must buy your e-book.

    • November 6 2012

      It is cozy alright! Thank goodness, as the snow is falling today… :)

  • November 5 2012

    Pete and Dalene were not the only applicants but they were the greatest for sure. Among other things, we could “trust” that our new friends from Alberta are well acquainted with Old Man Winter. Wishing them a lovely November and a white Christmas. Go Pack!

    • November 6 2012

      We are being faced with Old Man Winter today! BRING IT! We’ve got some snow shoeing to do! :)

  • November 5 2012

    I’ve always wanted to do this! How fun! We might just have to get you to come housesit at our place sometime…how do you feel about TN? ;-)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Country Dog: Vol. XIII

    • November 6 2012

      We will try anywhere once! :)

  • November 6 2012

    Trust is so important. I’ve never housesat, but I’ve CouchSurfed for years… with only a phone number of a nearby hostel as a backup plan. And I’ve only ever had to make that call once. I love that a good portion of the people you meet are the same as you.. honest, trustworthy, and just trying to make a life for themselves. Let us know how the winter goes.

    • November 6 2012

      I truly believe that 98% of the people in the world are trustworthy, which is why I’m such a big believer in things like housesitting and Couchsurfing!

  • November 6 2012

    It’s kind of inspiring that people can “meet” in such unusual ways and trust each other without reservations. When we were doing work exchanges ,we constantly arrived in foreign countries, trusting that complete strangers (with whom we had exchanged a few emails) would pick us up and shelter us. We were never let down, and that’s pretty wonderful.

    • November 6 2012

      That is, for sure. And a great testament to how the world is not as “scary” as everybody tends to think it is.

  • November 6 2012

    I’ve never house sat, but I’ve done plenty of apartment renting in a similar vein, and it has always struck me how open and trusting people are. I’ve had deposits waived because people don’t seem to think they are necessary. Personally I’m a big believer in karma – do good to others and good will come to you :)
    Laurence recently posted..Travel – it’s all about the people

    • November 6 2012

      Truth. I’m a big believer in that too.

  • November 6 2012

    Awesome – I can’t wait to try housesitting – I did buy your ebook but havn’t had a chance to read it yet
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..The Celtic Bar Scene Of Santa Ponsa

    • November 8 2012

      Let us know if you have any questions at all after reading it!

  • November 6 2012

    I recently got zonked by my roommate who moved out while I was at work and still owed TWO months rent. Had to borrow from friends to cover the debt and not get evicted… sure hope Karma works.

    House sitting I’m well acquainted with – partially how I paid off my student loans and never had an issue on either party’s side. Those who were concerned about precious items either stored them off site while I was there or locked them in a safe deposit box and I’ve done the same.

    I’d be open to a house/apartment swap despite my recent evil roommate episode. Not everyone is bad and through the bad I’ve learned a lot.

    • November 8 2012

      Ouch, sorry about your roommate experience! Thank goodness that MOST people in the world aren’t like that. Glad that it hasn’t discouraged you from house-sitting or swapping!

  • Kim
    November 7 2012

    Love it and such a lovely place. I think a cozy winter in the woods sounds amazing.

    • November 8 2012

      It’s plenty cozy. :) Now just waiting for a BIG snowfall so we can have fun on snow shoes!

  • November 7 2012

    Aw was just about to ask if you wanted to take on this one: http://www.trustedhousesitters.com/pt/house-sitting-assignments/algarve-pt-0/silves/house-sitter-on-the-algarve-christmas-2012-2-weeks-and-february-2013-1-week/ (my folks)

    We are house sitting in France and in a very cold winter of up to -15 celcius so getting all of our woolies together.

    • November 8 2012

      OooH! That one does look tempting. I’m sure you’ll have someone snatch it up in no time!

  • November 7 2012

    I find trust is like anything else, you have to give it to get it. Unfortunately sometimes companies let us down in that respect when we travel. Luckily, we have had far more positive experiences with individuals and independent operators than we have bad ones =)
    Andrea recently posted..GIVEAWAY: Not For Tourist Guides To 11 Top Cities

    • November 8 2012

      Often it’s a leap of faith when it comes to trust too. I know you guys have had some rough experiences on the road, I’m glad that the positives have outweighed them. :)

  • November 8 2012

    Looks like a great place! And you know what? You insired me so much with your previous house-sitting assignments that I’ll soon have my first house-sitting experience in… New Zealand!
    Useless to say how thrilled I am! And it seems that there were immediately a feeling between Laura and Doug (the people in NZ) and I. We had lots of nice e-mail exchanges and I can’t wait to be at their place at take care of Jazz, their lovely cat. So… I owe it a little to you and all your fantastic stories!
    Simon recently posted..Genova Old Town and its Special Characther

    • November 9 2012

      We can’t WAIT to hear about your adventure over there Simon. So happy that you decided to give house-sitting a try!

  • November 10 2012

    I have to agree. Although I’ve never housesat, I have couchsurfed, and even just in general, meeting people while traveling requires a lot of trust. There have been moments on my trip where I’ve chosen to leave my possessions under the watch of a new friend while I run an errand, and, while there is always a chance that something goes wrong, I normally find that I can trust the people I meet, just as I hope they feel that they can trust me. The more I travel, the more I realize how much people are alike around the world!

    • November 11 2012

      That is a great lesson from travel. I always say that I believe 98% of the people in the world have good, honest hearts, and travel has been proving me right.

  • November 10 2012

    So very true! These kind of things kind of put your faith back in humanity a bit.

    And you guys are staying THERE? Wow, gorgeous. :)

    • November 11 2012

      I know! We are quite happy in this little haven in the wilderness! :)

  • Ali
    November 16 2012

    I don’t think I could handle Wisconsin in the winter. I spent 5 months in Minnesota for a training program and it nearly killed me. Although Germany is looking to be just as bad. I’m sure you strong Canadians will do just fine, but I’d love to fly south for the winter.
    Ali recently posted..Are You Afraid to Travel Alone?

  • November 18 2012

    Have you guys ever seen the movie The Holiday? I never really thought about a house swap or house sitting until that movie. And while Tim and I aren’t really in the position to house sit long term right now, we hope it is eventually in our future.
    Jennifer recently posted..Cochem and the Moselle River Valley

  • December 6 2012

    I’d be pretty afraid to leave my house to someone I didn’t know, although I realize people do it all the time. It’s definitely a leap of faith that I’m not ready to take. A house swap might be different though, since you’re staying in the other person’s place so they have something at stake too.
    Reena @ Wanderplex recently posted..Holiday gift guide for every kind of traveler

    • December 8 2012

      My mother, who RAVES about our travel and loves hearing about all our house-sitting experiences, feels the same way you do, DESPITE saying how much she would love to house-sit for others! I firmly believe that 99% of the people in the world are good, and so the chances of anything awful happening are quite slim.

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