Travel

#NomadicNordgrens September Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens September Travel Update

Hello, friends!

September began slowly as a month watching good ol' Max the dog in Rushden for our friends Scott and Chrissy, surrounded by the sight of fields and the clip-clop of passing horses. Our time became anything but peaceful when we left at the end of the month to set off on our Whirlwind Tour of Europe. We have only just had a chance to come up for air to post this update!

From Rushden we drove to Dover, where we spent the night, took a ferry to Dunkirk before the break of dawn, and drove to Amsterdam. Our stop in this city featured a boat tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Canals, a visit to the Anne Frank House, waffles, and the Red Light District.

We left Amsterdam and spent the night with Thilo (Hans' German foreign exchange student during high school) en route to Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen we had a morning to enjoy the beautiful Københavns Havn (Copenhagen's Harbor), seeing the bright buildings, being awestruck with the old ships, and relaxing with some coffee, tea, and avocado on rye.

The photo above is from the gorgeous Copenhagen neighborhood of Nyhavn.

After that, we headed northeast, across the Øresund Bridge ("...the longest tunnel-bridge for car and train traffic in Europe and the longest bridge crossing a country border in the world," according to Wikipedia), to Stockholm where Hans' Swedish family, Olle and Signe, graciously hosted us for a week.

Some highlights from Stockholm…
- spending time with Hans' family and figuring out how we are related
- a visit to The Vasa Museet (a 300-year-old resurrected warship that sunk in Stockholm harbor after sailing for only 1,300 meters...it's a genuinely fascinating story and you can read more here)
- food, as always
- walking along Stockholm's lake
- strolling through Gamla Stan
- time to unwind a bit!

On to the photos!

1. Beautiful buildings surrounding the main square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's old town.
2. The restored Vasa ship is 98% original and the museum is WELL worth a visit if you're ever in Stockholm!
3. We celebrated 5 years of marriage by visiting Highclere Castle for a day during the centennial memorial of the end of WW1. Any Downton fanatics in the house?
4. Ginny, our car, getting much needed new “front shoes” in Stockholm
5. Fancy façades line the canals in Amsterdam

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Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: A very brief stop by the castle where my grandpa Nordgren got remarried was an unexpected surprise. Connecting with family and my heritage was really special!

Rachel's favorite: The Vasa Museum was SUPER interesting because the ship is this extremely well-preserved time capsule of life in 17th-century Sweden. The Vasa sank 1,300 meters into her maiden voyage due to a serious design flaw and a bit of wind. A few days later, we visited the Stockholm IKEA to see just how far Swedish design has come in the last couple of centuries!

Mutual favorite: our river cruise in Amsterdam!

We're also reflecting a lot on our visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam in light of the recent domestic terrorism attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Rachel especially remembers this quote from the museum...

"Some time this terrible war will be over. Surely the time will come when we are people again, and [not] just Jews." - Anne Frank

We want to remember that every single one of us bears the label of "person" before anything else. Any other label used to degrade a person's inherent humanity and dignity, or separate people into an "us vs them" dichotomy, is (not to put too fine a point on it) not our best work as humans. Let's do better.


Bonus people!

The top photo features (from left to right) Hans, Rachel, Signe, Fredrik, and Olle. Olle is Hans' 2nd cousin twice removed. Signe is Olle's wife and Fredrik is one of their three sons. We feel so blessed to have met them, and it was wonderful to get acquainted! They almost didn't let Banjo leave ;)

Botton left: Scott tries to teach Banjo to take a treat "gently" from his hand. It didn't work...Scott nearly lost a few fingers. Max is the dog next to Banjo. Milo and Bruce are next to Banjo and Max, and were taken with Scott and Chrissy on their month-long trip while we watched Max.

Bottom right: Rachel reconnected with her friend Martina from the international program at Washburn University, where we attended college.

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Best in Food

Hans: I'm going to cheat a wee bit and mention my favorite sweet and favorite savory. We spent a week in Stockholm with Signe and Olle (my Swedish family) and Signe treated us to some of the most Swedish dishes she could come up with. My favorite savory was oven roasted salmon and my favorite sweets were Signe's homemade cardamom cinnamon rolls on Sweden's national cinnamon roll day. Good timing - lucky us!

Rachel: a few things! First of all, Scott is the king of roast chicken...it is absolute perfection. Second of all, we were positively spoiled by Signe and Olle, and being welcomed around the family table felt especially sweet since we've been apart from our immediate families for so long. I also really loved the avocado toast on rye that we had in Copenhagen.

A Note From Banjo...

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I luved mi tiem wif Maax. We layd arond awl dae. An we runned in ze feelds to! I lernt too eat blak berries frum ze thornee vin.

Then my stoopid hoomins decieded to cramp mee in back of kar 197 timez in last free weaks. I wundre, amn I in prizon? They do dis so much that I wish I could have stayed with nice Oola and Seegna. Oola give mee lotsa bellie rubz. Dae has rume for mee too stehhhhch and relaks.

Only ting keep me gooing: biskits!

Traveling with a dog in Europe by Rachel Nordgren

Traveling with a dog in Europe

When Hans and I had some of the first conversations about traveling in Europe long term, we immediately ran into one large, furry, four-legged roadblock: Banjo.

In case you need a refresher...this is the adorable "roadblock" in question.

Traveling with a dog in Europe

We didn't want to leave Banjo behind for a couple of practical reasons and one incredibly sentimental one. We didn't know how long we would be abroad when we left for Europe, and we didn't want to saddle a friend or family member with the burden (erm, joy?) of taking care of our dog for an unknown amount of time. We also just didn't want to leave him behind for that long because, well, we love him. Desperately.

Even though traveling with a dog has proved to be a logistical challenge at times, it's also been such a joy. We've had lovely conversations and interactions with random strangers because of Banjo. We look way less like tourists when we're walking around with a dog. His presence is incredibly grounding and normalizing as we flit around Europe, and we've often joked that he is our "four-legged piece of home."

For us, the perks have outweighed the challenges. If YOU are looking into traveling Europe with a dog (or just curious how we make it work) read on!

1. Getting from America to Europe

Yours truly read one too many horror stories about dogs in the cargo holds of planes, so we immediately started looking at alternatives to flying. Which led us to the Queen Mary 2, a transatlantic (New York to Southampton) ocean liner that also has kennels for dogs and cats. Compared to the flights we would have had to take in order to bring a dog, taking the QM2 was only going to be a few hundred dollars more expensive. We booked during a sale, which helped. 

Plus, we had a week-long swanky vacay out of the deal and Banjo spent his transatlantic crossing mostly frolicking around on deck with other dogs.

It was a win-win.

The QM2 Kennels are in a pet-designated area of the ship, with gated deck space. There are two full-time Kennel Masters, whose sole job on the ship is to look after the pets on board. Banjo was even treated to "room service!" We had four different visitation periods throughout the day where we could hang out with him, the other dogs, and their humans.

I know taking the QM2 isn't a practical step for everyone due to budget or time constraints. There are plenty of people who fly with their dogs without any issues, and that's great! It's definitely a quicker option and can be a good deal cheaper. For us, knowing Banjo's personality and temperament, traveling by ship was the best choice, and we're looking forward to our return journey in December!

Read more about the Queen Mary 2 Kennels right here. If you're interested in the human side of the QM2 experience, I've got just the blog post for you!

Traveling with a dog in Europe

2. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

Getting Banjo to Europe required, I kid you not, more paperwork than it took for Hans and I combined. My recurring nightmare leading up to the trip was us showing up in New York and getting turned away at the gangplank of the Queen Mary 2 because we didn't have a signature in the right ink color* on Banjo's paperwork. Even worse was the thought that Banjo would have to be quarantined on arrival due to a clerical error. 

One of our best decisions was to hire the fabulous Lindsay Anderson of Pack Your Pets. She's a pet travel agent (hello, dream job!) and she helped us get all the paperwork together. Because we were driving from Kansas to New York over the course of two weeks, we ended up visiting two different vets for the necessary health certificate and parasite treatment. This created some logistical challenges when you factor in that the health certificate needed to be rubber stamped by the regional USDA office, too.

It was sort of a mess, so hiring Lindsay saved us a ton of headaches.

Here are the basics: your dog has to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. After that, the International Health Certificate is the most crucial piece of paperwork. This is the US version of a Pet Passport. It essentially certifies that your dog is healthy, vaccinated, and free from parasites, and has to be issued 10 days before travel. Then, 1-3 days before travel, the dog must have a parasite/tapeworm treatment administered by a licensed vet.

The UK is more strict with their pet entry regulations than the rest of the European Union. There have only been a handful of rabies-related deaths in the UK in the last two decades, and that's because the UK does not mess around when it comes to animals coming into the country. Additionally, every time you bring a dog into the UK, they need to have had the parasite/tapeworm treatment 1-3 days before entry.

Once we were in the UK, we took Banjo's Health Certificate to an accredited UK veterinarian to get it "swapped out" for a Pet Passport to allow us to travel with him around the rest of the EU. This means that our dog has a UK passport, which is hilarious to me considering that Hans and I have casually googled "UK US dual citizenship" on more than one occasion.

I've vastly over-simplified this process. If you're thinking about traveling to Europe with your dog from the US, there a fantastic overview of Pet Travel on the State Department website that I'd definitely encourage you to check out!

* we learned that signatures should be done in blue on official documents to prove that they are not copies

Traveling with a dog in Europe

3. Getting around Europe with a dog

Aside from the UK, we haven't had to do anything in particular to take Banjo across borders in Europe. We've found that Europe, on the whole, is extremely dog friendly. We've encountered zero problems taking Banjo on trains, busses, and subways. We always check beforehand just to be safe, though!

Because it made the most sense for the way we were going to be traveling, we rented a car and have been relying on that for our primary form of transportation. Anytime we've had to go across the Channel, we've either taken a ferry or the Channel Tunnel with our car. The Eurostar train does not allow dogs (with the exception of guide dogs) on board.

Traveling with a dog in Europe

4. Staying in Europe with a dog

Our primary form of lodging in Europe has been housesitting, which you can read more about here. In our initial housesitting applications, we obviously include information about Banjo and link to our reviews from previous homeowners. However, there are plenty of people who would rather not bring another dog into the mix with their own pets, and that's perfectly fine. We totally understand this, and we never begrudge anyone who turns us down because we have our own dog with us.

That being said, we're on our 16th successful housesit with Banjo.

Many of those homeowners have had the attitude that, "Wow, if this couple went through all the trouble of bringing their own dog to Europe, they probably really love animals and they're probably going to take great care of our pets." Banjo is also incredibly easy-going and chill, which helps tremendously.

Beyond housesitting, it's really quite easy to find pet-friendly lodging in Europe. We did have to make one last-minute stay for a few nights in a hotel in England, and we were easily able to find a hotel that would let us bring a dog. When we've needed to find AirBnB's to fill in gaps in between housesits, we haven't had an issue finding a place to stay.

Traveling with a dog in Europe

Traveling Europe with a dog has definitely been a unique, one of a kind experience. Maybe we're a bit crazy for bring Banjo all the way across the Atlantic, but for us, it's been worth it. We embarked on this journey not knowing when we would return, so it didn't make sense to leave our furbaby behind. If you're considering traveling Europe with your pet, I'd love to chat below in the comments or you can always contact me!

Have you ever traveled with your pet? Where did you go?

xoxo,
Rachel

PS - Want even more canine travel inspiration? Shandos Cleaver of Travelnuity has a fantastically detailed guide to traveling around Europe with your dog!

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update

Happy summer, everyone!

First of all, apologies for this update being so late! Rachel's job was exceptionally busy in July and August, and so by the time she got done with work, she doesn't want to be anywhere near a computer. We're combining the last two months into one newsletter...and spoiler alert, it contains a lot of London!

Allow us to explain the photo above. At our last housesit in London, a certain canine decided to excavate a beehive four minutes before his humans were about to head out for dinner and a walking tour around the City of London. This resulted in said humans, one of whom had actually put on a full face of makeup and an outfit that did not consist of yoga pants and a tank top, having to nurse the histamine-infused canine with lavender essential oil and Benadryl for the rest of the night.

The humans were not amused.

At the end of June, we arrived back in Wellingborough for a return housesit with the sweetest little darling dog named Poppy. We were welcomed back like family by Sarah and Paul (which was such a blessing!) and had fun cheering on England in the World Cup. Other than the two days we went into London, July was a fairly quiet month. We spent a lot of time taking Poppy and Banjo on walks, working, and trying not to melt in the summer heat!

After Wellingborough, we spent a few days in an idyllic little village called Cheveley near Newmarket, the thoroughbred horse-racing capital of the UK. There were gorgeous horses everywhere and Rachel was in heaven. We made our way south to Rotherfield in Sussex, where we enjoyed a week in a beautiful countryside home watching a happy-go-lucky dog (appropriately) named Bumble, and his feline friends Munchkin and Stumpy.

Then, London! We spent just over two weeks in Blackheath near Greenwich, looking after a gentle sweetheart of a lab named Loki. His wonderful humans, Liz and Paul, gave us enough London tips to last a lifetime, and we did our best to get out and see the city when Rachel wasn't working.

Some of our July and August London favorites were...
- The Tower of London
- Strolling across bridges to catch a view of the city
- An "Influential Women of London" bike tour
- Having drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the Thames
- Getting lost in side streets and bookstores
- Services at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
- Seeing a sublime performance of "As You Like It" at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
- The Museum of London
- Wandering around Covent Garden
- A Suffragette exhibition at the Houses of Parliament
- Dishoom: "from Bombay with love"
- Finding picnic provisions at Borough Market
- Biking around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

On to the photos!

1. Munching on watermelon on a summery afternoon walk!
2. The gorgeous Sky Garden in the City of London
3. A delightful map of London we found at Aqua Shard...it feels like we're really starting to fit together the pieces of this city in our minds!
4. A London pub being annoyingly fabulous
5. Hans having a cuddle with Poppy

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1. Banjo being carried down an escalator in the London Underground. Dogs have to be carried on the escalators because their paws can get stuck in the "moving teeth" otherwise...ouch!
2. The eternally gorgeous Westminster Abbey
3. Oh, look! The Tower of London!
4. A nighttime stroll across London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background
5. Banjo with his Rushden buddy, Max


Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: I had a really great time picking wild blackberries and making a pie from them when we were in Rotherfield. I also enjoyed an evening Rachel and I spent biking around London and along the Thames. On another night we had a picnic in Greenwich Park with the London skyline with the sunset. I guess the theme here is the slow moments we spent together!

Rachel's favorite: London, London, London. I absolutely loved our time in that amazing city, and it was really rewarding to start to feel like we sort of knew our way around. I really loved going to a theatre performance at the Globe, exploring museums and galleries with Hans, and walking along the Southbank of the Thames at night together.

Mutual favorite: Hans put together a walking tour of the City of London (the oldest part of London) for us. We went after dinner one evening and explored the sites of some of the oldest parts of London...without the crowds! Seeing the Tower lit up at night was stunning, and standing next to a nearly 2,000-year-old bit of the old Roman wall while also being able to see the Shard was especially poignant...two bookends of the amazing history of this city.


Bonus People! And Pie!

London brought a few friends along, too! Rachel got to meet Tsh Oxenreider (the author of one of our mutual favorite books, At Home In The World) when she was in town leading a London trip. A darling friend from Topeka named Amy met up with Rachel at the National Portrait Gallery for brunch and art browsing when she was visiting London with family. Rachel's dear friend and longtime penpal, Kayla, came through London on her way back from an internship in Bosnia, and we crammed as much sightseeing and catching-up as possible into two days.

Also, here's a picture of a very proud Hans with the Blackberry pie he made.

Best in Food

July: We went to the Castle Ashby Gardens near Wellingborough and were totally surprised by a delightful continental market in their old stable yard. There were food stalls with French cheese, Italian cured meats, and stacks of bread and pastries, gelato, an olive bar, and some sort of creamy garlic prawn situation that smelled absolutely divine. We enjoyed a Cumin Gouda and Tome de Chevre with sun-dried tomato bread and crisp, sparkling lemonade. Yum!

August: Dishoom. We ate here twice and could have easily moved in. Their tagline is "from Bombay with love," which is entirely appropriate. It's is family-style Indian food, sweet and savory and spicy and superb, served in a friendly, cosy setting. Dishoom is a culinary celebration of Indian culture and if you go to London and do not eat there, we will never speak to you again.

A Note From Banjo...

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I haz to be karried in da undrgrund toob. Iss embarissing. Not as embarissing as my moom takeen piktures of mee 'nd pooting dem on dee interneets wen i hud six beestungs. i knoow it wuz stoopid to try 'nd moove da beehive, but i reeely wanteed to have a wee dere 'nd eet waz in dey way. Den ma hoomans poot Deen in da wittle face talkie toy 'nd even hee laffed at mee. Eet wuz ookay tho beecuz dey poot me in the bafftub whif sum nice smelly stuff 'nd gave me sleepy pillz 'nd dat made mee happeeeeee.


After we leave Rushden towards the end of September, we're headed back to the Continent. We'll cross the Channel, spend a few days in Amsterdam and then a day or two in Copenhagen, and then head further north to visit some of Hans' extended family in Sweden! We’re not sure what our plans for the rest of the fall will be, but we will keep you posted!

A Day Out In London by Rachel Nordgren

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
— Samuel Johnson, 1777

I can confidently say that I could spend a decade or two exploring London, and still only scratch the surface of this diamond of the first water of cities. Originally settled by the Romans in 47 AD, this sprawling mass of humanity on the banks of Thames is a cultural mecca...an epicenter of art, literature, education, fashion, medicine, research, finance, commerce, cuisine, and history.

There's no way you can see it all in a day (or even fifteen) (or even fifteen hundred), but Hans and I have loved all the bits we've experienced so far. Whether you've never visited before or you're a seasoned city-dweller, I hope our day out can inspire your own London adventure!

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

9:30 - Breakfast at Aqua Shard

The tallest building in London, standing 96 stories tall on the South Bank, is the Shard. Suffice to say, this is where you go if you want a good view of the city! Aqua Shard is situated on the 31st floor, facing north over the Thames with prime views of St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the HMS Belfast. We enjoyed full English breakfasts, consisting of eggs, streaky bacon, Cumberland sausage, tomatoes, beans, Portobello mushrooms, toasted sourdough, juice, and coffee.

It was thoroughly delicious, and somewhat negated the need for lunch...

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

11:30 - Tour at the National Gallery

One of the most wonderful things about London is that many of the museums and galleries are free to enter. Even better, some offer free guided tours! Such is the case with the National Gallery, the nation's premiere art museum situated in Trafalgar Square. Their sprawling, 2,300-piece collection contains works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, Monet, Rubens, Renoir, and Van Gogh...and many, many others!

On our tour with a fabulous woman named Helen, we learned about...

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

1:00 - Covent Garden

We dashed over to Covent Garden so I could pop into Deciem's The Ordinary, the Canadian cult (there are two words you hardly expect to see together, eh?) skincare brand. Along the way we stopped at Jo Malone so I could have another whiff of their Velvet Rose and Oud cologne, which is the top contender for my signature scent at the moment.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

2:00 - Westminster to Vauxhall Walking Tour

If you need a little help finding something unique to do in London, take a peek at AirBnB London Experiences. There are loads of unique adventures to be had...walks and tours for history, food, literature, photography, and dozens of classes and workshops. Hans and I did the "Explore London Backstreets With A Historian" walking tour, and our wonderfully informative and friendly guide Terry took us through some of the quieter bits of this magnificent city.

We started in front of Westminster Abbey, meandered around the Hogwartsian Dean's Yard of Westminster School, and walked through the insufferably adorable Westminster Village, passing by TE Lawrence's (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) house and an old Public Bomb Shelter sign, leftover from the Blitz.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

We walked past St John's Church, now a concert hall, in Smith Square, along with the old Conservative party headquarters (in a twist of irony, the building is now occupied by the London European Union offices) and the old Labor party offices. The buildings are just across the square from one another, and Terry told us that back in the day they would literally lean out their windows and heckle each other. We also passed the Marquis of Granby, a pub historically frequented by MP's, where a bell used to be rung 10 minutes before a vote to remind them to leave for the Houses of Parliament.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

Onwards to St John's Gardens in Millbank! The park was once London's cheapest burial grounds, and Terry informed us we were walking over the last remains of the likes of prostitutes, thieves, and other such unsavory characters. The original gate, installed to deter grave robbers, still stands along the Horseferry Road entrance.

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Further along in Pimlico, we came to the old Millbank Prison. The prison blocks have since been transformed into apartment complexes, and the old canal is now inhabited by urban gardens and washing lines. Millbank Prison used to be the holding facility for convicted prisoners before they were transported to Australia. Terry informed us that the term "down under" in reference to Australia actually originated at Millbank, since the prisoners were taken underneath the prison through tunnels leading out to the Thames, where they would board the ships headed for Australia.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

Finally, we emerged onto the South Bank of the Thames and passed through a little park (where Hans spotted a beautiful sculpture of holding hands entitled "Love" by Lorenzo Quinn) before crossing Vauxhall Bridge, with the imposing MI6 Counter-Terrorism Command Center on our left and the new St George's Wharf Apartments on our right.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

We went from some of the oldest bits of London to some of the newest additions, and Terry did an excellent job leading us through all the layers of history. We'd definitely recommend booking the "Explore London Backstreets With A Historian" walking tour with him if you're looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon!

4:30 - Selfridges & Co.

Just before heading home, we dashed into the iconic Selfridges & Co. store so I could pick up a few things. Selfridges has literally been voted the best department store on the entire planet (twice!) and you could easily spend all day getting lost amongst the gorgeous displays and luxurious brands. Opened in 1909, this Oxford Street stalwart boasts over a dozen in-store restaurants and cafes, a spa and salon, a pharmacy, personal shoppers and stylists, a multi-faith prayer room, and even (randomly) key-cutting services.

Selfridges London

After our high street jaunt we headed home. Our current housesit is a ways north of London, so the transit time was...shall we say...extensive. We're especially grateful for a family member of the folks we are housesitting for who kindly offered to watch the dogs so we could take advantage of a full day out in London!

In August, we have a two-week housesit in Blackheath (located within the Royal Borough of Greenwich) and then a couple days directly in London with a dear friend of mine. Anything in particular YOU think we should see?

You are now
In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more. 
Yet in its depth what treasures!
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, from a letter to Maria Gisborne, 1820

Have you ever been to London, or do you want to go to London? What are some of your must-see places?

xoxo,
Rachel

Housesitting 101 by Rachel Nordgren

Rachel Nordgren Blog Housesitting 101.jpg

Over lunch in early 2017, a friend told me about housesitting. We had been talking about AirBnB and travel in general, and then she said six worlds that would literally change my life: "Have you heard of Trusted Housesitters?"

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My head snapped up from Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, spine ramrod straight. "What?"

"Yeah, it's a website where people who are going on vacation advertise that they need someone to watch their house."

I don't totally remember what else we talked about that day in that Panera booth, a weak winter sun gleaming outside. But, I do remember that after I got home I promptly spent the entire afternoon poking around the Trusted Housesitters website and got nothing done with work. I was tumbling down the the rabbit hole, utterly entranced.

There were people all over the world - France! Fiji! England! Mexico! Italy! - who were willing to let a responsible person or couple stay in their home for free in exchange for keeping an eye on things and watering the plants or walking the dog. There were even some quaint looking farmsits, too.

It was one of those things that seemed almost too good to be true, except that it was totally logical. People pay for house and pet sitters, and people pay for places to stay when they travel. It made sense that you could match those two needs in an even exchange.

Hans and I did our first housesit in the spring of 2017...five weeks in an exquisite country that felt like a dream come true. It was during that housesit that we started dreaming about the possibility of using housesitting as a way to travel around Europe, which had been a goal of ours since we got married.

And now? I'm writing this post in the living room of a home north of London where we're watching a darling dog named Poppy until the end of the month. Hans and I (and Banjo!) have been housesitting through Europe since November 2017. I love talking about this way of travel, so I thought I'd put together some answers to the most common questions we get about housesitting.

If you're interested in unique travel and love animals, read on!

How do you get started as a housesitter?

There are multiple housesitting websites and agencies out there, but the only one we currently use is Trusted Housesitters. There is a yearly membership fee of $120 for the site, which is roughly the cost of two nights in an average hotel. You can also get 20% off your membership signup by using this link or entering our referral code RAF70595 at checkout. Homeowners also pay a membership fee. After that, you set up your profile, add personal information and photos, and list your experience.

Worth noting: you are unable to apply for housesits on Trusted Housesitters unless you are a member of the site. You can browse available housesits without becoming a member, though!

To help build additional trust with potential homeowners, especially when we were just starting out and didn't have any reviews on our profile, we asked three people to provide references for us through the website. We also paid a bit more to have the extra verification of a professional background check done for our profile.

It's best to provide as much information as possible! Think about what you would like to know about a person if you were inviting them to stay in your home and look after your pets. Be honest and thorough.

Need some ideas? You can view our Trusted Housesitters profile right here.

How do you find housesits?

The Trusted Housesitters website is a wee bit clunky, but once you get the knack of it, finding housesits is pretty easy! You enter the location you're interested in (or you can search by the map function), and then filter the results by dates, length of sit, animals or lack thereof, etc. For those of you with kids, you can also search for housesits that have advertised themselves as family friendly.

After you're found a housesit that looks interesting, click on the listing and read through to see if it's going to be a good fit. Homeowners will fill out an intro, information about their home and location, and specifications about their pets and/or other responsibilities, along with a couple of photos.

If all that still looks good, go ahead and apply! Introduce yourself, tell them why you applied to their housesit, talk about why you think you would be a good fit, and invite them to get in contact with you if they've got any questions or would like to set up a video chat.

After one particularly sticky situation with a homeowner, we always ask to do a video chat before committing to a housesit. It can help you get a feel for things, and give you a sense of whether or not it will be a good fit. You're not going to be a perfect match for everyone, and that's okay.

If you get accepted, hooray! Check out this fantastic post about the 10 things you should do after landing your first housesitting job.

Do you get paid for housesitting?

Through some agencies, maybe! But through Trusted Housesitters, we do not get paid. We actually prefer it this way, because it means we're building relationships as we travel and not just conducting business transactions. We end up feeling like we're coming to stay at a friend's house instead of showing up for a job.

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We have seen some listings where homeowners have offered to pay their housesitters for extra duties like particularly large farmsits, but it's definitely not the norm.

How long can you housesit?

We've seen everything from one or two night sits all the way up to a year. People need housesitters for quick trips and summer vacations, but also longer trips to visit family or do some traveling themselves. We've also seen 6+ month housesits where people are going on a sabbatical for work or need someone to look after their vacation home.

How do you know it's safe?

99.9% of the people on Trusted Housesitters are lovely, honest, kind human beings who love their animals and want them to be well taken care of. The website is review-based, meaning that you can see what other people have said about a homeowner if they have had previous sitters. The website is still growing, so there are lots of new homeowners who have never had a housesitter before, so a lack of reviews isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I would recommend taking a careful look at the housesitting listing and photos. Do they give enough information for you to get an idea of what their home and pets are like? Do the pictures show a home that looks safe and clean? How do they describe their animals? If anything seems "off" to you, trust your gut. Either ask the homeowner specifically (perhaps they just forgot to clarify something in their listing) or pass on the housesit altogether.

Also, Trusted Housesitters has a 24/7 helpline for their housesitters to help in case of an emergency, veterinary or otherwise.

Some other tips...

  • Check the site often! Some people list that they need a housesitter months in advance, and some people wait until the last minute. You never know what you're going to find.

  • Housesitting is not like staying in an AirBnB. The homeowner will likely set you up in their guest room or spare bedroom, and you might share a meal or two with them before they leave, but don't expect them to cater to you. You are their guest, but you are also there to do the work of looking after their home and pets.

  • Leave the house just as clean (or cleaner) as it was when you arrived. It's just good manners.

Final thought: If you want to be a tourist, housesitting probably isn't for you. The homeowner likely doesn't want someone who is only going to do the bare minimum and leave their animals home alone for long stretches of time. That doesn't mean that you won't get out and about at all, but the wishes of the homeowners and the welfare of the pets should always be your first priority.

Personally, we really like housesitting because high-paced touristy travel isn't really our thing, and we'd much rather immerse ourselves in a place and get a feel for what it's like to actually live there. We genuinely love traveling this way because it feels slower and more authentic. There's a time and a place for tourist travel (hello, we did London and Paris in one week!), but housesitting isn't it.

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Interested in joining Trusted Housesitters? Get 25% off your membership signup by using this link or entering our referral code RAF70595 at checkout. Using our referral link or code gives Hans and I a discount on our own membership, so thanks in advance!

If you want to see some of the places we've traveled to with housesitting, head right on over here.

Where would your ideal housesit be? Let's chat in the comments below!

xoxo,
Rachel