Publié le by NmNomador
Five Unique Ways to Become Part of the Community Where You House-Sit
House-sitting is a great way to live like a local, but sometimes visiting a new country and not consistently being among tourists can be a bit isolating. After ten years of full-time house-sitting in out-of-the-way places like Mozambique, South Korea, Gibraltar, Réunion, and Senegal, I’ve learned how to dispel loneliness, immerse myself in new cultures, and give back to my new local community. Sometimes, I end up enhancing my own career, projects or skills! And by creatively connecting with my new community, I’m traveling – and living – more richly.
Here are five ways I connect more deeply with communities where I’m house-sitting:
Even short-term sitting assignments offer volunteer opportunities. While housesitting in Berlin for just a week at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, for example, I spent a day at a registration center, handing out sandwiches and water to exhausted Syrians. Not only was I, in a tiny way, helping Berlin deal with this influx of traumatized people, I wrote about these refugees’ stories.
While housesitting in Hanoi the first time, I visited the Friendship Village, a remarkable home for children born with severe handicaps likely caused by Agent Orange, the deadly defoliant poured over Vietnam’s villages during the war. I took a Vietnamese college student with me to volunteer for a day in the classrooms. Just before my second housesit, I spent a few days in a rural eco-lodge teaching English to village children.
Whether it’s volunteering at an animal shelter, ushering at a theatre, or spending a day cleaning a beach or planting trees, participating in these activities provides a chance to meet local people who might be interested in joining me for coffee or a hike or can offer sightseeing suggestions.
I find these volunteer opportunities by paying attention to current events in the country I’ll be visiting and by researching issues I’m interested in.
Kelly volunteering in Hanoi
2. Join Internations or Meet-Up Groups
Internations is a worldwide, non-profit organization for expats. Some cities’ chapters are particularly robust. In London, where I house-sit frequently, I’ve made great friends while sharing discounts to top-notch dance, music and theatre performances. It’s really helpful to see my “new” community through expatriates’ eyes, and I’ve gotten fabulous “insider” tips. Joining once allows you to participate in chapters throughout the world in any common area – hiking, culinary excursions, cultural events, etc.
One person I met through London’s Internations writers’ chapter has become such a good friend, she joined me for a few days at my house-sit in Mexico!
3. Post on Facebook and Other Social Media
When I posted on my personal Facebook page that I was house-sitting in Réunion, a remote French island east of Madagascar, I was shocked to hear from dear friends in Copenhagen (whom I’d met in Vietnam before my Hanoi house-sit) that they would be vacationing on the island the following week! Exploring with other tourists, and great friends at that, was a great way to learn about this fascinating destination.
Years ago, I posted on a house-sitting Facebook group that I’d be sitting in Hanoi. I immediately heard from Julie Bryant, a fellow house-sitter, that she’d be overlapping with me during her Hanoi house-sit. We arranged to take a street food tour together and formed a grand friendship. Since then, we’ve overlapped at house-sits in the U.K., Mexico, Singapore, and Spain!
You can also join Facebook expat groups to meet people and learn more about your new community.
With fellow housesitter Julie
4. Take Walking Tours, Cooking Classes and Other Cultural Tours
Walking tours, cooking classes and cultural tours are great opportunities to not only learn more about the community where you are house-sitting, but to meet local guides and other tourists. While house-sitting in Seoul, for example, I took several free walking tours and had great conversations with my local guides. After every tour, either the guides or the other tourists and I shared a meal.
5. Ask Your Homeowners!
By far, the best resource for local “immersion” opportunities are the homeowners. As you are befriending them during your video interview, ask about volunteer opportunities or ways you might further your particular interest while you are house-sitting. Do they have favorite hikes? Or a local animal shelter where you can help? Or know of a discount theatre program? I learned where the Syrian refugee center was from my Berlin homeowner; she knew of my interest in refugees and not only researched that information for me, but discovered a unique refugee-led tour that gave me a memorable afternoon with two Syrians.
I also ask homeowners to introduce me to their friends. Chances are, if I’m hitting it off with them, I’ll hit it off with their friends! It’s good for the homeowners, too, because their friends provide extra assurance their home is being properly cared for.
More than once, homeowners’ friends have opened doors to incredible experiences – and lifelong friendships. In Réunion, for example, my homeowner introduced me to her friend Ann. Besides sharing off-the-beaten-path places, Ann arranged for us to snorkel with humpback whales! You can’t “immerse” any deeper than that!
Kelly Hayes-Raitt is a travel journalist, writing coach and author of How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva. She has been house-sitting full-time since 2009 and blogs at HouseSitDiva.com and JumpStartMyBook.org.