Trust and Travel (and House-Sitting)

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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.)

Β *****

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  1. 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.

    1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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 πŸ™‚

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

  6. 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 =)

    1. 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. πŸ™‚

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

    1. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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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