House Sitting USA

Planes, Trains and Puppy dogs
Housesitting USA

We’d had two amazing but very different house sitting experiences after arriving back in Australia. From a summer stint in on the East Coast of Australia to the wintery but wonderful pie-filled Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Still, it wasn’t long before the travel itch flared again to go further afield so we decided to spread our wings. Or, rather those of a Qantas A380, and try our luck at house sitting across the USA.

What is House Sitting?

House Sitting is when a homeowner leaves their property, and most often their pets, in the hands of a capable sitter. No money is involved as each party benefits. The homeowner avoids putting their beloved pets in an expensive and unfamiliar kennel, nor has their house go unattended. The sitter gets a place to stay, explore the local area and meet some adorable furry friends. Not quite the sharing economy, more like the ‘caring economy’ (patent pending).

Why House Sitting in the USA?

When a house sit appeared in South Carolina to care for a burly and beautiful Bernese mountain dog we immediately had two strong reasons to consider a stateside adventure. Better still, when the homeowners willingly accepted our application overnight it was simply a plane ticket that separated us from our 3-week home in the deep south.

Our aim, spend up to 3 months in the USA, house sitting as much as possible to extend our travels and explore the lesser known places and neighbourhoods that house sitting delivers by design.

James Island, Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a picturesque, historical and somewhat infamous town in the south-east of the USA. Named after British monarch King Charles II it was central to the African slave trade of the 1800’s and was also where the first shots of the extremely bloody American civil war were fired. These days, it’s a popular weekend getaway for Americans to enjoy some southern cooking and warm hospitality plus enjoy a string of stunning beaches, laid-back atmosphere and charming colonial architecture.

James Island Charleston spanish moss

Spanish moss hanging from oak trees around James Island near Charleston.

We were based on James Island between the city centre and the popular pier at Folly Beach. We spent a week getting set up in the USA and acquainted with the routine of our large but lovable dog Cleo. A night spent watching the local Baseball team, the Charleston RiverDogs owned by actor Bill Murray. We’d also visited the beach and dog park on a number of occasions and worked out a somewhat pleasant jogging circuit albeit during the muggy heat of summer.

Folly Beach dog walking

It’s hard to walk too far along the beach without someone wanting to pat Cleo!

Through house sitting we had met a neighbourhood of friendly locals (and their pets), were driving a car generously lent by the owners and were shopping at the local supermarkets getting the local loyalty discounts! We felt more assimilated into Charleston life quicker than we have been anywhere before.

Charleston Churches Holy City

Known as the Holy City, Charleston has many church spires dominating the low skyline of the historic downtown quarter.

Of course, the tourist sites and sounds were to come such as Fort Sumter, the site where the civil war kicked off. We also enjoyed 1 of 100 rums on offer at Cane Rhum bar, dined on shrimp and grits at 82 Queen St, a Charleston institution. Plus we soaked up the soulful sounds at the Pour House, a music venue we discovered on our neighbourhood running route which plays a mix of blues, jazz and bluegrass each night of the week.

pour house charleston

Jazz and Bluegrass at the Pour House on James Island, Charleston

House sitting tip #1: Pets are the priority

House sitting still requires a decent amount of work and you 100% prioritise the needs of the pets and any other regular household chores requested by the homeowner. There is an obligation, of course, to keep the homeowners informed of what’s happening in their home and how their pets are doing. But, once you get into the routine you have plenty of time to go out and explore.

Savannah, Georgia

A quick side trip in a day to Savannah in neighbouring Georgia. Savannah is a similar colonial town to Charleston and has a well-planned city full of charming gardens and a walkable waterfront. One square, Chippewa square to be precise, was where Forrest Gump told his life story to passing strangers while holding his now famous box of chocolates.

Savannah Chippewa Square Forrest Gump

‘Housesitting is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gunna get’. Retracing the steps of Forrest Gump during a day trip to Savannah.

House sitting tip #2: Sightseeing options

House sitting often means you can’t explore too far afield. Most homeowners expect you to spend a decent amount of time in the home so it often won’t suit people needing to work 9-5 or wanting to sightsee all day. For our trip to Savannah, we were fortunate to have a well-known neighbour pop by while we were out to make sure the dog was doing OK and take her out for a toilet break. House sitting means fitting into the pets routine rather than the pet into your own.

Wilmington, North Carolina

Fan’s of the TV show Dawson’s Creek are likely to have the filming location of Wilmington, North Carolina on their must-see places. With a once thriving film industry (now all moved to Atlanta) Wilmington has retained an artistic feel. A special write-up on Dawson’s Creek sights is certain to follow, yet if you are not a ‘DC fan, Wilmington has something for everyone. Southern charm, beautiful reed lined waterways, soft glowing sunsets, an inviting beach all with a small town feel. We hired a one-way rental for this drive north.

wilmington sunset

Wilmington, a laid-back town that has everything you’d ever need. 

House sitting tip #3: Be prepared if planets don’t align

Securing a housesitting gig in Wilmington for the time we needed was not possible so we stayed at a perfect Airbnb on the water. Them’s the break’s with house sitting, if you want to visit a particular place at a particular time rarely do the planets align perfectly. On this occasion, we were happy to not be house sitting as there were some specific things we wanted to see in a short space of time. Not possible when you have the added responsibility of minding a home and its animals. A welcome break!

Carderock Springs, Maryland

Located just outside Washington DC, Carderock Springs is a residential neighbourhood in Maryland (pronounced ‘Mare-lend’ by locals). A week-long house sit was ahead of us in a very lovely wooded area. With the owners travelling separately, we had a full day to explore Washington DC before we were to start the house sit proper.

carderock springs maryland

The lovely wooded neighbourhood of Carderock Springs in Maryland.

Washinton DC, or just DC, is a walkable city with the wide open Mall, containing the Washington Monument, Lincoln memorial along with many war memorials. We swung by the Whitehouse and now understand that the Smithsonian Institute ran the bulk of the museums which were free to enter. We only had time for the Presidents gallery at the National Portrait Gallery.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Lincoln looks down the length of the Mall.

The pet in question was a shy but lovable German Shephard who loved chasing a ball and was at other times very chilled out with us. We were once again given access to a car to use for local errands. A wonderful nature trail ran along the river for up to 9 miles which we only discovered on one of the last days.

cabin john trail

Cabin John Trail allows a long run in the woods just outside DC near Carderock Springs.

House sitting tip #4: Length of housesit

House sitting takes time to get orientated in your new surroundings and get into a routine. It takes two to three days to unpack, find what you need in the kitchen (after opening many cupboards!) and get accustomed to the animals feeding habits and routine. From our experience, anything less than a week won’t feel like you have time to chill or like us, work. So if you are doing this ongoing look for housesits of 1 week or longer.

Brooklyn, New York City

After a stay with friends in both the East Village of Manhattan and also Greenwich, Connecticut we moved to our Brooklyn house sit. Brooklyn, it turns out is, in a word massive! Home to over 2.5 million people it is the most populous borough of New York City. We were located in Ditmus Park/Flatbush which is south of Prospect Park. Getting to the other side of Brooklyn took over 30 minutes by a cab. We were in a city within a city and we had a very cute and adorable cat named Moxie to look after.

We had enjoyed a number of bars, restaurants and also the Russian & Turkish Baths of East Village whilst in Manhattan so being in Brooklyn felt like the suburbs. A very multi-cultural mix of nationalities and cuisines in this pocket of an un-yet-gentrified region of Brooklyn.

moxie

Our Brooklyn host Moxie. A cat in kitten’s clothing.

House sitting tip #5: Dogs vs Cats

House sitting dogs is rewarding as they will lather you in love often from the get-go. You can take them for walks and they will welcome you when you walk back in the door. In return, of course, they demand your constant attention. Cats aren’t so easy with their affection will adjust to you in their own time, even if this is never! They are however pretty self-sufficient and sleep most the day! Important to help decide which you would prefer to look after. Cat owners we’ve found in particular are likely to favour sitters with cat minding experience.

Black Hawk, Colorado

After a few weeks of city hustle and bustle it was a nice change of pace to arrive in the wide open country of Colorado. Black Hawk is an old mining town an hour west of Denver at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Black Hawk is now home to another more modern lure of gold, casinos! Luckily, we were staying about 5 miles from Black Hawk in a sparsely populated residential area at about 2600m above sea level with clear  mountain views. It was well into fall and the native Aspen tress had turned bright yellow lighting up the country side in contrast to the green of the pine tress.

colorado aspens

The Aspen tress during fall turn a bright yellow lighting up the landscape before the snow falls.

Colorado is all about the outdoors. There are so many hiking opportunities it would take many years to hike them all. We took time out from work each day to make sure we got a hike in and took our new fur buddies Maggie and Macie along as often as we could.

Trail Dogs Colorado

Our hiking companions while in Colorado, Macie (left), Maggie (right).

The town of Boulder was less than an hours drive and is likely the outdoor capital of the USA. Together with the University of Colorado, endless mountains to climb and a great food scene, Boulder is one place we will are certain to return to for a longer visit!

House sitting tip #6: Owner Handover

In Black Hawk, due to a late change of plans by the owner we had to meet at the airport to exchange keys and pick up their car! Normally, house sitters arrive the day before and spend one night with the owners before they leave to get a handover. Thing is, this is mostly up to the owners preference so it’s best to be flexible so as not to arrive too early or too late for their liking.

Next stop – Sonoma California…

About The Author

Warren

Ever since venturing out the back gate into the bush as a kid, I've had a curiosity to escape and explore as often as I could. It's fair to say that my curiosity has continued to grow instead of fade as the years go on. Sixty countries later it was about time to turn a few scribbled notes into some legible stories and tips to share for anyone with a similar curiosity as me.

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