Recently, we had a chat with Layla from Alial Travel Gal! So has been traveling and house sitting around the world for 10 years! Some places include Sydney, Gold Coast & Perth in Australia; Wellington, Auckland, Mount Maunganui & Tauranga in New Zealand, Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia!
You will find out how she got started house sitting as well her favorite house sitting location in the world! (hint: the long white cloud)
Tell us a little bit about yourself– who are you, where are you from, for, do you do it full-time or sporadically
I’m Layla and I run Alialtravelgal.com and I have been traveling for over 10 years, however, I have only been blogging about it for the past couple of years.
After a few trips to Europe, I decided I wanted to travel further and for longer and so in 2007, I set off alone for a year backpacking in Australia. After that year of traveling in Australia, I couldn’t settle back into the UK again, so I left again for another year in Australia.
And then that turned into a couple more years, then I did a couple of years in New Zealand and SE Asia.
Soon, I realised I was never suited to conventional life anyway, so I just continued to travel, and started living a more nomadic lifestyle.
And I’ve been traveling long-term ever since. I currently travel & house sit with my partner.
House sitting is one of the ways I’m able to stay nomadic with no fixed address. It enables me to have a secure place to live for a few weeks or a month, anywhere I travel.
Although since the pandemic hit, housesits have been harder to find – due to fewer people traveling – so there have been times where we had to rent temporary accommodation.
How many housesits have you done and where?
We have done too many housesits to count! Unfortunately, we didn’t keep track and we’ve done a lot of repeat house sits too, but my best guesstimate it would be around 50 house sits over 4 countries.
We have done most of our house sitting in Australia and New Zealand and some in Thailand and Malaysia. Some of the places include Sydney, Gold Coast & Perth in Australia; Wellington, Auckland, Mount Maunganui & Tauranga in New Zealand, Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Why do you housesit? What is the main motivation?
The main motivation for house sitting used to be the free accommodation aspect. Having a free place to stay in an expensive city like Sydney or Auckland is so valuable when you have a travel budget.
I’m also a massive animal lover – I especially LOVE dogs – and house sitting allows me to have that ’pet fix’ I so often need. Hanging out with animals is one of my favourite things in life. However, this has now evolved into actually enjoying engaging with locals and their pets in a new city or country.
One of the reasons I travel is because I’m not only interested in seeing the place, but I’m also fascinated by learning about the culture of that place and why people choose to go there, or why people want to live there.
Meeting and talking with a local homeowner is a way of connecting with a new place and also feeling like you’re part of the local community – albeit temporarily.
How did you find your first house sit?
I first got into house sitting when I got asked to petsit my friends’ dog in Perth, Western Australia whilst she was away for 7 weeks doing a round-the-world trip.
I have always loved Benson the Groodle and so I jumped at the chance to take care of him and I also got to have the entire house to myself.
I was in-between places as I was looking for somewhere new to live so it worked out well for me.
I didn’t find out that I could join house-sitting websites until I read someone’s travel blog one day, unfortunately, I can’t remember whose it was.
Pros of House Sitting?
- Free accommodation – the ability to live rent-free anywhere in the world.
- Pets to hang out with, to cuddle and take for walks.
- Chance to see what a city or area is like and live like a local there, even though you’re a visitor.
- Homeowners usually give you local tips and recommendations, so you often get free tour guide benefits.
- Being able to travel whilst having a secure place to live.
- Complete freedom to house sit anywhere in the world.
- Picking up new skills – sometimes you end up learning a new pet training technique or how to fix something from general house sitting tasks.
- Living in different types of houses gives us an insight into what accommodation we prefer to live in
- We can try out completely different lifestyles and experience the diversity of different climates, by staying in the city or country, coastal or mountainous locations, city metropolis or farm ranch.
Cons of House Sitting?
- You have to move a lot and be quickly adaptable to new environments.
- If you choose to do it full-time, it can become unsettling to move so much and making friends is challenging if you keep moving cities or countries.
- It’s competitive – in cities such as Sydney or Auckland, we’ve been chosen out of 100-150 applicants, this is where having excellent previous references can secure you the house sitting job.
- It can be expensive living out of bags in-between house sitting jobs. We don’t have a campervan to live in so we always have to pay for accommodation when we’re not house sitting.
- Sometimes it’s upsetting to leave the pets that you inevitably get attached to on long housesitting jobs
What’s been the biggest or best adventure so far?
Although not part of the house sits, a pretty big adventure was traveling overland from Krabi in Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for one.
It was a long day and night of trains and buses, including an overland border crossing and a few travel hiccups and we got there much later than anticipated due to delays.
Despite this, the homeowner was so hospitable and helpful, we had dinner, wine and a friendly cat waiting for us, and a room with an amazing city skyline view.
How much luggage do you travel with?
For years, we traveled with only a 55 ltr backpack and a daypack each. But we now have one holdall in addition to the packs. And when we’re staying within a country for a year or more, we often have an extra bag of household items that are useful for house sitting (or things we can’t live without!), that we take with us to each house sit.
Sometimes when we’re constantly living in other people’s space in their houses, we have to adapt to using different setups and we miss our ‘preferred’ items, that some house sits don’t have.
A few things we keep with us are a Moka pot & milk frother for coffee, travel mugs, water bottles, a yoga mat, waist bag for dog walking, I even had my own pillow for a while!
Was it hard for you to secure your first house-sitting gig?
My first few house-sitting gigs were for my friend in Australia, but the first gig we applied for on a house-sitting platform was in Auckland. We didn’t find it difficult to secure them because it was winter in New Zealand, so there was less competition.
We sent around 3-4 applications for Auckland sits and secured two sits for that month. The first one was for 3 days – which was for two terriers – and we didn’t even meet the homeowner before she left, she was very chill and simply happy enough to talk on the phone and left us detailed instructions at the house.
The next Auckland house sit started soon after that one finished and was for one week, taking care of an older chocolate Labrador and an elderly Cat.
We did meet with those homeowners and they said they had received a lot of applications but they loved our profile and authenticity.
Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?
No unusual pets – unless you count taking care of a 3-legged rescue dog called Po in Bangkok, Thailand?!
As for out-of-the-norm responsibilities, we did take care of a very spoilt Shar-Pei dog in Tauranga, NZ who had arthritis and the homeowners had designed their new build with a small elevator for the dog – so he didn’t have to climb up the stairs. So, chaperoning him in the lift was a little unique!
We also had to hand feed a sick chicken at a Sydney house sit and on another Sydney sit, we had to learn to say commands to the dogs in Spanish, as their owners had brought them over from Spain and had never spoken English to them.
Where has been your favorite house sit?
We’ve stayed in some amazing houses, brand new builds, high-end luxury houses with pools, beautiful apartments, farms, lifestyle blocks, and huge family houses.
Without a doubt, our house-sitting gigs in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand were our ultimate favourite. We have a special relationship with the owners and the dog we looked after there. Her name is Suki, she’s a beautiful English Bull Terrier/Greyhound cross dog and we fell totally in love with her.
We also fell in love with the town itself, it’s a small coastal town with a laid-back, beachy vibe and a unique backdrop of an extinct volcano, which is what the town is named after.
Their house was pretty awesome, it was a beach-house but an older style, one road back from the most beautiful beach.
We did multiple repeat house sits for them and ended up living in the town for a while and I’ve written on my site (and several others) of my love for Mount Maunganui.
Tips for others wanting to get started?
- Start by house sitting or pet sitting for friends and get them to write you references
- Write excellent profiles and join several house sitting platforms to get the best chances of securing the sits that you want
- Develop and improve on your skills – you’ll need to be adaptable and resourceful and be a great communicator
- Always have a back-up – have either a budget for accommodation, a campervan or a friends place you can stay at.
Where to next (when you can)
My ultimate desire is to go visit my Nan in the UK when travel and border restrictions allow and the lockdown over there was eased. (I’m currently in Gold Coast, Australia). As for house sitting locations, I love house sitting in Bangkok, although I’d love to go do some more house sitting in Malaysia and see more of Kuala Lumpur.
I’d also love to do one in Vietnam. I’ve also got a blogger friend in New York I’d love to go visit one day and that seems like an amazing city to house sit in.
I could go on, I’d give you a huge list if I could!
Want to know where else to find Layla?
Follow Layla’s adventures on her website!
Want to try House Sitting As Well?
There are thousands of opportunities to house sit around the world!
If your wondering how YOU TO can travel for free, check out our resources on becoming a house sitter!
How Does House Sitting Sound to You?