House sitters limit their assignment searches to certain criteria. These filters usually include particular dates, area’s of the world they want to visit, and animals they may or may not want to care for. Narrowing down the options helps sitters find the right fit, so to speak. Sometimes they take their exclusions even further. Putting limitations on things that have more to do with their comfort zones. Choosing to overlook certain house sitting opportunities because of a lack of confidence can make house sitters miss out on great house sitting experiences. Maybe it’s time to reconsider applying for these three types of assignments. Doing so could help you win more of the best house sitting gigs.
1. Assignments in Places where you’re not comfortable speaking the language
The most enticing house sitting gigs are in alluring foreign locations. We’ve seen sits in the Panamanian cloud forest, assignments caring for mansions in France, and stunning Tuscan farmhouses. These are the assignments many house sitters dream about. But not everyone has the courage to apply for these jobs. The language barrier is a huge hurdle for some people. They just can’t see themselves house sitting in a country where they don’t speak the language.
Language barriers have never kept us from applying for great house sits. We spent six months in a gorgeous remote mountain villa in Panama and almost a month house sitting in the resort town of Ovacik, in Turkey. The property in turkey even had a pool! We didn’t speak fluent Spanish and had never heard a word in Turkish, let alone spoken one before we considered the assignment there. Both were dream house sits for us. We didn’t let our lack of local language skills stop us from applying for those incredible house sits. But, we did learn enough language to make the most of our time in both locations.
So how can you learn the basics of a new language before your house sit?
Know this first,
Not being fluent in a local language doesn’t pose as many challenges as most people think. We’ve spent considerable time in places where we only knew a few basic phrases in the local language. Spending three months each in Colombia and Romania taught us a lot about learning languages.We realized not being fluent but knowing common greetings and phrases could go a long way to making your experiences in foreign countries better and easier.
Getting conversational with the basics in foreign languages has never been more accessible or more affordable! This post, 40+ FREE online language learning resources, by Benny Lewis at Fluent in Three months is the most comprehensive list of free resources to learn languages we’ve ever come across.
We’ve spent the most time trying to learn Spanish and have come to know focusing on learning the phrases we use most in everyday life is more effective than trying to tackle the entire language.
Some of the resources we use for learning the basics in different languages are,
- Google Translate– We use this frequently before and during our visits.
- Duolingo– Love, love, love Duolingo! Easy to use, motivating, and time efficient, this little app is great for kids and grownups to learn the basics and more in different languages.
- Memrise– As the name suggests, this app works so well for memorizing common words and phrases in different languages.
We have devoted time to learning each day, a month or so before visiting places. As little ten minutes sometimes, and we were able to get a solid grasp on basic everyday words and phrases in Romanian, Turkish, and Spanish.
Important things to keep in mind are,
To be realistic and consistent– Set measurable goals, if you can spend an hour a day learning, great! But, know you can get results spending ten minutes a day as well. Set realistic goals and more importantly, be consistent.
If you’re starting a housesit in Spain in a month, becoming fluent in Spanish before you arrive is unlikely. But, you can quite easily have a good grip on the basics if you do a little learning and practicing every day. The key is focusing on learning the words you use most yourself in the other language. Filling your mind with foreign words you rarely use in your mother tongue is pointless.
The truth is, people speak certain words and phrases more frequently. Focusing on learning these common words will provide you with more than enough language to communicate in a foreign land. This article, “What You Can Do With The Most Common 300 Words In A Foreign Language?” is a little older but it still illustrates this point well. We’ve found Duolingo and Memrise do a great job teaching common words and phrases.
Figure out exactly what you want to be able to say– As a house sitter, you’re going to meet new people over and over again. Introductions include questions about where you are from, what you do for a living, why you house sit and so forth. Then there are basics like, things you’d say visiting the bakery, the grocery store, or a local cafe.
Write down everything you want to be able to say, and then using Google Translate, start learning to say those things instead of wasting time trying to understand grammar rules. Understanding grammar will come over time.
Practice makes perfect– Some great sites that can help you practice what you learn are Italki, Rhinospike and Buddyschool. All of these sites connect you with native speakers to practice and perfect your pronunciation.
2. Assignments that include unusual pets
A lot of house sitters limit their assignment searches to caring for cats and/or dogs. The majority of our house sits have been caring for dogs, but we haven’t reduced our searches to listings with dogs only. Some of the best house sitting gigs have included caring for animals that are more unusual. We’ve tended chickens in England, maintained koi ponds in Turkey and bunny hutches in Wales, and cared for many different kinds of dogs all over the world.
A lot of housesitting listings require care for a dog or cat, but many more desirable assignments call for care for more unusual animals. And, while the setting for these primo house sits might be an actual farm, it is possible especially with smaller animals like chickens or rabbits, that they simply have a small pen in the backyard.
When care is needed for larger farm animals like horses or cattle the tasks the house sitter needs to perform may not require any special skill set. If the animals are out to pasture, caring for them may be a simple as filling feed troughs and water buckets.
Sometimes, farm owners will have a staff to maintain the more complicated day to day tasks on the farm and the house sitters will only care for domestic pets and the smaller farm animals.
The point is,
You won’t know if the house sit requires special skills if you aren’t including these type of assignments in your searches. You may be missing out on some of the best house sitting experiences filtering out listings that include farm animals or care for unusual pets.
3. Listings that call for specific kinds of house sitters that aren’t you
Many listings call for specific types of house sitters. And, sometimes house sitters with special skills are required and others times requests are based solely on personal preference. We’ve found very few assignments are advertised as family friendly. This fact has never stopped us from applying for house sits we wanted.
We landed one of our favorite house sits because we applied despite the listing stating mature couples were preferred. The homeowners didn’t want families with small children because their dog was a fear biter. When we had applied they seemed very keen on us caring for their home and pets but then decided to count us out because Makai was so little.
We requested a Skype call to talk about their concerns. Makai had grown up around high-strung and fear aggressive dogs. He knew how to behave around dogs that showed those characteristics. He was five at the time but big for his age, he was almost 4 feet tall! We shared these points to assure them that we were the right house sitters for the job. We ended up landing the assignment, our longest and most rewarding house sit to date, six months in the Panamanian rainforest!
Here’s the bottom line,
Language barriers, limited experience, and lack of confidence can all influence which assignments house sitters apply for. Travel is all about new experiences and house sitting can help travelers try so many new things. Don’t limit your searches because of language or experience concerns. Read all of the listings that come up when you don’t dismiss assignments based on a lack of confidence. You might find and land an incredible house sit in a destination you’ve been dreaming of.
Featured image by Daniel Jolivet via Flickr