Full-time Solo Travel as an International Pet Sitter – What’s THAT like?

“What does a full-time traveling International Pet Sitter DO exactly?” I get asked some form of that question a lot. It comes just after the furrowed-brow-tilted-head-confused-eyes look I get at the beginning of the polite, “So what do you do?” exchange.

It amuses me every time.

What IS International Pet Sitting?

Here’s my short answer to every form of the “International Pet Sitting – what’s THAT like?” question…. It’s like being the person somebody wrote that song about… “Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream.”

There’s nothing more iconic in Auckland, New Zealand than its Harbor. It’s known as the “City of Sails” because it has more boats per capita than any other city in the world (1 boat for every 11 people). Knowing that factoid and knowing the people that factoid is about are two very different things.

It’s like spending two years bouncing back and forth between Australia and New Zealand, living in (as opposed to tourist-ing through) iconic cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Wellington. It’s also like discovering hidden treasures like Matakana (New Zeland Wine Country, population 570), Russell (New Zealand historical seaport, population 702), Towoomba (Queensland’s largest inland city) and Cervantes (Western Australia beachfront paradise, population 527).

Watching the sunset in Cervantes, Western Australia (population 527) was like Mother Nature orchestrating an original light show extravaganza for you each night on youe own private beach.

Being an International Petsitter is like living in a Slovenian village and taking side trips to Croatia, Austria, Romania, Hungary, and Germany and then flying from Spain to your next petsitting gig in Mexico. It’s like living in all the best parts of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and finding out after you’ve been there a while that you’re in Travel & Leisure’s “Best City in the World.”

what is international petsitter budapest hungary bridge barbara farfan
Pet sitting in Slovenia positioned me for a whirlwind series of amazing day trips in Eastern Europe like this day in Budapest, Hungary. It couldn’t have worked out better even if I had painstakingly planned it, which I didn’t.

Being an International Petsitter is also like zig-zagging across your own country (in my case USA), on a perpetual road trip of discovery to as many iconic, obscure, offbeat, weird and wonderful places as you want in between.

salvation mountain california what is internmational petsitting cross country USA
Zig zagging from pet sit to pet sit in the U.S. took me to Salvation Mountain, which took 28 years and 100,000 gallons of latex paint to create. It’s one of the many uniquely obscure experiences I owe to pet sitting!

What’s it like to live with your fur family in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Europe, and all parts of the U.S.? It’s a question that few people on planet Earth can answer with the authentic authority that only comes from experience.

How lucky am I to be one of those people? That’s the question I ask MYSELF almost daily. There are no words to express how fur-tunate I feel!

Putting the International in Petsitting

My first big International Petsitting adventure started in 2012 as an extended vacation Down Under. I had booked a six-week Western Australia petsit and another six-week New Zealand petsit, which promised to be an amazing (and amazingly affordable) 3-month adventure for me.

My first International Petsit in Rockingham, Western Australia was for fish because the day I landed in Australia I got word that the family pup had passed away.

That 3-month Down Under petsitting adventure shifted into a 2-year International Petsitting lifestyle quite naturally. I found myself living a dream global travel lifestyle that I hadn’t even had enough imagination to dream up until it was happening!

International Petsitting is All About Choices

There is a combination of three unique choices that have fashioned my pre-retirement global travel lifestyle. First, I am a petsitter. Second, I choose to do my petsitting globally, which requires international travel. Third, I choose to do my international petsitting full-time, which means I am a full-time solo traveler who literally moves from petsit to petsit.

what is international petsitting vienna austria easter sunday 2019
Between a pet sit in Slovenia and a pet sit in Mexico was an Easter Sunday in Vienna, Austria. It was a picture perfect pet sitter plan even if it was more luck than deliberate design.

Anyone can be a pet sitter, whether they do it internationally or not. Anyone can be an international traveler, whether they choose to pet sit their way around the world or not. Anyone can pet sit anywhere in the world for as long as they want, whether they choose to do it full-time or not.

I choose this combination – petsitting, global travel, and full-time – and here’s why…

Full-time? Solo? International? Travel?

There’s so many aspects of full-time solo international travel that most people have never considered for themselves. That’s why they find it so hard to grok when I tell them about it.

The mother of a Pet Mama I was sitting for in inland Australia took me to some amazing rock formations that were unknown to any of the popular travel websites. Living in a place and visiting it enables you to intersect with a whole different set of experiences.

To me full-time travel and part-time vacation travel couldn’t be more different. There’s nothing good or bad about any particular length of traveling. (Except not traveling at all, which is a very bad idea, IMHO.) But people who only travel weeks or months in any given year are still inextricably tied to their home country and even their hometown.

Full-time travel is a free-floating existence. I once saw an interview with Sting and his wife Trudy, who had residences scattered all over the planet at the time. The interviewer asked where they considered to be “home.” Without hesitation Trudy proudly declared that they were Citizens of the World.

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As a Citizen of the World, you can gain an expanded awareness about what’s important beyond your borders. This was a passionate protest about the environment that materialized out of nowhere on one of two days I was in Barcelona.

I still get chills when I think about that moment. The idea of being a Citizen of the World was completely captivating to me. It spoke to the essence of my free-spiritedness. But I thought you had to be a financially independent global celebrity with perpetual rock star royalties in order to pull it off. “Not so!” said the Universe. And then my Citizen of the World existence came to find me.

what is international petsitting berlin wall germany pet sitter barbara farfan
Standing in front of the Berlin Wall inspires thoughts about modern day walls and the wisdom of attempting to create separation instead of cooperation.

Solo travel is REALLY the concept that people have the hardest time comprehending. “You travel to foreign countries BY YOURSELF?” I often get asked.

If I only took trips at the same time that the perfect traveling companion was available, I never would have taken my first international trip to Bali way back in 1999. If I only visited places that somebody else wanted to see, I doubt if I ever would have experienced Bruny Island (the island off the coast of the island off the coast of the island of Australia). I love solo travel because it allows me to exercise the freedom to go where I want when I want because I want to. Because I said so.

Is solo travel incredibly brave or irresponsibly reckless? The truth is it could be both of those things and everything in between. But to me it’s just normal. And freeing. And preferred.

You don’t have to do solo travel in order to be an International Petsitter. I’ve been passed over for some pet sitting gigs in favor of a pet sitting couple. This is particularly true when there’s a large number of pets that need attention and care. As I write this I am pet sitting for seven dogs in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Most people would say it is a two pet sitter job. I just say it’s “active.”

what is international pet sitting melbourne justaposition history modern architecture
Melbourne, Australia is one of the most visually engaging cities in the world Part of the reason is the juxtaposition of historical and ultra-modern architecture peacefully co-existing everywhere you turn.

You also don’t have to do International Travel to be a full-time pet sitter. You also don’t have to be “homeless” to be a full-time petsitter. But if affordable world travel for extended periods of time and hanging out with new fur friends all over the planet calls to your spirit, then you are an International Petsitter at heart waiting to be set free.

The Pets Are the Best Part of International Petsitting

The travel adventures are amazing, but if you have an authentic love for pets, it is even more amazing. (And if you DON’T love pets, find a different interntional travel option). Sharing your life and your space with uniquely wonderful fur friends around the world is both an honor and a joy for humans who truly get it. It’s a huge amount of hassle and stress if you don’t

What is Full-time Solo Travel International Pet Sitter Day In the Life Profile Barbara Farfan
No kitties were harmed by toxic Day of the Dead makeup in the making of this International Petsitter selfie.

Being an International Petsitter is like being the Mary Poppins of pets, jumping into sidewalk chalk paintings with your carpet bag and talking umbrella, and landing in some fantasy animated dog park or kitty kourtyard on the opposite side of the planet. To me, it’s magical!

What Is a Day in the Life of an International Petsitter?

A typical day for an International Petsitter is fashioned around the normal schedule of the pets in your care. If it’s not, you’re doing something wrong. The name of the in-home petsitting game is “Maintain the Routine.” The reason why Pet Parents want in-home pet care is so that the lives of their pets won’t be disrupted and they won’t get stressed out.

what is internationalpetsitter tooswoomba inland australia dog pup pet sitter
Building an instant rapport is easier with some pets than others.

To that end, building a quick rapport and forging a mutually trusting relationship with furry friends who may not fully understand your native accent is sometimes a challenge, particularly if the pets know commands in a completely different language. Finding out and using the correct commands in the correct language is part of the International Pet Sitting Adventure.

If given a choice of walking dogs anywhere in the world, an International Petsitter chooses to walk them… anywhere in the world.

In my experience, walking a dog in Sydney, Australia is fundamentally not much different than walking a dog in my neighborhood at home, except that it’s Sydney, Australia!

what is international petsitter maribor slovenia pet sitting barbara farfan
Slovenia was not even on my Travel Bucket List before I booked a gig there. Now it’s high on my Awesomest Adventures list, and I owe it all to pet sitting!

If my temporary fur-kids are accustomed to their human being away at work all the time, my typical day often includes both living like a local and exploring like a tourist, which I love equally. To me, a walkabout in a little known city in Slovenia is just as fun as finding all the TripAdvisor bests in Slovenia’s capital city.

I also have the certainty every day – typical or otherwise – that when I return home at the end of any Living Like a Local expedition that I will have my Foster Fur Family to care for, play with, talk to, spoil, and love. What could be better than that?

There’s always a friendly furry face to come “home” to, which is a guaranteed perfect ending to any living-like-a-local day.

Being an International Petsitter is the greatest job in the world (literally) and I can barely remember what it was like to live any other way. Overall, International Petsitting is not just a “job,” it’s an “adventure ” (to steal from the 1976 US Navy slogan). To be more specific, it’s not just a job or an adventure, it’s a lifestyle. 

And since I love the lifestyle, it’s the best “job” possible for me.

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If you’re curious about how to get started doing Intenational Petsitting, you can get a free download preview of the upcoming book, “How to Be An International Petsitter.”

If you’re already a petsitter and you’re looking for petsitting gigs, you can click here to view the latest Petsitters Wanted gigs and job postings.

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Comments

July 4, 2021 at 9:10 am

Being a full-time international pet sitter looks like so much fun! Getting to travel AND all the fluffy snuggles?? What could be better?? Thanks for sharing your experiences!



July 5, 2021 at 10:50 am

Wauw, I’ve been thinking about doing housesitting a few times but never really dared to go through with it. I’m a little bit afraid of the responsibility and I think I would be afraid all the time that something would happen to the furry friends while I’m there! But your post makes it sound like a great adventure and that you get so much out of it so I guess I will have to think about it a little more and take the plunge! 🙂



    July 6, 2021 at 5:50 am

    These are valid concerns because you are taking care of precious fur kids! I’ve walked into more than one situation where a pet was in a precarious health predicament and the PetParents were afraid they were saying good-bye to their fur-kid for the last time. But… Not on MY watch! In every case the pets were in much better shape when I left than when I arrived. But I totally get what you’re saying – it is a big responsibility and one I take to heart! Thanks for reading!



Jan
July 6, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for a detailed blog on the life of a petsitter! It’s great that along with your passion of pet sitting and cuddles, you get to explore the world and see so many destinations. Your images are stunning. Thanks for sharing. 🙂



    July 9, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks for your image compliment Jan! Funny thing… When I was finding these photos, I was looking through some very, very old ones that were taken with a very, very old phone that was “state of the art” at the time. Lucky for full-time travelers, camera phones have improved drastically in a short period of time. Thanks for reading! – Barbara



July 7, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Wow! This looks and sounds so great. To be honest, at first I actually had the question you started this article with. Now I understand that this is an awesome job. Not only you get to travel, but also take care of furry friends! It is absolutely fantastic. And I agree with you that this is an adventure.



    July 9, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    Haha! You are in good company with most of the rest of the world, Amrita. I didn’t know there was such a thing as full-time solo travel International Petsitting until I was in the middle of doing it. Here’s the story about my “A-ha Moment,” if you’re curious… Travel Budget Hack . Thanks for reading! – Barbara



July 8, 2021 at 5:50 pm

This sounds like a truly cool possibility to travel. However, I would be too scared because of the huge responsibility. I don’t even like to mend other people’s plants, so…. Don’t you get attached to your “customers” so that you miss them badly after your work is done?



    July 9, 2021 at 6:06 pm

    That is an excellence question, Ranata. It is sad when I have to leave my new furry/feathered/finned stepkids behind. The saddest thing, though, is when I get invited back, but I can’t return because my calendar is booked so far in advance. I get all jealous and possessive thinking about some other lucky person getting to hang with my furry/feathered/finned favorites, but I have to get over it. Much like with every travel adventure, you love it and are grateful for it while it’s happening, and then you move onto the next – which you love and are grateful for equally. Thanks for a asking! – Barbara



July 9, 2021 at 9:54 am

Great article, we’ve done quite a bit of housesitting (some with pets others without) and it was an awesome experience. Felt really welcomed in foreign villages and saw places we probably would have as a typical tourist.



    July 9, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    Woohoo! I love intersecting with fellow traveling sitters. I’ve never actually done a sit for a house without pets, but my first international sit with fish was close. I’m not sure how it would be without any other living creatures around. I’ll have to try to just to have the comparison! Sit on! – Barbara



July 9, 2021 at 5:34 pm

I admire your sense of adventure! I never knew anyone could pet sit for a living until I read your blog. You lead an exciting life that most people only dream about.



    July 9, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    It’s more of a “lifestyle” than a “living,” but you equally love travel and pets, then it’s a lifestyle that you’ll love living! Thanks for reading! – Barbara



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