by Daryl Cygler
Here's a dilemma. You love speaking languages and exploring other lands but lack the funds to travel widely. How do you experience other cultures first hand, but on a budget?
Yes, there are economy options such as camping or hostels. But what if you yearn for home comforts or immerse yourself in local life? Actually, there is a way to do just this. Indeed, the accommodation comes with all mod cons and is free ... yes, free of charge, once you discover the golden opportunity that is pet sitting abroad.
If you have an aptitude for animals then looking after fur, feathered, or scaly friends could be key to expanding your language skills. When you love animals, the world becomes your classroom because there are many great openings for those prepared to pet sit abroad.
Pets are fur-family members. When their owners go away on business or vacation, many prefer to have their pet looked after at home rather than send them to kennels or a cattery. Enter the live-in pet sitter.
The pet sitter gets to stay in the person's home, free of charge, in exchange for caring for the fur-kids and keeping them in a regular routine. But this doesn't adequately express the depth of the experience. For example my pet sitting experience in Surrey, England turned into a full-on furry bromance when I discovered my doggy doppelganger, Parker the dog. Talk about priceless!
Pet sitting is a wonderful way to make friends and discover the local attractions. Plus, you have the bonus of living like a local as part of the community.
What I love about pet sitting is becoming part of the community. Walking your charge in the local dog park is guaranteed to have the owners of their pet pals coming up to say “Hi.” What better way to practice your languages than conversing with real people! This is worth any amount of classroom learning ... and so much more fun. (What is Croatian for “Fetch”?)
It's all about immersion. Caring for a dog in particular, means discovering the local parks, chatting to other dog walkers, and taking part in real life ... whatever shape this takes. From dog walks to buying their food, there will be plenty of interaction. And people, including total strangers, want to talk when you're holding the end of a leash.
Can anyone pet sit? Well, almost. To be a pet sitter does require certain basic skills.
Most important is that you need to be a genuine animal lover with empathy for the creatures in your care. Having experience with that species is a bonus, as it increases your prospective host's confidence that you can adequately care for their fur friend.
There are a number of ways to find your first gig. The quick-start option is to register with one of the emerging companies that put sitters in contact with pet owners. Many of these are international with some wonderful opportunities to be found in widely differing locations.
These organizations offer the reassurance of vetting (excuse the pun) both parties for mutual peace of mind. However, competition can be fierce for the best placements, which is where building a track record helps.
Start small scale with a simple internet search for people seeking a pet sitter. Something as simple as caring for dogs or cats locally helps you collect recommendations and build your portfolio. Also, consider taking a pet first aid course, which helps you stand out from other applicants. Of course, if you work with animals in any capacity, then this is an extra tick in the box.
As you build a reputation and get more ambitious you can search opportunities abroad ... and hey presto, it's time to pack your bags to start a pet sitting polyglot adventure abroad!
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