Traveling the world has afforded me the opportunity to make many friends and acquaintances abroad. However, the Internet has also opened doors around the world for me. I met Nikki Ah Wong online. She sent me an email all the way from Australia. Our mutual interest in house sitting gave us lots to talk about. Her method, different from mine, is interesting to hear about. Enjoy our interview!
Tell us a little about your background?
In 2009, I left my marriage and became a sort of motorbike riding wanderer and a house sitter. No one was more surprised than me, but I love it.
How did your creative path to freedom lead you to house sitting?I applied for a job at a health retreat that did not work out. I then tried setting up an online business that would generate income. When I realized it could take years to set up an income, I remembered hearing about house sitting. I applied for a job looking after three lovely dogs and never looked back. I don’t need much income when my rent and utilities are paid for.
Do you work a day job?
For six years I managed up to twelve early learning centers and up to 120 staff.
In the last few years I have been supporting myself (on a tiny but workable budget) by writing articles and with various other small jobs. I have been a mystery shopper, a tele-marketer, and a census collector. My goal is to make money from my books, articles, and public speaking.
How much do you charge for services?I do not charge a fee when I house sit. The homeowner is paying my telephone, electricity and probably a mortgage. I see it as a generous trade. They get a worry free holiday and I get free accommodation.
Describe the perfect assignment.
The perfect assignment is one that takes me to a region I want to explore or that provides new experiences. I have stayed in everything from a multi-million dollar home with boat parking at the back door, to a run-down inner city bachelor pad. I have cared for a variety of pets from the usual cats and dogs, to chickens, a miniature pony, and two steer. One home even had a tame python living in the garden.
Every home has been enjoyable and interesting, but the icing on the cake is when the families I sit for become friends.
How has your business evolved?In the beginning I did several assignments that were a week long. Now, I tend to accept house sits of six weeks or more. When I first started, I travelled light because I could only take what I could fit on my motorbike. Now I travel by car and take more “things” with me. I usually have my printer as well as my laptop and other fun items like snorkeling gear and a small surfboard. It is also nice to have more time to explore an area.
Tell us about your new book?
I hope it is an inspiring story of courage and life change. I called it “Housesitting in Australia – Big Adventures on a Tiny Budget”.
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Then it got worse.
My marriage broke up, I was made redundant, and a raging drunk I met online sent hate mail to my boss.
I set about making some changes.
A year later, I had become a happy, fulfilled, transient person and a house sitter. I had an almost permanent smile and an abundance of freedom.
One day I wondered if my story could inspire someone else. I added some of the fun stories about my life as a house sitter, and added tips and advice for people thinking of housesitting.
Only a few people read it before it was published but they used words like “informative”, “engaging”, offbeat” and “original”. It is a book I would like to have read when I was at my lowest, and wondering if life could improve.
What are the benefits of house sitting in Australia? Any down sides?
The best thing might have to be the people. Australians are, almost without exception, casual and friendly. I have made some wonderful new friends.
Another benefit is the wide range of scenery. I generally house sit in South East Queensland and enjoy blue skies and beach weather all year around. Just up the coast there are rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. Down south, there are deserts, rocky outcrops, and the snowy mountains.
Down sides? None that I can think of. The Aussie dollar is strong, food and transport are cheap and the health system is good. Come on down.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
My best friend has a yacht, so I would like to be sailing around the pacific islands or possibly the Mediterranean. After reading Teresa’s book, I would also love to try housesitting in Spain or maybe France.
Along the way I want to provide meaningful service that helps others. I want to continue writing and hope to build a thriving online business that I can take anywhere.
What kind of advice would you give prospective house sitters?
Travel light, you don’t need much. Take lots of notes and get contact details on case of an emergency.
If you like to travel and want to save money, give housesitting a go. It is fun and very cheap.
Nikki’s book is for sale from Amazon as a paperback and on Kindle.
Visit Amazon to view Nikki Ah Wong’s book.