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How to Travel for Less by Bartering

By Teresa Roberts

Today I’m stepping back from the podium and handing the mic to the author of Finding the Gypsy in Me: Tale of an International House Sitter. You can reduce your budget by getting an overseas job, but with this job you get something besides money: a nice place to stay. Take it away Teresa!

Money is just a piece of paper. Try not to overreact to my opening remark. That happens to be the way I look at the topic of money. I didn’t use to treat money with such lack of respect. Before I learned to travel by using the bartering system, I pretty much traveled the way the vast majority of people do. I saved my pennies for a while and then spent them in a week or two, at best, as a tourist.

You know what I am talking about, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, and the occasional purchase of souvenirs. It doesn’t take long to blow a year’s vacation allowance during a typical trip. I still had fun, but I usually felt a little sad as the end of my vacation drew nigh. (sigh) Back to the old work force I would go, putting my nose to the grindstone to earn some more paper so that I could go on another vacation in a year or two.

If I wanted to really beat the system, I could stay in hostels, carry food in my backpack and take public transportation. This would save me some money, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t always the most comfortable of trips. Still, it was worth the sacrifice if it meant that I could travel more often.

One day, I stumbled across the bartering system. For me, it was a match made in heaven. I am not hardwired to be a tourist. I am not ready to be an expatriate either. Yet, I live abroad for eight-month stretches. I am an international house sitter. The bartering system has turned out to be the best deal in town for me.

I trade my services for amenities. I have a skill set that I offer homeowners. I take care of beloved pets. I manage gardens and potted plants. I oversee maids and gardeners. I provide security to personal property. I collect mail, pay bills, and walk the dog. I pretty well do whatever is needed to keep things in order while the homeowner is gone. I usually take care of homes for no less than a month and up to ninety days. In return, I get to live in some very lovely homes, all over the world, in locations of outstanding natural beauty.

Bartering is an obvious choice for me. I like to live in a region, experiencing an intimate interaction with a culture, rather than dashing through a string of cities with a brochure in my hand as I squeeze in as many attractions as possible. I retired about ten years earlier than most of my colleagues in order to take advantage of this leisurely lifestyle.

I don’t charge for my services. Yet, I make out like a bandit in most situations. I have no overhead and all of the comforts of home. For the price of a plane ticket, I can stay in Spain, for instance, for ninety days. That is a very cheap vacation. I often have a pool, use of the car, Internet, stocked larder, and all utilities paid. With a little money in my pocket for weekly groceries and a cold beer at a local bar, I require little else.

If you love a tight itinerary, very little down time, and running madly from one tourist attraction to another, then house sitting may not be for you. If that hard earned paper is burning a hole in your pocket, then, by all means, spend it. If, instead, you relish the idea of sipping your coffee in an outdoor café while watching people pass by or browsing in a foreign grocery store in order to discover an interesting new treat, then you might want to consider using the bartering system.

If you’d like to know more about how I travel the world as an international house sitter and how you can do it, too, visit my web site

Teresa Roberts likes living on the edge of who she is while anticipating who she is becoming. She has reinvented herself more than once in life. From teacher/principal to world traveler/international house sitter to author and travel journalist, she simply loves being on a learning curve. Her first published book, Finding the Gypsy in Me – Tales of an International House Sitter, was written to appease the multitude of people who wanted to hear more about her adventures abroad. She hopes it is at once inspiring and practical. Teresa constantly seeks creative routes to freedom. She could be the poster girl for finding adventure at any age and on any income. Visit


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Thursday 15th of December 2011

Enjoyed reading your article :)


Wednesday 20th of February 2013

Thanks for taking the time to let me know.