How We Went from Rookies to Long-Term Travellers

When we set off on our indefinite travel adventure to Costa Rica, we didn’t know what to expect. Eight months later and we’re long-term travellers. So how did it happen?

When we left the UK in May last year, we didn’t have all that much. We had a little money saved from our year teaching in Taiwan, a one-way plane ticket and our first ever house sit lined up. We knew that, at worst, we had enough money to last us for two months of travel. If we had to come home and rethink our plans after that, then well, we would’ve had a great holiday. Any amount of time we were able to stay travelling after that was a bonus. Right now, we’re into 6 bonus months and still going strong. Here’s how it happened.

House Sitter -Charlie and Luke
This is us when we first arrived in Costa Rica.

Our First House Sit

Finding our first house sitting assignment took a little while. We decided that it didn’t matter where or when the house sit was, as long as we liked the owners and it seemed like a nice place. We got super lucky. We met an awesome family in Costa Rica and booked our flights immediately after a Skype call with them. When we arrived at that first house sit in the mountains surrounding San Jose, we couldn’t believe it.

Not only had we actually made it to Costa Rica, but we were now officially house sitters and sitting in the a house with a view more beautiful you can imagine. We were thrown in at the deep end here though, as this house sit came with ten dogs and a cat. The dogs run free in the jungle and the doors are always open here, even at night. In rainy season, that meant a lot of mud. Not to mention that ten dogs need a lot of love. Fortunately, our sit went well and we got on so well with the home owners that this place became kind of our home base for the past eight months. We house sat here on five separate occasions.

House sitting in Costa Rica Puriscal view - Charlie on Travel
Yes, this is the view. And yes, that’s the house in the bottom left corner.

Slow Travel

After travelling all around Vietnam in a whirlwind three weeks, we realised that travelling fast wasn’t for us. Not only did it mean we didn’t get to spend as much time as we would’ve liked in some places, but it was also expensive. We decided that we would prefer to travel slowly, keep costs low and not have to worry about rushing off to the next place. When we got to Costa Rica, that’s what we did. House sitting suited our travel style perfectly and has become a good long-term travel option for us now.

With one house sit and a good reference under our belt, it became much easier for us to find more house sits. The demand for house sitters in Costa Rica and Panama is pretty high because there are a lot of expats living here who need to leave the country every three months for VISA reasons. We realised that this was the ideal way for us to save money and really get to explore this region. House sitting has meant spending time living like a local in specific areas and the gaps between the sits meant we could travel to all the other places we wanted to see.

1 Charlie heading up the track to Tipi Jungla - Charlie on Travel
No rush to get to anywhere.

Working Remotely

While we both enjoyed our time teaching in Taiwan, I was so relieved that my teaching contract had come to an end. There is no doubt about it: teaching is mentally, emotionally and physically challenging. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate their life to teaching and it just isn’t something that comes naturally to me. However, teaching is an excellent profession for those who want to travel and at the time we weren’t really sure what other options we had. When we flew out to Costa Rica, Luke had even packed a suit and a pair of brogues in case he needed to get a teaching job.

As it turns out, he didn’t. I was determined not to return to teaching so quickly after finishing our contract, but I also didn’t want to give up travelling. I needed a career where I could work remotely, so I decided to try my hand at freelance writing. I’ve always loved writing but had never considered it as a viable career option before – but it is. Luke and I work remotely as freelancers on part-time flexi hours for a UK company. Combine this with house sitting and we found that it’s actually possible for us to save money while travelling!

Working while house sitting in Costa Rica
Working while house sitting in Costa Rica.

Our Travel Budget

While it’s true that we are actually saving money by combining house sitting with freelance writing, that’s not the only thing it comes down to. After our first week in Costa Rica, I sat down and figured out a daily travel budget that we have to stick to if we wanted be able to keep travelling. If we over spent, we would run out of money and have to return home. That’s all there was to it.

Though when we are house sitting our daily expenditure can be as low as £3 per day, no matter how under budget we are, we’ve never spent more than the original daily budget that I’d decided on. When we’re on the road, we still stick to our break even budget of £20 each per day. This means finding the cheaper hostel rooms, eating at local sodas, avoiding any crazy expensive tourist activities, and only one almond snickers per day for Luke.

View from Jess house in Pursical Dec
It’s that house sit view again, couldn’t help it.

Well, that’s the story of how we went from knowing very little about Central America to long-term travellers there in eight months. Right now, we’re back in the same little mountain house where we started for the very last time before we leave Costa Rica for good next week. We’ve been having an incredible time here but are looking forward to heading north and travelling the rest of Central America.

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

6 thoughts on “How We Went from Rookies to Long-Term Travellers

  1. Ten dogs? Wow, that must be crazy. I’m so glad you’ve found a way to extend your travels. I’ve just come back to the UK after 8 months- definitely wasn’t ready! I think Dan and I need to try housesitting. It has to be a little more chilled out than workaway at least- though we found some great ones, it can end up a lot of work if you’re not careful! Thanks for your honesty. :)
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    1. Yeah, reasonably so! Fortunately they’re allowed to run around wild in the jungle, so it’s not like you ever have 10 dogs in the house all at one time o.O

      Mm, you say that but 8 months is quite an achievement and I sure do miss home/family quite a lot after the 6 month point. I’ll think we’ll head home to the UK some time in the Summer.

      Would definitely recommend house sitting. It’s definitely hard to be working and on the road for all of the time, house sitting alleviates that intensity.

      What kind of WorkAways have you done? We’ve never got involved with any because of our freelance work (and they often sound like quite a lot of work) though have been interested to try it out some time :)

    1. Thanks so much, Valerie! Travelling on a budget is definitely tough at times and it takes a lot of determination to stick to it, but all those little things you mentioned really make the difference (and fortunately we love cooking!) :)

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