Expat experiment – A family discover a travel lifestyle

Expat experiment – A family discover a travel lifestyle

A travelling family of digital nomads tell their story.

Travelling professionals (a former retail manager and a financial advisor) Tracey and Rob took extended sabbaticals to see the world with their young son Makai. They registered as house-sitters on HouseSit Match calling themselves the Expat Experiment and as they move from country to country they document their journey, and diarise their experiences from country to country by blogging.  In this article they explain how they first came to housesitting as an affordable way to travel the world.


The Tulles Family Travellers – Expat Experiment
The Tulles Family Travellers – Expat Experiment

When we left home in April 2014 to travel simply couldn’t imagine that we would be able to visit the number of countries we have during our first year on the road! We embarked on a perpetual travel adventure with a year’s salary in the bank and, and due to our modest budget a very short list of confirmed destinations.

Living like a local

As we grew older we realised with so many places on our travel must-see list we would have to change our lifestyle dramatically or we wouldn’t reach half of these places! After the birth of our son Makai, our desire to travel unexpectedly grew stronger. We knew how much travelling had changed our outlook on life and we wanted Makai to benefit from a world perspective at a young age. We plotted and planned and when Makai was five, we gave in to our wanderlust, sold our home and most of our possessions and left Canada to travel the world.

Sustainable travel

After five months on the road we realised we were enjoying our travels so much that we decided to look for ways, other than our online work to help sustain our travel lifestyle. While we were not missing Canada exactly, we were missing our dog, our friends and family back home. We needed to find a way to feel more at home on the road. That’s when we found what we consider the perfect way to travel, keeping costs low and offering us time with pets which reminded us of our dog. We started house-sitting!

House-sitting proved to be the secret ingredient that enabled us to travel long term.  Rob and I had both been bitten by the travel bug when young, so we really enjoyed living in each new home and country, learning about the local neighbourhoods, culture and specialties.

Housesitting in Vera, Southern Spain
Housesitting in Vera, Southern Spain

House-sitting enables our travel lifestyle

Housesitting is THE number one money saving practice that makes our travel lifestyle financially viable. At home our mortgage had been our major monthly expenditure. By housesitting we had simply eliminated the burden of a mortgage or any kind of rental costs, it liberated our earnings to spend on our travel and getting involved with the local communities we were enjoying.

We kept careful records during our first year housesitting of all our spending in every location and between destinations. We worked out that we had spent over 45% less while travelling than while we were living in one place as a family. Of course this varied between locations. We found Southern Spain to be the best value destination out of all the countries we have visited so far.

We landed our first assignment house-sit in August 2014, and it was a long term housesit for six months to care for two dogs in the mountains of Panama! This long-term assignment gave us the opportunity to build relationships in the community, spend quality time with our son and enjoy two of the sweetest dogs as our charges during the assignment. We learned a lot and loved the experience so much we found we were hooked on house-sitting and couldn’t wait to land our next gig!

Since our first assignment, we have successfully completed house sits and pet sits in England, Turkey, and Spain with more booked in Wales and England later this year. When we left our home in Canada, our initial travel plans included three countries in South America. Now we have broader horizons, and find we can live like a local throughout the world!

We home school our son and we are rigorous with his schedule. But down time is real and fun. He loves the pets and is learning from the pet care also. So far, Makai has helped care for a parakeet, koi fish, and ten different breeds of dogs! In Panama, the homeowners fed hummingbirds and monkeys on their property so he learned how to that too!

Expat experiment – A family discover a travel lifestyle 2
Makai looking after pet dogs in Turkey


House-sitting and Pet sitting are perfect for children!

Our Son, Makai is an awesome house sitter, the sensitivity and caring he’s shown the pets we’ve cared for has helped them deal with missing their owners brilliantly! It teaches him how to care for animals, understand the importance of routines and the importance of clear communications.

Kids make a special connection with animals because of their curiosity and innate desire to befriend animals. Makai is on track to be a master house sitter in his own right because of the house-sitting experiences has had already.

Helped by HouseSitMatch.com

Our most recent assignment, our first one through HouseSitMatch has brought us to our favourite country so far, Spain! It is in the Andalusia region in southern Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea close to the town of Vera. We spent two months in a lovely community caring for two sweet pups a short walk away from a beautiful beach. It has been simply amazing.  Staying for as long as we have has given us the time to visit tourist sites and learn a lot about local culture.

Truly living like a local!

Our favourite experiences have been going to the beach, shopping at the outdoor markets, and meeting local cafe owners and fellow travellers visiting the community.  There are two local markets near the community where we are house-sitting, one in the town of Guaracha and one in the town of Vera and both offer produce and goods an unbeatable value which enabled us to save even more from our budget. You can find everything at these outdoor markets, fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, cured meats, fresh seafood, olives, clothing, and more! We love visiting the markets, sampling delicious local specialities, buying fresh foods, and visiting the cafes to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

House-sitting is so rewarding

House-sitting helps us afford to travel more and experience the places we visit from a local perspective, exactly what we wanted for Makai! The friendships we’ve built with homeowners and their sweet pets makes us feel like we have family all over the world!

By Tracey Tulles – Digital nomad and house-sitter with HouseSitMatch.com

Register with HouseSitMatch.com here.

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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