Last Easter Nikki Griholt and her partner Nick spent free on a farm in the Cotswolds in historic Gloucestershire. “We read books, had lunch on the terrace, and took long walks through the canary yellow rapeseed fields,” Niki Griholt told The Guardian.
Renting a mansion would cost thousands – especially during the Easter holidays, the author adds. However, she and her partner spend time there for free in exchange for looking after the owners’ friendly cocker spaniels, cat, and hamster while the family skis in the Alps.
They do this thanks to Trusted Housesitters, a breakthrough platform that connects homeowners with sitters around the world (£99 for annual membership). House Sitters UK offers a similar service, but only covers properties in the UK (for £29 per year).
Companies offering temporary home care services will thrive in 2022. For example, Trusted Housesitters reported a 130% increase in new members compared to 2019, with more than double the number of listings by owners in the UK.
Nikki Griholt found Trusted Housesitters in the summer of 2013 when her partner Nick quit his job. The family decides to travel a little. Their finances are limited, so they have to be creative. So they decided to create a profile detailing their animal care, gardening, and home care experience. “For him, we posted pictures of us among the poppies in Italy, and started crossing our fingers,” says Nicky.
They did not have to wait long. They were soon contacted by a family desperate for a break from their small farm in County Wicklow, Ireland.
“The owners met us with their sheepdogs and introduced us to the whole farm – sheep, chickens, ducks, and a cat,” says Nicky. They spend their days there looking after the animals, picking blackberries, walking in the Wicklow Mountains, and swimming with seals in Clough Bay. “We were really into that lifestyle, and we realized that working as a butler could help us travel on a budget,” she adds.
After that, they visited a three-story townhouse in London, a lakeside property in Montreux, Switzerland, and a house on the Isle of Lewis, one of their most magical places. “We explored the standing stones of Callan, picnicked on the wild beaches where the Vikings once landed, and watched porpoises leap out of the glassy sea.”
Almost ten years later, Nikki and Nick are still butlers. Nick has retrained as a teacher, but they practice this denote during the holidays, mostly in the UK but sometimes abroad, where housing is costly and the need for carers is greatest. Last year, he and his partner looked after five houses.
While the free holiday accommodation is a good enough reason to do so, the savings also have other benefits, Nikki says. “It’s nice to spend time with different animals while having all the comforts of a home away from home. You can also meet good neighbors. On August, when we were looking after a cat in Golders Green, a neighbor (a lovely literary agent) invited us over for dinner, and the following spring we were looking after her with a wide-eyed kitten,” says the author, adding that she and her the partners cared for many species of animals, from parrots to donkeys.
But the work of a butler is not a traditional vacation, she notes, because taking care of pets and other animals in the country can be tiring. Most owners also want to know about the welfare of their animals.
In addition, the market for traveling butlers is very competitive – to earn five-star reviews, you need to take care of other people’s pets no less than your own, and do your best, advises Nikki. “Our hosts, for example, return to an immaculately decorated home with flowers on the table and a thank-you card and home-cooked food in the fridge.”