Travelling the world and saving money on accommodation by pet-sitting seems pretty much like the dream scenario to us. It's a reality for lucky English man, Chris Jones, who is currently travelling through Ukraine as part of a road trip around Europe by car.
Chris (29) combines his love of travel and freelance animation work with pet-sitting and volunteering opportunities with animals. He began freelancing after being made redundant from a design agency in Manchester three years ago and has been travelling for the last two years all over Europe, south and Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. "I started pet-sitting to save money on accommodation while freelancing in New Zealand and realised it was such a fun and rewarding way to travel," he tells Lonely Planet.
"I get to spend my time making friends and playing with all sorts of animals while having a home base in new locations. I am signed up to a website that connects pet-sitters to owners who need their pets looked after, usually while they go on holiday. You make a profile, go through security checks and verifications, and then it is all about selling yourself as the right person to look after people’s pet cats, dogs, birds and even farm animals. Usually, you arrange a phone or video call to have a chat with each other and go over the pet-sit in more detail, before confirming that it is a suitable sit for both parties."
Pet-sitting has seen Chris living in some pretty cool places, including a 600-year -old cottage in the English countryside, a house within touching distance of the Swiss Alps and an apartment in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower. He has also had some funny experiences while working with the animals, and his advice is to be prepared if you're looking after puppies.
"They can be a handful to look after, especially as they like to explore the world through their mouths, so you are constantly on guard to see what they might be eating or chewing on," he laughs. "One puppy I was looking after got very excited at seeing a hare in the countryside that was nearly twice its size. It caught me off-guard, and I found myself running around like a lunatic shouting after the puppy, who thought it was great fun to be playing a game of chase the hare while being chased by a human. If you want the easy life, concentrate on cats!"
While in New Zealand, he was looking after some pigs on a farm that had a tendency to escape their pen and follow him around all day, generally digging up hazelnuts with their snouts or trying to eat his wellies. "I was enjoying a nice bit of local cheese one lunch-time when I heard a lot of grunting coming from outside," he says. "I ran out to see six pigs running riot and demolishing bags of fresh hazelnuts, newly-planted garlic beds and any other crops they could get their trotters on."
Chris is going to Chisinau, Moldova soon to volunteer with a dog and cat sanctuary with over 500 homeless animals. He has a couple of pet-sits lined up back in the UK later this year, and the plan going forward is to continue the pet-sitting and travel adventures in South America next year. "A lot of people are a taken aback when I say it isn't paid work, but it's an ideal situation for me," he says. "I get to spend my time with animals while travelling and freelancing."
Follow Chris's adventures on his Instagram page here.