02 Aug Why You Should House Sit to Travel Sustainably
With a rising middle class, abundance of budget flights, and burgeoning demographic of location-independent workers, cities are now straining under the weight of overtourism. Last summer the Louvre closed temporarily as museum staff protested their struggle to manage throngs of tourists. Some cities are considering imposing tourism taxes or banning tour buses from certain areas. Now that the vacation rental industry has taken over urban and residential areas, driving up rents and pushing out locals, many of us are wondering how to travel more consciously and leave the smallest trace wherever our journeys take us.
Here are five reasons house sitting is part of the solution, and can help you travel more sustainably.
1. You’re not displacing residents.
Airbnb is still a major cause of gentrification in cities worldwide. In Germany, where cities aim to crack down on hosts who don’t comply with short-stay regulations, the company is appealing to the European Court of Justice in an attempt to escape tighter restrictions. Presenting itself as a “digital platform” instead of a real estate service, it’s trying to avoid giving away host data to municipalities—in effect, putting up a big fat middle finger.
“An unregulated vacation rental industry can have damaging effects on cities,” wrote ten European cities in an open letter to the European Union in April. “Many cities suffer from a serious housing shortage. Where homes can be used more lucratively for renting out to tourists, they disappear from the traditional housing market, prices are driven up even further and housing of citizens who live and work in our cities is hampered.”
House sitting isn’t displacing residents because you’re simply standing in for someone who actually lives there, not replacing them.
2. You’re reducing house waste.
New affordable housing units need to be built, and they need to actually be affordable. But building new units requires space and resources. If we can make a small dent in the demand for this, we’d be giving the environment a break, not to mention cities.
“House waste” is the empty space that remains when homes are left unoccupied by their traveling tenants. Creating more affordable housing units is a necessary part of tackling gentrification, but house sitting uses the space that’s already there. If the movement became widespread enough to impact the rental market, it could also reduce the number of new affordable units needed and help us conserve the resources that normally go into housing construction, such as wood, stone, metal, and glass.
3. You’re embracing slow travel & minimalism.
Producing less waste is key, and by house sitting you can not only use the home owner’s amenities (and often eat their food, especially if they will be gone a long time) but also learn to not need as much in general. I have lived in Berlin for a year and a half now and still haven’t bought decorations for my room or accumulated anything beyond books and clothes. House sitting taught me to need less to be happy.
4. You’re able to afford sustainable products.
The money you save on accommodation via house sitting can potentially be put into things you normally couldn’t afford, such as slightly more expensive local products or organic foods and toiletries.
5. You’re traveling longer, for cheaper.
Maybe you thought you couldn’t afford a trip this year, or more than one, because of the cost of accommodation. If you house sit, you’ve eliminated your major expense aside from transport. If you don’t want to house sit the whole time, you can find a sit for a few days or a week and spend the rest of your time pursuing other housing options. Or you’ll be able to make the most of your precious holiday time and visit Italy and Spain without worrying about breaking the bank.