For those of us who love to travel to new and exciting places, Narelle Neville is living the dream! She is the founder of Pet and Plant Poppins - working remotely and house-sitting for people across the world. While you go on holiday, Narelle makes sure pets and plants are cared for and the house is safe and secure.
We asked her to share a little bit about how it all works, stories from the places she has stayed and her top travel tips.
How did you come to be a house-sitter travelling the world?
In 2018, I relocated back to Adelaide where I am from, after living in Darwin for 11 years. I decided rather than putting down roots, to try house-sitting which had always intrigued me. I was doing this in Adelaide for about 6 months and then lined up 3 months of house-sitting in Central Europe. I have been doing this overseas ever since.
Tell us about your clients. Who are they and why do they need a house-sitter?
They are almost always expats who have relocated to retire or start the wind down to retirement and have chosen a beautiful place to live outside of their home country. These people love to travel but are settled in a home and often have the commitment of having pets. They use a house-sitter when they go on long holidays because they don't have the same group of friends or family that they may have typically relied on in the past. I help out to give them peace of mind that their animals, home and garden will be well cared for and secure.
Where have you travelled to so far? Do you have any favourite locations? What’s the best bit about travelling the world right now?
I started in Central Europe in 2018, then did a couple of house-sits in Northern Africa and more of Europe including the UK. In January of 2021, I came to the Americas and have been in North America, Central and South America since then. There are so many incredible places that I have spent time in. Mexico is great for house-sitting as there is a lot of demand and it is an incredibly vibrant and beautiful country. Europe is fantastic for its diversity and history. South America (where I am now) is packed full of amazing adventures and natural beauty.
Travelling the world has always been my greatest passion and I first lived overseas the year I graduated from university, at 21 years old. Travelling now is easier than ever, more accessible, affordable and simpler. Technology and platforms like YouTube, Google Translate, Google Maps, Airbnb, different accommodation booking sites and social media make it easier to virtually explore and plan. Connecting with other travellers using social media is common and a great way to get real insight and support. It’s also great for finding local experiences and supporting independent providers.
Do you have any fun stories to tell us about the pets you look after?
I love the animals, they really become my best buddies during the time I am looking after them! I have so many stories (check out my gallery, I am almost at 50 sits!).
Some of the most memorable include:
- Winston (or Win - a - stone - a), the English Sheepdog in Italy, that knew all of the places that sold pizza in the centre of Nado
- Rubi the Mexico Mutt that loved to ride up front in the golf cart when we were driving through the Mexican surf town of Sayulita
- Joni the big white bunny that would jump up into bed in the mornings (especially charming on Easter Sunday)
- Stevie the blind cat on the Isle of Wight in England that would walk on his leash in the field behind his home.
I am a hiking enthusiast and love taking the dogs hiking with me. Being out on the trails with a dog always makes hiking more enjoyable! In addition to the animals though, are the owners; I have met so many fascinating people and now call them all friends.
You were travelling during COVID. What was that like? Are there any other challenges you’ve faced?
I started house-sitting before COVID and was in Europe at the time things unfolded, early in 2020. It required a HUGE pivot. All of the house-sits I had booked (8 months across 4 European countries) were cancelled and a two-week holiday in Georgia, Eastern Europe turned into a ten-month stay. I ended up completing my time in Georgia with a three-month house-sit for a fellow Aussie that now lives there.
For me, the challenges associated with house-sitting and permanently travelling are some of the things I most love, but for many it would be a source of stress. I love the planning and logistics, the communication, and being organised with the capacity to make changes and switch to Plan B or C quickly.
What are your top travel tips? Do you have any packing tips for long-term travelling? What are your essentials?
I think people need to work out packing on their own as what people genuinely believe they need to have with them is so personal and can vary so much. But it is safe to say that packing light is the way to go. For me - I am an ultra-minimalist packer and I have ONLY what I need and love. In my one carry-on backpack I have everything. My toiletries fit into a ziplock, I have only one pair of trail runners and hiking sandals, no jeans or bulky jackets, and my clothing is all good lightweight fabrics.
For booking travel I always use Google Flights, Booking.com and Airbnb; I always have a couple of ride-sharing apps (Didi, Uber) on my phone; and before I arrive anywhere I download the destination on Google Maps and Maps.me.
What ways are you trying to reduce your travel footprint?
With all of the flying I do I'm not sure I reduce it too much, but it probably balances out with very little driving and usually, my long-distance road transport is by bus. I eat a lot of locally grown fruit and veg instead of buying at big retailers that transport, refrigerate and store their produce. I don't have a daily commute to work because I work remotely from wherever I am staying. And, I always participate in the local recycling programs.
How do you decide where to go next? What are your plans for 2023?
I explore one region at a time and I’m currently based in Central and South America. I love to be by the sea, in the mountains, or in an interesting historical city. To source house-sits I connect with expats using social media or have repeat bookings or referrals. The start of this year has been spent in El Salvador and Mexico. Then I’m returning to Australia for a long-overdue visit for a couple of months, so I will be looking for house-sits in Australia, Asia or the Pacific in March and April 2023.
To learn more about Narelle and Plant and Pet Poppins head to her website.
Planning your own travel escape? Check out the Topargee Adventure Range for essential travel products you won’t want to leave home without.