Meet Helen Lockhart and her family

November 7, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Meet WSE Members


Tell me a little about your family and who you travel with.

We are the Lockhart family and comprise of myself, Helen, my husband, Jamie and our two boys, Louis and Max who are 11 and 7. We are from the south coast of England, near Portsmouth and decided to travel together as a family, following the sale of our business.


Do you travel full time? How do you educate your children?

Our business sold in September 2015 and we left the UK six weeks later on October 13th, travelling full time for ten months. We then returned to the UK at the 2point4trek-2end of July this year to catch up with family, make plans for the future and sort out administration that’s difficult to be done on the road. We have taken some sidetrips since being back including to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and subsequently up to the Scottish Highlands, Weymouth for a weekend and Romania for a road trip around the country.

Whilst travelling, we largely unschool, our days are structured around seeing the country we are in, visiting museums or places of historical significance. We have supported this through the the use of some online apps like Khan Academy, Reading Eggs and Duolingo amongst others. Now back in the UK, we have continued to home educate, however our days are much more structured towards curriculum based learning.


What are your main reasons for house sitting?

We first looked into housesitting in Australia, two months into our travels. We saw it as an excellent opportunity to look after pets in exchange for free accommodation. It’s been much more rewarding than we first realised, the children have become much more confident with animals, you have the benefits of an actual home, like all the utensils you need for day to day cooking and a comfy sofa/bed and sometimes, the chance to see an area outside of the tourist trail – you get the opportunity to see real day to day lives of locals, opposed to tourists.

As time has gone on, we have found that housesitting gives us the time to rest and reenergise after periods of fast travel. It’s worked well to intersperse housesits after these times and is especially beneficial for the boys, who sometimes find themselves craving familiarity rather than a different room each night.


How long have you been house sitting? How many sits have you done? Where have you been?

2point4trek-3Our first house sit was in January this year in Manly, Sydney, Australia. I found the sit through a local mums group on Facebook and we had no responsibility other than to keep the house secure and still standing on their return! Since then, we have completed sits in Auckland, on the island of Paros in Greece, Stubbington, UK, three in Winchester, UK, one in Portsmouth, one in Havant and one in Rowlands Castle. I think that makes eight!


What were your main responsibilities? Did you look after pets?

We didn’t have any pets for the first sit and were fortunate enough to be offered the house as a sitter – the house was worth in the region of AU $6m and was absolutely stunning. Our subsequent sits have all involved the care of animals, whether that’s dogs, cats, fish or chickens or a combination of them all. We’ve looked after a 13 week old puppy and even hatched out chicks!

Aside from animal care, we try to leave every property in the same or even better condition than we found it. We wash our sheets and towels and remake the beds where possible, make sure there is milk, bread and tea and coffee for the owners and have even left a prepared meal to ensure everyone was well fed after returning from a long journey!


Tell me about your favourite sit ever?

The boys were asking me about my favourite sit a while back. It’s so hard to categorise them as they all have been so different. The Sydney sit was fabulous as it was a beautiful house in the perfect location near the beach, the Auckland sit was lovely as it was in the countryside and a short drive from the lovely area of Brown’s Bay, our Greece sit was stunning, the views were out of this world and the house was typical Greek and so authentic. Even our UK housesits have been very different from each other – they’ve ranged from a 16th Century Farmhouse, a detached modern home to terraced houses.


How far in advance do you organise your house sits?

We don’t plan our travel very far ahead and so we don’t plan housesits far in advance either. We like the flexibility of being able to stay longer if we like an area and move on if we don’t.


How much money do you estimate you have saved on travel accommodation by doing house sits?

We tried to budget around £40 a night for accommodation during our travels. Adding it up in my head now, we’ve housesat for roughly 90 days since January, which on a basis of £40 is £3600. If we were paying to stay in these houses, as opposed to housesitting, some would be rented out in the region of £200+ per night.


What would you say to other people considering this type of travel accommodation? Tell me your best house sit tip?

Housesitting is definitely the way forward in terms of keeping accommodation costs down – even if you slot some sits in between regular accommodation that you would find on Air BnB or and works well if you want to cover some ground and take in a lot of countries in a short space of time.

The alternative is to slow travel and stay in an area for much longer, benefiting from local rents, which are much less than a nightly spend for a hotel.


2point4trek-5What do you worry about, if anything, while arranging a sit? How would you put potential sitters minds at ease who are anxious about staying in someone else’s house?

I don’t tend to worry as most sits are short term, however my best advice is to not be afraid to say no, if something doesn’t feel right. You are not obliged to sit for someone, even if you’ve met them in person. We were offered a sit last month, even going to the property to meet the owners, but both myself and my husband felt it wasn’t a good fit after we said our goodbyes. Since we didn’t get a positive vibe, we declined the sit by sending an email to the owner, thanking them for their time but that on this occasion, we wouldn’t be taking up the sit.


Some people say they like to house sit rather than stay in a hotel as it feels more like a ‘home from home’ experience – Does it really? Can you really make someone else’s home feel like your own? How do you achieve this?

Yes definitely, although some feel more relaxed that others – whether that’s just down to a better Internet connection, less responsibility of animals or a better flow through the house. All our sits have felt more like home than a hotel would. We don’t do anything to make a home our own, since it’s not our home but we’ve learnt to regularly adapt to new surroundings and it’s changed our ideas of a ‘home’.


What one thing do you travel with that you couldn’t do without, even when staying in someone else’s home?

My phone and kindle. I live on my phone and use it to check for newly listed sits, keep in touch with homeowners, find flights and travel deals, research areas and countries for things to do and places to see. We’re pretty inseparable! My husband just bought me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday to replace my old battered Kindle. It’s fast becoming a fixture!




So where to next? Any more sits planned?

We plan to root ourselves back in our home here – I’ve been offered a position within a local company and have decided to take it up and go with the flow – I’ll continue to be on the lookout for travel deals and will be adding our own house to the Worldschooler Swap site once we’re up and running.

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  1. jerandeb said on November 28, 2016 3:33 pm:

    Very nice article, thanks! I wonder if Helen could offer advice for finding affordable air fares and if they have rented cars in any of the house sit locations. We have found the airfares and car rental fees prohibitive for many otherwise lovely house sit opportunities. We are very experienced but have been able to drive to Mexico and US locations.