Modern travel has developed beyond package tours and ocean cruises. The days of hopping from city to city and cramming visits to temples, museums, markets, beaches and historical sites into a two-week schedule are fading. For someone who wants to experience the real joys of travel, you need to go beneath the surface and discover the history, the culture and, above all, the people of a place.

It’s what’s known as experiential travel. At most, this means spending enough time in one place to get to know what life there is all about. It means making friends with the locals, living how they live, witnessing their joys and their sorrows, knowing what makes things tick. It’s the only way to turn a visit into a life-changing experience.

But spending enough time in one place to experience all these can be challenging for most of us. That’s where house sitting comes in. With house sitting you can stay in one place for weeks or even months. This gives you the time to explore the place, get to know the people, participate in their festivals and cultural activities, and be part of their daily routine all while earning your keep.

The average house sitting job provides you with a decent and comfortable place to stay, saving on expensive hotel bills. It also allows you the use of the kitchen so you can shop at local markets, cook your own meals and avoid high-priced restaurants. You’ll have the time to savor local delicacies and even learn how to make them. When you do decide to eat out, advice from your local friends will help you avoid the tourist traps and point you to where you can have a real good time.

The money you earn from house sitting will come in handy when you want to move around and explore the area during your days off. Your deeper knowledge of the place will tell you where to go and what to do in order to make your stay an experience you won’t easily forget.

The appeal of experiential travel has started to change the face of the travel and tour industry. While traditional travel packages still abound, there are now a growing number of agencies that offer high-immersion programs. Their packages appeal to the traveler who wants to turn a tour from sightseeing to life seeking. An annual trade show is held to bring together tour operators, lodging owners, media and celebrities so they can exchange ideas and share experiences. There are even a number of online sites that provide photos, videos and other information about experiential travel.

But for those who can’t go the route of packaged experiential travel, house sitting remains the most attractive alternative. You get to choose your destination, your schedule and how you want to spend your time. Best of all, it enables you to keep your expenses under control and probably even earn something in the process. For many, house sitting may be the ultimate experiential travel option.

Contributed by Mel Hogan. Mel is a house sitter and travel blogger. He writes for the house sitting website MindaHome.

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