Learning to Slow Travel With a House Sit in Kenya
There’s nothing more exciting to Jugo and I then landing in a new country and experiencing as much as we can in the time we have there. For us, that meant jam packing our schedule with things to do every day with no time to sit and relax. This usually left us exhausted and too many pictures to fit on our hard drive! This year, we adopted a new style of traveling called slow travel with our motto being ‘no sudden movements’.
Rather then spending a few days in one place and traveling across mutliple cities and countries, we started decided to park ourselves in one place for at least a few weeks before moving onto the next destination. We put the slow travel method to the test when an opprtunity arose for us to house sit in a beautiful property on the coast of Kenya.
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Long Term House Sitting
There are many ways to slow travel such as staying in an Airbnb, renting a place for a for a period of time or our favorite, or finding a long term house sit. House sitting is a great way to budget travel where you get free accommodation in exchange for looking after a home and pets. We previously had a long term house sitting assignment in Scotland where we stayed in a rural village with sheep for neighbors.
- Trusted Housesitters runs on a system that is very similar to Airbnb. You type the destination where you’d like to sit and all the available options will pop up. They have the most house sitting options options worldwide with assignments in 130+ countries. The cost to join is $119 USD for a one-year subscription.
- MindMyHouse is the cheapest house sitting option. There are a ton of house sitting jobs in Europe and a yearly membership only costs $20 USD. This is the website I used to find my house sit in Kenya.
Becoming a house sitter in Kenya
After reading the details of the assignment we applied and received a response the next day from the homeowner. We talked about the details of the house sit over Skype, and were accepted for the assignment after we bought our tickets for a Kenya trip.
For more details on creating a house sitting profile, applying for house sitting jobs and landing your first house sitting assignment check out my complete guide on how to become a house sitter.
Is Kenya Safe?
Over the course of our housesit, the elections were going on. The Canadian government travel advisory stated to exercise a high degree of caution because of protests that were happening around the country. Sometimes we could hear the protests from the property but that was all.
When we told our family and friends that we were going to Africa, the majority of the responses were why? Isn’t it dangerous there?
This is a developing country where people are living in poverty but the locals we met were some of the nicest people we encountered.
People stared at us far less than when we traveled to other countries through Asia. We were also hassled less and you usually only needed to say no once before they would leave us alone.
You just need to follow some simple safety precautions to have an enjoyable stay. It’s a good idea to check the travel advisory before planning a trip. Just don’t let an advisory that says ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ stop you from traveling. I’ve been to many places that had this warning and as long as you are smart, you will be safe. The most important tips I can give you for a Kenya trip are:
- Don’t wear jewelry
- Don’t go out at night
- Keep all your valuables locked up. It’s a good idea to bring your own lock in case there isn’t a safe.
- If you are walking in big cities like Nairobi, do not bring any valuables with you like a cell phone, camera or watches. It is good to have a phone with you though, so get a cheap burner phone.
House Sitting in Kenya
Driving onto the grounds of the property lined with coconut trees our eyes lit up in amazement at how enormous it was. Best of all was the view where the house overlooked the Mtwapa Creek which leads out to the Indian Ocean. We started every morning sitting out on the patio with a cup of the best Kenyan coffee looking at the calmness of the creek and the fisherman passing by. Then we’d return as sunset to catch our own personal wildlife show of the monkeys playing around who lived in the trees on the property.
The location of the property is in the bustling coastal town of Mtwapa. You will find a lot of sketchy bars here with foreigners coming to experience the ‘red-light-district’ but if you can look past that, you will find beautiful white powder sand beaches, some amazingly fresh seafood, and very warm and welcoming locals.
Our assignment was to look after the property for four weeks. We arrived a few days beforehand to meet with the homeowner and have her show us around. Our responsibilities on this assignment included:
- Keeping the pool clean. This meant regularly topping it off with water, turning on the filter every day, adding chlorine when needed and cleaning it on a frequent basis
- Supervising a worker who would come by once a week to take care of the grounds of the property
- Keeping the property secure by turning the lights on every night and locking everything up
- Making sure the place was kept tidy
These tasks were easy to manage, especially since we didn’t have a pet to look after. This left us with plenty of time to relax, take a dip in the pool, and to explore.
Immersive Travel Experiences in Kenya
Walk Around Town
As soon as you step out of the property, you are in a bustling village with dirt roads, market stands with fruits and vegetables, and some of the kindest locals we’ve ever met. Rather than going to a large chain store, each day we would visit the local butcher and vegetable stand lady to get our groceries and decide what to cook for dinner based on what was available that day. Talking with the street vendors, we learned a few words of swahilli, their ways of cooking and discuss what was going on locally.
Scuba Diving & Snorkelling
Kenya’s coast provides a true underwater safari experience! There are great reefs to explore with all different kinds of species of fish and endangered sea turtles. Best of all are the pods of whales, dolphins, and whale sharks you can see up close.
In Kenya, you will find a lot of stews and curries. When you get to the coast, a lot of that is mixed with seafood and coconut which is delicious! A traditional Kenyan breakfast will include coffee with milk (no sugar) and a deep fried dough called mandazi If you don’t know already, Kenya has amazing coffee and black tea. We’d take walks down the street and sample different foods that street vendors were offering and eat lunch where all the locals went to.
White Sand Beaches
Gorgeous, white powder sand beaches stretch out across the Kenyan coast. Just look out for the beach boys (male prostitutes and hawkers selling souvenirs) who roam the popular touristy beaches like Dinai.
Not far from Mtwapa are some amazing national parks to go on safari. Before our housesit we did a Kenya budget safari to the Masai Mara which is known as the World Cup of Wildlife! We saw all kinds of animals including lions, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, zebra, antelope, and giraffe just to name a few.
Final Thoughts on House Sitting & Slow Travel in Kenya
- In Kenya, there are frequent power outages which would last for 1-4 hours on a daily basis. It’s a little inconvenient, but there are wild monkeys to watch when that happens.
- Mosquitos! At night we would have to cover ourselves with repellent, light up coils, turn on the mosquito wall plug in and sleep under a net. Despite all our efforts we would still get bites and worried about malaria.
- Difficulty traveling to places for exploring. We could walk to restaurants and grocery stores but to go to the beach or visit some attractions, we needed to catch a ride. Our options were hopping on the matatu (bus) which was cheap, riding on the back of a motorcycle (too scarry for me) or taking an uber. Uber I think is the easiest and best option although costs can add up.
- The opportunity to experience Kenya as a local
- Meeting some of the nicest and friendliest people. It was fun walking on the dirt road and having the locals call out ‘jambo‘ (hello) as we passed by. Most were not trying to do this to get money from us, they were just being welcoming.
- Eating local produce. Rather than going to a big chain grocery store, we had ladies with their own fruit and veggie stands, a local butcher, fishmonger, and a shop that sold just fresh eggs and milk. All were just down the road from us.
- Experiencing wildlife up close. We literally had monkeys living in our backyard! We saw babies clinging to their moms, couples grooming each other and funniest of all, male monkeys with bright blue balls. There were also bushbabies who made noises that sounded like witches cackling, plenty of bats flying in the evening, baby porcupine, and some very weird bugs.
- Tons of coconut trees with coconuts falling daily for us to use in our dishes!
Overall, there were way more positives and we had an amazing time. Kenya is a lot more expensive than the countries in SE Asia, so we were able to put the money we saved for the trip towards experiences rather than accommodation which was great. Also, most people visiting tend to come for a safari and after a week they go home. Deciding to slow travel in Kenya gave us a better understanding and deeper connection to the country. We definitely got off the beaten path and had some amazing experiences!
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