The Unbrave Girl’s How-to Guide to House-sitting in the Jungle

May 1, 2010

With less than a week to my house-sitting gig in the jungles of Northern Thailand, I thought this would be a good time to share with you some tips on how you, too, could get yourself a sweet gig like this. Chances are, after reading some of my blog posts from my two months here you have become green with envy at all the fun and adventure I’ve been having. I mean, who can forget that time I sawed off a chicken head? Or how about all the fun I had while mutilating a man-sized spider with a toilet plunger? Or what about last week when I almost burned off my fingers while making green chicken curry?

All of these adventures (and more!) could be yours, too, if you just follow the tips in my handy dandy how-to guide on how you can be just like me! (Collection of cat-hair covered clothing and industrial strength insect repellent sold separately).

Step One: How to Decide If House-sitting in the Jungle Is For You

Much like daily exercise and saving for retirement, house-sitting in the jungle is definitely not for everyone!

Sure, it may sound easy to spend your vacation hanging out in someone’s house, watching their cats, watering a few plants and rummaging through their DVD collection. But, I assure you, it takes a certain personality type to excel at a position like this. To determine if you’re the right kind of person for the job,

I’ve assembled this questionnaire:

1. What is your dream vacation destination?

a. The Caribbean or anyplace with beautiful beaches and tons of fun activities!

b. Paris — I can’t get enough of the museums, culture, style and food!

c. My parent’s couch. It’s free and close to a TV… I just wish my dad would stop changing the channels. Doesn’t he know there’s a Top Chef marathon on right now? And what happened to all the chips? Don’t tell me I’m going to have to get up and replenish my snack supply during the Quick Fire Challenge!

2. How would you describe your travel style?

a. Whirling dervish — the more activities the better! I’m up for anything from skydiving to mountain climbing to all-night-pub-crawling!

b. Culture vulture — I could spend all day in a museum!

c. What? Style? I need a style to travel? Am I going to have to brush my hair for this?

3. While traveling, do you prefer to travel with a companion?

a. Yes, a vacation is always more fun with someone else around!

b. No, I prefer to go solo. I like my independence.

c. Ummm, do cats count?

4. What essential do you always make sure to pack in your luggage?

a. My bikini! Time to work on my tan!

b. A scarf. Paris can be a bit chilly even in the summer months.

c. My remote control.

5. How would you describe a perfect day on vacation?

a. I wake up early to go running on the beach. I have a breakfast of fresh mango juice, which I made in my hotel room’s bathtub using the mangoes I picked from the tree outside my hotel window (I don’t drink coffee because I’m caffeinated on life!). I then spend the day snorkeling and cliff diving. If I have enough time I might take a cooking class in the afternoon or discover a new indigenous species unseen by science. In the evening, I dine on fresh river fish, which I caught with my bare hands while riding in the dugout canoe, that I carved by myself earlier in the day (oh, didn’t I mention that?!). Then it’s off to bed because I have an early morning tomorrow as I’m scheduled to go paragliding and save baby sea turtles.

b. I sleep in to recover from last night’s rendezvous with Francois. (I tried to tell him I needed to sleep but he just kept on telling me I looked so beautiful in my scarf and pouring me more red wine!). After a breakfast of croissants and espresso, I head to my favorite little art gallery (Oh, you wouldn’t know it. It’s not in the book, you know. Only Parisians know about it… and me). I then spend the rest of the afternoon smoking clove cigarettes and downing espressos in my favorite little cafe (yeah, you don’t know that place either). And then it’s another late night with Francois at our favorite little wine bar (yeah, you have no clue… don’t even try).

c. What is with all the questions, already? I mean, seriously! Can’t you see I’m busy watching Top Chef right now? Why don’t you just knock it off with the inquisition and fill up this bowl with some chips, okay? And grab me a beer out of the fridge while you’re at it.

If you answered C to all of these questions, then, lucky you, you are just the right candidate to spend your vacation house-sitting in the Thai jungle!

As the job title implies, in order to be a good house-sitter you have to be comfortable sitting in a house for long periods of time (or outside of the house if the house has some nice patio furniture and you can get the electrical cord on the television to stretch that far).

House-sitting is kind of like staying on your parent’s couch except that you will have total power over the remote control (yeah!) but you will need to fill up your own chip bowl (boo!). Unless you can teach the cats how to do that (and, if you can, please tell me how).

In addition to getting your own snacks, I’m sorry to report that you will have to engage in a few other chores (But let me get to that later. I’d hate to interrupt your Top Chef marathon).

Step Two: How to Get a House-sitting Position in the Jungle

There are a number of websites available that will connect you, the would-be house-sitter, with a would-be house-sitting situation; including HouseCarers, Caretaker Gazette, and MindMyHouse. All of these sites require that you sign up for an account (which usually requires some kind of subscription fee and actually being able to remember your password), and then you have to set up a profile before you can start your search.

It’s like Internet dating but for house-sitting. And, like Internet dating, there’s always the possibility that you might show up for your house-sitting opportunity and you’ll discover that the house doesn’t look a thing like the picture, has really bad personal hygiene and won’t stop talking about that last house-sitter (the one who was prettier than you and didn’t seem to mind dandruff).

Rather than using the Internet, my suggestion is to go the old-fashioned route. Tell all your friends, family members and any other person who will listen to you that you want to quit your job and go hang out in someone’s house for a couple months. Who knows, maybe someone will actually listen to you (rather than just ignore you because this is like the twelfth time this month that you’ve blathered on about some crazy new life scheme). And maybe that person who is listening to you will happen to have a friend in Thailand who needs a house-sitter (which is how I got my gig).

I know the chances of someone actually listening to your scheme are slim and the chances of that someone having a friend in Thailand are even slimmer, but it never hurts to blather on. In fact, the more you blather, the more people will want you to move away, so they might be more inclined to help you out!

They may even help you pack… which brings me to the next step…

Step Three: How to Pack for Your House-sitting Position in the Jungle

Now that you’ve decided that house-sitting is for you and even got someone to listen to your crazy new life scheme long enough to help hook you up with a house-sitting gig, it’s time to pack.

Remember to keep in mind that you’ll be living in the jungle where you won’t need a lot of fancy things like jewelry or shirts with buttons or, say, shoes.

Remember also that these clothes will need to withstand the rigors of cooking, cleaning, casual home repair, plant-watering, bike-riding, cat-petting and excessive sweating all done while in 100 degree heat.

I recommend packing only clothes that you truly hate. That way you won’t be disappointed when a month into your assignment you discover that your clothes are no longer being held together by thread but by a thick coating of cat hair, bacon grease and mud.

In addition to clothing, you might also want to bring a few things with you to keep you occupied during your two-month stay in the jungle. After all, two months is a pretty long time, and since you’ll be unemployed, you could really get a lot of things done in that time.

First, you’ll want to write up a huge to-do list of all the things you will accomplish during that two-month period. Be sure to include all those tasks you’ve been meaning to do for the past ten years and never had time for, like “start my novel” and “research retirement savings plans so I can avoid current plan of living in a cardboard box when I’m seventy.”

To help you achieve these goals, you’ll want to pack all those books that you bought sometime over the last ten years that explain how one actually goes about writing a novel or doing that mysterious thing called “budgeting”. Sure, you’ve never bothered to read them before, but now that you have two months in the jungle, you’ll definitely get around to reading them, right?!

Step Four: How to Keep Yourself Busy While House-sitting in the Jungle

Remember back when you were packing and wondering how you’d fill up your two months of downtime in the jungle?

Remember when you made all those plans for what you were going to do and what you were going to read and how you were going to suddenly turn your life around and become one of those productive people that writes books and knows what a 401K is?

Well, guess what, the ants made up different plans for you!

Yep, that’s right, the ants have been waiting for the day that you would arrive in the jungle so that they could take over the house, gardens and anything that isn’t moving (along with a few things that do move like the cats and, well, you). This is just their friendly attempt to keep you busy… and, guess what, it works!

Aside from the time spent petting cats and watering plants, the majority of my time is spent killing ants.

From the moment I wake up, it’s a non-stop ant-massacre.

In fact, I usually wake up because of ants: either one is crawling across my leg or biting my neck or, in one frightening instance, nestled in my ear (yeah, I know, ewww). Throughout the day, I’m either actively stalking ants and killing them or swatting them casually while engaged in other activities. Even while I’m on the computer, I’m usually committing ant murder as they are always trying to make a go at my laptop (I suspect this may have something to do with the stash of potato chip crumbs that I keep in my keyboard… you know, for safe-keeping).

Yet, despite my efforts to decimate their population, the ants are undeterred. Not only are they marching across every inch of the property, they also march across every inch of me (yeah, I know, ewww!). No matter how much I slather myself in insect repellent, the ants absolutely refuse to be repelled.

All of this has lead me to one simple conclusion: if insect repellent doesn’t repel ants, then ants can not be insects.

So, if ants aren’t insects, what are they?

The answer is simple: they are ZOMBIES!

Yep, that’s right, those ants that parade around pretending to be living creatures are actually the unliving dead!

Sure, the ants look dead after I’ve crushed them or sprayed them with ant-killer.

But do you know what else happens to look dead?


After all, it’s not like I’m getting down on my hands and knees to measure their itty-bitty ant life signs after I crush each one of them. For all I know, they’re just pretending to be dead and as soon as I turn my back, they hop up to continue their march for brains.

I realize this all might sound a bit crazy to you, but let’s review the evidence:

I have spent two months trying to kill off every ant in sight, but yet they never seem to die.

You know what else doesn’t die?


Ants can march endlessly in one direction.

You know what else can march endlessly in one direction?


Ants do not respond to verbal stimulus of any sort; for example, yelling “Stop!” or “I hate you!” or “Don’t bite me, you jerk!” will heed absolutely no results.

You know what else won’t respond to your screams?


These ants have the nasty habit of biting humans.

Yep, that’s right… ZOMBIES do that, too!

If this highly scientific evidence doesn’t convince you, let me remind you of that whole ant-in-my-ear incident. For what other reason would an ant be in my ear if it wasn’t trying to burrow its way into my skull to eat my brains?!

As you might imagine, it’s quite time-consuming battling zombie-ants! You can put down that book on retirement investment (unless you’re planning to use it to fend off the zombie-ants) and give up any plans of novel-writing because you simply won’t have enough time.

It’s also really tiring to deal with all these zombie-ants. If you do have some free time at the end of the day, you’ll find that you’re so exhausted from battling zombie-ants, that the last thing you’ll want to do is battle that big huge to-do list that you made two months ago. In fact, all you have the energy to do is to sit in front of the TV and enjoy the simple fact that the remote is all yours.

Now, if only those cats would show up with your bowl of chips…


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On January 2, 2013 at 9:32 am Amanda Petrus said:

    There are actually zombie ants!!!! There is a fungus that infects ants and controls their braaaains….the infected ants have seizures that keep them from re-joining their colony, then the wizard fungus makes them clamp onto a leaf and stay there til the ant dies. A giant fungus spike then grows out of their dead zombie head….


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