If a showing of newer or younger foreign faces seems evident around Lake Chapala, it may be due to the growth of a novel way to travel while living more like a local than a tourist.
“Lakeside is becoming a hub for international housesitting,” said Kelly Hayes-Raitt, who in November published a book, “How to Become a Housesitter – Insider Tips from the Housesit Diva.”
Hayes-Raitt calls Santa Monica, California, her home base. Yet she has spent several months every year for the last nine years house- and pet-sitting for one Ajijic homeowner (and a large pit-lab named Cha Cha), and most of the rest of her time sitting in other far flung spots. Hayes-Raitt uses the income from writing and renting her California home to facilitate her full time housesitting. (She house sits for free but pays her own travel and living expenses.) When she returns to Santa Monica, she sometimes must even housesit there if her own home is fully rented.
Her book has been selling well, she said, and getting attention in such publications as the Globe and Mail, USA Today, Newsday, Forbes and Prevention.
“It has sold to more than just my little cadre of lakeside writers,” she said, referring to fellow members of local writers groups. “I get buyers who pay in euros and pounds.” But Hayes-Raitt credits the support she has received over the years from writers here, as well as the stability from her long gig at lakeside, as very instrumental in helping her write and publish the book.
Meanwhile – and perhaps coincidental to her book, perhaps not – the Lake Chapala area, she said, has become a magnet for housesitters.
“It’s my understanding that Ajijic is the largest expat community in the world,” she said. “It’s different from San Miguel de Allende, for example, because there are so many more expats here. And many of these expats need to go home for a while.” This creates a strong need for reliable people to care for the homes and, significantly, for the pets who stay there.