A writer has revealed how she stayed in trendy apartments, suburban homes, waterfront properties and even clay shacks without paying a cent on rent.
Madolline Gourley, from Brisbane in Queensland, has lived in 14 different properties across the US after she started house sitting from December 2017.
The 29-year-old woman gets free accommodation, food and transport in exchange for a promise to look after a stranger’s home and pet cats while they are on holiday.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, the editor said she’s been able to save tens of thousands of dollars – as well as sustain her travelling overseas just by pet sitting.
Madolline Gourley (pictured), from Brisbane, has been able to travel around the US just by looking after a stranger’s home and their pet cat
The 29-year-old has lived in 14 different properties after she started house sitting in late 2017
Madolline shares the best things about house sitting with cats
- A free place to stay in your city, state or country, or when you’re abroad
- Makes international travel affordable
- Access to appliances and luxuries (e.g. washing machine and dryer, filtered water, Netflix, etc.). You’d have to pay for while staying in a hotel
- Having a comfortable bed with proper bedding – a million strangers haven’t slept in it before you
- Great for networking and making new friends – I’ve kept in touch with half the people I’ve sat for
- Don’t have to stay in a stale hotel environment/room. It’s nice to live in a ‘lived in’ space
- With cat sitting, you’re free to come and go as you please
- Having someone else’s cat as a substitute for your own while you’re travelling
‘I probably wouldn’t have gone on all these trips if I wasn’t able to secure sits,’ Madolline told Daily Mail Australia.
‘And I definitely wouldn’t have gone to some of the places I’ve stayed as a paying tourist like in Birmingham, Alabama and Cincinnati, Ohio.
‘I’ve been able to go back to the US four extra times in under two years and that’s not something a lot of people could afford to do. So house sitting plays a big part in making travel affordable for me.’
When she was staying in Boulder, Colorado, the government contract worker said she found a similar sized-property on Airbnb on the same road that would have cost her $12,000 for a 10-day stay.
‘That property was very deluxe. So there’s no way I would’ve been able to afford to stay there as a regular tourist,’ Madolline said.
‘I remember looking at accommodation costs in San Francisco and Boston – both cities I’ve house sat in twice – and it was very unaffordable to get a decent room for just one person. Boston, from memory, would be around $350 per night for something semi-decent.’
She gets free accommodation, food and transport in exchange for a promise to look after a stranger’s home and pet cats while they are on holiday
The downside to house sitting with pets
- Some people wouldn’t like having responsibilities while on holiday
- If the pet gets sick, you’ve got to take it to the vet for assessment and/or treatment. This hasn’t happened to me yet. But I can imagine it’d be stressful. A pet could also die on you and I’m not sure how that’d go down
- If something breaks or breaks down, you’d have to notify the owner ASAP and get it sorted. You don’t have to pay for it, but you’d have to stick around to have it fixed up
- Some people’s listings seem a lot simpler than they actually are. When you rock up, you get a 10-page list with very, very specific instructions
The young woman said the idea to house sit in America sprung into mind in 2017 after she found herself in an ‘uncertain employment situation at the time’.
‘My contract may not have been extended past Christmas 2017 and so I just thought “why not?”‘ she said.
‘When I secured that first house sit for the Christmas 2017 break – I didn’t think I would have gone on to complete another 14 houses and cat sits.’
Madolline – who blogs under One Cat at a Time – has travelled to Austin, Boston, Nashville, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Seattle, Washington, Hillsboro and more.
‘I’ve gone back to the US another four times to house sit my way around the country – more of a holiday each time with house and cat sits along the way,’ she said.
‘I’m seeing the world one cat at a time.’
She has stayed in homes from anywhere between one night to up to two weeks.
The contract worker said she has managed to sustain her travelling overseas just by pet sitting
For the past two years, Madolline said she has been lucky enough to explore parts of America just by taking up back-to-back house sittings.
‘I have taken multiple trips where I’ve been able to get solid blocks of back-to-back sits,’ she said.
‘Last trip, I started sitting in Nashville on June 20. Sit ended on 26 June. I then went to sit in Austin between June 26 to July 10 before flying to Seattle for a sit between July 10 to July 16. I finished with a sit in Birmingham from July 17 to July 28.
‘I also got a month and a half of back-to-back sits last year. I started in Seattle in early July and my last sit finished end of August in Hillsboro, essentially Portland.’
Besides free accommodation, Madolline said she has scored many free things including public transport, food vouchers, and gift cards.
‘People have given me their public transport pass to ride the Boston trains and buses for free for the entire length of my stay,’ she said.
‘On my most recent trip, the second place I stayed, the couple gifted me a $100 wholefoods gift card. Some couples have paid for my lunch and dinner upon arrival.
‘People have collected me from the airport and driven me back for my flight out. This is a huge saving because transport to and from the airport can cost up to $50 one way.
For the past two years, Madolline said she has been lucky enough to explore parts of America just by taking up back-to-back house sittings
Besides free accommodation, Madolline said she has scored many free things including public transport, food vouchers, and gift cards
‘I have been given two for one meal vouchers for nearby restaurants, other coupons for cheap meals or drinks, or attractions
‘Most, if not all, homeowners say you’re welcome to anything and everything in the fridge and pantry, and you don’t have to replace it.’
She said the only challenge she’s faced so far is not being close to public transport.
‘Some of the locations I’ve stayed in haven’t been great in terms of proximity to public transport or things like a grocery store,’ she said.
‘One of my favourite sits – looking after an amazing home in Boulder, Colorado – wouldn’t have been doable if I wasn’t able to hire a car.’
Madolline said house sitting in major cities has also given her the opportunity to travel to nearby destinations on her trip – and save money at the same time.
‘In January, I was able to stay near – and travel – to the Grand Canyon between sits. And I got to see it in winter,’ she said.
For those who’s keen to travel the world by looking after homes and pets, the globetrotter said ‘anyone’ can do it
Madolline said house sitting in major cities has also given her the opportunity to travel to nearby destinations on her trip – and save money at the same time
‘On my last trip, starting in June, I stayed at a hotel in Vegas before flying to Nashville for my first sit of the trip. Being based in Vegas allowed me to drive out to Area 51 one day.’
And while she’s currently based in Brisbane, Madolline said she’ll be travelling to Tasmania next week for a two-week house sit.
For those who’s keen to travel the world by looking after homes and pets, the globetrotter said ‘anyone’ can do it.
‘When I started out, I didn’t have any “experience”,’ she said.
‘But I’d owned a pet and I’d looked after someone else’s (family member) home. I think as long as you’ve owned a pet, and you’re clean, organised and responsible, you’d be equipped to maintain someone else’s home and care for their pet.
‘I was fortunate enough to get the first sit I applied for. I did have to Skype the couple first, and I guess that conversation gives people a better idea of who you are, but I think it gets easier once you’ve got your first proper house sitting review.
‘I still get turned down for sits, even with 15+ five-star reviews, but there’s a lot of reasons you mightn’t get picked. Don’t take it personally – just keep applying.’