Recently, I became obsessed with traveling the world for free. I wanted to continue to travel without the stress of having my savings account dwindle. My goal was to lead an interesting life with exciting experiences in different countries, while living comfortably. As I researched my options, I discovered that ‘free’ is a strong word… but that ‘creatively’ (read: dirt cheap) is a good alternative.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live somewhere -truly live as a local- but never had the chance because you were always a visitor (staying in a hotel) or an observer (looking in from a magazine, a movie, or a website)? What if you were handed the keys to a home and a car, with pets and a kitchen and a backyard, for a weekend or a month? What if you were given someone’s prize possessions in exchange for treating them as your own (though in reality, much more cautiously)? You would be able to live out your dream of really seeing what it’s like to engage in a city during a workday, walk your dog down the street, shop at the grocery store, and even get your teeth cleaned at the neighborhood dentist.
What would you say if I told you that a palatial home (with a mile-long driveway and over 100 acres of property) in the mountains of northern California, with beautiful dogs and a cat -and a lake out the back door- awaits you? Or how about staying on an alpaca farm (22 alpacas to be exact) in New Zealand on the bay, with 3 dogs and 2 cats? Or in a home on the beach in Adelaide, Australia with an adorable mixed dog breed and a hot tub? How about visiting a modern condo just outside of Boulder, CO, with a swimming pool, fully-equipped gym, and pool table in the lobby? All of these places are possible through house sitting. I should know, I’ve been accepted as a house sitter at each of them, in addition to many others.
I’m currently in my second (house sit) home: this one located in Portland, Oregon. It’s nestled in a gorgeous neighborhood just steps from farmer’s markets and hipsterville restaurants. My detail (and friend) for the week is a beautiful (and well-trained) 2-year-old Belgian Shepherd. We spend the mornings running and playing fetch in the numerous parks near my lovely (though temporary) home. The afternoons are spent exploring the city of Portland’s many bookstores, cafes, restaurants and golf courses while visiting friends and family that live in the area. I can’t tell if the best part is getting to know the house owner’s families and their pets, exploring new cities as a local (without spending a fortune), or visiting friends and family without being a nuisance in their homes.
It’s true that you’re providing a service and the home owners are your boss, but it’s a service in which each side wins. I’ve been accepted to over 10 homes so far, and each family I’ve met face to face on FaceTime or Skype. In every case, I can safely say that we’re both excited for the house stay. In their case, they’re relieved they can leave, knowing their home and pets are in good hands. In my case, I’m excited to explore a new city as a local and get to know their pets as my own.
I’ve come to realize that free is an arbitrary word. We can spend $5k a month on housing in New York City, requiring us to have a job that brings in at least $200k per year. Or, we can spend $0 on housing and travel globally, with either no job or a low-paying one. The choice is ours, and luckily for us, in this day and age, there are endless opportunities just waiting at our fingertips.