This Woman Travels the World for Free as a Cat Sitter

Travel feels wildly different since the days of COVID, but some people are starting to travel with more confidence again. In some ways, travel has become even more of a luxury, with stricter budgets the current reality for most. One woman has found a way to bypass majority of the financial requisites of travel and see a lot of the world for free, and she’s done this simply by becoming a house sitter. Madolline Gurley is a 30-year old Brisbane native, who has spent the last couple of years taking advantage of a travel opportunity that’s still unfamiliar to a lot of people today. Gurley has thoroughly enjoyed a lifestyle of jumping from one location to the next, staying at strangers’ homes often in exchange of pet care services and small home maintenance.

Although this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s definitely right up Gurley’s alley. As a lover of both travel and animals—cats in particular—house sitting is the perfect way for Gurley to visit new destinations without having to spend much on accommodations. The pandemic has slowed business down for Gurley, but she does work a regular job when not house sitting. For the past 10 years, Gurley has worked contractual jobs in government communications. Staying contractual has allowed Gurley to have the freedom to take on house sitting jobs and travel whenever she wants to. In recent weeks, housesitting jobs have picked up more—possibly due to the upcoming holidays but most likely due to loosening of COVID restrictions.

So what exactly is house sitting? House sitting is essentially a bartering of goods for services rendered. A house sitter agrees to live in and look after a residence in exchange for free accommodations. There’s a lot of trust in this mutual agreement, and both parties often go through a process of validation before being allowed to participate in an exchange. Many people have had experiences house sitting for friends, but not many do it for strangers from far away.

Most house sitting jobs today also include pet sitting. Homeowners looking to do some traveling themselves oftentimes can’t take their pets along. For Gurley, this is the perfect opportunity to meet a new furry friend. While Gurley has watched dogs before, she prefers the company of cats when house sitting. She certainly prefers for an exchange to include pet sitting, especially since it gets lonely in a strange place pretty quickly if you have to come home to a strange place without any company. Gurley, like other cat lovers, also prefers felines for other reasons. Cats are a lot easier to maintain and care for compared to other pets. They are often self-sufficient animals, but they are also quite loving and affectionate at the same time.

The best way to explore house sitting is to go through a trusted organization or agency that connects home/pet owners to house/pet sitters. There are a number of organizations out there—some local and some international, and you would have to do your due diligence in doing research on whether a house sitting company works for you or not. Once a company has vetted you, your references, and your experiences, all that would be left to do is to find a match.

While the prospect of house sitting is incredibly attractive for some, you’ll have to get into the industry with realistic expectations in mind. You can read a lot of Gurley’s experiences on her blog One Cat At A Time, and it’s a true representation of how house sitting can be like. It can be positive most times, but you’ll also get experiences that aren’t so lovely. You’ll also have to remember that every house sitter’s journey will be different. There are some guidelines that generally fall as proper etiquette when house sitting and when offering a home for sitting. There can be misunderstandings between parties, but these can be avoided by simple communication. Both parties should outline expectations clearly before an agreement is made to eliminate problems later on. It’ll be safer for you as a house sitter in the end. If you encounter any problems while house sitting, it would just be important for you to communicate them as soon as possible.

For Gurley and many other sitters out there, the biggest benefit of house and cat sitting is the opportunity for travel. One of the largest travel expenses is accommodation. Virtually eliminating this expense makes travel easier to begin with. And the fact that there are hundreds of locations you can visit worldwide is just an added bonus. Getting to know and spend time with different pets is another benefit for most. Of course, it is possible to house sit without having to take care of pets. Your housing options may be fewer, but there are still plenty to go around. House sitting in itself is a unique experience, which is a benefit altogether. You can meet people from different cultures and meet strangers that will eventually become friends.

If you’re ready to house sit but have absolutely no experience in it whatsoever, we highly suggest that you start locally. You’ll be surprised to find that there are homes waiting for a sitter right in your backyard. Start close to home to get your feet wet. Also start with house sitting opportunities that won’t last for longer than a weekend. You wouldn’t want to be in a situation you can’t get out of right away. Start with a weekend and build yourself up to a week, to two weeks, and then more. Some people house sit for months at a time, and some for maybe even a year. There are homes that are in remote locations that will require house sitters to be able to work remotely. It’s important to remember that house sitting is not an income replacement. Majority of house sitting opportunities don’t pay money. Much like Gurley, you have to be able to hold your own financially to be able to enjoy the opportunity.

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