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This is a guest post from Brooke & Buddy Baum of TrailingAway.com. We met Brooke and Buddy at our first RV Entrepreneur Summit back in 2017 and they have successfully lived out my dream life: living in Hawaii for a season for free. Um, what? GOALS. So after jealously double-tapping all their Instagram photos for months, I asked Brooke to write a blog for our website sharing how on earth she managed to live in Hawaii for free. Enjoy! 🌴
A few years ago, a vacation to Hawaii meant months – if not years – of saving, scouring the internet for good deals, and lots of planning to make sure we could see as much as possible in the week we would spend there. So, imagine our surprise when we managed to spend TWO MONTHS there last summer with very little planning, and we’re going back for another visit this June – all without putting too much of a dent in our bank account. This is all made possible by our decision to start housesitting.
From Colorado to Hawaii to Europe, deciding to become full-time housesitters has allowed us to travel the way we always dreamed of that is sustainable long-term. We save a ton of money, have extraordinary local experiences, and are still able to have a comfortable place to work online. Plus, most housesits involve the care of a furry friend or two, which really helps to make us feel more at home and keep us smiling during our entire trip.
How Housesitting Works
There are a few different sites that facilitate housesitting, but the one we use is called Trusted Housesitters. This site is mainly for people needing pet care while they are away, so being an animal lover is the number one requirement for signing up as a sitter.
House and pet sitting for a complete stranger may seem like a strange concept, but the site is really easy to use – they even have an app now!
We describe it as the Match.com of housesitting. Homeowners post a ‘profile’ of what they are looking for in a housesitter, as well as dates needed and the location of the sit. Then, housesitters apply to the sit, and the owner picks the person, couple, or family who is the right fit – usually after reading through their past reviews and interviewing the applicants. (Yes – families do this too. In fact, we have some friends who housesat all over the world with their three kids!)
While there are a lot of people who do this full-time, it is also a great way to take a shorter trip. There are opportunities all over the world from a weekend to a few weeks to six months or more. Many people we’ve met take advantage of both sides of the spectrum. For example, the people we are currently housesitting for in Colorado are away on a housesit in Australia! How awesome is that?!?!
However, the most surprising part of this process to everyone we tell is that no money is exchanged. This is a trade between animal-loving travelers and we think that makes it so much more enjoyable. We always have such a warm, friendly welcome when arriving at a sit and never feel like hired help – more like treasured guests. Homeowners really appreciate being able to leave their pets in their own home with caring people – while also not having to pay a small fortune to do so. And we find the benefits far outweigh any payment we could receive.
Buddy in one of the leis the homeowner handmade for our arrival.
When we decided to stop RVing and pursue more international travel, we made a list of what we needed in our new lifestyle. We wanted to remain minimalists, stretch our money as far as we could, spend time with animals, and do something meaningful. House and pet sitting checked all of those boxes and then some!
We basically live out of backpacks most of the year, since the every-day things we’d need are already in the homes we’re watching. And we also have access to a washer and dryer, so no need to pack more than a few days to a week’s worth of clothes.
While we do have to cover our own transportation to and from a sit, we live for free once there. This usually includes free use of Wi-Fi, Netflix, a washer and dryer, and, of course, a kitchen – which really saves us a ton by not eating out (plus, it helps us stick to a healthy diet). During most of our sits so far, we have also been given free use of a car. Some people also stock their fridge and pantry with items we may want or take us out to dinner when we arrive, as an extra thank you. We’ve even had fresh herbs and eggs available to us at sits with gardens or chickens. We really do receive so much non-monetary payment we’ve never once thought this was an unfair trade.
While some people may think caring for an animal is a downfall to this life, we think it is one of the biggest perks. We get SO MUCH LOVE all the time now. All the cuddles and kisses and smiles. Plus, there is something about having a routine while traveling that makes life feel less crazy and more relaxed. Having animals around just puts us at ease and gives us a bigger purpose. Their happiness and safety is our priority. But, it doesn’t hurt that we are hanging out with them in an amazing place with great trails to explore with the dogs or views to admire with the cats.
When we RVed, we fell in love with the amazing community of supportive, kind, funny people on the road. While RVers are definitely a special sub-section, it turns out most travelers are like this. Add in that they are also animal lovers, and we have a recipe for life-long friendships. But, even when we don’t make a special connection with the people we sit for, knowing we are giving fellow travelers and animal lovers peace of mind while they are away is a wonderful feeling.
We really believe loving on animals while helping like-minded people (and following our travel dreams along the way) is the best way we could be spending our time at this point in our life.
Hiking with our short-term pup in Oahu.
So, Let’s Get Back to Hawaii…
Through this housesitting gig, we’ve been able to housesit on two Hawaiian Islands – Molokai and Oahu. While we’ve never done a traditional vacation to Hawaii, I have to guess that being able to live like a local is leaps and bounds better.
Being able to take on a multi-week housesit allows for one of the best gifts you can get – time. We had the time to thoroughly explore new places, get lost, chat with locals, go back to our favorite places multiple times, and just enjoy the slower pace of island life.
We didn’t get upset if the weather was bad. We didn’t feel guilty for spending an entire day napping and watching Netflix. It was so refreshing to be somewhere beautiful and just enjoy being there. Plus, we were staying in places we could never afford to rent – with free use of cars, none-the-less. It was absolutely unreal!
Amazing views in Molokai, Hawaii (that we hiked our butts off for)!
In Molokai, we stayed in this amazing ocean-front house for two weeks with perfect sunsets and an all-day breeze. We were only responsible for taking care of a cat and watering the garden, which left plenty of time for beach walks, hikes, and awesome island tours. Since this island is the only one not focused on tourism, much of this would have been impossible during a traditional visit. The homeowners we sat for gave us invaluable tips on where to go and what to do that weren’t readily available online.
Then during our four-week sit in Oahu, we were on a beautiful canal walking distance from the famous Hanauma Bay snorkeling site. And with the use of the car, we really got to explore places in Oahu typical tourists never end up. However, we did have about triple the responsibilities there – with a mischievous dog, antagonizing cat, three chickens, and a hydroponics setup. But, we still had a blast and loved taking the dog out for morning runs and afternoon hikes. Plus, we got to learn all about caring for chickens – and got to have free eggs for breakfast!
Plus, saving on accommodations and rental cars at our sits meant we had extra money to spend to island hop between sits as well. Although we had some amazing experiences on those trips, our slow-paced housesitting experiences stood out as exponentially more enjoyable than our whirlwind visits to the other islands. Which is why we are psyched to be going back to the Big Island for a much longer visit through housesitting this summer.
After all, Hawaii really should be enjoyed like a local – on island time!
Is there anywhere you’ve always wanted to go on vacation that seems unattainable? We highly recommend giving housesitting a try to make it happen. Yes, it is untraditional, but that’s what will make the memories that much better!