Madolline Gourley, a cat lover, has traveled to just about 20 cities due to catsitting holidays. (L) Gourley and Jaspurr, a cat she cared for in Brisbane, Australia (R) View from a home she stayed at in Boulder, Colorado. Collage: VICE / Photos: Courtesy of Madolline Gourley
Net editor Madolline Gourley likes to travel. She’s been doing so for years, visiting locations from New York Metropolis to Alabama, and Darwin in Australia. However in contrast to most individuals, in most of those holidays, she didn’t spend a single greenback on lodging. Her budgeting secret? Cats.
Most of us find out about couchsurfing and youth hostels, however one offbeat journey hack might be the globetrotting group’s best-kept secret: Housesitting holidays, the place vacationers take care of houses abroad while the owners are away. Generally, this additionally entails petsitting for animals that include the home. Gourley, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, makes a speciality of cats.
Though housesitting and petsitting have been pretty popular among older travelers, it has generated little buzz in mainstream tourism—fairly shocking, contemplating our aggressive obsession with cute, squishable pets.
A cat lover, Gourley realized about catsitting from her work colleague just a few years in the past and knew instantly that the journey plan was excellent for her. She has since turn out to be an everyday person of housesitting platforms like Trusted Housesitters and Aussie Home Sitters, the place she’s at all times on the hunt for brand spanking new journey locations.
“It’s unusual and individuals are like, ‘That is a very bizarre solution to journey,’” Gourley instructed VICE. However she thinks these cats are literally nice companions for a lone vacationer.
“It is like you’ve one pal right here, and then you definately’re going to go to your subsequent pal within the subsequent metropolis,” she stated. “A number of the cats that I’ve left behind, I do really feel a bit unhappy about as a result of I actually like these cats.”
She nonetheless remembers many feline buddies by identify. There’s Bonnie, the three-legged cat in New York Metropolis; the perpetually ravenous Jasper from South Carolina; and Sydney-based Pixel, who reminded her of that Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.
Gourley’s first catsitting project was round Christmas 2017 in San Francisco. It was for a pair, and it proved to be a great gateway into the world of feline-based touring.
“They have been simply so beautiful, so that they positively helped form this complete form of catsitting expertise for me,” she stated. Their cat Harvey was painfully shy however warmed as much as her over her one-and-a-half-week keep on the home.
Since then, she has been to the US about seven instances. Every time she visited the U.S., she would line her catsitting assignments again to again so her lodging was secured for the whole journey. She stated she by no means as soon as needed to pay hire.
Over the previous 12 months, Gourley’s holidays have been restricted to home journey on account of COVID-19. However she remains to be decided to make her feline-filled holidays work, recurrently searching for catsitting alternatives round Australia.
Final Christmas, she discovered herself in Darwin, an Australian metropolis removed from her hometown and outdoors of her globetrotting radar. Seems, she was drawn to an project there after seeing a petsitting advert that includes a Persian cat with a “smooshed-in face.”
“I feel the image of the cat prompted me to use for that housesit,” she stated. “As a result of the cat was simply such a bit character. I used to be like, ‘Why not? Let’s go to Darwin.’”
Whenever you have a look at the numbers, catsitting holidays are an enormous funds saver for avid vacationers. Whereas Gourley doesn’t receives a commission for her catsitting jobs, she does get to stay in individuals’s homes at no cost. Since she began home and petsitting, Gourley estimates that she has saved about AU$30,000 ($22,000) to AU$40,000 ($29,000) in journey bills, principally due to rent-free dwelling.
“However on the similar time, I wouldn’t have spent that cash to go to these locations. I’ve gone to these locations as a result of I may get free lodging, if that is smart,” she stated.
Her interactions with hospitable owners have led her to A+ suggestions which are hidden from journey guides—that’s how she managed to catch glimpses of snow monkeys at an area park whereas she was in Launceston, a metropolis in Tasmania, Australia.
The dear connection Gourley has cast with owners is without doubt one of the causes she continues catsitting. She has turn out to be good buddies with a few of the owners, resembling a pair in Seattle she met just a few years in the past. She even befriended their neighbors throughout her keep, becoming a member of in on their gatherings.
Gourley has additionally met some pedantic owners with tedious home tasks routines, however her housesitting experiences have principally been stuffed with heat hospitality.
In comparison with canine that will need to be walked a number of instances a day, cats are a lot lower-maintenance, providing much more flexibility that’s fitted to vacationers exploring a brand new metropolis. Gourley stated catsitting normally leaves her with about 12 hours free to exit every single day.
On a typical day throughout a catsitting project, Gourley begins off with chores within the morning earlier than embarking on her sightseeing itinerary. Some days, she simply stays in the home to meet up with her family and friends, or write about her newest adventures on her weblog.
Touring alone, Gourley discovered, is an thrilling cocktail of blunders and serendipities—from getting into the unsuitable residence in Texas, being unintentionally locked out of the home in New Mexico, to having fun with home-cooked meals with pleasant cat homeowners and being proven round by gregarious strangers.
Nevertheless, Gourley cautions in opposition to utilizing the feline journey hack when you’re probably not an animal particular person.
“If you wish to home and petsit, I feel it is vitally vital that you simply really like animals. Sure, a free place to remain is nice, however you should take care of individuals’s pets,” she stated, including that it’s additionally vital to be a dependable caretaker and preserve issues clear whilst you’re making your self at dwelling in another person’s dwelling area.
Up to now, catsitting has introduced Gourley to 14 U.S. cities and 4 in Australia, and he or she stays bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about her journey adventures forward.
“I feel having a love for cats has opened a lot of doorways for me,” she stated.
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