A woman who cat-sat her way around the world says the ticket to a free holiday during coronavirus restrictions is to house-sit within your state.
Madolline Gourley, 29, from Brisbane, has holidayed in 12 different states around the US for free over the last eight years by offering cat-sitting services.
The writer gets free accommodation, food and transport in exchange for looking after a house and pet while the owner is away.
Madolline Gourley, 29, from Brisbane, pictured with Jaspurr who she minded for a couple in West End, Brisbane, last Christmas. Ms Gourley sat for them again just a few weeks ago
With coronavirus restrictions opening up, Madolline scored a free house sit in Darwin for Christmas. One thing she will definitely do is the Adelaide River jumping crocodile cruises
Travelling your own state is no drama even if state borders close again – but Ms Gourley is going from Brisbane to Darwin so she can see the beautiful waterfalls such as this one in Kakadu (pictured) which will be raging giant torrents in the wet season
Madolline pictured in November 2019 when she cat-sat in Launceston, Tasmania, for 10 days with two cats. She took a day trip to Cradle Mountain National Park (pictured) and loved it
With coronavirus restrictions ending overseas travel and restricting inter-state travel, you may think that there are no homes to house-sit in Australia and opportunities have dried up.
Not so, says Ms Gourley, who just landed a house-sit in Darwin over Christmas.
Tropical Darwin is in its wet season in December, a time of cracking thunderstorms, possible cyclones and steamy hot weather.
Madolline won’t be swimming at Christmas. Every Northern Territory river is infested with saltwater crocodiles, such as this monster snapped in the act of catching a barramundi at Cahill’s Crossing in Kakadu National Park. Great for nature shots though
It’s the low season for tourists, which makes it a paradise for off-season adventure travel – if you can stand the heat.
The jumping crocodile cruises are on and normally-sedate waterfalls in Kakadu swell to a violent size, hurling boulders and tree trunks over the escarpment.
‘The house-sitting market right now is definitely quieter than usual, but I have seen plenty of ads placed on Aussie House Sitters in the last few weeks,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘This is where I landed the Darwin sit for Christmas.’
Ms Gourley had to check that the NT had lifted its coronavirus requirement for 14 days of self-funded hotel quarantine before she responded to the ad.
She is now keeping her eye on the border updates in case there are any changes.
‘Let’s hope COVID transmission rates stays low in Brisbane and the NT doesn’t re-enact the “No people from Brisbane allowed” rule,’ she said.
The way to guarantee no dramas, however, is to holiday within your own state.
The gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions means people are now exploring the hidden gems in their own state that they may never before have considered visiting – and are putting up ads for house-sitters.
Ms Gourley said she had definitely seen an increase in house sitting listings in the past few weeks.
‘A few months ago, there were maybe 20 ads across all of Australia,’ she said.
Madolline pictured cat-sitting Jasper in Charleston, South Carolina, USA in February this year – more free accommodation just before the coronavirus pandemic took off
An Aboriginal artist at work in Kakadu National Park, painting a salt-water crocodile. Madolline has scored free accommodation in Darwin’s wet season when no tourists are around
‘Now there’s probably 20-plus ads per state and territory, with more being added each day.
‘As restrictions ease, and we approach the end of the year when most people take leave from work, I think there’ll be even more house and pet sitting ads.’
The coronavirus ended Ms Gourley’s international cat-sitting for the moment but now she is ticking Australian destinations off her bucket list.
‘Perth, Darwin and Adelaide are on my list, and I’m ticking Darwin off in December. I’d like to return to Tasmania as well – but Tasmania is still off limits to non-residents.
‘I’m also cat sitting for a local (Brisbane) couple again, in October … they were planning an overseas trip but coronavirus put an end to that. So they’ve chosen to go away on weekends instead, visiting places like Warwick and down near Girraween National Park.’
Ms Gourley had one very important word of advice for would-be pet-sitters: you have to like pets.
‘My advice for anyone considering this is to think twice about whether or not you really do like animals,’ she said.
TOP TEN TIPS FOR LANDING A FREE HOUSE-SITTING GIG
1. You need to like animals. Upload photos of yourself with pets when you create a profile
2. Be flexible. You want a holiday, but you can’t be set on the dates you want to take this holiday if you’re house and pet sitting. Work with the dates available.
3. Be contactable. Keep your phone on you at all times and check your emails. Some people give the sit to the first person to reply to their ad.
4. Talk up any skills you can bring. If you like gardening and they’ve got a big garden, this skill might get you over the line.
5. Highlight attributes like being organised, reliable, responsible, calm under pressure as sometimes things can go wrong when you’re on a house sit
6. Tell the owner why you want to sit for them and personalise the application just like you would when applying for a job.
7. If you’re travelling from outside the owner’s city/town, let them know where you’re based and you’ll be travelling from there (at your own expense).
8. If you’re worried about coronavirus, maybe now isn’t the right time for you to house-sit
9. Ask questions. Some listings are very comprehensive. Others aren’t. If there’s something you’re not sure about, flag it in your application.
10. Let the person know who’s coming on the sit: is it just you, is it you and your partner, is it your entire family? Many listings say no children