This week we spotlight travel bloggers Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories. They have an interesting life-style. Nicole answered for the team.
When did you start your travel blog, Suitcase Stories?
We started the blog just over 2 months ago. We had been on the road for almost a year at that time so we had accumulated a few stories, lessons learned, about 6000 photos, so thought it was time to share our adventures with the world!
How did you get the name and what does the name mean to you?
We wanted a name that was catchy but to also represents what we want to do, which is share stories of our travel life. We also share travel tips, destination guides and lots of photos but I wanted the stories to be the focus of the blog.
How did you two meet?
We lived in the same suburb in Perth, Australia and met through a mutual friend. We have been together for 14 years.
What are the best and worst things about traveling and blogging as a couple?
The blog is a joint project. I do most of the writing while Michael does most of the design and upkeep side of things. The best AND worst thing about traveling as a couple – we are always together! The best thing about blogging together is that we get to share this new found passion with each other. We haven’t discovered what the worst thing about blogging together is… yet!
What keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
Our goal for the blog is to inspire others to travel as we were inspired by other bloggers. I never even thought this lifestyle was possible until I read about others who were doing it. It is because of their stories that we are here today! So I want to pay it forward, inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and see how beautiful the world really is.
You travel the world house-sitting. How and when did you start doing that?
We started house sitting 13 years ago when we were building out first home – we couldn’t afford to pay rent and a mortgage so house sitting cut out the rent. Then we house sat again a couple of years back while traveling in Australia. Our full time house sitting started 13 months ago when we left Australia to travel the world indefinitely.
Do you have a Plan B if a house-sit doesn’t come through on time?
We use the times we don’t have a house sit to ‘travel’. Although of course we are constantly traveling, we do not go far when we are house sitting. When we are without a sit, we use that time to see more than we would if we were sitting. We quite like having a balance between sitting and traveling. While we are ‘traveling’ we rent short term apartments or stay in hotels.
What are you usually asked to do by homeowners?
Their main concern is usually their pets. If their pets are cared for they are happy! And luckily for them we adore animals and the pet care is our favorite part of house sitting. Of course there can be other chores asked of you such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawns or pulling out some weeds but generally, it’s not much more than that! And let’s face it; we have a lot of spare time on our hands so we don’t mind doing those kinds of things for them!
How long is the minimum you’ll accept a house-sit for? What’s the longest?
It depends if it’s in an area we already are in or if we have to fly there. For example, we were in Florida with two sits already booked. A third one asked us to sit for a week. We wouldn’t normally take it but of course we were in the area anyway so it worked out.
On the flip side, we had to recently turn down one of our favorite home owners because it was for a week and it was when we were nowhere near her area. If we are going to a country specifically for a sit we would go for no less than 2 weeks and fit in some travel time there too.
The longest sit we have done is six weeks. We have two months in Barbados coming up. At the moment we have a 3 month cut off but that will probably change once we are ready to slow things down.
Do you have minimum requirements for a home you’ll take on?
We absolutely must have WIFI! And we also don’t usually take a sit unless they can provide us with their car. Of course we would reconsider this condition for somewhere like NYC where a car is not needed. Other than that, we are pretty open to look at anything! It’s all about the experience.
What are the benefits and downside of this lifestyle?
There are too many benefits to list but the main ones are saving money, ‘living’ in a place instead of just passing through, meeting new people (home owners and the neighbors), having a full sized kitchen and laundry; quite often we have luxuries like a pool, hot tub or a fancy car!
The downsides? Well there aren’t many, that’s for sure. I guess the main one is that you are responsible for someone else’s home and pets. Another downside is it means less ‘traveling’ because you need to be at the home looking after the pets. But for us we don’t mind that because it gives us time to recoup before getting back on the road.
What’s the most unusual house-sit you’ve had?
We haven’t had anything too unusual yet but we did look after a farm house in Spain which was way out of our comfort zone. It was a very basic house, in the middle of nowhere and dogs that were, shall we say, a little energetic! We do not speak Spanish and no one in the village spoke a word of English. However, it is one we remember most fondly because we were out of our comfort zone and we not only survived but thrived! It was something we were really proud of.
How, if at all, does your house-sitting lifestyle impact your travel style?
It’s made a huge difference to our travel style. We do not need to go down the road of ‘budget travel’ because when we house sit we do not spend a lot of money so therefore have more to spend when we are not house sitting. So while we are not ‘lux’ travelers we also are not budget travelers. This would be a very different scenario if we did not house sit and therefore spend less money.
You get free accommodations, but how do you finance the balance of your lifestyle?
Michael and I used to work a 60 – 70 hour week so we were both on decent incomes. We managed to save all of my income and live solely off Michael’s for 12 months. We also sold most of our possessions (including our car and furniture) and I had a small business which I sold. So we were lucky to leave with a decent bank balance. Of course money doesn’t last forever so one day we will need to find a way to replenish the bank balance if we want to enjoy this lifestyle for years on end!
What excites you the most about travel?
Where to begin! We love experiencing new cultures, new customs. Seeing the beauty in this world from lakes to forest, volcanoes, beaches, mountains, rivers and waterfalls just to name a few! We love meeting new people and hearing their travel stories.
We are HUGE animal/wildlife lovers and have been fortunate enough to see so many amazing species of wildlife! I would say that the wildlife is one of the biggest things that excites us about travel. It’s also one of the main reasons we love house sitting so much – we get to have pets in our lives again, something we miss dearly from home.
What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever?
Our first international trip together was to Fiji in 2004. Not a bad place to start, right! Fiji had a profound effect on Nicole – It was when her dreams of full time travel started. Fiji was beautiful and so different to Australia and she realized how much of this huge world she was missing out on. That was the start of our new life! Every year after Fiji we traveled, sometimes twice, overseas. And every year we became more and more determined to see as much of this world as we could. So even though it physically didn’t start right then, we have Fiji to thank for the path we are on today.
What’s your favorite place on earth?
For me it’s NYC! The energy and vibe in that city is unlike anything else in this world! If she had to settle down somewhere, it would be NYC.
For Michael it’s Barcelona. He loved the architecture, the food, the people, everything! It’s a beautiful city and one we really want to explore again.
Where are you now and where are are you off to next?
We are currently house sitting in Costa Rica! We have monkeys and sloths in our back yard, which over overlooks a beautiful valley and out to the ocean. Does it get any better than that?
After our 5 weeks in Costa Rica we have 2 weeks ‘travel time’ in NYC (yay for Nicole!) and Toronto/Montreal. After that, we go to Barbados for an 8 week house sit. At the moment the plan is after Barbados we will head to Europe for a few months and then off to explore SE Asia. Of course our plans change frequently so who knows!
What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list?
It’s always hard to answer this question because we have SO many items on our Bucket List! One of my fantasy locations is Bora Bora! I’m an ocean girl and the pictures always look so beautiful. For Michael, it’s Italy. Italy has so much to do and see all in one small country and looks amazing in photos! We should be crossing this item off the BL in August!
Nicole and Michael are an Australian couple in who gave up their careers, sold their possessions, and left their ‘conventional’ life behind for a life of travel. They have been living a nomadic life for 13 months and see no end in sight. They recently launched Suitcase Stories, a website where they share their stories, travel tips and destination guides. Their main goal for this website is to inspire others to travel and to show people how long term travel is not only possible but affordable. You can follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.