Gap Year Life Hack: Living With Family, Family Friends Or In My Case, A Neighbor

May 7, 2018
Schuyler HornGap Years

Rent. If you don’t want to live with your parents for the rest of your life, you should become familiar with it. Unfortunately, relocating to some of the most desirable places around the world is prohibitive because of high living costs that include four figure rent checks. When you factor in first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and sometimes realtor fees, you’re looking at an initial investment of around five thousand dollars, not to mention a twelve-month lease... all this just to start living in a new place! For someone beginning their adult life, that’s a lot of money, especially if it’s coming out of your own pocket.

Now that I’ve got you sweating, what if I told you there was a way to pay half, a quarter or even live rent-free in the place you’d like to move? No lease, no security deposits, no realtors and even the occasional home-cooked meal… sounds too good to be true! Well, it’s not. Let me tell you about my living situation.

I moved to Monterey, CA almost two years ago to get a graduate degree at MIIS. When I rolled into town I had no place to live, so I snatched up the first place I found–a property rented out by the school. The house was unfurnished except for a kitchen table and a ratty couch, the roommates were antisocial, and the rent was about a thousand dollars a month (a high price to pay for living with silent strangers in an empty house). After a year of living there, the school informed us that they’d be terminating the lease. I had just over a month to find a new place to live.

I’ve moved almost ten times in my life, so finding a new place wasn’t a daunting prospect. Everything I need fits in my car, and I know from experience that if you look actively, things will eventually work out. This time around, they worked out far better than I could have ever imagined.

A couple weeks into my apartment search, I heard a knock echo through my empty dwelling. When I opened the front door to see who was there I was surprised to find my neighbor, Elizabeth. I had mentioned to her in passing that I was looking for a place to live and hadn’t thought much about it. That day, she had come by to see if I was interested in renting one of their son’s rooms. I was hesitant until she offered me a monthly rent that was roughly a quarter of what I had been previously paying.

Elizabeth and Hans

Elizabeth and her husband, Hans, have two sons, both of which have moved out of the house. One is in college, while the other is doing e-commerce and traveling the world. They explained to me how they missed their sons and were working through feelings that come with empty nest syndrome. After a quick tour of the house, which included views of the ocean, my own bathroom and a pup named Daisy, I quickly took them up on their offer. No lease, no security deposit, just a handshake agreement on monthly rent.

The key ingredient to my living relationship with Elizabeth and Hans has nothing to do with dollars and cents, it's all about trust. So, bearing that in mind, let’s get into how you can turn my situation into your situation.

Consider the location and people

If you’re looking to relocate, for your gap year or otherwise, start by doing a little research. Where is the best place for you to grow personally? Is there a single hub where you need to be to begin your career? Or are there multiple locations you could see yourself living?

Once you have some locations nailed down, make a list of people you know that live in or around those places who know you and your family well enough to welcome you as a tenant. Aunts and uncles, family friends and even grandparents are all possibilities. After that, start reaching out to see if they might be open to hosting you for a period of time. Make sure you can articulate specific reasons why living with this person will help you achieve personal and professional goals that you have.

Learn how to contribute to the space

Yes, living under someone else’s roof means you can’t be blasting your music at all hours or throwing parties, but honestly, if you are looking to take the next step, there are better ways to spend your time.

If it’s a good living relationship, the pros that come with living under someone else’s roof vastly outweigh the cons. You will learn how to respect someone else’s space, as well as communicate to maintain that respect. You will also be compelled to get out of the house and be productive. Sitting on someone else’s couch watching TV all day can get pretty awkward, especially if they are home. Lastly, if your “host family” is kind enough to charge you reasonable rent, you will have the financial flexibility to save money if you have a paying job or work for free if you are trying to get your foot in the door somewhere.

Lastly, you will not be the only one who benefits. Oftentimes families are happy to have someone around to walk the dog, house sit if they go out of town or just have a casual conversation. If you are living with empty nesters or an elderly person, having someone else in the house can provide a sense of security as well.

If you wish to be a nomad for your gap year, then moving in with a relative or family friend may not be for you, but if you have your heart set on a specific place, then start brainstorming, because someone opening their home to you could very well open doors for you to succeed in life.

Need help planning your gap year? Chat with one of Year On's gap year specialists today.

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Schuyler Horn

Schuyler Horn is a trumpet playing lacrosse coach who currently resides on the Monterey peninsula.  He is passionate about re-thinking the way we approach education and life learning.  Schuyler recently launched a podcast that is a learning resource for people struggling to connect with work they love.


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