How I Lived on Maui for Free
Updated: Jul 9
The opportunity that allowed me to stay on island for 10 months, rent free ⋮
I'd felt called to the islands for months. Fresh fruit, walking barefoot, beaches, surfing... it all sounded so perfect; somewhat of a contrast to the sometimes stressful, monotonous routines of mainland life.
But I had a couple obstacles to tackle.
I didn't have much money saved up
I wasn't ready to move out for good
I knew nothing about Hawaii or what relocating there would entail
I had never traveled anywhere alone before
I was only 19.
All of these things combined in my head, along with other feelings of fear and uncertainty, kept me from taking the venture too seriously. I knew I wanted to get to Hawaii, but somehow I just didn't know how I could make it happen.
Everyone tells you that traveling is expensive. Relocating is expensive. Being on your own is expensive.
So from the get-go, I had these limiting beliefs telling me that unless I had thousands upon thousands of dollars saved up and a crazy amount of life experience, I wasn't going to be ready.
But the urge to get to the islands grew stronger, the signs persisted, and I was determined.
Click here to read how everything worked out.
As I mentioned in the above blog post, me and a friend I had met online ended up landing a work-trade position at a hostel in Maui.
This opportunity allowed us to work for 16 hours a week at the hostel in exchange for free stay in their staff dorms.
Now, you should know, dorms aren't exactly "luxury living". As you continue to travel, you'll come to realize the pros and cons of hostel living. But for free rent and the ability to travel at little cost- totally worth it!
This was the biggest money saver during my time on the island. Rather than paying $52/night for rent as a guest at the hostel and only being able to stay a couple weeks, I was able to save over $350 a week and extend my travels significantly.
The only real expense I had during my time on island was food. I didn't have a car and the only grocery store within walking distance was an organic health store called Mana Foods. I absolutely LOVE this store! It's totally worth a visit to the hot bar if you're on island!
Though, as much as I loved this store, it was rather expensive. Given my limited options, I had to shop at this store for most of my groceries. However, every once in a while I could catch a ride with a friend to Costco. This was a huge money saver!! If you don't have access to a car, you can always pay $4 for a day pass and take the bus to Costco, though I found it difficult to carry all my groceries back with me and often opted out of that option.
I do like to shop and go out as well so I would occasionally buy myself a new outfit, pitch gas money to someone if we were taking me along on an adventure, pay for the bus, or go out to the bar in town and pay a $10 entry fee + the cost of drinks. But these were my only other real costs on island.
Without rent out of the picture, I found myself paying around $500/month on average.
Now since I only had to work 16 hours per week at the hostel, this opened up plenty of time for me to get a second job in town.
I started off doing 4 4-hour days of housekeeping at the hostel but ended up switching to 2 8-hour days of reception which I far preferred because it gave me a lot more freedom and flexibility in my schedule (5 days off on Maui!!).
I then got a coffee shop job in town (within walking distance!) that paid $10/hr (this is minimum wage on island). I worked there 3 days a week on average which was enough to cover the cost of groceries and other miscellaneous expenses. So overall, I was breaking even! By the time I returned home 6 months later, I ended up having roughly the same amount of money that I left with!
It's not everyones typical idea of "traveling" but it's a way to see the world without having to spend all your savings. The less you have, the more creative you have to get! But having experienced the typical "vacationing" travel style with my family growing up, I've found that I actually prefer this way of exploring the world. It allows you the opportunity to really experience the culture of a place and live there rather than just confining yourself to the hotel pool for 7 days and calling that your trip.
Living at a hostel also opens up the opportunity for so many amazing friendships and unique relationships that you wouldn't form on a typical vacation.
Anyhow, my story continues. After spending 6 months on the island, I returned home for the holidays, picked up another coffee shop job, and saved up for another flight. I returned to Maui 3 months later and stayed for an additional 4 month stay before I headed to Australia for 8 months!