How I stayed in San Francisco for [mostly] FREE.

Me and my boyfriend, Andrew, spent 12/22/16 – 02/11/17 in beautiful, luxury apartment in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. We enjoyed a huge, comfortable bed, and the company of the sweetest, fluffiest cat in the universe.

Our 21-day trip cost a total of $0.00.*

(* The most expensive parts were free, but obviously we still paid for things like Uber rides, food, entertainment, etc.)

The services you’ll need:

  1. Trusted Housesitters for FREE hospitality.

  2. Southwest Rapid Rewards for FREE airfare.

We didn’t earn this trip right off the bat. It took actual years of investment. But it’s going to continue to pay off. 🙂

First of all, Trusted Housesitters performs a background checks, and asks for 3 personal references up front. Our hosts in San Francisco additionally requested 2 more personal and professional references before finally confirming our gig. Both of our reputations being spotless is something that has taken decades of consistent responsible behavior. I definitely don’t regret it. Now that we’ve done a few sits, we have an ever-growing list of positive reviews on our account!

Caitlin & Andrew being feisty in a Purikura booth

Obviously we’re not well-behaved ALL of the time… 😉

Additionally, I’ve been using my Southwest card for all sorts of every day purchases for about 1.5 years now, so I have tons of points. Prices were crazy for a ticket right before Christmas, but that didn’t matter to me!



San Francisco was amazing, obviously. I went to a lot of free web dev meetups and ate insane amounts of sushi and burritos. The money I saved on housing and travel went towards my Macbook Pro upgrades.

Over the course of 2017, we’re definitely going to be house + petsitting more. Our next one is coming up in March, and we’ll be looking after a cute puppy in an enormous waterfront mansion in our hometown. After that, we’re hitting the road again for our seasonal van-life adventure! This time we’ll be camping, boondocking, as well as housesitting.

 

Headed to San Francisco?

Here’s my obsessive Master Map of things to do/see. I didn’t get to everything on this list, but it was helpful for when I was randomly exploring. I guess I have to go back soon!

I upgraded my 2010 MacBook Pro! Here’s how I did it.

I’ve had this enormous 17” mid-2010 MacBook since I started at the Graphic Design program at USFSP. I saved up for it by working for 2 years while I got my AA, and paid for it in cash. I forget the exact amount it cost but it was slightly over $3000.

This machine is easily the most valuable thing I own. For reference, around the same time, I bought a 2002 Ford Focus with 75K on the odometer for $2800. The car is a shitbox. The computer is a child to me. It, uh, literally weighs as much as a healthy newborn, too… but that’s OK with me most of the time.

In 7 years, I did plenty of coding, video rendering, high-res photo editing, archiving and organizing. It became clear recently that speed was becoming an issue. I wasn’t as productive as I know I could be, due to a lot of “beachball” moments, causing me to lose my stride and get frustrated/bored/distracted.

So I did something about it. After some rounds of research, it became clear that the simplest and most effective upgrade was to replace the internal Hard Disk Drive with a Solid State Drive. I shopped around for SSDs online, compared specs and prices, and prepared to drop the cash on it as soon as Christmas was over.

Well, recently, I was in San Francisco for a few weeks, and figured I should at least check craigslist before committing to purchasing one from Amazon or Newegg. There were quite a few good options for sale! The only thing was most of them were being sold by people located in San Jose and other South/East Bay locations, which is pretty inconveniently far from Hayes Valley. I’m not even from SF and I still despise getting on the BART for any reason. I waited it out, assuming someone closer would post theirs for sale soon.

My patience paid off! A few days after Christmas someone posted their 1TB Samsung EVO SSD for sale, only a few blocks away, FOR ONLY $200. This shit normally retails for $320+. We met at Starbucks, I tested the drive, and handed over the cash. I grabbed an Uber to Central Computers in SoMa and purchased a USB-to-SATA cable, a few screwdrivers, and an Optical-to-2.5”HDD adapter. I wasn’t just going to throw away the existing HDD, and since my Optical Drive hadn’t worked for years, I figured I’d just swap those out. I did recycle the Optical Drive responsibly though. 😗

It was a stressful process, like an excruciatingly not-at-all-fun game of ‘Operation’, as I kept dropping tiny screws into caverns and having to shake them out. Over the course of a few hours, I got everything unscrewed, generously spraying Dust-Off to get my girl’s guts spotless, plugged everything into place, put it all back together, and … my life has not been the same since.

It’s miraculous. The boot times are insane. I don’t have the exact stats, but it easily went from 5+ minutes to about 20 seconds. Photoshop pops up a few seconds after launching it. Finder searches are immediate. Even CleanMyMac runs way faster. AND I have 1.5TB of internal storage. I’m currently working on installing Kali Linux to the old Toshiba HDD. I’ll get around to finishing that soon.

I still only have 8GB RAM, a shitty, useless battery, and other olderish-but-still-functioning internal hardware, but this simple upgrade made a massive impact, and it was relatively easy and inexpensive.

Here’s the installation videos I followed to install the SSD and Optical Drive adapter. These are specifically for the mid-2010 MacBook Pro, so be sure to look up your correct model and do your research!

Sarasota Photoset Details [ Vol. 2 ]

This is yet another color-edited photoset of a few locations in downtown Sarasota, FL. This is the most recent of numerous photosets I’ve collected from my shots that have similar light and hue. Be on the look out for more!

Caitlin Burns Sarasota Photography

 

Same as my previous photoset, this composition is now available in my shop! It’s printed on 65lb. holographic, glossy paper. It fits in a standard 7”x7” frame, similar to this one. I think these shots would look great individually framed, which can be arranged with a special order.

Locations in Sarasota

top-left — Top of the Sarasota Main Plaza.
top-right — The Sarasota Herald-Tribune Building.
bottom-left — Lido Key’s North Towers.
bottom-right — Spooky roof of the 7th St. 7/11.

Here is a Google Map of where I took these photos.

Sarasota Photoset Details [ Vol. 1 ]

This is an color-edited photoset of a few locations in downtown Sarasota, FL. This is the first of numerous photosets I’ve collected from my shots that have similar light and hue. Be on the look out for more!

Sarasota Photoset

This photoset is now available in my shop! It’s printed on 65lb. holographic, glossy paper. It fits in a standard 7”x7” frame, similar to this one. I think these shots would look great individually framed, which can be arranged with a special order.

Locations in Sarasota

  • top-left — The sky viewed from the Ringling Causeway. Taken August 2015.
  • top-right — A foggy night at Lido Beach. Taken March 2016.
  • bottom-left — Succulents near my old apartment on Ringling Blvd. Taken February 2016.
  • bottom-right — Interesting light from an alley off Orange Ave. Taken January 2015.

Here is a Google Map of where I took these photos.

Blogging yet again!

Hey sup internet! I’ve always been on-and-off with my blogging habits, but I’ve started again! These days I make my living customizing WordPress sites, among other things, so I wanted to start up my own again, this time utilizing what I’ve learned with my clients.

In general, I aim to have a blogging style that is colorful but clear, informative but playful. I want to share things I love without being a total shill, and I want to document the exciting projects I’m working on!

The theme I’m currently using is just a highly edited child theme of the default WordPress theme TwentySixteen. This is going to be a sort of playground where I experiment with CSS doodads, questionable SEO tactics, and attempt to wrap my head around more complex web functions.

Feels nice to have an outlet once again!

Interested in blogging?

Hire me for web or graphic design, check out my portfolio! I can help you discover exactly how to maximize your brand’s online potential.

Some recent projects I’ve worked on:

WeanBaby.com — Not only did I design the website for this new app, but I headed the art direction the entire project, from initial logo ideation, to UX, all of the icons and assets, and more. This product will help countless mothers streamline their weaning timelines, resulting in happy babies everywhere!

AdrianVaca.com — Adrian is such a cool guy! His extensive CV required some pretty specific organization. As a teacher, performer, and composer, he has a large body of work that speaks for his different skills. I love this e-card he did with American Greetings, it’s so great!!

FloridaSurprise.com — Some close friends of mine founded an art collective to bring together Florida’s Gulf coast-based artists. It’s so nice to see everyone combine their different skills together to further this project. Once a quarter we release a web-zine, and we frequently have shows and other events.