When I set out to spend the Summer staying at Airbnb in seven different locations of three countries I wondered if it would be weird spending almost every day for six weeks living in the homes of strangers. Would I like sharing my bathroom with others? Could I get used to coming home each night and not knowing who would be sleeping in the next room? Would it feel like I was just passing through on my way to the next location, or would I be able to enjoy the comforts of home?
As it turned out, I loved using Airbnb because they allowed me to choose the experience that would make me the most comfortable. If I wanted to meet new people I chose a shared listing with roommates. If I wanted more of a retreat experience or to focus on writing then I chose a listing where I got the whole place to myself. No matter what I chose this Summer with Airbnb I got to know each city from a different perspective than I would if I stayed in a hotel. I spent the Summer shopping for my groceries, taking public transportation, eating at the same coffee houses and restaurants that locals did. It was fun to feel like I was a resident of wherever I was staying.
Below are some of the most memorable experiences that I had this Summer with Airbnb along with some tips that I learned along the way:
Hostess with the Mostest
My hostess in North Berwick brought the seaside charm of this small coastal East Lothian town inside. The beach themed colors and decor she used gave my bedroom an easy, breezy feel. The plush white bath towels and bathrobe she provided, the tray loaded with teas, an electric teapot, fresh water and homemade flapjacks left in my room were an added personal touch. Every morning before she left for work my hostess would leave me a breakfast tray outside my door filled with yogurt, fresh fruit, croissants, jam and orange juice. She was helpful and friendly like all the people in this very special town. She was a true hostess and one of my favorite of the seven places I stayed this Summer.
Tip: It helps to communicate with your host prior to your arrival and establish a relationship. I usually share my reasons for visiting the city with my hosts, this can help them to know what your expectations are and how much privacy you might want.
Most Charming House
Deep in the heart of Texas I stayed in a very homey and charming 100 year old craftsman house in the historic district of San Antonio. From the colorful landscaping and long front porch to the hidden outdoor garden shower this home had personality. An antique roll top writer’s desk, old Royal typewriter, antique pieces throughout the living and dining room and newly remodeled kitchen added to it's charm. My favorite feature of this house was definitely taking a shower outside under the evening skies.
Tip: Read the reviews for the property on Airbnb they're usually pretty accurate. It also helps to know what you are looking for you and apply filters to your search to narrow down your options.
Our Houston hosts were a young couple who raced motorcycles and traveled the world staying with an Airbnb property. By our second night with them we were laughing, trading travel stories and talking about our families. When I was in Europe and watching the flooding in Houston this Summer they were one of the first people that I contacted to see if they were okay. To my relief they had evacuated early and were safe and sound with family in another city.
Tip: Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your hosts they can be a great source of information on the local area. Also, check to see if your hosts have posted a guidebook on Airbnb or left one in your room for you with their restaurant and local attraction recommendations.
One of the things that I love about Airbnb is that you can live like a local. This was especially true in Edinburgh, Scotland where my apartment was in one of the most vibrant and trendiest neighborhoods with the best local pub and coffee houses in the city. There were so many to choose from but my favorite was Soderberg a coffeehouse that followed the Swedish tradition of serving a minimum of seven varieties of cookies every day. Yum!
Tip: You don't usually get the exact address of your chosen home from your host until a few days before check in. The map in the listing gives you a rough idea (within a few blocks) of its location and I also google the approximate location to see what is in its vicinity.
My second evening after a long day of touring London I returned home, took the elevator to my floor, walked down the hall and I wondered why the door to my apartment was a different color but everything else looked the same. I tried my key and it wouldn't work. Thinking I must have gotten off on the wrong floor, I went one flight up and one flight down in search of my apartment and it wasn't there. I couldn't figure out what was going on until I looked out into the courtyard and realized that my apartment building was next door. My apartment was part of a complex of several large buildings and I was at the wrong one. I couldn't help but laugh at myself and was glad no one had seen me running around the building in almost panic mode.
Tip: Don't panic if you show up at an Airbnb and things aren't exactly what you thought they would be. First contact your host, most hosts are more than willing to rectify any issues you might have. If that doesn't work contact Airbnb, they responded immediately when I had a communication misunderstanding with one of my hosts. Also, make sure to check the cancellation policy that is in the listing
I can truly say I will continue to use Airbnb for my future travels because I love the experience of being immersed in the culture and more connected to the community of a city. Living in the homes of strangers wasn't weird at all, most of the time staying in an Airbnb felt like home.
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