1,000 nights in AirBnBs: thoughts about a traveling life with no home

We ended our apartment lease, gave most of our stuff away, and thus began our traveling life 6 years ago.  We have had no home since then, and, for the last 2,200 nights, we have stayed in diverse places ranging from spartan to sublime. One thousand of those nights were in AirBnBs.  What an adventure!

We never imagined that we’d be staying in fantastic places like this (Sydney, Australia)…

…or on this narrow lane, a 2-minute walk to the sea (Cascais, Portugal).

How could we possibly afford to travel for over 6 years?  By giving up a home base, we magically freed up the rent money that we had been paying each month.  When we divided that amount by 30 (average days in the month), we arrived at an amount we could pay for an average night’s lodging while we pursued a traveling life. We always planned well in advance and made sure that, if we managed to spend a lot less for some nights (tent camping in the American West or inexpensive hotels in Asia), we could afford to stay in more expensive countries, if we stayed at reasonably priced AirBnBs with kitchens.  It just needed to average out at the end of the year.

We balanced several days’ stay in Singapore at a high rise with several swimming pools…

…with a very inexpensive and very large apartment (Cuenca, Ecuador).  The apartment entry was a little further down the sidewalk, and its 2ndfloor living room had large French doors opening up to a view of the Otavalan craft market.

Four years after AirBnB’s 2008 founding, we booked our first night in Savannah, Georgia.  It was not one of our better experiences.  Still, we persisted, and our success rate improved in selecting interesting properties in locations where we planned to visit (like Kyoto, Shanghai, Melbourne, Corfu, Jerez de la Frontera etc., etc.)   We loved staying with hosts who were using the funds to help pay their mortgage, send the kids to college, or as a chance to meet a diverse group of visitors from all over the world.

When AirBnB is very good we discovered it was due to brilliant hosts who provided us a “home” to stay in while we explored a new location for a few days — but usually many weeks. (Our host in Florence, Italy was brilliant and her decorating touches were inspiring.)

In the beginning, the AirBnBs were often decorated with well-used furniture, a few artistic touches, but didn’t always have lamps by both sides of the bed, spaces for our two suitcases, or a sharp knife in the kitchen.  And yet, here we were – in a new place – often a foreign setting – with kind people who were making our traveling dream possible by providing an affordable and decent place for us to stay in a fascinating location.

A favorite AirBnB experience was the month we stayed in the wonderfully equipped – and great value – home in prime bird-watching territory (Sierra Vista, Arizona).

Our first AirBnB stays were mostly booked in an extra bedroom in someone’s home or in their 2ndhome or apartment. A few years later, we became aware that some hosts were renting out multiple AirBnBs as a business.  Some of those hosts seemed less concerned with the guests’ comfort and satisfaction.  In so many of those AirBnBs, the personal touch was gone and the units took on the look of a long-stay hotel.

Over the past seven years, we have observed AirBnB’s huge growth, improvements, and stumbles while we continued to book places to stay around the world.  In our experience, AirBnB has always been weak in its own relationship to the customer. Ever try actually speaking to someone at the company?  We’ve never been able to find a customer service phone number on their website. And, in case you’re wondering, there’s no “frequent flyer” program or any perks for staying hundreds or a thousand nights either.

Despite our annoyance with the company at times, we have stayed with many great hosts who made our stays affordable, enjoyable and downright memorable!


January 2019

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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16 Responses to 1,000 nights in AirBnBs: thoughts about a traveling life with no home

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about Airbnb, Beth. Our first couple of Airbnb stays (in Virginia) were a mixed bag. But then I read a suggestion that Joe (?) posted—about only staying at Airbnbs with 5 stars (or close to it)—and looking for those (and only those) made a big difference.

    In fact, when my husband accepted a lower-paying (but much saner) job at the end of last year, I decided to create Airbnb listings for our two rarely used guest bedrooms to help make up the difference. Well, not only has the extra income been great, but we’re having a wonderful time. (We’re meeting the nicest, most interesting people!) Please keep writing about your travels. (When Ken retires in 7 years, we hope to do what you’re doing.)

  2. raastha says:

    Mixture of experience and memories. Great post.

  3. Ahh! A retrospective! I love retrospectives. I also enjoyed recognizing some of the places – maybe through your stories – from your posts along the way. I hope you’ll do more – they are as much fun for me as for the two of you – Thanks for the memories 😉

  4. Having seen your lovely apartment in Lagos, Portugal, you two seem to have developed the knack for finding some terrific places to stay. We used AirBnB a lot during our 3 years of nomadic slow travel (but nowhere near your impressive number of stays) and really enjoyed the experience of having a kitchen to prepare most of our meals as well as a place we could call home however long the stay might be. Like you, we had a few misses (the most notable being a beach front apartment in Cartagena, Colombia which had a boxspring but no mattress) and learned the hard way that staying with experienced hosts and reading reviews really paid off. I actually did manage to contact the company when we arrived at the Cartagena apartment and promptly received a full refund after sending photos and a $100 voucher for the misadventure which made me a customer of theirs for life. 😁 Interacting with the hosts can make a huge difference in the quality of your stay but you’re right, Beth – AirBnB should really have a customer loyalty program in place! Anita

  5. We haven’t had quite so many nights in Airbnbs as you yet! So far we’ve only had one experience that wasn’t quite as it should be and the rest have been amazing. I did contact Airbnb via email about that place and got a great response back with a $30 voucher for our next booking.

    • We had an experience this past summer that worked out horribly and AirBnB did NOT make it “right”. We traveled to a VERY remote place that had taken us ages to find. Within 5 minutes of our arrival, we turned the water on and a pipe burst. The floor was flooded. We had to leave and drive another long distance to the nearest motel. AirBnB didn’t fully reimburse us. Honestly, after all the nights and all the money we’ve spent staying at AirBnBs – it was really stingy and not their finest moment.

  6. leggypeggy says:

    Great rundown. We’ve used AirBnBs only twice, but we have two more coming up in West Africa.

  7. Jessica says:

    OH MY GOSH!!! I want to do this someday! What a great post! Thank you!

  8. Tom Wiener says:

    Nice to see the one AirBnB we shared with you made the cut for this entry!

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