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!
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.
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.
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.
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!