For those of you who haven’t yet come across the revolution in travel that is AirBnB, I urge you all to give it a thoroughly good look next time you decide to embark on a grand adventure.
The website facilitates a radical notion for those with spare rooms in interesting locations; to offer their free spaces to intrepid travellers as a fresh alternative to the impersonal & often expensive experience of the hotel.
I’ve never been a huge fan of hotel rooms, unless of course one has been booked to play host to an unabashed party of Jagger / Richards proportions. I find them to be slightly soulless & isolated from the world outside. I’ve always been a fan of the guesthouse or the budget hotel primarily because of the fellow travellers you meet when staying at such places.
I have, however been a somewhat-fan of the hugely popular travelling community of CouchSurfers, a website full of interesting & immeasurably generous people who quite amazingly throw open their doors to anyone who would like to stay, provided of course that the gust maintains a certain respect for the host & their house rules. They ask for no monetary payment in return, only that you don’t come home drunk in the early hours & proceed to throw their TV out of a closed window.
However, something about staying at a strangers’ house always leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable.. My host can be as nice as pie, but I can’t help feeling like a bit of a freeloader, & when you’re practically living on top of someone who you’ve not even had the chance to get to know properly, the selfish bastard in me always has this niggling sense that my vacation is not entirely my own.
AirBnB combines the many wonderful qualities of CouchSurfing (open doors, interesting encounters, cost-effective living arrangements) with the privacy & sense of personal space that comes from staying in a guesthouse or budget hotel.
It’s essentially CouchSurfing, but you pay monetary reparations for your room & board. It’s often much cheaper than staying at a hotel, even the budget ones, but you have this personal connection with your host the moment you step over their doorstep. On a recent visit to California, my host Maria allowed me to stay at her delightful home in the Glen Park area of San Francisco for the equivalently tiny sum of $30 per night. Not only that, but she also took me out for lunch on my last day in the city.
Yes, you’re paying for your room, but your host has installed a degree of trust in you not to take the piss with their offer to stay. Paying even a small sum towards the cost of your bed & board by no means gives you free license to engage in whatever loud & obnoxious activities you damn-well please, but then neither does a hotel, really. It does however give you a sense that your room is genuinely your own for the time that you’re there. It’s hugely important to have a personal sanctuary away from the stresses of daily life, as really, isn’t that what holidays are all about?
On the flip-side, you also have this delightful dynamic with not only your host but the other people that may be staying in the same building. Travelling in this manner is a great way to meet people from all walks of life - some have just moved to a new city & are using AirBnB while they search for a more long-term living arrangement, others are in town on business, perhaps only for a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. Most though, are people who love being on the road & want to stretch out their time by staying somewhere inexpensive. As you’d expect from such a place, many bonds of friendship can easily be made in the light of wide-eyed excitement through travelling. Vacations put people in the most personable moods, & AirBnB is a really great way to make connections.
For those looking for something a little more extravagant, interesting or downright bizarre, you won’t find anything like the plethora of weird & wonderful abodes on Expedia or TravelSupermarket. The website’s imaginative hosts offer not only rooms in shared houses, but entire homes, skyscraping penthouses & spaces that wouldn’t look out of place in a Miyazaki animation.
I’d recommend using AirBnB to anyone. It offers the unique experience of enjoying some of the world’s more quirky & interesting places to stay, as well as a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow travellers from all over the world.