#8 – Airbnb
I like to think of Airbnb as the totally unofficial sponsor of my latest journey abroad. Of the 31 nights I spent in Europe, all but one evening was spent in an Airbnb. It’s what made it possible for me to afford a month of rent in London. It’s how we were able to stay in four cities in one week, and how my parents were able to stay with me for no extra cost.
Airbnb is part of the new “sharing economy” that allows people to rent out their homes to travelers. It’s free to register, and the rates for housing vary by location. My apartments in London were a steal at $100-120 a night to have a one-bedroom to myself, including fees, exchange rates, and the fact that I had lots of nights when my friends and family were staying with me. In our upcoming trip to Hawaii, my sister and I are paying $100/night for two twin beds in a guest house in Maui.
But more than just the price, Airbnb gives you a home. It gives you a kitchen, and a bath, and your own space (as opposed to a hostel where you share everything). It comes with a washer, a dryer, a wonky floor where the tiles creak under your feet as you walk to the balcony for your morning coffee. Someone else’s books to leaf through and closets to resist looking at (though one host did tell me I could wear his sweaters if I got cold!). It includes a friend to text when the hot water doesn’t run in the morning (“just wait until everyone else goes to work!”) and a recommendation for a coffee shop where the locals really do go, along with access to neighborhoods and cities and experiences that you’d never get if you stuck to the beaten path.
Airbnb really did lead me to some amazing places. In London, I stayed a bus ride away from Big Ben and then right off Gray’s Inn Road and found that I loved the more remote location better. In Paris, we rented a space the size of a trailer (too small for what ended up being four of us!) and had to check under all the fourth floor doormats for keys because we had no idea which apartment was ours – luckily no one caught us in the act. In Montpellier, we stayed in a gorgeous apartment with the most comfortable couch I’ve ever slept on in my life. In Toulouse, our adorable host carried ALL OUR BAGS up the stairs himself, and invited us to go through his DVD collection (he and his wife have also written to me since we returned to say Merry Christmas, etc. Merci Amelie et Manu!). And in Barcelona, the weird dorm-like place we rented was perfectly located for late nights out and coffee at the bakery downstairs.
I know that in some parts of the US especially, Airbnb has had some negative press lately for people who are using the service to operate what are essentially hotels, or to undermine the rental market. I can’t speak to the economic impact of Airbnb (I was an English major…) but I do know that it opened doors to me that surely would have stayed closed without this housing option, and I’m grateful. I hope the regulations can be worked out so that people with good intentions can keep lending their spaces and encouraging adventures, here and abroad!
As a 29-year-old woman, I think I’ve outgrown the youth hostel scene – I want more personal space than they allow. And as a solo traveler, it’s key that that space is safe and centrally located, and I can stay much longer since it’s also affordable. When I did have a problem with one of my London apartments, Airbnb tried to help me solve it (then I fixed it myself, because I’m badass like that). I’d go back to the rest of these places in a heartbeat, and would love to be a host myself some day. Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming of the treehouses, igloos, mansions, and islands I could rent with the click of a button!
The #8 is brought to you from somewhere in Paris.
All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.