I know people who cannot get shut-eye if there’s a stranger pottering about on their property. I think they may die of fright or of deep discomfort. They are collectors of padlocks, nuts and bolts. They lock their houses up completely and when they are done locking up, they lock up some more.
Me? I don’t mind actually. I regard night noise with a strange familiarity, like it’s a lullaby.
I’ve been known to sleep soundly through muffled voices, slamming doors, flushing loos and thumping music. Heck, I’ve even floated to the surface in a lucid dream where I caught the sounds of gun-shots before diving back into deep sleep.
You could call it the crazy part of me that naively believes anything anyone says. I take people at their word, thinking the best of them until their worst emerges. That and the fact that I often imagine I have balls of steel, that even after being hooked on shows like Investigation Discovery channel; real life accounts of macabre things humans can do to each other, I can be so audacious to invite complete strangers into my home, and take it up a notch by handing over a set of their own keys, so they can come and go as they wish.
In the broad spectrum of hotels, hostels, homestays or camps I’ve sampled; couchsurfing and airbnb stays have taken a back seat.
On the flip side however, I’ve had the privilege of being an Airbnb host once upon a time.
It was interesting, an awakening experience you may say. All sorts of folks meandered in and out my door, some barely staying..for a night, few days, while there were those who stayed longer, for weeks at a time.
You learn so much when folks drift in and out of your space, lugging with them their colourful suitcases, backpacks and respective energies.
I loved the whole lot of them, a few of them much more than others, even the awkward ones that stood out like sore thumbs.
Who can forget the party animal? As he came through the door, he looked a tad bit dishevelled, and I was a little worried. What if he was the psychopath who decided to slit my throat for the fun of it, when the sun went down? He surprised me by doing nothing of the sort. I hardly saw him anyway. He was the quintessential nocturnal. The invisible bat that crept in at dawn and flew out at dusk. He seemed to have partied hard the whole weekend, only waking up in between to drag his comatose-esque frame to the loo. He checked out Monday morning after leaving a chocolate bar and a sweet note thanking me for my kindness.
There was the student. He was here for study and had chosen to bunk up at mine as he had come before the semester begun. He needed to feel the town…to figure out where the banks, supermarkets, movie theatres, flea markets, eateries and libraries were. Students were fun people, talkative, easy going and eager to learn. I walked them around the city to help them find their bearing. I was mostly blown away by the young ones. They had a single-minded focus. Many were kids in their mid-twenties already enrolled in their Phd’s; brainiacs who wanted to be completely done with education before they spilled out to join the workforce or to tinker with test tubes and microscopes in research labs.
The backpackers were the most fun. They had oodles of time not afforded to the student or the party animal, they were here to explore the town..go to a museum or two, or a nearby city, sample my cooking or whip up an exotic meal. Now here’s the thing about Airbnb’s. I think every host has a specific way they go about accomodating their guests. My way of doing things is more or less how I go about life; in a stress-free laid-back fashion.
I gave my guests the upper-hand in deciding how comfortable they’d like to be in my home. At the time, I didn’t have many regulations or ‘Thou shalt not’s’…well except for smoking..if they had to smoke, they had to do it outside..I didn’t want a thin film of smoke covering the furniture, and making me feel less homely in my home.
Otherwise, I mostly let the guests feel as free as possible. I wanted them to view my home as an extension of their own, so if they preferred to studiously shut themselves in their rooms, I made them feel that it was okay to do so..if they wanted to splay themselves out on the sofa, and watch telly while munching on snacks..they had every right to do so. If they wanted to hang out with us in the city centre or tag along to church on Sundays, it was perfect.
The backpackers were a beautiful lot. We had alot to talk about as there was that shared love of travel. When I confessed to friends that sometimes all I needed was a one-way ticket and I was off, they shook their heads in exasperated fashion while winding a finger pointed to their head, pantomine to denote that I was profoundly cuckoo and couldn’t be helped. If I told backpackers the same, they would nod their heads in affirmation. Backpackers completely understood because they pretty much did the same, sometimes rotating a miniature globe atlas, eyes closed and wherever their finger stopped it at, they’d take the next one-way flight to the destination.
I listened to them completely enthralled by their experiences of cities, towns and countries; many times their energy filled the place up and we became co-equals as lines blurred the hierarchy of host and guest. It was often quite hard to see them go off to the next destination when it was time to pack up. They were part of the tribe of travellers gallavanting all over the globe, and I’m still in touch with many.
The obsessive compulsive ones. These were the complainers, the perfectionists, the anxious ones. They fretted if they saw an itsy-bitsy spider crawling up the wall. They lamented at the ‘price of the room’ per night, in their view the room they were offered was ”quite tiny.’ They drove me up the wall by their absurd expectations, and for the first time in Airbnb history I found myself muttering back to a disgruntled guest, “This isn’t the Ritz you know…it’s a small airbnb that matches the price of 10 euros a night.” Dude had the temerity to complain yet I had allowed him to stay with his girlfriend in a room meant for one. I offered him a refund if they chose to stay elsewhere. They wanted to stay.
He’d made himself feel completely at home by tossing out some of my pots and pans, and replacing them with a brand new set of his own. Funnily enough, I caught a glance of his alter-ego one day. Early one morning I walked to the kitchen, and there he was, dressed up, and accesorized with an old scarf of mine around his neck, (he offered to buy it.) He looked happy and swayed from side to side. In place of the gruff exterior was a smiley verbose young man. You bet he was stoned, higher than a kite. He gently berated me for not ever trying out drugs yet I lived in a liberal country that permitted me it’s excesses. If marijuana was an artiste, it had nothing but rave reviews from the guy that day.
Ultimately, when they left I chose to close up shop. Airbnb had been for a season, and now it was time to own my space once more.
How about you..have you ever been an Airbnb host or guest? What was your experience like?