Airbnb Life: What the CEO Says

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I guess there’s no denying that the workplace as we know it has likely been changed forever. Most offices have been shut down for a year or more, and were forced to figure out how to do 100% remote work on the fly. Some places were well-prepared, others weren’t. And since the day that workers began this remote work over a year ago, many have not been back to their offices. I have not been back to my office since March 2020, not even to so much as grab essentials or clear out food.

With remote work being my indefinite future, my boyfriend and I decided to Airbnb hop, which we have been doing for the last nine months (since December 2020). And apparently we are not the only ones that had this idea.

According to Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, half of Airbnb rentals these days are for one week or longer. People are no longer rushing back to get home after they take vacations, because the main thing people typically return to is their job. Their job that they can now do pretty much anywhere. For most remote workers, that job is now wherever they want it to be as long as there is wifi.

Mr. Chesky also said that one-fifth of Airbnb rentals these days are for one month or longer. So people REALLY are not rushing back home now. They are renting homes and staying there as long as they feel like it, and taking their laptop along with them. They are vacationing, seeing other cities, spending time with family and friends, and working all at the same time.

Mr. Chesky goes on to say, nowdays, after compensation, the next perk that employees are looking for is flexibility. Everybody is realizing they don’t want to be stuck in the office or stuck in the same city. Some employees feel like the uncertainty of the pandemic makes them want an employer that won’t send them back to the office before they are comfortable doing so. In addition to a good salary, they want freedom and flexibility, they want to make their own decisions about when to be in the office.

This data syncs up perfectly with what we’ve been experiencing on our Airbnb journey. When we first started on this lifestyle, we would go to the Airbnb website and see an abundance of rental options in pretty much any city we searched. Nowdays we are seeing slim pickins. Where we once saw homes with two and three bedrooms in our price range, we are now seeing basement apartments and one-bedroom condos. It has gotten challenging to do our home search. Every time we realize it’s time to look for our next location, we honestly hate it. We used to love looking at homes and exploring our options, but now we just feel like the search will be so daunting that we’re no longer in the mood to do it.

I will be interested in seeing if this uptick will continue now that schools are being held in person and families with children have to go back to their home base. And I definitely look forward to seeing whether this trend continues or whether rental options level off now that it’s fall and school is back in session.

Have you done a long-term Airbnb during the pandemic? What workplace flexibilities would you like to see as a result of current events?

Let me know!

woman working from home

Airbnb Journey: The Alexandria VA Duplex

After spending a month in North Carolina, my boyfriend and I needed to return to the DC area due to appointments and family events coming up. The search for a place in the DMV as we natives call it (DC/Maryland/Virginia area) that fit our requirements as well as our budget was quite difficult. The area can be pretty expensive, and we wanted to make sure we were within a good distance to our appointment locations.

After extensive searching, we booked a duplex in Alexandria, Virginia. Alexandria is a large city in Northern Virginia that borders the nation’s capital. Like most places, the neighborhoods can range from older and more established to new and recently developed.

As soon as we hit the reserve button, we immediately second guessed our decision. It was a new listing, but the owners had several reviews for other properties. So we weren’t concerned about them as hosts, but we realized we didn’t know much about the actual neighborhood, and we also realized we had not seen any pictures of the outside of the house. After our NC bungalow, the visual bar for our homes was set pretty high.

So of course, as soon as we received the address, we immediately did a google map search of the property. And that did not help our concerns. But what’s done is done, we had paid our money, and that would be our home for a month… unless we wanted to cancel and lose our money. Ummm no.

Unlike the first home, the check-in for the Alexandria duplex did not go smoothly. With it being a newly listed property, the owners were working on final touches in the home up until and beyond our check-in time. Our check-in time was delayed so we had to pass the time, which was hard to do when we were still in the midst of pandemic lock-down and stores are limiting entry. But fast forward a couple hours, and we checked into the home.

The home was located in a well-established aka older neighborhood as we suspected, and visually, the home was not as attractive as the NC bungalow. Once inside, the furniture was older, and there were some areas of the home that weren’t completely finished (ie., blue tape on the walls, a chandelier that the owner had to come back and finish hanging, dust that they probably would have swiffered if they had a little extra time, etc.). But…there was a homely charm about the home and I was determined to make the best of it.

THE NOT SO GREAT:

I really gave the owners the benefit of the doubt–sometimes first rentings just don’t go as planned. I know they wanted to have a guidebook prepared, and I’m sure they wanted the space to be Airbnb perfect. Unfortunately it didn’t happen that way, and by the time we arrived and were able to check in, we just wanted to get unpacked and settled. The moment for the cute arrival had passed, and it just wasn’t going to happen.

Some of the things that made the stay less than perfect included the home not having central heating, so with it being the middle of winter, it was quite drafty sometimes. There wasn’t a ton of space for our clothes, so it felt like we were always shuffling things around just to get things from our luggage. There was only one bathroom, and after having two, it was difficult to adjust to one…though we did it, and it was fine. There was only one television in the house and that wasn’t ideal.

THE GOOD:

There were a lot of great things about the home and the location. We were able to see family and friends since we were close to home, so that was really nice. We were able to both have cars so that helped with getting to our appointments and such with no coordination efforts. We took walks quite a bit even though it was snowing a lot of the time, so we were able to get out of the house and get fresh air. The home had a dedicated workspace and multiple rooms to spread out, which we cannot say about some of the other places we’ve stayed. The home had a lot of kitchen amenities so I cooked quite a bit, which was really nice. I also stocked up on my craft supplies and started teaching myself ceramics, and there was enough space to spread out and craft. The home had this really cute loft area, so we liked escaping to that space to think or just have some alone time. It was also perfect when we had meetings and needed personal space for those. The home had some really cool decorative elements and pictures that I thought made such a nice touch. The neighborhood was so quiet, so we slept like babies. And speaking of sleep, the bedding was so comfortable, I had to message the host to ask about the sheets and pillow cases, and I ordered my own!

AT THE END OF THE DAY we were looking for peace, safety, and a space to work, and this home provided just that. We have been out of that home for about six months and I still have moments that I flash back or miss something about it. It really was a unique and cozy vibe, and sometimes you don’t find that in “perfect” homes, or homes that are staged immaculately. Though it wasn’t the prettiest house on the prettiest street, the hosts were awesome, the space was quiet, the home was safe, and I would absolutely stay there again.

Here are some of the cute decorative touches that I really feel made the space unique and cute.

What if something makes a bad first impression for you? How good are you at finding the good in situations? I felt like a month was a long time to not love the space we chose, so I really focused on what I loved about the home. And it turns out, this home actually had a lot to love!

Airbnb life: OMG my host cancelled my reservation at the last minute!

I. AM. STUNNED.!!!

Let me start off by saying, this post is not going to provide a lot of advice about what you should do if this should happen to you, because truthfully, I am still working out all of the details of the situation and I do not quite have the answers. This post is really me just venting, and letting you know about things that can happen when you are living life on the road.

So…here’s what happened.

LESS THAN 24 HOURS before I was set to check in to a home for a month, my boyfriend received a message from the host of the home. The message was for an alteration to the dates that we were to stay. Instead of checking in the next day and staying for a month stay, the host asked if we would accept his offer to check in TWO WEEKS FROM NOW for a two week stay, FOR $300 MORE than our month reservation!?!?!

WHAT. THE. ENTIRE. EFF!?!?!

A shorter stay for more money, and we can’t even check in on the day we NEED to check in!!??

Uhhh…no thank you!!

When the text came in, we were packing up and winding down at the home we were in, and making plans for our departure the next morning. But we had to change gears IMMEDIATELY and figure out 1) how do we get a refund and 2) where the eff are we gonna go in the morning????

My first thought was to see if we could stay put for a few more days. However staying at the home we were in at the time was not an option because another guest has already booked it.

We really did not have a lot of time to play around with and we needed to know what our options were IMMEDIATELY. Of course, in the day of on-line support and help bots, getting a human on the phone that could help was not the easiest thing to do. So my boyfriend worked on contacting airbnb and I got to work researching places we could check into the next day.

Though I don’t have any official advice for resolving these types of situations, here is what I did learn from the situation.

1) TRUST MY GUT – When we initially found this place, in our guts, we felt like something was off. The place didn’t have a TON of pics, but we felt like it was enough to make us feel comfortable with selecting it. The host also had kind of a distorted profile picture, which just kinda made us wonder why versus made us feel like it was a deal breaker. There weren’t any reviews, but hey, every home has to start with its first renter. And we had rented homes in the past that had little to no reviews because you get good deals as one of the first three renters for most homes. So that didn’t scare us off, but rather just made us prepare ourselves for a less-than-perfect stay. But here’s what made us question things a bit. Once our reservation was confirmed and we received the address, we googled it and realized it was an apartment versus a condo, so renting from a renter is really what made us apprehensive. I was actually surprised that this was permitted by airbnb but apparently it’s a new thing they started allowing. We feel like home owners and companies that use airbnb income as a primary income source have more to lose if our stay isn’t good or if they don’t live up to their end of the deal. Someone renting an apartment may not have the same type of personal or professional investment in the experience.

2) DO NOT CANCEL – Even once the host made it clear that his home would not be available for our stay, and even though we needed to release this reservation in order to make another reservation, we knew that THE HOST had to be the one to cancel in order for us to get our money back. And apparently he was dragging his feet on processing the cancellation. So unfortunately, we had to wait for airbnb to conclude their investigation into the situation (which took over 24 hours) in order for us to be refunded (which could take up to 15 days for the bank to fully process) and for my boyfriend to be able to book using his airbnb account for a reservation during the same period of time as the cancelled home.

3) BE CLEAR IN YOUR COMMUNICATION WITH THE HOST – Airbnb reviews the communication between guests and hosts. When the host sent us the altered reservation request, we made sure to clearly ask “IS YOUR HOME UNAVAILABLE FOR THE DAYS THAT WE HAVE RESERVED?”

4) MAKE SURE ALL COMMUNICATION STAYS WITHIN THE AIRBNB APPLICATION – This sort of goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. In the event of any issues, this communication becomes your evidence. If it’s done outside the airbnb platform, it may be harder to prove your case.

5) HAVE A BACK-UP PLACE SELECTED – Each time we search for new places, we typically start off with a list and whittle it down based on all of the factors that are important to us (location, price, parking situation, safety factors, amenities, etc.). Once we make our final selection from that list, we typically don’t think anything else about the homes that we cut. But when something like this happens, it would be great to have that list as a starting point if we have to go back to the drawing board. We’ve already vetted or ruled out a lot of the homes, so we wouldn’t have to re-look at places we’ve already reviewed.

6) HAVE A NON-AIRBNB OPTION IN MIND – I have been relying solely on airbnb for my travels, and that is essentially the equivalent of putting all of my eggs in one basket. Though there are stipulations about where I can travel and work from, there are still some other non-airbnb options that I can consider, and I need to have those options on standby just in case. So doing research on other options will definitely be an action item for me in the upcoming weeks.

7) HAVE MORE THAN ONE METHOD OF CASH FLOW – This taught me that at any given moment, $3,000 can be locked up in airbnb shenannigans. Having some leeway with the purse strings will help to make these types of situations not be as dire as they could be.

8) AIRBNB DOES NOT HELP YOU FIND A PLACE IMMEDIATELY – So we had heard that airbnb has helped some travelers that have been caught up in situations where the host canceled last minute. We heard that airbnb will step in and find a place for you. IN OUR SITUATION, this was not the case. First of all, we needed a place THE. NEXT. DAY. which would have been Saturday morning. We had to be checked out the next morning and had a four hour drive ahead of us. By the time someone contacted us to help find a place, it was about 7pm Saturday night. I don’t know what they expected us to do if we were, say, stuck in an airport with no place to go, or traveling with a car full of kids expecting to pull into a home and get them fed and settled at check-in. We didn’t know whether we should drive the 4 hours to the city of the original home we were supposed to go to, or stay put, or head back to Maryland and beg relatives to let us couch surf. Instead we remained in limbo for 24 hours waiting for airbnb to conclude their investigation and advise us about next steps. It was only at that point that they then told us some other options for housing.

HOW DID THINGS END UP?

So the good news is that we were able to find a place for a week, and we checked into that place just fine. Airbnb finished their investigation, refunded our money, and gave us a $200 credit (with stipulations…ugh!). In addition, they assessed penalties against the host that cancelled. Once we got to the place we were able to book last minute, our first order of business was to find another home for the remaining three weeks that were part of our original reservation, and we think we found a nice place that we are looking forward to checking into. As of now, things have all worked out, but it was definitely a stressful couple of days. We definitely learned a few valuable lessons and realize we have a few things that we need to tweak, research, and be mindful of going forward.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? What happened and how was it resolved? I’d love to hear from you!

Airbnb Life: Discovering What I Don’t Need Helps With My Minimalism Goals

The thing I hate the most about airbnb hopping is definitely the packing. It is SUCH a pain! Packing up bags, loading up the car, just to go to another place and unload the car and unpack…just to pack and load…and then to unload and unpack…WHEW! It gets to be a bit much.

It’s rough. It’s mentally draining, and the physical toll of lugging, packing, unpacking, moving, dragging, lugging, and repacking…it’s just so exhausting.

Every time my boyfriend and I move, we go through this round-robin conversation that goes a little like this:

ONE OF US: We have too much stuff!! Should we try to scale back??

THE OTHER: YES! We should!

ONE OF US: OK, we’ll go through our suitcases at the next home and figure out what we can donate or get rid of.

**After looking through each bag and removing at best, two or three things**

ONE OF US: WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF!!!!!

But in all honesty, while I may have too much stuff for life on the road, I do live with far less stuff than what I ever had when I lived in a fixed location. Far, far less. For example…

HOODIES – I only have one hoodie with me. I own…AT.LEAST.20. hoodies AND 10 pull-overs.

JEANS – I have three pairs of jeans with me. I own AT LEAST 30 pairs of jeans and 15 pairs of jean capris.

MAKEUP – I have one eyeshadow, one eyeliner, one mascara…if I were home, I’d have several of each in multiple places throughout my home. And would probably still stock up when I went to stores.

ACCESSORIES – I travel with a small pouch of accessories. At home, I have an entire cabinet devoted to jewelry.

SHOES – I have five pairs of shoes with me, and they cross all seasons, and include my slippers. At home I have shoe racks in multiple rooms AND shoes for other seasons stored in bins.

HANDBAGS – I cannot even begin with my handbag collection. I managed to narrow it down to a fanny pack, a sling bag, two small purses, and one large bag. For me that’s a total success. At home…the story is dramatically different.

So…am I like those people that backpack through Europe and wash out their three pairs of panties at every stop? Ummm no. But am I living with CONSIDERABLY LESS items than usual? ABSOLUTELY!

And each day, it gets easier and easier to not have all of my possessions within reach.

It has been interesting making decisions and figuring out which creature comforts I have to live without. While I love having all of my “stuff”, there have been some positive outcomes from living with less of my things.

  • Less clothing choices means that figuring out what to wear each day becomes less daunting. Less stress!
  • Online shopping is done on more of an as-needed basis, because I have no place to put anything new, and figuring out where to get things delivered can sometimes be logistically difficult. Better for my wallet and no buyer’s remorse!
  • I rarely go shopping for anything in person unless I’ve identified a specific need. More intentional purchasing, and also a wallet saver!
  • Living with less has prompted a lot of productive conversations with my boyfriend around the type of space we want to have when we return back to a fixed location. Communication is key!
  • I have been rethinking some of the possessions that I have stored back at home. If I haven’t used it in this long, do I actually need it. Purging is therapeutic!
  • I have identified some shopping behaviors that I definitely feel like I would like to change. Know better, do better!
  • Learning to make-do versus always feeling like I need to buy things. Appreciate what you have, and problem solve!
  • Living with minimal kitchen gadgets makes me realize I don’t need EVERY kitchen gizmo that I see. Figure out what is needed to prepare meals. You don’t need it just because it seems cool.
  • I have a better sense of what items I love versus things I buy on a whim and then don’t actually ever use. Waste not, want not!
  • Starting with a blank slate in different homes each month makes me realize how much I love not having things cluttering up my space. Cluttered space, cluttered life!
  • I feel like when it comes to decor, sometimes less is more. When I return home, I will decide on a style and be mindful of purchasing excessive home items.
  • I realize now that cluttered space is uncomfortable and mentally draining. It is also the result of procrastination and unmade decisions. Make timely and relevant decisions in order to keep areas clutter-free.
  • I have not thought about any home decor purchases. I’d rather have blank walls than a slew of mismatched things I bought because they were cute.

SO WHAT’S MINIMALISM GOT TO DO WITH IT?

I had already started dabbling into the idea of minimalism. I love the concept and I want to figure out what that means to me and how to apply it to my life. Even before this journey, I felt like my personal possessions were weighing me down mentally, physically, and financially, and I do believe that “things” can totally impede happiness.

The concept of minimalism is too deep to get into in this blog post, but at high level, it’s the concept of living with less so that you can live a more fulfilling, free and intentional life. The concept can be applied to different people in different ways, but I have been intrigued by the idea. I feel like this journey could help me kickstart my minimalism efforts.

I am already overwhelmed thinking about all of the items that await me when I return. And I have already decided that I have no interest in returning to the clutter-filled life of excess that I had. I hope that returning from this journey allows me to make some quick and easy decisions about which items I’d like to keep from my storage unit and which items I’d like to let go of.

Minimalism is a personal journey that means something different for each person. My hope is that the experience of living with less and making do with what I do have helps to frame my thoughts around what is ultimately important in my life.

Have you heard of minimalism? Have you ever wondered about whether it was a good idea for you and your life? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Road Trip Mix – Mountain Vibes Edition

It’s road trip season, and that definitely means that road trip music is necessary.

My recent trip to Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, VA was wonderful. And for this trip, of course there was lots of music over the course of my two-week stay. From the car ride itself, to the mountain bar, to the live musicians that entertained us, music was a constant.

I hate to sound cliche but this mountain resort was sorta Dirty Dancing-ish. We stayed up on one of the mountain sides in a cozy condo, and we came down the mountain (cue the Dirty Dancing stair scene) to go to the lodge, the restaurants, and other activities out on the main lawn. Though Dirty Dancing represented a specific period in time, my music mix has a range of songs…from 80’s and 90’s…to a little older…to a little more recent.

These songs in my playlist were tunes that I heard throughout either the road trip portion or while I was on the mountain at the bar, or at one of the live music performances (hint: the vibe changes a little when we heard the reggae band). The songs stuck out to me when they came on. They were songs that I loved singing, songs that put me in a mood, and songs that made me reminisce. Some are fun, some are quite emo, some will have you running to your journal. But they are a mix of really good ballads, awesome hits, and just great songs to sing for whatever reason.

Somehow these songs made their mark on my mountain road trip so I compiled them as I went along so that I could put together this playlist for my (and your) future enjoyment. Click here for the full playlist on youtube, feel free to jump straight to an individual song below, or scroll down for the playlist embedded in this post.

What would you add to my mountain playlist? Have any faves from this list?

Let me know!