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.

Airbnb Journey: The Trendy Bungalow In NC

It was nearing the end of 2020.  The lease to my apartment was coming to an end, and I truly didn’t want to renew.  I had been house-hunting for a place to rent, and it seemed like rental inventory was at a standstill due to the pandemic.  Time was winding down, I was getting stressed out, and almost as a joke, I said to my boyfriend… “What if we just put our stuff in storage and Airbnb it for a while?”

We kinda laughed and it seemed like a far-fetched, ridiculous idea, until it wasn’t. 

I mean…why not…right??

We were teleworking for the indefinite future, and all we needed was a secure internet connection somewhere in the US.  The more we thought about it, the more we realized…if we can’t go to restaurants and socialize and be around people, if we aren’t going to the office and really have no place to be…why not be somewhere else?  We can be holed up in a house somewhere warmer, somewhere quieter, somewhere different! 

So that’s what we did!  When we packed up our apartment, crammed everything into a storage unit, and embarked on this Airbnb journey, which we have been on for almost 8 months now. 

When we began, we really didn’t know what to expect.  We knew we were super stressed after a really weird year.  We knew we’d be giving up something that was certain—an actual fixed address—for something that was uncertain.  We knew we’d be taking things a month at a time, looking for homes that fit our price range each month, and hoping that whatever place that we chose checked off all the boxes on our house wish list. 

And we knew that all we really wanted was peace.

We were in the midst of a pandemic which was super strange and scary, and we decided to give up our lease, which was so weird and terrifying.  We were going to be staying in places we weren’t too familiar with, after almost a year of being in lock-down mode, after dealing with a really heightened state of racial tensions and after a bizarre election cycle. We were venturing to another state with different COVID policies and possibly different feelings towards us for many reasons, primarily being racial and political. 

And to top it all off, after spending a year dealing with a horrible neighbor, we just craved calm. 

The first monthly home we selected on Airbnb was an adorable trendy farmhouse bungalow in Garner, NC.  Garner is a suburb located only a few short minutes from downtown Raleigh and it boasted of all shopping and dining conveniences. 

The home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it had been completely renovated and looked like something that would be featured on an HGTV show.  It also came with a basketball hoop and fire pit—more ways to decompress.  It was in a slightly warmer climate being four hours south.  It looked so peaceful and cute, and it seemed like the change of scenery that we needed.  It looked like the perfect place to hunker down and work for a month while we remained in lockdown. 

Did the home show as well as the pics…

When you book a place online, a certain excitement builds, right along with all types of expectations.  And you truly hope that the place lives up to the expectations that you have built up in your mind.  It’s one thing to book for a long weekend or a few days.  But we were going to be there for a month, and we had no place to go if this home sucked.  So we truly hoped that the home was exactly as the listing described.

When we pulled into the driveway and parked in the carport, we got kinda excited.  We walked into the home, and we were so pleasantly surprised!  You never know if pictures on the web prove to be accurate once you arrive at the property, but in this case, the home definitely lived up to the pictures. 

The open floor plan, the adorable touches, the perfect décor and furnishings…and the brand new modern bathrooms, the nice workspace, and the super clean bedrooms…it was just perfect.

There was an Aldi at the end of our street…we timed it and it was a 3-minute walk.  We loved it!

What did we do while we were in Raleigh…

Well…it was December/January 2020, the world was still in the middle of the pandemic.  There was no vaccine at this point.  Lots of things were closed.  Businesses truly suffered.  And our personal feeling was that we were not doing indoor dining at that time.  We were trying to just stick to grocery stores, Target occasionally, and a sporadic trip to Michaels or some store for crafts, puzzles, or other types of  entertainment.  So the few times we went out for entertainment, we walked around downtown Raleigh, we ventured to a couple of stores at the outlet mall, we found a whiskey bar that had firepits outside and went there a couple times. We socially distanced visited some relatives that lived in Durham, we visited a winery, we did an escape room, and we did lots of grub hub, curbside dining, cooking, and puzzles.  And we also took lots of walks around the neighborhood, especially to said Aldi at the end of the street. 

All in all, we truly loved this home.  It was exactly what we needed at the time that we needed it.  We did a lot of decompressing, we watched tv (ummm Bridgerton anyone!?), and we wrote.  I discovered my interest in making beaded jewelry, I wrote in my gratitude journal, and quite honestly, I stared out of the huge floor to ceiling windows quite a bit.  This was the most perfect home to kick off our journey! 

Here are a few other pics of our Garner bungalow:

Could you see yourself doing something like this? Would you try it? If so, where would you start?

Quick Micropost

That look when your to-do list is long af but you know you’re gonna be aight.

Y’all, I have so many things to do, but all I wanna do is drink iced coffee and watch indie movies. Being an adult is THE WORST! LOL. I mean…have y’all done your taxes?? Sigh…lol…

Please tell me I’m not alone! Anybody else be out here ignoring the real world like that actually works? Or just me? Lol.

I hate feeling like I should have everything together and just dont. I guess this is a different kind of imposter syndrome. Let me find my notebook and start writing my list. I have some work to do today so that I can enjoy my weekend. 

Happy Thursday, y’all! ✌
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