My So Called Airbnb Life

The North Carolina Modern Farmhouse Bungalow

I feel like I should have made this post a couple months ago, but…better late than never, right?  You may have seen me mention Airbnb life in a few of my IG and blog posts, so here’s why.

“Let’s find some beautiful places and get lost together”

Towards the end of last year, as my apartment lease was coming to an end, I had a decision to make. I had to decide whether to renew my lease or find somewhere else to live.  I really didn’t care for the complex I was living in, and finding a new place to rent was proving to be harder than I imagined.  Because of COVID and its restrictions on landlords, rental home inventory in my area was pretty locked up.  I didn’t want to move into another apartment, (I was moving from a bad experience with a neighbor and just did not want to be connected to another person). I wasn’t quite prepared to buy another property (I already have a condo that I rent out and am not looking to buy anything else right now), and my rental options were extremely limited for the Southern Maryland region.  As time was winding down on my lease, the whole search was absolutely stressing me out.

In addition, we were around month 9 of this crazy pandemic, we were knee deep in an unreal election cycle, civil unrest was on an uptick, and I felt like I just needed an escape of some sort.  Travel was essentially restricted so a vacation wasn’t really an option, nor was it a long-term solution.

One day, almost as a joke, I said “I should just pack up my stuff and Airbnb it until I’m over it.”

It seemed like a ridiculous idea…until it wasn’t.  What does that even mean?? Airbnb it? What are you even talking about?? Airbnb isn’t even a verb!

After a few conversations with my boyfriend, and a lot of hypothetical what-ifs, we decided what the hell!  We were both teleworking for the indefinite future, all we needed was an internet connection, and that connection did not HAVE to be in Southern Maryland. 

I swear I did not think my stuff would fit!

We came up with a list of criteria for a rental home, we entered said set of criteria, and we searched until we were numb. We whittled down our list and tuned in on one home that piqued our interest. We had probably looked at that Airbnb listing a million times before we made our decision. We decided to go for it, and eventually we made our first monthly reservation. We didn’t really know what to expect.  Could we live in a rental home for an entire month?? What if we hated it on day 1 and were stuck?? We have no place else to go!

The pictures looked adorable but, in this day of filters and angles, anything can be made to look amazing. 

Once the reservation was made, it was time to execute our plan. For the last couple months of 2020, we debated logistics, we purged, stored, and packed all our possessions.  We finished out our lease, and by January 1st, we were in our first Airbnb—an adorable modern bungalow right outside of Raleigh, NC.

North Carolina Rest Stop on the way to our first Airbnb

When move day arrived, we pulled into the driveway well after dark.  We were exhausted from cleaning out the apartment, packing up the car, visiting relatives dropping off random this and thats, doing our last-minute Maryland items, and then driving the four hours to North Carolina.  We fumbled through the self-check-in, we unpacked the car, (dropping a bottle of red wine all over the driveway…sigh…), showered and went to bed.  We barely found our pj’s and toothbrushes before we called it a night.  But the next morning when we woke up, explored our new (temporary) home, and realized how much we loved the idea of what we’d done.

The home was exactly as the pictures portrayed.  YAY!  The décor was adorable, the modern furnishings were so chic, and the personal touches from the host were perfect.  It was peaceful. The scenery was so calming. We felt relaxed and it was wonderful.

Anyone who has taken a staycation can probably relate.  It doesn’t matter if you go down the street or to another country, there is just something therapeutic about being out of your home, your day-to-day routine, your normal space, and in a new environment.  And after nine months of quarantine, and a year of an unpleasant neighbor, new scenery was so refreshing.  Even if all we did was sit inside this home and work, cook, eat, and do normal every day things, we felt like a new peaceful space, and slightly warmer weather, would be just what the doctor ordered.

While it feels super weird to have no fixed address, and to not know where I will be living two months from now, somehow my nerves are less frazzled than they were living next to a neighbor that drove me insane, while constantly watching news that regurgitated the COVID/election/racial injustice cycle.

I’m not entirely sure how long I’ll be an Airbnb vagabond, but I’d love to take you all on this little journey with me.  I can’t promise it will be super exciting, but I will share some homes, experiences, and lessons that I learn along the way. I’m three months and three homes into this experience, and it’s been a pretty interesting lifestyle thus far. 

Have you ever thought of doing anything like this? If so, what would be your approach? What would you want to do? Where would you want to go?

Have questions, hit me up!

Simple Amenities That Airbnb Guests Appreciate

[DISCLAIMER: Some links in this post contain affiliate links. This means I get a commission if you purchase the product through my link at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

When I embarked on the Airbnb life, there were so many things to consider.  Trying to plan for multiple what-if scenarios and the wide array of weather possibilities, it is super easy to fill up suitcases before you even blink an eye. 

But I only had one car, and I had no option but to fit everything I’d need into that one car.  From clothing to medications, to electronics to home conveniences, the car filled up super quick!  At some point I had to put my foot down.  I had to realize that I may just have to do without some items, or I may have to buy them as I go.  Or if I’m lucky, my host may actually have some of the things I’ve left behind.

I realize that a lot goes into making an Airbnb home aesthetically pleasing, and having numerous odds and ends may detract from a host’s efforts to keep things simple and clutter-free.  I completely get that. 

But if there are ways to add a few of these items to your space without sacrificing your look, please give it some thought.  You may not realize how handy these items are to Airbnb guests, especially the long-term ones, but I promise you, the perfect small gesture makes such a big difference.

I also realize you don’t want to break the bank with random knick-knacks and unnecessary items. The good news is that some of these items can be picked up on trip to your local dollar store or Walmart. Or even easier, some can be purchased with a quick click on Amazon, and then tucked away in your home pretty easily.

Here’s my list of simple amenities that add value to my stay as a long-term Airbnb guest, and I’ll link to a few things as well:

KITCHEN

  • Oven mitts: Cute and clean, not dingy and old.
  • Dish towels: I’m all about reusing and reducing, so going through paper towel after paper towel is annoying to me.
  • Toaster: Basic is good, no need to get fancy. Just something that I can toast a bagel or waffle in.
  • Chip clips: This is such an overlooked necessity. I like sealing everything that I open.
  • Olive oil: I’ve been carrying my own but it’s nice if there’s some in the house in case I run out.
  • Paper towel holder: It’s perfectly fine to set the towels on the counter, but a holder is great to have.
  • Dish soap dispenser: Makes washing dishes so much more convenient.
  • Dish drying rack: Some people prefer to wash dishes in between dishwasher loads, so a rack helps.
  • Full set of silverware: Two sets are even better. It takes a while to fill up a dishwasher load, so going through four spoons happens pretty quickly.
  • Cooking utensils: Nothing fancy, just a spatula, large spoon, and wooden spoon. Long term visitors will likely cook a meal or two.
  • Pots and pans: Clean and usable (ie., non-crusty). I am begging you, please do not just leave your crustiest dishware that you know is well past its lifespan for your guests to use. Opt for an inexpensive set of a couple of pots and pans. I’d rather it be cheap than crusty.
  • Cookie sheets: These have been the unsung hero of my airbnb stays. You don’t realize how many things get reheated in the oven until you don’t have a cookie sheet.
  • Cutting boards: Otherwise people may opt to cut directly onto your counter…and you may not want that. Cutting boards will help. And if it’s a set that has a different board for meat, veggie, etc…even better!
  • Mat for the kitchen: Drips happen. It’s nice to have a floor mat by the sink.
  • Tea kettle: I boil water every day for some reason or another. Though pots do the trick, I love not having to watch the pot while I wait for my water to boil…the whistle gets my attention just perfectly.
  • Counter spray: I love Method which is good for pets and children, but whatever works best for you is perfect.

BATHROOM

  • Qtips and cotton balls: Always a good bathroom staple
  • Sewing kit: When I purchased pants and they had a hole in them, I was so happy to see a needle and thread in my host’s bathroom.
  • Hand lotion: Hotel samples or a small bottle next to each sink is wonderful!
  • Hair dryer: This is a pain to lug around, so it’s so convenient if there is one in the home
  • Disinfectant wipes/cleaning spray: It’s nice to have a few handy for guests.

BEDROOM/LIVING ROOM

  • Full length mirror: I like knowing how I look from head to toe. What if my shoes look stupid?? I need to know! This is definitely something you could get inexpensively from your local Walmart or Target.
  • Extension cords: Everything in our lives requires a plug, and wall sockets just aren’t enough.
  • Chargers/wall adapters: A little help with the effort of staying powered up is so appreciated.
  • Hangers: A walk-in closet means nothing without hangers and they are so bulky for travelers.
  • Lamps: There’s something nice about soft lighting. Sometmes overhead lights can be a bit harsh and it’s nice to have options.
  • Tissues/Kleenex: Just toss a box on the nightstand, perfect!
  • Ironing board: A small dorm sized one is fine.
  • Hamper/laundry basket: As a long-term guest, having a place to put dirty laundry is really nice to have.
  • Extra blankets/comforters: For the couch or to layer up onto the bed, definitely a thoughtful touch.
  • Rug: If you have hardwood, a landing pad for your feet is really nice when you hop out of bed.

BONUS ITEMS (Not necessary, but definitely nice to have)

  • A second tv: Definitely not a must, but certainly nice when multiple people are staying long-term.
  • Dressers: Long-term guests will want to unpack. Having designated spaces for clothes is really helpful.
  • Nightstands: You don’t appreciate them until you don’t have them, that’s for sure. A bedside space for your gadgets and medications is helpful.
  • Desk: Because I’m full-time teleworking on the road, it’s so nice to have a designated space for those times that I want to sit at a desk, particularly when I am on web meetings and such.
  • Blender: It is totally not necessary to have a vitamix or some kind of super expensive appliance, a blender of any sort would be nice to have on standby for long term guests. Not every guest will use it, but for the ones that will, they will appreciate that it’s there.

I do not expect every house to have EVERY item. I realize that a lot of these may not even be feasible due to space constraints. And trust me, your guests realize that as well. I also know that running an airbnb can be costly, exhausting, and sometimes less-important things have to go by the wayside. I know that every experience is unique in its own way, and whether you have a sewing kit or not will not sway a guest’s opinion one way or another. Please use these lists however you see fit.

Supporting Small Businesses – A Real World Example

This pandemic has led me to an interesting point in my life. Because of my indefinite telework schedule and the end of my apartment lease, I found myself at a decision point–where should I live?

I looked at apartments and rental homes, and found that nothing was really blowing my skirt up. So in a blog post I haven’t yet written, I will tell you all about how I put my stuff in storage, took up a hobo lifestyle (by choice), and decided to airbnb it for a while. In a future post, I’ll write about all of the how’s and why’s that went into my decision, and what I’ve learned from this experience thus far.

For now, this post is about supporting small (and minority-owned) businesses and a real world example of how this played out for me recently.

Without going into the mundane minutia behind deciding on my temporary rental location, let’s just say I found an airbnb to rent for a month. On move-in day, I had to check out of one home in North Carolina and drive to this next home in Virginia. That morning, I received a text from the host asking when I planned to arrive, and I told them I’d be there at 4pm, which was the posted check-in time for the home. Because I had to vacate the airbnb I had been staying in for the previous month by 10am, I would actually arrive in the area of my new home around 2pm and I planned to pass the time by grabbing some lunch.

As 4pm came, I received a text from the host saying they hated doing this, but they needed another 30 minutes. Something came up at the property, and it wouldn’t be ready on time. I was tired from the drive and a little disappointed, and had already blown some time…but…what’s another half hour? I decided to use the additional time to stock up on a few things at the grocery store.

At 4:30pm, I pull up to the home. The owner came out and apologized and said he needed another few minutes to finish up his last-minute cleaning. I told him I understood, and just waited in the car. This is the point where a lot of people would whip our their notepad and start jotting down bullets for their scathing review. And I suppose they would be well within their rights to do so.

Once I’m finally allowed in, the place was ok at best. He definitely could have used a little more time to do some final fixes and dusting. There was a light fixture that still needed a cover, there was a spot on the floor that could use some swiffering, and a few other odds and ends that weren’t refined. He felt so bad and said he wanted to have a welcome packet for me but it just wasn’t ready. I also felt a little misled by the area and the outward appearance of the home. But…I realized at this point, I had a decision to make. I could be irritated and angered by the hosts and by my disappointment, I could chalk this up to a learning experience, or I could grant the kindness and graciousness I’d want extended to me if I was a small business owner trying to work out the unexpected kinks in the airbnb industry. I decided irritation and anger served no purpose, and opted to use this as an opportunity to learn as well as a chance to let the owners find their way and figure out their processes in a new business.

But this is the point where supporting small and minority-owned businesses comes into play. A meme I had recently seen flashed into my mind at this very moment.

The meme says something like…”if McDonalds messes up your order, you will still buy from McDonald’s. If a small business messes up your order, or if there are delays beyond their control, you take to social media, trash the business and vow to never give them another dime of your money.”

How true is that statement?? Why are we so forgiving of businesses that have the means to get by with or without our support, but we trash those that are making errors as they launch? Or those that can’t control unprecedented backups at the post office? Or those that just simply missed the mark unknowingly?

Cancel culture ruins small businesses that are just trying to figure things out. Behind small businesses are moms and dads working full-time jobs trying to figure out that second income stream. Small businesses are made up of people that scraped together funds to put out a product that may just need a little customer input to make great. How do you claim to support small businesses in one moment and then cancel them at the smallest mistake or inconvenience in next? Support is support. Support is understanding. Support is encouragement. Support is NOT trashing a business because the shirt isn’t sized how you expected or because the icing on your cupcakes wasn’t the exact shade of pink that you wanted.

But I digress. Here’s what happened, what I learned, and my mindset going forward.

1. Was the airbnb what I expected? Actually yes. The problem is that, I did some delayed research, and lowered what I expected from the property after I had already booked it. Going forward, I will determine my “must-haves” and only book properties that meet those criteria.

2. Were the pictures accurate? Yes. The problem was that I booked it without seeing pics of the outside. That was my bad. Going forward, I will only book homes that have pictures of the inside and outside of the property.

3. Was it a smooth check-in? Not exactly. However I could blame my uncharacteristic promptness. For the previous airbnb, I checked in two days late. More about that another time. For this one, I arrived almost two hours early. If this weren’t covid times, I would have easily amused myself by shopping or perusing the area but the pandemic compounded by the local traffic that was flaring up just didn’t entice me to want to do anything but sit still in the car. Going forward, I will lay out my timing with the owners a day or two prior to arrival, and manage my expectations should I arrive earlier.

Part of why I chose to do this hobo thing is because I felt like I wanted peace, I wanted joy, and I wanted to have some unique experiences. I did not do this because I wanted to be mean, crotchetty, and annoyed at every inconvenience. This lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to precision and specificity. If I’m not willing to go with the flow and laugh and be kind, then I’m just going to find myself irritated and mad and stressed.

I have to realize people are trying their best and if I was an owner trying to do something for the first time, I’d love someone to give me the benefit of the doubt. To support me instead of write me off. To tell me what I could do better next time instead of telling me all the things they hated. I would want someone to support me by giving grace and understanding and kindness and encouragement. And that’s the way I plan to support small and minority-owned businesses.

How do you support local, small, minority-owned businesses? Do you have a story to share? I’d love to hear it!