We started hosting travelers through AirBNB about 16 months ago. As an intensely interior person I was somewhat reluctant at the outset, but my amazing wife pushed my objections aside and signed us up.
I just spent the morning washing and changing linens, re-setting the bedroom and bathroom on our second floor for a guest arriving this afternoon from Vietnam. It doesn’t take long, and I’m a teacher off for the summer, so it’s no big deal. Our current guests are from a rural part of Illinois…they pulled up yesterday afternoon. Their daughter is a violinist, visiting Johns Hopkins and the Peabody Institute to audition for next year. Last night the father and daughter did a tiny performance on the front stoop, guitar and violin pieces, French Cafe jazz kind of stuff, a few classical bits. Our neighbor Everette requested the show and was enthralled. I like talking to guests about Baltimore history, about its current positive changes, and about the challenges we still face here. I like recommending food and sites. I’ve not been traveling myself as much as I’d like, so living vicariously through our visitors has been a totally pleasant experience. Little impromptu concerts, deep, wide-ranging conversations, and exquisite dinners are not uncommon when you host via AirBNB.
People find our house very cozy, and I like reading their recommendations on AirBNB and the comments they leave in our Guest Book. When I did the re-decorating on our first floor I was challenged to incorporate a bunch of mismatched shit from a variety of antique shops and estate auctions and modern shops like SCAN. What I came up with is a sort of late-Victorian Bohemian scheme with books and nick-knacks and wall colors from the late-18th century–which is the era our row home was built. I tried to incorporate objects and photos from our travels, and pieces by artists who are local and also who are friends. I often feel like the decor is a bit schizoid but we always get very positive, warm comments recommending our house as a great place to stay in Baltimore. Our link has been on the Baltimore home page at AirBNB lately!
We had a social worker from California stay for three nights last weekend, and because he was so busy I didn’t even meet him until Sunday morning when he checked out. He was effusive that our home was a “sanctuary” that made his very busy stay quite pleasant. He was visiting homes of foster kids from L.A. placed with relatives here, and though he was rushed and stressed he wanted to ask about several art pieces before he left.
Before him we had a Belgian actress stay for four days. She borrowed my wife’s bike all week, and I loved watching her in her short French dress, sandals, and long ginger hair pedaling merrily off through the mean streets of Reservoir Hill on her various social errands. She would return in the evenings and tell me about encounters with people all over the City, guys hitting on her, kids yelling “lookit the crazy white lady!” I also had an opportunity to speak French, which happens regularly–often we have guests from France or Quebec–and the guest from Vietnam tonight will likely give me more chances to practice.
I’ve read the various horror stories of AirBNB hosts who’ve had gigantic sex orgies staged in their homes, or guests who wouldn’t leave, or thefts of objects…I’m sure we’ll run into an asshole or a thief at some point. But so far we’ve had a totally positive experience, and have met and become friends with people from all over the USA and the world. If you have a spare room give it a shot! If you live in a place you’re enthusiastic about, be an ambassador and welcome people there. Give them the inside info, share your enthusiasms, and forge new bonds. Plus, the extra cash is really sweet!