Travel tip # 43…Stay with strangers

When it comes to lodging, I like an adventure.

I’ve slumbered in a vibrating bunk above the engine room of a Mississippi River barge. I’ve pitched my tent in a farmer’s field and rang the doorbell of the friend of a friend of a friend, hoping to beg spur-of-the-moment accommodations. (it worked)

Last month I spent the night in an RV on the Gulf coast, behind the house of a couple I met earlier that day.

It’s a little unpredictable, and I suppose a person could find himself in some sort of pickle, but I’ve had nothing but memorable stories from these adventures, and sometimes even a good night’s sleep.

It’s daunting to leave home without a plan. People look at you funny. And honestly, it can leave a little bug in your brain that keeps gnawing at you asking, “Where you gonna stay tonight? Where you gonna stay?”

But there’s another voice that says, “Don’t worry…something will work out.” Usually that voice is right, and often, it’s wonderful.

In San Francisco a few years back, I needed a cheap place to stay. I had a 10-day job I was shooting on spec…meaning I would shoulder the cost and hope I could sell it later. (I did) If you’ve ever found cheap lodging in SF, let me know because I Googled the heck out of things and it didn’t exist. I was stumped until a friend suggested a hostel just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Even at the hostel, private rooms were over $100. Shared 4-person rooms were more like $50…but there was also the option of a 23-bed, coed bunkroom. As I visit the website now, it lists a price of $28, but I swear it was $10 / night at the time. The bed was comfortable, and my earplugs were like manna from heaven.

Traveling through Europe in our 20s, we moved on larks and whims. We slept in train stations and even once in a Berlin McDonald’s until the staff ushered us out into the street where we waited for the sun to rise.

I’m a little less willing to do that these days. In a pinch, I know I can always Priceline my way to a soft, comfy bed. It feels like cheating when that happens, so on this last trip I was happy to discover a new compromise.

It’s called airbnb.

After a quick social media poll, I felt certain that it wasn’t weird. I booked a total of 6 nights in 3 cities and prepared myself for the wonders of the unknown. Airbnb lets you buy lodging in people’s homes all around the world through a central website. It’s possible to book entire apartments or houses, but I opted for the cheaper version of private rooms. So I shared the kitchen and bath with the owners, but I wound up in interesting neighborhoods I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and I met good people. The owners made local suggestions for dining and were pretty good at reading whether I wanted to socialize or have my privacy.

I did hear one horror story about a guest who spent two weeks lounging on the couch in his underwear and the internet produced a story about a guest who wouldn’t leave. But for my first experience, I ran into good, normal folks who enjoyed meeting new people and earning a few extra bucks for date night.

The highlight? My place in Atlanta had chickens. I got to hang with BokBok, Peck and Nini. I can’t say I connected on a deep level with those chickens, but they made fresh eggs for breakfast. And you won’t find that at the Super 8.

4 thoughts

  1. I was pretty stoked to come across this post. I don’t know anyone who’s used Airbnb and am currently planning a trip to France with every intention of using it. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Haha! I admire your adventurous spirit & I think more people are starting to catch on to something you clearly knew many years ago, & this is why airbnb has exploded in popularity – hotels aren’t the only place to stay!

    Thanks for the great post!

    Cheers!

    -Cottage4Me, Ontario, Canada

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