Firstly, I have to say that this is not an ad for airbnb although I am an enormous fan of this relatively recent phenomenon in travel.
airbnb is an online platform that allows people to rent out their homes or rooms to visitors from other parts of their country or the world. For those planning travel, it is an opportunity to live like the ‘locals’ by renting a local person’s apartment, home or room.
I am a curious traveller who likes to experience a taste the “the local life”. Even before discovering airbnb, I mostly avoided hotels on my travels except where necessary as I find them sterile, manufactured experiences where your only private space is a 25m square box.
We have had the most wonderful experiences with airbnb: generous hosts, gorgeous places and brilliant tips on what to see and where to eat. I can’t even imagine how we would have done this trip prior to airbnb. I guess we would have done far fewer trips. We had amazing airbnb experiences in Paris, Tallinn (Estonia), Montana-Crans (Switzerland),Ronda, Almeria, Cadiz, Seville (Spain), Marrakech (Morocco), Lucca and Rome (Italy), Jerusalem (Israel), Tarifa (Spain), Lisbon (Portugal) and Amsterdam (Netherlands). The hosts vary depending on whether they usually live in the apartment or run it as a business. So far some of our generous hosts have provided food, ski equipment, ski clothes, advice on the best places to visit or eat and more…The links above are to all the places we have stayed or will stay!
I have become so enamoured of this online service that I fear I may be developing voyeuristic tendencies. Browsing airbnb from my couch in Sydney, I have peered into the homes of hundreds of ‘locals’ all over the world and in the process I have observed some interesting differences from country to country:
The Finns, for example, appear to prioritise kitchens above all other rooms in the home. Most of the places I looked at in Helsinki were tiny yet had large, stylish, modern kitchens dominating the home. Finns also seem to take great pride in the style and decoration of their homes, mostly preferring the clean white Scandinavian look. I asked my husband who previously lived in Finland, why kitchens are such a big deal. He said that, as it is very expensive to eat out in restaurants, people entertain a lot at home.
Parisians, from my airbnb perusals, do not seem to worry too much about bathrooms and kitchens which are often just little holes in the wall, however lounge areas are usually well laid out and cozy. French interior design is more on the shabby chic side of things compared to the clean lines of Finland.
The Spanish (please remember these are generalisations, not quantitative research) appear to have a particular home decor style of dark timber with white lace tablecloths and curtains. Their coffee tables in front of lounges are often the height of a dining table, which leads me to wonder if Spaniards have a lot of TV dinners on the couch?
Unless I have conversed with people who live in the town or city I am visiting, I feel as though I have not visited the place. I want to know how people live, how they spend their time and what they think etc… I want to participate in the life of a particular destination.
My husband on the other hand, an introvert by nature, loves to observe from the periphery. On one of our first trips together to Mexico, we experienced this stark difference in our travelling styles. My husband is a native Spanish speaker and I relied on him to translate or converse with people for me. I desperately wanted to talk to people and ask them questions but I was dependent on my husband who was less interested in initiating conversations.
Now with the help of Airbnb, I already have my foot in the door towards experiencing a snapshot of local life by living in a local’s place and having them provide information about their favourite activities and places to go. Thank you airbnb!!