Aurora’s favourite spare rooms …
Airbnb has revolutionized travel for me. I can stay in places I’ve only dreamt of staying, stay longer at half the price, and really live as close to living like a local as is possible. I’ve stayed in penthouse apartments, Eco tiny purpose built houses, and gorgeous apartments on the best street in residential neighbourhoods around the world.
Airbnb is more than just somewhere to stay. You are met and greeted by the owner and welcomed to their home. They share their love and knowledge for the area as well as their home. You have a contact in that town or city to help you if you need it, and a key to an apartment or house of your own (unless you’re sharing), which is just a delight at the end of the day. I feel just so privileged to move around a city or town with a key to my new home in my pocket. Hotels just can’t compete with this feeling of a home away from home. To be able to curl up in the rain on a comfy couch with a cup of tea or glass of wine is such a luxury when travelling, rather than perching on the edge of your hotel or pensione bed. I have found that starting my day with a simple breakfast at ‘home’, not only reduces my costs but allows me to adjust to the rhythms of the place I have found myself in.
The cornerstone of Airbnb is how safe it feels compared to other schemes like independent apartment websites. The review system also feels more accurate and trustworthy than travel review sites such as Tripadvisor. The key seems to be that you review your hosts and they review you. I’ve found that building both trust and rapport is paramount for a great stay. All of the properties I have booked came with excellent and accurate reviews. This is really important, particularly if you are a sole WonderWoman traveller at times. I have to admit that I wouldn’t stay anywhere that wasn’t reviewed yet, but the places I’m attracted to are generally beautiful and very popular. I now no longer feel that I need the security of a hotel to come back to, and in most of my stays I felt like my host ‘had my back’ in a way that a hotel generally doesn’t. The one to one relationship I have felt with my hosts cannot be compared with most of my experiences with hotels. Though small hotels do often get this bit right and I certainly have my favourite little hotels – staff at the Diamant and Kirketon Hotels in Sydney gave me cards and hugs and wine when my parents passed away, and Mo Rooms in Chiang Mai, Thailand threw me a birthday party! But, this has certainly been the exception and let’s not mince words here. It is considerably cheaper than equivalent hotels.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience a range of different properties all over the world with Airbnb and I want to share with you my most memorable:
The incredible location of my apartment in Verona
For service, my favourite by far was Comecasatua in Verona, Italy. My delightful host there, Ilaria, was the most generous and professional host I’ve ever experienced. Her apartment was immaculate and stylish, and fantastically located just metres from the Arena, Castelvecchio, Piazza Bra and the river Adige. I felt like I knew someone in Verona. She passed on her favourite walks, bars and restaurants and showed such a passion for her city. She helped me with little things like quirky regional train timetables and finding the right medicine in a foreign country. These things make such a difference to your travel experience. I guess that concierges in good hotels can do this too, but I haven’t experienced such kindness and help before and it really made my stay. I stayed there twice, eight nights in total, and her kindness and extra care really made ‘my’ apartment feel like home in no time.
The incredible location of my apartment in Verona
My favourite example of value for money and location is the 33rd floor sub penthouse we rented with friends in Coal Harbour, Vancouver. The best hotels are also in this jaw-dropping area perched over the water with the city, park and mountains in full view. A hotel room with exactly the same view and considerably less space and wrap around windows would cost two to three times the rate we paid, and offering way less comfort after a night or two. Airbnbs are great for a week. Hotels just are not. The glamour fades in a few days and really you would just like some home comforts like a lounge room and kitchen and a piece of hot toast! We entertained our Canadian friends in the enormous living area and none of them had ever seen such a view of their city.
Our most comfortable and laidback stay was again with friends in the Pocket House in Portland, Oregon. This place is lovingly built to eco standards and wears its heart generously on its sleeve. They even include a discount for teachers and non-profit workers. The hosts George and Nina were gorgeous, interesting and community minded. The highlight of our stay was kicking back with them on our deck in the afternoons shooting the breeze. Their neighbourhood really was a neighbourhood, and we found ourselves quickly immersed in its quirky flavour. For me it felt immediately like my old home in Newtown, Sydney. Funky and cute with a heart and a conscience.
View from window in Amsterdam apartment
The last Airbnb I stayed in just weeks ago was in Amsterdam. It is still in my dreams. This apartment was so good you just can’t believe that the hosts rent it out. It has a perfect location and is just oozing with style. My friend and I were pinching ourselves all weekend as we took in every detail. Fabulous views from every window including a quirky and gorgeous huge garden, beautiful furniture and original art on one of the best little streets in Amsterdam (one of the Nines). When it rained we were delighted with the opportunity to stay in and devour their art books and magazines.
And if you live in Australia these two Airbnbs are a little closer to home.
Our very first Airbnb experience was a very positive one. We stayed quite locally in Sydney at a beautiful, airy, architect designed house. We were gob smacked that our hosts were generous enough to share their unique and stylish space. It really got us thinking that this was the way we wanted to travel from now on. The local knowledge and generosity really made our stay, and they sure epitomized new ideas around collectivism and ‘collaborative consumption’ and trust by so openly and warmly sharing their home and work space with strangers. We realised that this was something so aligned with our own values that it was time to switch our own travel spending.
We are about to stay in a fabulous looking property in Melbourne that we have been trying to get into for years. It’s in our favourite Smith Street, Collingwood neighbourhood where there are just no local hotels and the decor is quirky and beautiful. It’s clear already that our host loves the same things we do by their extensive list of local favourite places (and our shared love of Leonard Cohen). And no doubt this is what Airbnb is also about – meeting like-minded people all over the world and supporting their businesses.
So I’m clearly not alone in my experience thus far with Airbnb. It really is revolutionising travel. It started in 2008, but it is growing fast. Really fast. As noted in a recent Guardian article, “all over the world, travellers are abandoning over-priced and unappealing hotels in favour of … more homely accommodation”.
I still love a quirky boutique hotel room and still have my favourites around the world, but I have never stayed in big chain hotels and never will. Beige is simply not me and thankfully it isn’t Airbnb.
*** And a word of disclosure here. We are so impressed that we are about to list our own property. We feel we’ve found a good fit for our intention. We built it because we couldn’t find anywhere nice to stay. But now we can.
*** Just a quick update. I’ve just got back from Little George Street in Fitzroy, Melbourne. It’s even better than I imagined. It’s filled with beautiful vintage finds in an amazing setting and location, and Ramona is an amazing host. She has thought of everything, and we had our perfect day there. Armed with tram tickets and vintage blankets (that she kindly supplied), we set off to Chin Chin in the city for brunch and then off to a winery to see Leonard Cohen, ending the night with a cup of tea in her amazing dining room under the watchful gaze of her giant Antony painting. I’ve travelled far and wide this year but this is definitely my highlight. She has two spare rooms, both are great, book it now but leave some room for me!
Aurora Kerr – On the Road
Aurora is a traveller first, then feminist, writer, therapist, holiday retreat owner (www.mettaatmyola.com.au) nature lover, recycled design lover and adventurer, who lives in Jervis Bay on the beautiful south coast of Australia. She has a suitcase, always packed, at the front door ( also helpful for bushfires!)
Life Balance = Travel. Nature. Nurture.