Living With Strangers Briefly

At the beginning of this month, I’ve celebrated an anniversary of sorts.  My first full year of being an Airbnb host.  I began because I needed extra income to supplement my full-time job.  It was either find a way to make money or get a second job and frankly, after teaching all day, I just don’t have the energy to work a part-time job.

Airbnb is not new to me.  Whenever I travel, I stay in Airbnbs.  As a solo traveler, I absolutely love staying in people’s homes and visiting with them.  I have stayed with people who invited me in, shown me my room, and basically left me alone.  That’s perfectly fine and sometimes that fits the situation.

The hosts I have enjoyed the most, are the ones that treat me like a friend, rather than a paid guest.   These hosts have invited me to watch movies, visited over a cup of coffee, given me a plant, took me for a ride, invited me to church, attended a concert with me, and once, I even got a tour of Enchanted Rock.  I travel, sight see, and then have a personal moment with these sweet hosts.  Small moments that add to my memories.

With a home of two extra bedrooms, I decided to try my hand at hosting.  I started with one room.  I had a bedroom suit, but decorations were lacking.  I bought new sheets, towels, wash cloths, a trashcan, new pillows, pillowcases, and pillow protectors.

I had a beach theme going with pictures of a lounge chair and beach umbrella.  While at a garage sale, I found a large picture of a ship for $4.   I printed off pictures of my trip to Maine.  My “Nautical Room” came to life.  It’s taken a while, but hitting up garage sales and Hobby Lobby for ‘sea’ related items, my room, I think, is beautiful.

 

 

Luckily for me, my first guest was a young women relocating to Longview for her job.  Heather was the perfect first time guest.  We bonded over our love for talking and Lucille Ball.  Three days later, when she checked out, I knew I would love hosting.  I’ve hosted about thirty-nine bookings in that room over the year.

I decided to open my second room about five months later.  Since I didn’t have furniture for that room, I had to start from scratch.

I found a rusty, full-size, iron bedstead in Jefferson for fifty dollars.  With the help of my friend, Darlene, I got it home.  After sanding, painting, and a little steel grinding of the rails, up it went.  A new mattress and box springs, bought from Sam’s Club, picked up with the help of Robbi and Ben, and I finally had a complete bed.

I decided the theme for this room would be inspired from my travels to Vermont and Colorado.  The “Woodland Room” is booked more often than the other room.  I’m not sure if it’s the colors or all the things on the wall that beckons people more.  Someone told me that it gives people a lot to look at while staying.

Except for the new sheets, pillows, trashcan, and coverlet, almost all the other items in the room came from garage sales.  I decoupaged and painted, some I left old and rusty to show their vintage beauty.  I used a chair from my living room and dresser from the other bedroom suit to complete the furniture.

 

 

I’ve had friends ask me why people come to our town.  We are not in the mecca of things to do.  Yes, occasionally we have events, but we are not a tourist town.  Our town is filled with hotels, so there has to be a reason people come.  Here are some of the reasons why people come to stay here.

  • job relocation
  • weddings
  • work in our area briefly
  • passing through on the way somewhere else.  (Usually east to west)
  • sight-seeing America
  • buying a car
  • parents of a college student
  • reunions
  • interviews
  • balloon race

Most have been warm and friendly.  A few wacky personalities have stood out.  I’ve never felt unsafe.

Screenshot_2018-02-19-23-43-08-1-1-1
A couple from the Netherlands, who came to America to sight see and buy an old truck.

If I want some time on my own, I simply block a few days off the calendar, so booking can’t happen.  I do that about once every two weeks, so I can simply have ‘me’ time.  I will admit that I enjoy my time without people also.

Interestingly enough, I’ve hosted people from many different states and other countries.

  • Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, California, Louisiana, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Illinois, Mississippi, Georgia, New Hampshire, Maryland, Maine, Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Mexico
  • China, Pakistan, Netherlands, Nigeria

I love it when people leave sweet notes about staying.  A few guests have given me small gifts upon arriving or leaving when they’ve spent a few days.

There are aspects to hosting that I don’t enjoy.  Top of my ‘List of Yuck’ is cleaning other people’s hair out of the tub and seeing  it on the bathroom floor.  Second, is all the laundry that has to be done.  It seems that I constantly have washing and drying to do.  Third, I have to keep the house extremely clean.

Overall, there are more positives to hosting than the negatives.

Some guests have surprised me with their kindness to my pets.  Once I came in to find a male guest sitting in the kitchen floor, scratching my dog’s belly.  Another frequent guest brought a bag of organic treats for Zoey.  Most of my guests have loved on my pets.  They usually remark on the size of Pippin, my cat.  A twenty-two pound cat is noticeable.  Zoey, my dog, shows everyone where the treats are as soon as they notice her.  She’ll bark and run back and forth to the place in the kitchen where a jar of treats await.

 

 

 

The most positive aspect, besides the financial help, has been that my home is filled with sound.  Living alone the silence can sometimes be overwhelming in its nothingness.  Hosting has allowed me to remember what is like living with other people.  The sound of the toilet flushing in the night, water running in the shower, murmuring of a voice talking on the phone, and a light shinning under a door.  These are life sounds.

A few sweet treasures have stood out.  On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I had a girl, Maaike, from the Netherlands stay.  We chatted in the kitchen while I made pies.  Sharing stories of Christmas traditions and family.  Afterwards, we watched a movie on Hallmark channel.  Her staying was a blessing.

Another was a young man from Pakistan who insisted I eat with him everytime.  He made me spicy noodles twice.  He wasn’t as keen on my food when I shared it with him.

Then there’s Samuel from Nigeria, who never met food he didn’t like.  One of the funniest thing he said was, “I finished your pizza from the refrigerator.”  I replied, “Okay, but it was broccoli quiche.”  In his hand was a container of Blue Bell ice cream…”I’m just going to finish the rest of this off for you.”

I’ve met several ladies that I have enjoyed making friendships with.  Marsha, who felt like an instant friend.  I keep up with her through her blog.  Bobbie invited me to New Hampshire to visit in the fall.  Linda shared my love of Downton Abby.  Pat sent me pictures of New Mexico.  Cindy simply bubbles with joy during her conversations.

I’ve chatted over coffee on a weekend morning, shared muffins and cinnamon rolls and laughed.  I’ve tip-toed passed doors trying not to wake a sleeping person.  I’ve said ‘goodbye’ as I’ve gone off to work.  I’ve given advice about where to eat or go.  I’ve spent the evening watching t.v. with someone and made comments through it.  I’ve shared my story of my family.  Occasionally, I’ll go out with for dinner with a solo traveler.  This is what sharing a home feels like.  It reminds me what if feels like to live with people…even if it’s only briefly….and even if they are strangers when they arrive.  Sometimes, it feels like they are friends when they leave.

Try an Airbnb.

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