Becoming an Airbnb
published originally in Green Living Journal, Summer, 2019
Last Spring we stayed with Ron and Elke at their White Rose Inn in Thousand Oaks, California. They let us pick tangerines and lemons from their citrus orchard and gave us insider tips on our visit the next day to the Reagan library.
In Yucca Valley, just outside the Joshua Tree National Park, we stayed with Virginia, a lady who is a great blend of sophistication and frontier independence. At night we bubbled in an outdoor hot tub beneath the twinkling desert skyscraper.
From there we drove through the wildflower super bloom and past the churning wind generators outside Palm Springs to tiny Idyllwild, an artsy mountain town that was spared, but just barely, in last year’s wildfires. There, we stayed in the Gilton Family Back House where we were hosted by Lindsay, who had just given birth to her son Linus just 10 days earlier. (Linus’s older sister is named Lucy, get it?)
From the scorched, but still lovely Idyllwild, it was over to the coast for four days at Susan’s “Light & Airy Private Master Suite” in chi-chi Solana Beach where we experienced the decadent comfort of the too-good-to-be-true lifestyle and weather (at least from a Vermonter’s perspective) of Southern California.
In each of these instances our hosts were members of Airbnb, a company that connects travelers with hosts willing to share living space. Each of our experiences was different, but had in common that each connected us immediately, albeit temporarily, with a unique place and community. This is the polar opposite of the travel experience spawned in the 1950s where one stayed at the orange-roofed or big, green” H” chain hotel out by the Interstate. Their goal, then and now, is to provide the traveler with convenience and reliability, not experience and connection.
When Green Living Journal was founded in 1990 to popularize the ideas and practices of sustainability for friends of the environment, a business concept such as Airbnb was inconceivable and not even technologically possible. The company was founded in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, by two graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design who thought to take advantage of San Francisco’s chronic shortage of hotel rooms by renting air mattresses in their apartment.
When they decided to make their brilliant idea into a business, the most common response they heard was “Are you crazy? People won’t invite strangers into their homes to stay overnight!” Today, the company is now valued at … gulp! … $25 billion. More than 60 million people annually are staying at Airbnbs. It is a billion-dollar, global company that is, depending on the standard of measurement, the largest hospitality business on the planet.
As we departed Solana Beach, my wife said “I’d like to do an Airbnb at our house, but we’d have to move your office to give it a private entrance.” I responded, “Let’s do it!”
Two months later we hosted our first guests, a couple from Burgundy, France by way of Montreal. The world headquarters of Green Living Journal has moved some 100 feet eastward and now gets the morning, rather than the setting, sunlight. But, more than the slight relocation of the home office, more than ever we are living the ideas and practices of green living. Here are a few reasons why:
- More efficient use of space. No significant bricks and mortar were required to create this space. Instead it was simply re-organized and re-purposed.
- Works better for family. Not only does it accommodate visitors, but it works better for family visits, as well. One of our first visits was from two-month old Hunter Sooji Morris, my brand new granddaughter who is a joy in every way, but who does not yet sleep through the night. Having a private space worked out quite nicely for new Mom and new Dad.
- Administration is entirely electronic. No smokestacks spewing pollutants. No container ships crossing the Pacific to bring gewgaws from China. The company handles administration with the state of Vermont, too, insuring that rooms and meals tax is collected, but relieving us of the burdensome task of dealing with another layer of bureaucracy.
- Benefits local economy. Our guests eat at local restaurants, buy from local farm stands, and go to local attractions. The highlight for our French visitors was going to the unpaved drive-in movie theater just around the corner. We take it for granted, but they had never experienced anything like it.
- Creates community and socialization. Not only have we enjoyed meeting folks from around the country and around the globe, but we’ve gotten to know some of our other local hosts. We can share experiences freely. We’re not really competitors, because we all offer different experiences. Nor are Airbnbs direct competition to the chain hotels up by the Interstate. You can’t match them in convenience and consistency and they can’t match the unique experience that is your strong suit.
Moreover, Airborne shares many values consistent with those of green living. Hosts must agree to accept practices of non-discrimination. Not only are guests encouraged to review hosts, but hosts can review guests as well. So-called “bad actors” will be quickly called out and culled out by their peers.
There’s a new way of doing business. Call it the sharing economy, the creative economy, the gig economy … by whatever label, we’re glad to be part of it.
SB Sandy and I returned from our California sojourn determined to create an Airbnb in our own home. In a matter of several months The Parsonage Guest Suite, Bethel, VT was open for business. Here’s a description:
Enjoy a step back in time to the early 19th century with a stay at the Parsonage Guest Suite.
The newly renovated space, where the resident minister once welcomed visitors, combines historic charm with contemporary comfort. The spacious, light-filled suite, with its original wide pine floorboards, is furnished with period pieces, including an elegant queen-sized canopy bed. It has a private porch entrance, bath and full laundry, a custom-built kitchenette, and ample closet space.
For full information and photos search “Bethel VT” on Airbnb.com or click to view listing: