Sometimes when I’m sitting in a noisy, crowded bar filled with groups of people I have an urge to stand up and say “You can talk to me. I’m interesting. I’m travelling and have some good stories to share. I speak with an exotic accent”. (At least you say I speak with an accent. I say I have a lack of one.)
And if I really wanted to, I am not above doing something like that. I have been known to approach strangers and ask if I can join them for dinner. It’s the prerogative of those of us who travel solo.
Not belonging to the back packer generation presents its challenges also. I have sat on an airport shuttle and eavesdropped on conversations where three young people were strangers and in the space of a 20 minute bus ride, one of them is going to sublet another’s room in a shared space and all three of them are meeting up the next day. The bond of transient youths.
Not quite so easy for the gray generation. Take hostels. The front desk person at The Barracks Hostel in Perth certainly seemed intent on impressing on me that on weekends the place was noisy. She kept looking me over and I could almost hear her thinking that I might cramp someone’s style. It must be the haircut.
What does one do to save keep from spending all my cash on expensive Australian hotels? I turned to Airbnb. Not only did I get to save money, I met some great hosts and got to talk with people too. There’s a wide range of accommodations from shared rooms to whole houses, both short-term and long.
Like booking any travel yourself, there’s a lot of time spent reading descriptions and looking at photos, trying to find neighbourhoods in unfamiliar cities on a map, reading other traveller reviews. But all that research and ultimately gut feeling and luck has been a wonderful experience. Every one of these hosts I would be happy to call a friend. Who knew?
My very first selection was a room in a home in Perth. They had five rooms to let with all rooms sharing a lounge and bathroom. Luckily for me, except for the first night, I had the place to myself. One of the reasons I selected it was the great reviews about the host’s night time snacks and the proximity to transit and inexpensive eats. In these regards it was even better than expected. My great host went above and beyond. I came down with a cold and she supplied cold remedies and fresh picked limes to soothe me. And let’s just say the pick up from my hotel, the two tours around various areas of the city, and the drop off at the car rental agency were all much more than I expected. Add the homemade gluten-free muesli and the flour-less bedtime treats…I haven’t been this spoiled since I lived at home with my parents.
For my second foray I chose an apartment in a trendy area of Sydney, within walking distance of transit and quite central to places I wanted to go. Hit lucky again. My host picked me up at the airport, dropped me at this fabulous two storey penthouse and disappeared for most of my stay. When he was around there was a glass or two of wine and please help myself to anything in the fridge. A very large and spacious room to call my own, and use of the modern apartment. No home cooking but it more than made up for that with the feeling of opulence, ease and comfort.
The last place I chose was in Melbourne and I selected it because it was central to transit but mostly because I read about George the host’s friendly Labradoodle. I was intrigued by the thought of some dog love. Once again I had a large room with a comfy bed, a generous host and a couple of lovely evenings with some wine and hospitality. Not to mention lots of pets and cuddles with George.
I think I may have hit upon the perfect way to travel! Thank you Air BnB!