In Malaga, Antonio spent hours making paella from his grandmother’s recipe—just for me. Lima wouldn’t have been the same without a night of pisco-drinking with Gaby and her friends. And, I always smile when I think about being a guest at Olga’s family dinner in Zadar, Croatia.
These authentically local experiences were possible because I chose to stay with a local via Airbnb instead of staying in a hotel or guest house. According to the company’s website, over 25 million guests in over 190 countries have stayed in host homes since 2008, experiencing a new dimension of travel in the process.
Guests aren’t the only ones broadening their horizons. With more than one million listings, Airbnb has created an opportunity for intrepid hosts around the world to fling open their doors and welcome travelers into their homes. Three years ago, I decided to join those ranks and now host dozens of visitors every year. With each guest, I learn more about my home and city and become a more inspired traveler. Below are my 10 Airbnb epiphanies.
Whether you’re in San Francisco or Birmingham, Alabama, you’ll be amazed at how many requests you receive. People are traveling more than you expect. Weddings, graduations, concerts, family reunions, work. If you rock at being a host, chances are you’ll be turning guests away.
To be a successful host, you’ve got to like people. Yes, there are strange folks out there, but you’ll learn to appreciate, even revel, in the oddities. By bringing travelers into your home, you learn more about the world and get to travel vicariously.
Be the host you want as a guest. Think about what makes you comfortable and relaxed while traveling. Those comforts you seek are the same for most guests. Make your home somewhere you would love staying. That includes having an ample supply of toilet paper.
Whether your guest is driving or flying, they will arrive exhausted and ready to recharge. Imagine walking through the front door. What do they encounter? A smiling host offering a welcome drink sets a great tone for the visit.
Setting accurate expectations from the get-go is a host’s best insurance the visit will go well. Don’t play up what you don’t have. And, once a reservation is made, communicate clearly about arrival and departure times, try to cater to special requests and create a “welcome book” that explains everything you offer … from WIFI to coffee. As well, a guide to the area’s attractions and list of your favorite restaurants and bars is a valuable asset.
You probably think you know everything cool about your city until you talk to people who are seeing it for the first time. With every recap of the day’s itinerary, you’ll learn something about the place. Be curious and ask your guests about their experiences. They may lead you to a new favorite spot.
Regardless of how many signs you make or how many times you ask guests to empty the fridge before leaving, you’ll always find a few gems nesting on the shelves. No one wants to pour out a container of milk before the expiration date. Sometimes these items are gifts.
You’ll be amazed by how observant neighbors are when you have guests. They will tell you how late people come home and how much noise they make. You’ll realize they’ve been observing you for years. Be on the up and up with neighbors when you have guests. Also, be sure your guests know how much you respect the neighbors by making it a house rule that they show respect.
Reading guest reviews is nerve-racking, but you’ll learn that reviews are your biggest asset. Treat your guests well, deliver more than expected and good reviews will follow. Don’t take it personally if you get a not-so glowing review here and there. Not everyone will appreciate the atmosphere you’ve created.
You’ll spend hours at the kitchen table getting to know your guests and learning about their city. You’ll have dinner together, invite them out with your friends and miss them when they leave. Even with the guests that don’t become fast friends, you’ll appreciate their openness and respect for your home.
You may have a bad apple occasionally, but the good guests will make you strive to be a better host. And, the next time you travel, you’ll find you have also become a better guest.
Jess is a freelance writer and blogger with a passion for all things travel, art and the outdoors.