07/ 10/ 2013
I just had my first Airbnb experience and stayed with nice couple who had a spare bedroom with its own bathroom in Belo Horizonte. It was less than half the price of a hotel with the benefit of the advice of local residents who know the city well, and helped pay for the pricier, amazing boutique hotel I’m staying in now in Ouro Preto.
They were great hosts, but I don’t think I’ll be using Airbnb again, at least not for rooms in houses that the hosts actually live in. I realized, basically as soon as one of my hosts answered the door in her pajamas, that staying in someone’s home is a weirdly intimate thing to do with a complete stranger.
I already mentally prepared myself for the obvious questions like, are these people going to be psychos? anti-social? dirty? and was fully prepared to give up the money I’d spent on the room and switch to a hotel if I felt uncomfortable. But in the end, they were fine. The real issues were unexpected ones that existed only in my mind.
Questions whirred in an endless cycle in my head: How to be a good guest if you don’t know anything at all about your hosts? Will I wake them up if I blow my nose or take a shower after the lights are out? Oh shit–the bed just creaked, did they hear that? Will they feel obligated to hang out with me if I invite them, or insulted if I don’t? Should I seek them out and greet them every time I exit my room and enter the house, or leave them alone and pretend as if I’m just some anonymous person who paid to sleep in their guest bed?
The apartment was so impeccably clean and organized that I had anxiety about that, too. Will they think I’m messy? Am I creating too much trash? Will they judge me if I don’t fold my pajamas? It didn’t help that I showed up in the middle of an allergy attack after a long day of travel delays, with watery eyes and a runny nose. I’m pretty sure the girl-host was at least slightly horrified, though she was perfectly polite.
So I finally realize now that what I pay for at a hotel is not just cleanliness and comfort: it’s the privilege of being a customer, not a guest. I am allowed to act in whatever way makes me comfortable, because it’s their job to let me (so long as I don’t disturb the other customers). I’m allowed to complain if something doesn’t go my way–not that I’m a complainer, but it’s comforting to have the right to do so. And I can say thank you, tip someone well, or praise them to the manager for doing an exceptional job without feeling like I owe something more for their service. This is always why I generally prefer to stay in a hotel than with friends.
What do you think, have you tried Airbnb?