If you are on the fence about whether to try the Airbnb app, go for it! We had such a wonderful experience on our recent trip that I wanted to share it with you.
Despite our rave reviews, I would like to issue a slight warning. Examine your expectations! If you take one vacation a year, are used to five-star hotels, a staff to serve you and have no interest in knowing how people in the area really live and spend their days, then Airbnb is probably not for you. If, however, you are like me, and you peek into people’s windows while passing and imagine what they are watching on TV or what they are discussing at their dinner table, then Airbnb is, most likely, your cup of tea!
You have to think of Airbnb as staying with friends that you haven’t met yet. Just like your current friends, some will have rooms more graciously appointed than others. Some will offer you a beverage and want to sit down for a conversation and others will be scooting out the door on their way to work and wave you to help yourself. It varies. Often they follow whatever cues you send them about your desire for conversation or sleep. It helps if you are easy going and flexible.
Our very first Airbnb was in Leicester, England (pronounced Lester, despite those extra letters). Steve and Jenny were our hosts and they were the best. Hospitable and warm, they confirmed the fact that those who get into Airbnb do so because they enjoy meeting people. We were treated like welcome friends. Their home was lovely and comfortable. Although fairly unassuming from the front, their back yard was a garden oasis that they were proud to share. Their second floor guest room had obviously been decorated for the comfort of guests. It was spotless, nicely painted with calm, soothing colors and the comfortable bed had a fluffy white duvet. Curtains on the windows could be drawn or left open. There was a television and even a fireplace. We were right next to their room and we shared a bathroom. Steve went so far as to go out and get the world’s best fish and chips for us and bring it home where we were welcomed to join the family in the dining room. This was totally above and beyond since this is a bed and breakfast only, but that is just an example of how nice the people are that you meet through Airbnb. We also enjoyed our tea and breakfast toast out in the beautiful garden in the morning finding we had so much in common that we had to tear ourselves away from conversation to make our next stop! (Thank you Steve and Jenny!)
The second Airbnb was in Bacup, England. We had expected a farmhouse, but were a little surprised that it was located right on the sidewalk by a main road, with the actual farmland on the opposite side of the street. I was imagining a dirt driveway where I could practice driving the British car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, but space to safely try that wasn’t to be found anyway on our trip! The available parking was tighter than we imagined, right up on the sidewalk. We were glad we had rented a Fiat! The lady of this house was a busy young mom. She pointed out where all the essentials were located, welcomed us to make ourselves at home and was off and running. She had explained that it was a house in renovation, so we not too surprised that we had to snuggle under the comforter when four inches of snow fell outside the window and the temperature dropped. The room itself had nice old farmhouse squeaky floors and a cat that was a bit perturbed at our not sharing. The bed was soft and warm and we could watch the snow falling out the window, beautifully past the street lights. Wi-fi was available, so we could catch up on our communications back home as well. We eased out in the morning amidst the hustle of getting the little boy ready for school. As we were invited into people’s homes, our goal was always to be a welcome and unintrusive guest.
We saw the family briefly the next morning, but for the most part they were located in another part of the house and we had our own space.
The third was a quaint cottage with English charm in a difficult to find village in the country. The owner was away, so his neighbor kindly took our repeated calls for directions and met us with key and house instructions. It was a stereotypical bachelor pad in that things were not as tidy as a hotel might be, but the room where we slept was clean, with fresh linens laid out and the bathroom was spacious and clean.
It was nice to have the whole place to ourselves and the area was quintessential British countryside. It was quiet, breathtakingly beautiful with the Spring flowers, horses and sheep.
The final Airbnb room was rented by a lad who lived with his Mom. She is the one who met us at the door and served us a cup of tea. It was a small room on the third floor with a shared bathroom. We arrived later in the evening and were tired from all our walking, so we went right to bed. We left the next morning early without seeing anyone.
The Airbnb app allows you to rate your host and they also rate you as a guest. This way people get a pretty accurate feel as to whether they want to stay at a certain place or allow a certain guest. It’s a fairly foolproof system and we will definitely do it again!