I am a Luddite Lite when it comes to advances in technology and the digital economy: I embrace some of it and am confused or skeptical about the rest.
I am a dedicated Facebook poster but use Twitter occasionally. I don’t really understand SnapChat, Instagram and Reddit, and therefore don’t use them.
I am fine with ordering stuff online but I don’t get the attraction of Uber. What is wrong with hailing a cab?
So it was with a bit of trepidation that my wife coaxed me into using Airbnb for the first time — for six nights in a row.
For those unfamiliar with Airbnb, it is a digital service in which you book a stay at a stranger’s home.
You can arrange for one or multiple nights and you pay a charge that varies by location, amenities, etc.
You show up and then hope you do not wake up in a bathtub full of ice and missing a kidney!
Haha! Just kidding (mostly) about that last part.
Really, it’s more like a one-night stand minus the sex.
My argument against staying at Airbnbs was: What’s wrong with staying at hotels? You know, those places with fresh towels, privacy and a bathroom you don’t have to share with other guests?
But being the adventurous sort (read: Meg convinced me this would be a good idea), I agreed.
It was a little weird.
In five of the six places we stayed, the hosts were there to greet us and engage us in happy conversation. It was like we had a babysitter.
I felt a little creepy like we were peeking at how people live, how they decorate and what they stock in their refrigerators and pantries.
It’s roughly the equivalent of a party guest snooping in your medicine cabinet but in this case there is some expectation that, as an Airbnb host, parts of your life will be on display.
As a dutiful guest, you make sure you clean your dishes, tidy the bed and leave things in good order.
There is an incentive to make sure you do: You write a review about where you stayed and the hosts review you – all of which is shared on the website.
It is a bit like having your school report card made public.
The hosts were warm, engaging and very accommodating.
But when I told a friend about our trip, he was stunned that most of the hosts were there during our stays. He thought they cleared out in advance of our arrival.
When I told him they wanted to engage us in conversation, he said: “No way. I don’t like people. I don’t want to talk to them. This is not a making friends tour.”
To some degree, I have to agree. The benefit of a hotel is you don’t have to worry about being social, you can come and go and not fear disturbing other guests and the mess you leave is the responsibility of housekeeping.
I would score the Airbnb experience as different but as with any trip away, I’ve got to say there’s no place like home.