120 nights this year. That’s about the time I’ve spent in Airbnb homes across Austin, New York and now San Francisco. I haven’t had a bad experience yet. Tonight I had a great one.
Less than a week before I flew to San Francisco, I started looking for temporary accommodation. I didn’t know the city, I needed somewhere close to the shuttle, I heard the Mission is cool. I opened up Airbnb’s trusty map view, entered my budget, found nothing.
I looked on Craigslist for a minute, quickly running away from the interface (I’ve grown to tolerate it now). I looked again the next day, and a place popped up that I hadn’t seen. The budget fit, the location worked, there were no reviews, the photos looked dodgy.
Seeing no reviews against a property is always a cause for concern. Why hasn’t this place been reviewed? They’re charging a pretty penny, the photos are distorted, is this a scam? I think an experience in Chelsea earlier this year by a first timer put me slightly at ease. I was desperate, contacted the tenant, a few back and forth questions later, I booked it for a month.
The next day I booked it for another month. The day after that, the photos for the listing got better. It turns out this was the first time they were putting up their place on Airbnb. They had no idea who I was either. All they saw was my Dharma Initiative avatar. At least the reviews of me, left by previous home owners, gave them some comfort.
The day before I left, I got an email saying that the couple were going to Paris, and their friend would handle the transfer of keys, etc. I get to San Francisco, totally overwhelmed by the terrain as the cab drives me to my new home. I meet the friend, he opens the doors to a beautiful one bedroom Victorian home that’s impeccably decorated. And huge! Way better than the photos made it out to be!
Two months later, I felt an immense sadness leaving. The neighbourhood (Mission/Castro) is a quirky, vibrant intro to the culture and people of San Francisco. This was home. It was the longest I’d spent in any one place this year. The next day, I took quite the detour to walk by it, and I was still connected to the Wi-Fi. Good lord, that sounds pathetic.
I got an email from Chris (the owner) earlier this week saying I had some mail still being sent there, and to come by to pick it up, because he wanted to say hi in person. I rocked up tonight. Awkward intros with Chris and his wife ensued, while I stood at the doorway. An hour later, I was sitting down in the living room, drinking French plum brandy, talking about San Francisco, India, Paris, the origin of steamer trunks, the experience of moving out to your own place for the first time, and the numerous coincidences that led to me living there.
Airbnb is an incredibly useful service. Tonight, it’s gone up a whole other level in my mind. When services like this create an emotional connection, you know they’ve set themselves apart.
Imagine if I’d taken the easy way out with the corporate housing that was offered. Phew.