When we built our new home on 6th Street SW, the topography naturally asked for a ground floor level that is not visible from the street, but which opens fully in the backyard. We decided to go ahead and not only finish most of the space, but invest in a full kitchen and nice bathroom to make a complete apartment. After hosting a friend who moved back to town for a few months and needed a home, we went ahead and furnished the space and recently listed it on the quickly expanding AirBnB site. Although there are a number of sites where individuals can list rooms or whole properties for short term rental, we liked this one for its great booking interface, as well as its eclectic community of users and hosts.
Although some people find the idea of having strangers stay in your home to be very strange, it is something that I find not only perfectly normal, but exciting. Starting from when I was very young, my parents were members of Servas International, which is a non-profit organization founded in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler to build understanding, tolerance and world peace through travel and hosting. An early day “Facebook,” individuals made bio pages compiled in an annual book. When a member wanted to travel somewhere, they contacted others to be volunteer hosts. An amazing organization, I grew up with visitors from such far flung places as Poland, Japan, Germany, and Argentina, usually for just two days at a time.
Once we had a place of our own, Jeff and I joined another interesting host organization, Warm Showers, which links up road bicyclists with other bikers willing to voluntarily host them on their journeys. Because Charlottesville is listed on the Transamerica Route, we tend to get riders in the spring or fall, at the start or end of a long cross country ride. Have you ever noticed those 76 signs around town. Well, that is the route!
Now we have moved into the for-profit realm of hosting, as we need to help make up our construction costs/mortgage. But AirBnB still appears to have more of the communal hospitality vibe. Based on trust and verification through social networking sites, you are able to see who is staying in your home. After their visit, the visitor and the host are able to publicly rate and comment on their stay, which lends people to treat each other with respect and kindness, if they weren’t so inclined anyway. I supposed it is just a micro-bed and breakfast, but it is fun to feel part of a community. If you are traveling anytime soon, you should check it out! (Or send your friends our way when they come to the old C-ville…)