I have been a devoted Airbnb user since 2012. And it did not take long to make me a fan. Today, it seems impossible for me to unthink Airbnb from my travel experiences. As aware as I am that it is a commercial venture, I strongly believe that, if done thoughtfully, Airbnb can provide you with an absolutely unique take on people and places. Especially for those who embark on far journeys to unfamiliar places and are set to navigate previously unexplored cultural environments, Airbnb could be the best accommodation choice. However, I am not going to ramble on about all the pros and cons of traveling with Airbnb in this blog post. I just want to share my experiences and, may be, inspire you to explore the Airbnb community for yourself.

Chapter 1. April – May 2012, Miami, USA “Oh Maria, Mariaaaa!”

This was the first one. And it was amazing. Apart from saving us a load of cash we could spend on a hotel in Miami and rescuing us from the dreadfulness of cheap motels, that we could actually afford, for two consequent weeks Maria’s house became our real home. So what was so special about this journey? First and foremost, our host MARIA. What an exciting woman: strong, intelligent, educated – all in all, the cool aunt you have never had! She is a bottomless well of stories: studied in Sorbonne, witnessed student riots in Paris, did the hippy thing, traveled around the world, learned five languages, saved a dozen of homeless animals from a certain death on the streets. And the most amazing thing, her home is actually a quintessence of her: full of light and beautiful little bids of the world she witnessed. Scratching the route for our off-the-beaten-path day in Everglades on a piece of paper Maria told me: “So you go into Everglades, and you drive as far as you can down the highway through this endless water landscape, and, once at a ‘gator farm, you overcome your fear and take a small alligator in your hands and you bring me a picture of it. Cause this, darlin’, is called traveling!” Although my eyes almost popped from the dread of this experience, I actually did it. I held the alligator, if by that I mean holding it with both hands at the furthermost distance from my body and simultaniously screaming out loud for help. 🙂 And it was really cool! Thank you, Maria and Tony. We shall never forget your little Miami paradise!

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Chapters 2-5. 2013 – Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen. “Do it like a local!”

Although meeting local people is one of my favorite aspects of travel with Airbnb, it also has its perks if you are on a city trip and are renting an apartment for individual use with no host “in attendance”. Anyway, on such trip you spend most of your time outside and use your hopefully nice, quiet, clean and tidy accommodation to put your feet up in the end of another crazy day of sightseeing or business meetings. So what are the perks? On such a trip an attentive and welcoming Airbnb host will do much more for you than any hotel: upon your arrival you will most probably find a list of the host’s favorite places aka local insights in the apartment or in your mailbox. And that is a real treasure: with these insider tips you will escape the more obvious overcrowded places of mass tourism for local small eateries, clubs and pubs. You will get a taste of real Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or whatever place you are about to explore.

The little apartment we rented out from Clarissa in Paris was in an old building with squeaky staircase. It could not be more authentic Parisienne with a great view over the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. Even now when I close my eyes I can see those golden-greenish copper rooftops in magic glow of Parisian sunset: our little love nest in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world. Upon Clarissa’s advice, we shopped for bread in a small award-winning bakery around the corner and visited a quite hidden (from the tourists’ eyes) local brasserie, where Parisian youth meets up in the evenings. We would never find these places without her recommendations. And we wished we had more time to explore a couple of other locations from her two page “all-time-favorite” list.

On another occasion my parents and I stayed at a house with another adventurous staircase: this time in the heart Amsterdam. We broke out in hysteric laughter each time we had to go up those stairs: it was so steep that once you stood on it the next stair was just before your nose – a typical historic Amsterdam experience! Our host Olivier asked us to check in later than planned, and, expressing his appreciation for our flexibility, he brought us a bunch of very yummy sandwiches and cold beer. His flat was just a 10 min walk from Prinsengracht and also contained all thinkable guides for exploring the beautiful city.

Moving up North: we had also a beautiful flat rented from Sanne in Copenhagen. She was such a sweet host and we had a great chat and excellent communication. She provided us with all we could think of for a comfortable stay for four people. The apartment was beautifully furnished and, being at a central location, spared us a lot of money, since the city transport in Copenhagen is unaffordable (everyone bikes anyway!).

Beyond all these perks, exploring cities with Airbnb makes you a local, even just for a couple of days. Whether you fetch your breakfast rolls from a local bakery, bring out the trash, meet the neighbors, walk the streets off the beaten tourist path or order a take-away from a local eatery at the corner – you actually participate in the everyday life of the city and engage in daily routines of its dwellers.

Unfortunately, I could not find any pictures of the apartments we stayed in, but here is the notorious Amsterdam staircase – does not look as dramatic on the picture though. 🙁 it is one of those “you had to be there” things.

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To be continued… For more Airbnb adventures and my personal tips on picking a great Airbnb accommodation read my next post!