Tuesday, September 16, 2014

4 things I learned from 3 Airbnb experiences in 1 weekend

Celebrating Lindsay's bachelorette from our Airbnb rooftop deck in Washington, DC
Last week Abdoulaye and I got to simultaneously experience Airbnb as both host and guests (learn more about Airbnb and how it works here). Since we host on Airbnb nearly full-time and try to use it for travel as often as we can, I think about Airbnb a lots. I almost always have either an email reminder that a guest is arriving or that a trip of ours is coming up in my inbox. And that's wonderful! But it's rare that we're both traveling (separately) and hosting at the same time, which is what made last weekend special. Here's how our three simultaneous Airbnb experiences played out:

The scenarios: My sister's bachelorette crew (there were 11 of us!) came to Washington, DC and we rented an awesome condo in Petworth to celebrate her pending nuptials. While I set up bridal banners and snacks, Abdoulaye got on a bus to New York with two buddies to visit friends of his from Guinea that are living in Harlem. And as I put the finishing touches on decorations and Abdoulaye unloaded in Penn Station and set out to find his Airbnb, Anke, a German woman visiting the US after being an au pair in the area 20 years ago, arrived at our home in Hyattsville for a week-long stay.

While our three uses of Airbnb were all quite different, there were definitely some common threads that ran throughout them all, which I detail below.

1. Communicate! Each of us had some sort of difficulty in either getting into or finding our Airbnb. My complication came from the fact that the management company renting our condo had two Jennifers checking in on the same day and so the representative got confused and thought we had already spoken multiple times. Oops! Abdoulaye had a hard time finding their Airbnb in Harlem, which, at 11:30pm, is not exactly fun. Anke hadn't checked her email before leaving where I detailed how she could get the key to our house (no one was home at the time). In all of these instances clearer, earlier communication would have been helpful and likely prevented the misunderstandings. In the end, everything worked out fine but the paths could have been a little smoother.

2. Location, location, location. What's awesome about Airbnb is how local you can make your experience. Each of us was looking for an Airbnb that wasn't just close to what we wanted to see and do - but also offered a unique living experience. With our condo in Petworth, we got to see what a DC neighborhood was like and could easily hop on the metro, which was just two blocks away. Abdoulaye and his friends got to see what living in Harlem was like without intruding on their friend's apartment (he didn't have room to host them himself). Anke appreciated living in our calm, quiet neighborhood where she, too, wasn't too far from public transportation and could talk with us about things to see and do in the city (when we got back from our weekends away!). It's great if you're already familiar with a place so you know where you want to stay but if you're not sure about the area, check out the reviews listed below the profile of the place you'd like to go to learn more.
A picture from Abdoulaye's trip to Harlem
3. A local experience. Whenever we get a request from someone who wants to stay at our place, I wonder what made them choose Airbnb over a traditional hotel experience. Of course, cost is probably (definitely?) the #1 factor but beyond that, it's that people are looking to connect with others while traveling or to experience a city from a more local perspective. Since I recognize that's an important factor for myself while traveling, I want to do more to make our guests feel at home and get to know not only Washington, DC but also Hyattsville, MD, which is a pretty awesome city itself. I plan to detail more things to do in the area in our home's online profile and maybe when folks come I could set out a list of things happening in the area during their stay that they wouldn't know about without living here.

4. Enjoy! Sometimes travel means going to a place, setting down your bags and spending not much time in your hotel room. Sometimes travel means hunkering down in a luxury location where it's important that where you're staying is nice because that's your experience. Last weekend, we got a taste of both of those perspectives. It was important to me, and my sister, that we stay at a nice place where we could lounge around with her girlfriends but also visit the city. Abdoulaye wasn't as interested in finding a really nice place as he was in finding somewhere that had a clean bed and a bathroom. Anke wanted somewhere in between the two. Thanks to Airbnb - we all got what we wanted!

I think it's unlikely we'll experience a similar trifecta of separate travel and hosting in the future but I'm thankful for the experience and what it taught me about Airbnb. Using Airbnb to travel makes me a better host and more in tune with what others are seeking in their own experience. We're already looking forward to a trip in October to the Eastern Shore - I wish we could bring a soothing water experience to our own backyard!

If you're interested in either hosting or traveling with Airbnb, consider using my link to sign up!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hyattsville Arts Festival 2014

Take a stroll in Hyattsville; Image Source
A couple of months ago I signed up on the Prince George's County Volunteer website to find an organization in the area who needed some additional hands on deck. Lucky for me, the Brentwood Arts Exchange (BAE) called a couple weeks ago to see if I could help out at their booth for the Hyattsville Arts Festival, which took place this past weekend (September 13th from 11-5) in downtown Hyattsville. I toured the festival in the morning with Abdoulaye, Loretta (dear work friend) and her roommate before joining the BAE table in the afternoon. And even though it wasn't hot, I still got a key lime popsicle from Picnic Pops before getting a chai from Vigilante Coffee - what a treat!
Brentwood Arts Exchange; Image Source
The booths, which featured over 150 vendors, were fantastic and filled with local, Hyattsville-area artists and craftspeople.  My first purchase was for my mom for her birthday (shh, don't tell her!) from Bella Art Mosaics. I know you're reading, Mom, so I won't put up a picture or describe what awaits you but I think you're going to love it!
Jay Durrah painting the original of the print I purchased; Image Source
I loved standing at the BAE booth and chatting with strangers and familiar faces alike.  We've been in Hyattsville a year and I'm slowly starting to make neighbor friends/acquaintances, which makes our little city feel even smaller. The BAE booth was adjacent to Jay Durrah's booth and I absolutely loved his work. I debated getting one of his prints and finally called Abdoulaye to make sure it was OK before taking the (fabulous!) plunge. I hung it in our living room as soon as I got home and am already so thankful - the print is perfect.

Just a few booths down from Jay's booth was the Hope Honey Farm where I met Maggie who produces Certified Naturally Grown honey from her backyard in Hyattsville. As I purchased five bars of soap (lavender & lemon cake, frozen and pumpkin spice), we joked that her bees probably fed on my greenery and then I was coming back to buy the fruits of their labor! It was not only wonderful to make a great purchase (if I have self-control, I'll give most of them away as gifts and not hoard them!), but to also meet a neighbor. She even uses Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified palm oil; work would be proud!

My last purchase was from Karla's Mixed Media Studio - a gorgeous print of the silhouette of a woman in orange with a handwritten quote surrounding her body 'All I can do is all I can do and all I can do is enough.' As soon as I hung Jay's print, I found a frame for Karla's and hung it on the wall as well.

I was disappointed to miss the arts festival last year and even though it was a bit of a drizzy day this past Saturday, the festival was worth the year-long wait! I'm already looking forward to helping out at other events featuring BAE and going to the Hyattsville Arts Festival in 2015. If I plan better, I can stock up on gifts for the whole year in one go!
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