When my husband and I left the comforts of our suburban American life in 2004 for a year abroad, we never imagined the depths of impact on our lives. With only $11,000, a baby in tow, and a big dream, we left Las Vegas in pursuit of paradise in the vineyards on a ridiculously tight budget.
Life’s Great Lessons Learned Through Hosting on Airbnb
Three of the biggest lessons we’ve learned in life — disconnecting, living relationally and extending open-door hospitality — were all gleaned while staying in people’s extra rooms, farmhomes, gite rurals, agriturismos, and little cottage apartments while traveling through Europe. Those lessons have become core life values since we began hosting through Airbnb.
Never the Same After Listing Our Space
Something shifted in our hearts after we returned from living abroad and staying in the company of strangers who welcomed us as family. We immediately began dreaming of how we could host other travelers, too.
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Fast forward nearly ten years and thousands of miles and we have actually become part of the international network of hosts through Airbnb. In our home, we live with an open-door policy of hospitality first, welcoming strangers like relatives. The life lessons we’ve learned hosting others have even outweighed those we learned being hosted ourselves. I’d love to share a little snippet of our story in hopes of inspiring you to become a host, too.
Life Before WiFi & Smartphones
In 2004 Europe, the world wide web was only accessible through smoke-filled internet cafes. Smartphones were still in the brains of the intelligent designers. Apps were not yet applicable, there was no Google on snails-pace dial-up connections to help research information and certainly no Airbnb to find affordable, home-style lodging. Finding acceptable and affordable housing while we lived abroad was challenging, to say the least.
Carrying our baby in a sling across my hip, I remember tensing with anxiety as wafting cigarette smoke stung my throat as we climbed down ancient basement stairs in the South of Spain just to use the internet for the 15 minutes of purchased time. We needed to connect and send an email to the board of agriculture in Tuscany, in hopes that there was an available farmhouse which could host our family the following week. We composed our thoughts and limited budget with specs and hit send, knowing we’d have to return a few days later and see who had responded to our request.
Thank God for Airbnb! Now, you can search for home-away-from home lodging from an amazing international community of hosts, whom we are blessed to be a part of. We did find a farmhouse in Tuscany for that summer, but the stressful anticipation of not knowing where we were headed for over a week was intense.
Valuable Life Lessons Learned Being an Airbnb Host
While we may have gleaned life lessons living abroad in Europe, those core values of living slowly, extending open-door hospitality, and savoring life all have been instilled in our family as our children grow through our decision as a couple to purchase and restore a property because of its guest-house addition and to host our own vacation cottage through Airbnb.
Disconnect to Reconnect
I became a blogger over seven years ago, the same year we began hosting on Airbnb. As the world of social media, technology, and smartphones has advanced, so has the seeming “need” to be constantly connected. Often, when life can feel overwhelming in all of its hurried pace, I remind myself of the slow lessons we learned living abroad, including the blessing of waiting for an answer and simply spending disconnected time together. I mean, haven’t you caught yourself all-too-often looking down at a screen instead of tuning in to a conversation?
While our beach cottage where we host travelers does offer Wifi and Netflix, our guests have repeatedly shared with us the refreshment they experience while staying with us and living life at an unhurried pace, if even for just a few days. The tranquil, small-town charm which can be unpacked and stored in your memory bank can become that spiritual place of refreshment your soul needs to travel when the hectic pace of life returns as you “re-enter” life.
Airbnb makes it easy to put your extra space to work for you. Become a host today, and you can start boosting your income!
Perhaps in today’s faster-than-ever-speed of life, it’s more and more important to disconnect from the harried, hurried pace and simply disconnect and reconnect with family, nature, and ourselves. Living as a host family helps remind our family of the importance to disconnect from the rat-race. As we help others sense a piece of that tranquil atmosphere we aim to provide, it helps us share and discover a new peace within.
Have you noticed when you ask someone these days, “How are you?” the answer, nine out of ten times, is one word. “Busy.” Today’s speed of life is almost unimaginable compared to where we were just fifteen, ten, even five years ago — let alone to the days of our grandparents!
How can we, in today’s overly busy lives, still have time for things that matter most: relationships? The answer is not as complex as putting everything we “must do” in one more color-coded calendar, list, or productivity app. The answer is simple: We need to make ourselves available to live relationally. But, what does that mean?
As an Airbnb host, I’ve learned that valuable lesson time and time again. Living relationally means taking the time out from the busy to sit with a stranger, a friend, a family member, a child and shut off the cell phone long enough to finish a cup of coffee or game of cards. It means opening your door and making a cup for a friend, tuning your ear, sharing stories just for fun, and letting your children see you do that, and even better — do it alongside you. It means being willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of another person.
Availability is not easy, convenient, and is most often not even able to be scheduled. Sometimes, it means projects or deadlines get missed or extended. Instead, it’s having a heart that’s willing to say, “My door is always open to you, friend.” Hosting at our home has been a life-learning laboratory for instilling hospitality as a core value in my life and the life of my two teenage sons.
Our family purchased a restaurant less than 100 days ago as a way to continue to grow in our life’s calling of hospitality. This small, community business called The Grove: Pizza, Cucina & Wine Bar has been the biggest, most challenging, and most time-consuming undertaking of our lives. But in the midst of the unbelievably busy, I know, we know, we must make time for disconnecting to connect with relationships. It’s why we chose to close on Sundays and holidays, it’s why our cell phone numbers are printed on the back of our business cards, and it’s why we offer our space to community groups needing a place to meet as they make a difference.
Relationships are the Currency of Heaven on Earth
I often host creative women’s writing retreats where, in the midst of marketing a social media strategy assessments, our key message is about the most valuable currency available today. It’s the currency that makes Heaven on Earth seem possible, and this currency is the only one which will transfer in life after death.
Relationships are that currency, and as our most valuable resource, our time should be invested into building them. This is where our lives with flourish with greater return on investment, to carry us above the busy life and into joy-filled living. Hosting strangers from all over the world through Airbnb, who become friends, has helped instill this winning investment strategy deep into the hearts of myself and my family.
Extending Open-Door Hospitality
I’m a big believer that becoming a host through Airbnb is one of the best ways to learn to savor time, living selflessly to really experience and live a joy-filled life. Hosting is a catalyst through which by opening your home and hearts to strangers, our overly-busy lives are opened to the overflowing blessings of hospitality. Perhaps, through opening our home through Airbnb, we’ve even entertained an angel or two. Maybe you should, too.
“Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!” Hebrews 13:2, the MessageBuen Viaje! ~Jen