To Be or Not to Be an Airbnb Guest

So, despite all the Airbnb hype over the last couple of years as the way to see and experience a place when traveling, I had yet to give it a try.  I would get on and look at the offerings in any particular city; but would inevitably chose a hotel.

On my recent trip to Austin with my beloved family member, finding no hotels in town, I decided it was the right time to try an Airbnb.  I searched on-line and found what appeared to be the perfect place:  located right in the heart of everything, exceptional reviews, well-appointed and clean – I was sold.  Once I signed up, I was even more by pleased with the owner’s responsiveness.  All was set for a promising Airbnb experience.

And, indeed it was a great Airbnb experience.  However, I learned something about myself.  (Is not that what travel gives us?)   I am not an Airbnb gal.  So my first Airbnb experience is likely to be my last.

  1.  I hated scrolling through my phone to find the pin to get into the condo complex while I juggled my luggage, my briefcase, and my bottle of water while balancing in my high heels so they would not go into the cracks between the bricks.
  2. I hated trying to figure out how the key pad worked while juggling above items.
  3. I hated hauling above items up three flights of stairs while asking myself how in the world does this place comply with the American with Disabilities Act.
  4. I hated getting lost looking for the unit since there were no signs explaining how the numbering worked; the numbers on the units were not in order; and the first, second and third floor units all started with “2” and not with the number of floor it was.
  5. I hated scrolling through the phone and juggling and balancing AGAIN while I looked for the pin to get into the condo itself.
  6. I hated trying to figure out how the key pad to get into the condo worked.
  7. I hated trying to figure out how to turn on all the lights in the condo.
  8. I hated that there was no soap by the kitchen or bathroom sink so I could wash my hands that were flithy from hours of airports, planes and a taxi ride.
  9. I like not thinking about getting into a building – i.e. walking right through the front door of a hotel, a door that is often opened for you by a doorman.
  10. I like being warmly welcomed by people at the front desk, who call me by name, even if they have never met me.
  11. I like being given a key card to simply wand over the pad to get into my room.
  12. I LOVE having a doorman get my luggage (even though I travel light) to my room.
  13. I love walking into a room with lights on, then into a bathroom with soap – right there, with towels right there so I can quickly wash the grim of travel from my hands.
  14. I hated that the fridge, although immaculate, was completely empty – not even a bottle of water to quench my thirst.  Let alone no little munchies like my favorite peanuts. (I did not want mildly cool tap water, does not quench my thirst.)
  15. I hated how there was no one I could call for guidance:  where should I go for dinner; how far to the yoga studio; the light bulbs are burnt out.
  16. I love being able to visit or call the front desk and ask about dinner, and yoga studios, and the best gelato and please replace the light bulb while I am out.
  17. I hated the postage size, sandpaper like, utilitarian towels.
  18. I hated trying to figure out the TV.
  19. I hated the ridiculously slow internet.
  20. I LOVE ripping off my clothes, putting on a plush robe, grabbing my bottle of water and peanuts and piling onto the big fluffy bed with the remote and accompanying instructions on how to get the TV going and where to find my channels. (and if I still can’t do it, I can call the front desk.)
  21. I love speedy internet.
  22. I love getting home after dinner and having room service bring me the ooey-gooey chocolate cake I read about on the room service menu.
  23. I love that I can get room service if I am too beat to go out.
  24. I hated coming back after an evening out without anyone welcoming me home.
  25. I LOVE seeing my new friends at the front desk and having them ask how my night was and if I need anything – why yes I do… whats your recommendation for a great cup of joe for tomorrow morning?
  26. I hated the scratchy sheets and hard pillows.
  27. I LOVE those fluffy hotel pillows and silky soft sheets.
  28. I hated having to figure out the logistics of getting myself back to the airport for a 0700 flight.
  29. I hated hauling my suitcase, briefcase, and phone  (no heels this time) up the street at 0515 to a hotel to get a taxi ( I don’t generally uber for reasons that parallel the above list)
  30. I LOVE calling down to the front desk and having them order me up a taxi.
  31. I LOVE leaving the hotel to the cheery good-byes of the hotel staff.
  32. Bottom line, I love that the hotel logistics are easy; that the hotel has my back; that they cuddle me; and that they are friendly and engaging.

Frankly, its a bit hard for a midwestern girl from a small blue collar town; who never traveled growing up; who had never stayed at a posh hotel until my husband took me to one when he was wooing me in my twenties because I never had a dime to spare, to own up to the fact that when I travel, I want the luxury.  But, its true.

And, given my background, I must defend myself, primarily to myself.  I work 50, 60, 70 hours a week on a regular basis.  I love what I do but, it is demanding and I am well compensated for doing it.  I love to travel for pleasure.  When I travel for business, I don’t want to have to think or worry about anything other than my business and I want my fluffy robe, bottled water, peanuts and chocolate cake.  What else am I going to do with my money, have someone put it in the casket with me?

So… for these reasons… I am a hotel chick.

(Side note: Of course – not all hotels deliver what I list out above; and some Airbnb might.  But odds are – you get my list at a hotel sooner than at an Airbnb. And, with travel, food and wine – its all personal preference anyway.)

Bat Crazy Austin – Loved It

Unknown to me, Austin, Texas Ann W. Richards Congress Bridge is home to between 750,000 and 1.5 million bats who many claim fly out from under the bridge every night to start their “day” hunting for bugs to eat.  Upon hearing this, I knew that on one of my nights in town, I had to head over to the bridge at the sunset to see the bat crazy scene.

My beloved family member and I headed over to the bridge, arriving at 7:30 pm to encounter a bridge jam packed with people looking down into a river with filled with bat cruise line boats, kayaks and canoes paddling around waiting for the bats.  Likewise on the walkways by the river, hoards of people gathered.

As more people walked, ran, biked and scootered to the bridge, a woman with her college age daughter blurted out:  “I hope the bats come out tonight because we were here two nights ago and they were a no show.”  Her daughter yelled at her for being a buzz kill.  I appreciated the scoop and took to Google immediately to determine if the bats were as regimented with their nightly exodus as we had been led to believe.

The answer from Google, the mom and now confirmed by my beloved family member and me is… NOPE!  The bats don’t come out every night.  Apparently, sometimes the bats decide to take a day off if its too cold, if there may not be enough bugs, or who they heck knows.  And, then, come November the bats migrant to the warmer clime of Mexico until their return in May.

My beloved family member and I were most disappointed that we did not see the bats.  But, the buzz and excitement of seeing all those people on the bridge, laughing and talking and staring over the edge; combined with a gorgeous view up the river while the sunset and the lights of Austin came on – was worth the trip – even without the bats.

And, I can say that for the whole visit to Austin – its weird, its quirky, with a big dose of Texas, its artsy, its musical, its easy to walk around with interesting sights (beyond the bats) and fabulous food.  Make the trip – its worth it.  You’d be bat crazy not to.

(Side note:  It is however with a broken heart that I must report, be ready to sit in a first row seat of the tragedy that is the opioid epidemic.  My eyes filled with tears, my stomach lurched with pain, my heart broke and my soul cried seeing my fellow humans struggling against the demons of addiction.  I felt so helpless seeing so many people passed out, tripping, or begging for money.  But it was not just the number of people suffering, it was the depth of their disparity – many so ravaged they were just skin and bones, well beyond many homeless that struggle on our streets; their skin sallow and covered with sores; eyes vacant and empty. Some were spinning aimlessly, others falling to the ground, or already on the ground passed out.  I prayed, racked my brain for what we could do as a society and double down on my commitment to humbly take my baked goods to locale shelters once I got home so those who make it to a shelter can every now and then, have a home baked treat.  So, if you go, when you return – give something to your local shelters.)