What Happened to the Charm of AirBnB?

In the beginning days of my blogging and Instagram, utilizing services like AirBnB and Uber had a much different charm and feel to them. It was magical and new, an inviting way to meet new people and share stories. Adventure seemed to come about and manifest itself.

What happened to the charm of airbnb?

Something happened with the gig economy, where it turns from a way to make a few extra dollars on your downtime to a hustle and grind.

I was organizing dusty stacks of paperwork in my office when I came across a handwritten card. I had stayed at the most basic, cheapest Airbnb I could find during one of my travels. I sort of remember it. It was a blowup mattress on the floor. I was in the middle of a long drive and essentially needed a spot to crash in Nashville between 8pm and 5am the next day.

Despite how basic the accommodations were, I was given a handwritten note upon my departure thanking me for my stay. Thank you, Kevin!

What happened to the charm of airbnb?
A handwritten note thanking me for my stay.

I don’t think I’ve gotten a handwritten note like that from AirBnbs in a long time.

I remember staying in Phoenix, Arizona, at an incredibly charming house. The host was a retired chef and put out weekly menus for her guests. As the start of my stay, I was able to choose from one of several menu items, which would be prepared as a three-course meal, wine included. Oh, and then there was breakfast, another luxurious endeavor.

This was all part of the stay. I think there was some clause that if you drank all her expensive booze, she’d charge you at cost, but that seemed reasonable. There was no several hundred dollar cleaning fee.

I remember sitting outside at the pool after dinner, wine in hand, enjoying the summer Phoenix night as a reprieve from the sun, full from an exceptional meal.

What happened to the charm of airbnb phoenix arizona
After dinner pool lounging in Phoenix, Arizona.

During a trip to Italy, I stayed at a castle of an Airbnb in Piedmont at the very top floor. I was the only one there, aside from an older man who lived there. His wife was on holiday at the time. I ended up getting so sick from a fever, I sweated all over my phone in the middle of the night and shorted it out. Gross, I know. I went downstairs the next morning and explained my problem to the host.

He took his morning off, drove me over an hour to the closest town with an electronics store, Asti, and helped me buy a new phone so I could continue to navigate and drive through Italy. We spent hours together for this process. From the driving, dealing with buying without enough cash and him loaning me money, sim card transfers – this host saved my trip, and made what could have been the most stressful moment so much nicer.

What happened to the charm of airbnb asti italy
The drive back from Asti, Italy.

And at the end of my checkout? He set me up with an incredible wine tasting and dinner with a nearby winery.

Another AirBnB stay in Mexico, I booked a room in downtown Puerto Vallarta, where the host decided to volunteer to translate for me and drive me around to all these off the beaten path locations to explore and write about.

I was taken to restaurants, met people, and learned things I never would have been able to find on my own as a visitor and poor Spanish-speaking skills. This was a multi-day stay and the host took me around for days. We went hiking down to beaches that were accessible either by the adventurous or boats. I got to drive the car. It was a blast.

What happened to the charm of airbnb puerto vallarta
Hiking down to hidden beaches and boat-in restaurants in Puerto Vallarta

AirBnB’ers aren’t the only gig economy to lose their charm. I remember getting an Uber ride from a guy in downtown Portland many years ago. He said he would work until mid-afternoon, fire up his Uber driver app, and find someone who needed a ride close to his house.

That was me this particular day. He had a regular job, but this was a way for him to pay for his daily coffee, or maybe even a light lunch. I don’t think I’ve had this kind of driver for years at this point.

What happened to the charm of airbnb portland oregon
Uber detour in Portland, Oregon

I told this driver about my explorations of food and waterfalls in Portland and he turned off the app to take me on a few detours, one of which was this bridge.

Uber rides used to be filled with stories of asking people what they did for a living, how long they’ve been driving, where they are going at the end of their day. Those stories don’t hold very much interest or variance anymore. It’s a lot more of people trying to make ends meet, than someone using Uber to fund a pet project.

These gig jobs have become full time jobs and investment opportunities. I was hired by a person who owned over a dozen houses here in Sacramento, furnishing them for different themes.

As I arrived to take photos, boxes filled the entryway from Wish, Amazon, and Walmart. Décor was the cheapest possible with fake gold finishes. The host even admitted to me when things broke, the guests were charged.

I was horrified. I would have been pissed if that experience happened to me and I booked an Airbnb like this one. Guests were hardly responsible for breaking something that would break just by looking at it funny.

I still use these apps to find places and stay and rides to take. It isn’t quite the same now. These days, I’m evaluating cleaning fees and keeping conversations brisk. It feels so distant and unattainable to find hosts like this now. Its much more prevalent to book properties that are professionally managed and viewed through a security camera. I miss that old charm of a gem of an Airbnb.

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