Aspen Princess: Charm of sharing someone’s ‘home’ has lost its luster
The Aspen Princess
On Halloween, four people were killed in a shooting during a party at an Airbnb in Orinda, California.
I just happen to be at an Airbnb right now, in the RiNo neighborhood of Denver. My mom booked it for us, and I’m realizing I should probably be in charge of this kind of thing from now on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly worried about getting murdered, though my back is killing me on account of sleeping on a lumpy mattress that felt like laying on top of cotton balls. Every time I rolled to my side, at least one limb would fall asleep because it sort of sunk into this thing that doesn’t provide any support whatsoever, but still passes as a bed. I realize I may be a bit of a princess who is complaining about a pea, but I’m pretty sure most people would say the bed sucks.
This is the second Airbnb I’ve stayed in over the past few months that is the furthest thing from a home that is hosted by its owner, which in my mind, is the premise the company was founded on. Airbnb forever changed the travel industry operates by allowing anyone to open up their home to guests. It also provided the opportunity for a traveler to rent a place in a residential zone from a local host with insider knowledge about cool places to check out in the area. More often than not, Airbnb is less expensive than hotels for places that offer amenities such as full kitchens, more than one bedroom, and extras like bikes and beach gear.
Because of Airbnb, Ryan and I once stayed in an exclusive part of Santa Barbara called Kings Ranch in a multi-million-dollar estate that had an avocado grove with lemon trees overlooking the ocean with a pool and outdoor kitchen. It was close to a beach with a fabulous beachfront restaurant that served the kind of ahi fish tacos you can only get in California. I was pregnant with Levi and so it was our babymoon. Other than having major anxiety over making the right choice about which amazing Santa Barbara restaurant to try and then making the right selection once we were there (always tricky when you are pregnant), it was sublime.
Another time, we arrived on the Jersey Shore for Kate’s wedding only to find out the small seaside hotel where the whole wedding party was staying had no record of our reservation. It was a weekend, and everything was booked, except for those luxury suites in average hotels that go for an insane nightly rate.
“We’ve spent a lot more on a lot dumber stuff than this,” was Ryan’s refrain. He would rather drop seven bills on a hotel room than see his wife panic.
Luckily, I thought to check Airbnb. We were able to get a last-minute booking for a room in a house right down the road. The host was an interior decorator and had appointed the king size bed with luxury linens and millions of pillows. Her garage was stocked with every beach accessory you could ever want. She cooked us a Champagne brunch and even offered to let us borrow her BMW X5.
That, to me, is the essence of Airbnb.
You guys know we also rent our mother-in-law apartment on Airbnb, and before you jump down my throat about taking away affordable housing or robbing the city of tourist dollars, let me tell you we are bringing people who come to visit Aspen up the Frying Pan, which is a place most tourists never get to see. It’s also not the most desirable place to live if you have to commute to Aspen or want to ski, so zip it. Plus, the Frying Pan is still a little bit lawless, which is why I love it so.
We’ve been doing the Airbnb thing for seven years, have hosted over 250 guests, and other than the tall guys who keep knocking the framed photo of Gertie down when they lean against the wall to pee and breaking the glass, we’ve never had any problems (knock on wood). We’ve been Superhosts (a rating according to maintaining high standards in several categories) for two years running, which takes a lot of work and attention to detail.
Often times we never even see the people who come to stay. Other times, we play significant roles in the milestones of their lives, hosting guests for honeymoons, wedding nights, babymoons, holidays, birthdays and fishing trips. I always try to go to the extra mile for those special occasions, leaving fresh flowers and Champagne, or once, for a girl who came to run the Golden Leaf marathon, a gift basket stocked with energy bars, electrolytes and chocolate.
As a host, I guess I expect more from the hosts I rent from. Sometimes, I get inspired by little touches I hadn’t thought of, like offering extra toothbrushes and toiletries or making sure our kitchen is stocked with enough basics to cook a meal without having to run out for olive oil or basic seasonings. We also kept all Levi’s baby stuff for families traveling with infants and would like to eventually add things like bikes and paddleboards for our guests to be able use.
More and more though, I’m seeing vacation rental companies who offer multiple listings on Airbnb and therefore lack that personal connection I’m looking for. Or in the case of where we’re staying now, hosts who own several properties for the sole purpose of short-term rental so they’re devoid of any personal charm.
It’s also the case that the bad things happen, like parties that get out of hand and even murder, because Airbnb has just gotten too damn big. It’s inevitable.
Whether you’re a host or a guest, use discretion, read the reviews and hope like hell the place has a decent mattress.
The Princess is having her eye surgery today, so send good vibes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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