I See Dead Animals or Why Airbnb Is Not For Me

IMG_4943.JPG-1

Who does this belong to?

I don’t know about you, but for the past few years, I’ve been disappointed with the formerly high-end hotel chains that turned a great stay in a clean room with amenities into a less than mediocre experience. That’s why I decided to try Airbnb.

Let’s face it; “People to People” commerce is trendy. Ridesharing, couch surfing, and I recently saw an article about a couple brainiacs trying to sell us their idea about “People to People lending.” How great does that sound?

So I signed up, divulged more personal information than ever, and included a photo as required. All of this raises my red flag of privacy, and an internal desperation not to share my personal data that I know will be sold the second I hit “submit.” This was my experience in list form. As you may know, I’m quite fond of lists.

  1. The check in procedure was a complete clusterfuck requiring 4 separate emails. Turns out a key was left in a lock box, hung on a gas meter on the side of the building next to several other lock boxes. Six flights of stairs and a shit load of heavy luggage later, I opened the door panting.
  1. The place was sort of cute. Billed as an “Urban Loft” it was definitely urban. Meaning on a major intersection. The bedroom was, of course, in the loft. Up a couple more flights of stairs. Fairly clean, the loft lacked the little amenities one finds in a hotel like unused travel sized soap, shampoo, and hand lotion in favor of a half bottle of VO5, in the shower. First, I had no idea VO5 was still a thing, and second, in the absence of hand soap of any kind, this shampoo of yesteryear works quite well. I wouldn’t have guessed.
  1. Unfortunately for me, there was minimal drawer space. Most of the drawers were stuffed with men’s clothes and shoes, a little gross. The owner’s I suspect. I left my things in the suitcase.
  1. There were lots of animal pelts. They were everywhere. There was one in the bathroom that still had its tail attached though I couldn’t determine what the animal might have been while alive. Two decorative pillows on the bed were covered in rabbit fur. No offense if this is your thing. I happen to be allergic to this kind of shit. I’m queasy about handling cleanly packed meat from the grocery store. Animal skins are not something I’d ever considered when booking my reservation.
  1. It was a stressful trip, I wanted to relax and watch some TV. Nope. To many of these “People to People” types, TV is so old school. There was a television. It received Netflix and iHeart radio.
  1. Day three: Awakened to dueling jackhammers across the street and heavy equipment cutting up the parking lot.
  1. Did I attempt to check out early and score a refund for the remainder of my unused stay? Oh. My. God. Yes. Was it a hassle? With a capital “H.”

Sadly, my first time with Airbnb was my last. I would never agree to the layers of bullshit required to stay in someone’s home that I don’t know again. Someone I’m not sure feels the same way I do about “clean,” or an acceptable level of noise, and the VO5? Seriously?

In a hotel if something isn’t right, the staff will do what they can to fix things. When I complained at my Airbnb accommodation, the host said I didn’t understand how the Airbnb community works.

As a travel writer, (I’m no longer saying former because I’m still traveling and still writing about it) I do my best to bring back information. If I’ve done my job correctly, it might inspire people to explore, but I also have to tell the truth. I’m happy for anyone who has a great experience crashing at a stranger’s place. It’s not for me. If I have to provide a date of birth, a photo, and pay upfront in exchange for what might be a clean bed and bathroom, that’s leaving too much to chance, and a community I apparently don’t understand.

Mediocre is looking better by the minute.

 

 

 

The Long Haul To Love Via Australia

img_4313

The first few minutes of the flight are exciting. It’s a struggle just to sit still in the seat. Nine months of waiting has finally landed with a big, fat thud on my cool new suitcase, that can split into two bags of exactly the same size so I can load it up with souvenirs, or, even better, a couple pair of extra shoes. This is how the “Trip of a lifetime” begins.

Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney, Australia, the second longest direct flight in the world. The Flight Tracker scares the shit out of me. Really? Halfway around the planet? Only 15 hours and 41 minutes left? All of it over the ocean? Xanax. Thank God for Xanax.

The trip turned out to be everything a good travel adventure should be: Fun, exciting, stressful, and full of wondering and personal discoveries. I could lay it all out here, but nobody would read it. A blog is too short a medium to share something as huge as a “Trip of a lifetime.” I’ll break some things down later, once I’ve digested a little more, and I’ll share it as I can. I used to do some travel writing, so there’s a chance I can string together a few sentences that summarize an event or two. In the mean time, here’s the rough cut.

Sydney-The Opera House-The Harbor Bridge-(Kick Ass Flat Whites)-The Blue Mountains-Uluru/Ayers Rock-(Reverence)-Cairns-The Great Barrier Reef-(Swimming with sharks)-Palm Cove-(Ahhh)-Rainforest-Melbourne-Cricket-Penguins-Koalas and Kangaroos-Sydney-Climbing the Harbor Bridge-(Wow)-Home.

Time Frame:                            Three weeks.

Air Travel:                              Six flights.

Tour Buses:                            Too many.

Miles Walked:                         50

Pair of shoes ditched:              2

Hotels:                                    Five, one of which was particularly scurvy.

New Friends:                          Dozens.

Questions about Trump:     Hundreds.

Magic:                                        Every. Single. Day.

Quick summary: Once you discover travel is simply a way of meeting yourself in other people in a different venue, (the simplified version) you get to experience the real deal. We are all the same. We are all love. Travel Safely in the new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not Think About Bog Bodies While Driving

DSCN1254-2

Here is a guy who loves his job. See how happy he looks? Yes, his eyes are closed, but that’s only because I asked him to smile, and he couldn’t smile, take a picture of the damage I caused to the rental car, and keep his eyes open. A person can only multi-task so much, people.

Have you ever dinged (or destroyed) the rental car while on vacation? This was maybe the third or fourth time for me. It can really add a lot of stress to an otherwise cool adventure experiencing new cultures and meeting interesting people. In this scenario, I was in Holland driving in the countryside in search of bog bodies, and I was a little lost.

Anyone who’s ever been to Holland has probably seen the solid metal posts that seem to rise from the street, usually at a corner, forcing an unsuspecting driver to swing wide at the turn or crash. I have no idea of their purpose or even what they’re called. Maybe they’re for tying up small dogs while one browses inside the cheese shop. Whatever the rationale, they are apt to crush fenders, doors, and rocker panels if one happens to blink while rounding the corner. I had my mind on cadavers, and I blinked.

The dead bodies we went to see were located inside a church in a village called Wieuwerd, near a city named Sneek. It’s probably more accurate to say what we saw were mummies, not bog bodies, but bog bodies is so much more fun to say. Try it yourself at home. Bog bodies. See.

Anyway, the corpses. They were found in a crypt at the Hervormde church in 1765, and were almost perfectly preserved. They aren’t exactly sure why, but clearly the ambient surroundings (science nerds will know the answer here) played a part. Now I’m wondering what made me drop a few Euro to see dead bodies, and I was especially bummed when I crashed the rental car into one of those freaking guard posts, but how else could I have experienced the magic of the moment?

Like when we got back to the rental car return, and I was on the verge of a panic attack when the time came to fess up. Honestly, I thought of every possibility that wasn’t telling the truth: 1) Trying to fix it myself, as if out of the country auto bodywork is something I know how to do. 2) Saying someone ran into it. 3) Blaming it on a car wash somewhere.

I chose to take the path of least resistance and begged my traveling Buddy to deal with it while I stood outside with the suitcases, because I am an asshole like that. Turns out, it wasn’t that big a deal. My credit card insurance covered the repairs and I got a story out of it. Plus, I got to meet a cool guy named Felipe who loves his job, but can’t smile and keep his eyes open at the same time.

Has this or something like it happened to you on vacation? How did you handle it? Was the truth involved?