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I’ve Lived Out Of Airbnbs For 15 Months. Here’s What The Lifestyle Is Really Like

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air bnb room

When I began to live out of Airbnbs full-time 15 months ago, I thought it was simply a transactional process. I pay money and in return, I get a place to sleep.

As it turns out, living in other people’s apartments is more thought-provoking than it first seems. It’s like being given a little window into people, their lives, what matters to them, and their culture.

Not only that, the whole process can teach you more about yourself and your priorities than a permanent home in your own country ever could.

The one thing living in Airbnb is not is just a place to lay your head at night.

It’s a window into what people prioritize in their own life

I call it the stick blender effect.

If you are somewhere like Croatia, you will never find a stick blender in the kitchen. Croatian cuisine just doesn’t call for one.

In Spain, it’s stick blender city. I mean, how else are you expected to make the traditional sauce for meatballs or the bravas sauce for your patatas? What about romesco sauce? What kind of Catalan kitchen is without romesco?!

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Airbnb hosts will equip their apartments with what personally matters to them and what’s important in their culture. It’s a fascinating insight.

In the Balkans for instance, people tend to sleep with just one pillow and often with two single duvets on a double bed, so that’s what you get.

Portuguese houses are amongst the coldest in Europe thanks to poor insulation and no central heating (sitting in an old Portuguese apartment right now, I can confirm this is true). But electricity is expensive in Portugal, so heaters do not always come as standard.

You can essentially learn about the culture of the country you’ve slotted yourself into as soon as you enter an Airbnb. Sometimes maddening, occasionally inconvenient but always intriguing.

You learn what you really want in your living space

There’s nothing like spending long periods of time in someone else’s house to learn what matters to you.

Three weeks in a prison-like apartment with tiny windows in Zagreb taught me that I need lots of natural light.

Two weeks on an uncomfortable bed taught me I value a good mattress (although that one I already knew).

I quickly learned that I love basic home comforts like a blanket (to nap), sofa cushions (again, to nap), and art on the wall (to personalize a space), all of which are often absent in rental apartments.

Conversely, it doesn’t just teach you about what you need, but also what you don’t. Naturally, Airbnbs have the bare minimum amount of fixtures, furniture, and fittings. And you soon learn what you can happily live without.

I don’t miss trinkets cluttering up shelves and surfaces.

I don’t miss just-in-case kitchen items rammed into cupboards, only to be used twice a year (if you’re lucky).

I thought I would miss my hi-fi but it turns out you can still dance around the kitchen to a travel Bluetooth speaker.

Living in an Airbnb soon highlights what matters to you and what doesn’t.

It teaches you to be creative (and let go of some control)

In the last 14 months, we’ve lived without ovens, basic cooking equipment, heating, and curtains.

It sounds grim, but it’s actually been a good lesson in learning how to let go of some of that control we all desperately try to hold onto. You learn that yes, you can absolutely live without having a house full of just-in-case items, you just have to occasionally get creative.

The other day I wanted to bake cookies. There are no mixing bowls in my current Airbnb, but a saucepan came to my rescue. The cookies came out just the same.

It’s well-documented that comfort can actually be bad for you. Although there have been times when my discomfort level has been stretched to its limit with what’s available in Airbnb and what is not, I’ve learned that I can live with less comfort than I thought. And more often than not, I don’t care at all.

You become a master at spotting a good home from a bad one

During the summer my brother had to find a last-minute Airbnb for him and his family. I watched his selection process, which basically consisted of glancing at a few photos and booking within 5 minutes.

When he returned I asked him how it was.

Awful, he said. It was noisy, the beds were uncomfortable, and the kids couldn’t sleep because there were no proper curtains on the windows.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I spotted all that just by glancing at the first couple of photos on the listing.

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Learning how to spot a good apartment from a bad one is imperative when you rely on Airbnb for your everyday living. But it’s also a useful skill for everyone.

How many times has a vacation been ruined because you chose the wrong accommodation?

Even more concerning, how many of you have you taken out a long-term rental or even bought a house, only to find it’s not what you thought it was? I’ve definitely been there, simply because I was looking at the wrong things.

Airbnb long-haulers are masters at assessing accommodation. Take one with you next time you view a new home, they’ll be able to tell you in one second if those windows need to be replaced or not.

It teaches you serious gratitude.

I’m live in sometimes poorly equipped temporary accommodation because I choose to.

In Airbnbs, someone else determines how well you sleep, how safe the locks on your door are, how warm your house is. But that’s OK because if things go south, I can leave and find something else.

Not everyone has that freedom. Not everyone can choose the condition of their accommodation, how much discomfort they have to endure on a daily basis, or how safe they feel whilst they live there.

Costly and lengthy trips to the laundrette because the apartment doesn’t have a washing machine. Expensive print-outs for paperwork, visas, and vaccine passports, because no Airbnb has a printer.

I’m privileged and I know it because I see these problems as minor inconveniences. I cough up the money, do the running around and get on with my day.

But for someone who can’t afford what Western society might call basic conveniences, it can become a major problem.

Living out of Airbnbs has unexpectedly become an incredible exercise in gratitude, one which I think about almost every single day in this strange life on the road.

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Charlie Brown is a freelance writer, blogger, and wine professional who permanently travels the world. She writes about a whole host of topics from personal development to finance, food, wine, and travel.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.