If it means that I get to spend the weekend in Brussels for 40 euros, I am willing to share an apartment with an enthusiastic didgeridoo player — and be excited about it.
Yes, this really happened, and it shed light on the true purpose of Airbnb for me. The best part of experiences like mine is you probably won't find this the type of story worthy of your Snapchat or Instagram - at least at first - so you will be able to actually talk to your friends about it after the trip, instead of having been too distracted to get a full experience.
Here are some Airbnb experiences that you might encounter and should be ready to embrace:
1. Pretty great apartment, clean, and with enough beds (important), but every time you need to use the water anywhere in the apartment, the shower starts running.
This happened to me and my seven friends when we were partaking in a cliché Intersession trip to Puerto Rico. It was incredible that we found an apartment with eight beds, for a reasonable price, but the harder part was for eight people to unanimously agree on anything. We were okay when the rooftop pool didn’t have a jacuzzi as advertised (I know, tough), but it was a whole other situation when we discovered we couldn’t turn the water off in the shower no matter how hard we tried.
We called our host, who happened to be on vacation outside of Puerto Rico, and she gave us instructions to turn off the water for the entire house. Since we never actually turned the shower off, every time anyone needed to flush, do the dishes, or wash anything, the shower would start running again.
Tips on how to see the bright side of this situation: this malfunction really brought us together. We all learned about each other’s toilet and shower schedules, since we didn’t miss any opportunity to wash two more plates whenever someone went to pee. It also made me feel like a good human being, since I must have been saving so much water just by turning the shower off every day.
2. The host describes himself on the Airbnb website as a philosophy graduate and says that the place is a loft with an indoor swing.
I know, this sounds like a dream, especially if you are traveling in Europe with the hope of discovering European hipsters who haven’t heard of the word "hipster” (because, you know, those are the real hipsters). I wasn’t hoping for any of this and was really just trying to find a place in Brussels this summer that could accommodate six people on one day’s notice. It was between this apartment and another one that seemed really clean, but at that point, I think the indoor swing really did it for us.
We got to the apartment, and everything looked right. It really was a loft with books and plants everywhere, and our philosopher-host was sitting there, just aloof enough to confirm that he indeed was a philosopher.
However, not everything sounded right. As soon as we walked in, there was this howling sound that got us thinking: either the host was welcoming us with atmospheric music or there was a serious problem with the pipes. We turned around to find a shirtless man sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, playing his didgeridoo with extreme concentration. Our philosopher still didn’t say a word, so we had no choice but to move into our rooms in silence. A few minutes later, I saw our host walk outside, barefoot. I thought maybe he was going to get something from his car and come back. Except he never came back for the rest of the weekend, and we were left alone with the didgeridoo player.
Bright sides to this one: The didgeridoo playing eventually stopped, and I went ahead and talked to the mysterious character. He actually turned out to be really cool. He had rented out one of the rooms in the apartment, as he was working on a documentary film in Brussels. The next morning, I woke up to Turkish music, which he asked me to translate after he found out that I was from Turkey. He even made us all coffee! I guess we did meet a real hipster, whatever that means.
My takeaway from the experience: when you are booking an Airbnb, prioritizing basic amenities like soap and towels rather than an indoor swing might be a good idea.
3. You may or may not have to share a bed with your Airbnb host, but hey, at least it’s a queen bed.
This happened to my friend this summer, who was traveling alone to Ireland from London for a weekend. I got a Snapchat of a Holiday Inn sign from her, with the caption “when your Airbnb has one bed and your host is there for the weekend too.” She then told me that the Airbnb host forgot to mention that he was also going to be in the one-room apartment that weekend, which meant that they would need to share the bed. Maybe he didn’t actually forget, because apparently, he didn’t understand why this would bother my friend, given that it was a queen-size bed.
The bright side to this situation: none. Call the nearest Holiday Inn and make a reservation. My friend did mention that Airbnb was going to refund her though.
4. There is really nothing bad about this Airbnb, so now you just feel like a bad guest.
I stayed at two ideal Airbnbs in Paris and Mont St. Michel this summer. Both of them were really clean, all utilities were working, and they were spacious enough. At the end, however, we felt guilty when a cleaning crew showed up the next morning before we left, with our stuff still all over the place, and our beds not made. We also felt ashamed of our curiosity to open the closet that was clearly labeled “Please do not open,” and the temptation to eat all the snacks in the apartment that were probably not meant for us. We didn’t, but it still reminded us of our human weaknesses. Turns out that a great Airbnb doesn’t necessarily do much good for your self-esteem.