Airbnb’s claim “Belong anywhere” may sound like one of those slogans that are so generic they become meaningless. For me, this kind of travelling absolutely kept what it promised.
On a trip to Copenhagen for my girlfriend’s birthday in 2014, we got sick and spent five days almost completely in a one-room student apartment. It was great! We felt very Danish, lying in bed behind large uncurtained windows, looking at brick-lined buildings, seagulls and cyclists, and sitting on simple yet classy chairs, which we considered buying for ourselves.
The laundry of our host, Lotte, was standing in a corner to dry. And when she accidentally came home a day early, it felt even more like we had made ourselves comfortable in someone else’s life.
By the way, would you have guessed that many Danes have windowless one square-metre bathrooms where the whole “room” gets wet when showering, while you concentrate on not tripping over the toilet? These are the kind of things that Airbnb taught me.
Many hosts were young adults like Lotte who handed over the keys to their flats, threw a large backpack over their shoulders, and left to sleep at their lover’s or parents’ place for a few days, in order to earn some extra cash.
Communicating beforehand, it was not unusual to exchange some personal background. It felt like texting a friend of a friend. Hosts’ recommendations helped us come as close as it gets for tourists to “really” get to know a city. Airbnb was part of how I wanted to travel.
I still book Airbnbs occasionally, but I can’t recall when I last felt like I stayed at someone’s home. Keys are left in boxes with number codes, the furniture is functional, but generic. Quite obviously no-one lives in these flats, and they’re not even cheap any more.
Airbnb has become just another site for booking holiday apartments. Given the many negative effects for popular destinations, it might just as well go away for good.