My eyes snapped open from a deep, deep dreamless sleep. After the 27-hour haul from Sydney to Vancouver via Seoul and then nearly 15 km of walking through the streets of Vancouver, I think I had been as close to a coma as I could be and still be breathing.
Was that someone calling my name? I lay there with my eyes open, my breath held in anticipation, listening in the semi-dark, unfamiliar room…
3 seconds…nothing ….5 seconds…nothing except the noise of the distant traffic.
I must have been dreaming. Who knows me here anyway that they would be calling out my name? Go back to sleep, you silly old chook! I rolled over, snuggled down into the doona and headed back into sleep.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Heavy thumps shook the frame of the house. A loud clatter on the roof. Tink, tink against the window. Was that someone throwing pebbles? Somebody giggling?
Where were my hosts and why weren’t they sorting this out? It wasn’t my place to investigate!
“Robyn – ROBYN! It’s Jeff”
This time I know I am not dreaming and peeking out from behind the blind – I see Jeff trying the hoist himself onto the slate roof.
“Oh! Thank god!” Jeff shouts as he nearly falls off the rickety ladder with laughter! “We locked ourselves out, we were trying to break the window!”
There on the back lawn of the AirBnB were Jeff and Kathy, wearing wobbly boots and beer goggles, trying to muster some decorum. I let them in through the front door and we stood chatting. It was Jeff’s birthday and they had celebrated exuberantly.
This was my first experience with AirBnB and while it may not have been five star, the
Charming… cozy room on the second floor of [the] renovated home … equipped with wireless, fluffy towels, robes and Aveda products…only a 15-min. walk to the best in Vancouver and close to all transportation,
was indeed cosy and the hosts, great ambassadors for the city. I was impressed. This sure was better than a cold, impersonal, [boring] hotel. I was sold! Disruptive innovative marketing practices seemed a great way to connect with real people when you travel.
As long as you connect.
A few days later and only 153 km down the road, I had already filled one SD card with more than 1000 images of mountains and mushrooms and was pushing it to get into Pemberton before dark. The red cedar clad homestead looked just like the profile photo. The Coast Mountains rising majestically behind it; a light mist rising from the straggly grass. I clapped my hands in excitement!
A pushbike lent up against one of the posts and a big, old Cadillac was in the drive. No lights; no noise and no smoke rising from any of the chimneys despite the cold air that was beginning to settle. I should have been on the alert.
“Hello! Rob? Anyone home?”
Asleep perhaps? Out in the paddocks? I pulled down the beanie to cover my ears and wrapped the scarf tighter around my neck and knocked on the front door again with more force.
The sound of children playing drifted from across the road as they threw a football. I hugged my arms around me and slapped my sides and knocked again.
I peeked gingerly through the windows into the darkness. What I saw shocked me to the core.
There was no furniture. The house was empty. Completely empty; except for a few unfolded packing boxes.
The little guy on my left shoulder – the pessimist – gloated! “See I told you you should have booked a PROPER hotel!”
“Shut up!” right shoulder guy yelled back “I must be at the wrong place. I will go ask across the road.”
It was nearly dark, the football kids just about to run inside.
“Excuse me boys! Are mum or dad home?”
Mum came down the stairs.
“G’day!” in my broadest Australian “I was supposed to be staying at the AirBnB across the road? It’s empty?”
“Oh… he moved out about 2 months ago. He and his wife split up.”
Left shoulder guy was triumphant. It was now dark and I had nowhere to sleep. The dad came down and mum filled him in on my predicament.
“Hang on – I know someone who has a guesthouse, I’ll give them a call.”
His friend was booked out but they knew someone who knew someone else who had another place. So, three phone calls later, Kevin arranged for me to meet Miriam in the supermarket car park after vouching for my bona fides
“She’s a nice single lady all the way from Australia and she was supposed to be staying at Rob’s.”
I ended up with a six bedroom, three-bathroom chalet all to myself. Three times the price mind you, but I had a bed. Miriam had stoked up the fire and I toasted my toes as I sat on hold to AirBnB customer service for over an hour before giving up.
Right shoulder guy was vindicated by the random acts of kindness of strangers.
I stayed in four more AirBnB’s after that as I worked my way towards Calgary. Mick and his wife had a lovely family home in Kamloops. I sat with them watching TV and patting their huge black cat as he snuggled on my knee. They made me dinner, shared their wine and cooked me a full breakfast.
Rowena’s 23-foot caravan in Clearwater was an interesting option. She did my washing and I shared a family BBQ and sat up drinking and comparing travel stories with her son and his girlfriend after my full day of hiking and horse riding through the Wells Grey Provincial Park. Rowena, a Park Ranger and was keen to hear all about Wollongong and our beaches.
I didn’t meet Sandy in Jasper, well not until just as I was leaving her very luxurious apartment. This place was a standout in terms of its appointments and style but without the welcome, I felt a bit like an interloper.
Krissy in Canmore, was described by her reviews as being “a super-friendly and helpful host” and she certainly was. Her bohemian home was decorated with her own paintings and photographs.
One of the other guests took advantage of her offer to provide some weed but I declined. After a bit of Google stalking it turns out she is reasonably well known in the Canadian art scene.
As a first time AirBnB user, I was pleased I had decided to book most of my accommodation using their website. Except for Sandra in Jasper, all the hosts were friendly, helpful people who looked at it as an opportunity to meet travellers as much as it was a way to make a bit of cash.
Some advice: don’t pick a place solely on price, read the reviews carefully and with a critical eye and be prepared to mingle. Make sure you confirm your bookings close to the arrival time. I don’t think it saved me much money but it did give me some interesting memories. One point though, only three out of the six places I stayed at provided breakfast – the others were just AirB’s.
 It’s the long way around I know but it’s all in the pursuit of frequent flyer points
 Sandra wasn’t unfriendly she just wasn’t home.
 AirBnB eventually gave me a refund and removed the listing.