Friday, 12 July 2013


Alright, I said that I was going to write up my experience with random internet houses in an article of its own, so here I am. I think this is the first time that I've actually followed up on something that I said that I'd write later. Huh.

Anyhow, for those of you who don't know, I recently had to find a place to stay overnight in Austin, and hotels are expensive. I was reading Gizmodo one day, and this article came up on my feed. It talks about how much cheaper it is to use the startup airbnb than it is to stay in a hotel. I decided to check it out, and managed to find a listing for $40/night. Compare that to the $80+ for a hotel (that doesn't even have a shuttle to the airport). Naturally, I was intrigued, but didn't bite immediately. I don't trust the internet very much at all, and this whole "stay in a stranger's spare room" thing seemed kind of sketchy to me.

So I held off for a while. My flight that I needed to catch left at 7:19am on Saturday, so I would need to be at the airport around 5:45am. That means leaving my dorm around 4:45am. I knew that there was no way that I could find someone wanting to drive me into Austin at that awful hour, but I held out hope. However, by Tuesday of that week, I finally realized that it was getting absurd. If I was going to impose in someone's house, I was going to need to contact them right now. So I bit the bullet and sent the lister a message late that night.

It turns out, a lot of people listing on airbnb are cool with short notice. I mean, not same day, but three days before? Easy. I got a message back the next morning saying that he would be happy to have me, and that he had pre-approved me so all I had to do was book it and charge it. airbnb sticks a percentage on top of the list price as their "fee," which I was totally cool with. It ended up costing me $45 flat. Not bad. When you factor in the incredibly short taxi ride that I had to take the next morning, the total for the night comes to $60 even. I'm not going to lie, that still makes me smile.

Now, how was the stay itself, you ask? Pretty good actually. After the drama of pulling together a last minute ride into Austin after the one that I had planned fell through, I ended up at the house around 6:30pm. It was a small-ish house that looked exactly like what the pictures on the listing showed. Just like he said, his dogs were there to greet me when I knocked on the front door. One of them was pretty chill, but my goodness was the other one an attention hog. Quite lovable, but very excited all the time, jumping up on me, jumping up on the bed, trying to make me pay attention to him rather than watching my competitive poetry anime... Good times. I really didn't mind, so that's good I guess. He just wanted attention, which I was happy to give.

Anyhow, after I arrived I got the brief tour. I was told I could have anything from the fridge, I had my own bathroom, I could use the washing machine if I needed it for some reason (and the dryer I suppose), and that I could use his Xbox and Netflix subscription if I wanted. He was tiered, so if I needed him, he'd be in his room Skypeing with his girlfriend. Naturally I decided that I didn't need to bother him.

Actually, on the topic of Netflix and whatnot, he actually had quite the impressive collection of movies and TV shows. Not impressive because it was big (it really wasn't), but because it was all high quality stuff. He had The Dark Knight, and Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and Firefly, and Stephen King's IT, and Cowboy Bebop, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, and what appeared to be a Chinese (bootlegged?) set of all seasons of Star Trek: Then Next Generation in a single box, and some other good stuff. After seeing all that, he had my respect, let me tell you.

After the introduction, I didn't really see him at all. I stayed in my room, he stayed in his room, and we did our own thing. Eventually, I got up and told him I was going to bed for the night. I asked him about a cab for the next morning, and he very helpfully suggested that I use Yellow Cab. They allow you to book online in advance, which was super awesome, so that's what I did.

If I have any complaint about my stay, it's that at around 1:00am, while I was still trying to get to sleep (for some reason I was slightly on edge. I wonder why that would be?), I noticed that the lights had gone on outside my door in the kitchen/living room area. For some reason, that put me even more on edge, and I was suddenly fairly awake again. I think that I heard him open the fridge, grab a plate, and use the microwave, so I guess he was hungry or something. Apparently he travels a lot for work, so perhaps his internal clock was as messed up as mine is now. Whatever the reason, it did not help me get to sleep. But it's not like anything bad was happening. I was just understandably nervous.

Anyhow, I eventually fell asleep. At 5:00am my alarm went off, at 5:30am my phone rang telling me that my cab was there, and that's how my stay ended. All in all, I had a really good stay. Nothing really went wrong, and it was certainly all on the up-and-up. As a service, airbnb seems more like it is designed for longer stays, like for your whole vacation, not just for a single night. But it still worked out fine for me!

As nervous as I was going into this, it's got to be way worse for the host. I mean, as the guest, I was the initiator. I asked him if I could stay at his house. Not only that, but he had an established profile with five reviews on it already, all positive. Five is a lot for airbnb, by the way. As for me, I was using a brand-new account, with pretty much no information on it at all. I may have been staying in a random stranger from the internet's house, but he was letting a random stranger from the internet into his house to do what they want. If I was malicious, I could have done so many things that would be way worse than anything that he could do. So, I guess, thank you, James, for being cool enough to open up your house to me. You really did me a great service.

If anyone needs a place to stay while they're in Austin, I'd recommend this listing on airbnb. It's better than any hotel!

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