Room for change at any age

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - PETER RETALLICK LEICHHARDT, NSW

I feared I might be the old­est Airbnb trav­eller as I tried the new way of ar­rang­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Aged 66, my main cri­te­rion for choice was a pri­vate room and that was eas­ily ar­ranged for my des­ti­na­tions. Other needs were Wi-Fi ac­cess and the abil­ity to cook my own meals in a kitchen if I so wished. Tinned cas­soulet with lentils be­came a pop­u­lar choice.

My first ex­pe­ri­ence in Paris was a dif­fi­cult start as the unit was hard to find. It was in a group of multi-storey blocks and no­body said there were two build­ings with the same num­ber fac­ing dif­fer­ent streets. The se­cu­rity guards didn’t seem to mind me go­ing back­wards and for­wards try­ing to sort out a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion. I had vi­sions of sleep­ing on the street but even­tu­ally found the place.

It was a two-level apart­ment with sev­eral bed­rooms and locked doors. The host in­sisted I wash my saucepans be­fore eat­ing a pre­pared meal and that was a small im­po­si­tion. She was a his­tory teacher and her place was full of books; there were even book­cases in the toi­lets.

Last-minute in­struc­tions were pro­vided for ac­cess to the unit in Madrid. I re­ceived th­ese at the air­port be­fore my flight and be­cause the owner was not go­ing to be home for my ar­rival they were quite im­por­tant. As it turned out my room was spa­cious and well fur­nished. The lo­ca­tion had many of­fer­ings in­clud­ing a cof­fee shop that sold a crois­sant (as good as one from Paris), cof­fee and freshly squeezed or­ange juice for the equiv­a­lent of $4. What a bar­gain!

My Rome ad­dress, in the sub­urb of Traste­vere, was like a bed and break­fast but with­out break­fast. The host pro­vided a panet­tone as a wel­come gift for each room and this lasted for the length of my stay. It was an oc­ca­sional af­ter­noon tea treat and snack for break­fast.

Wi-Fi be­came an es­sen­tial part of my trav­els to get in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal trans­port con­nec­tions, open­ing times and in­for­ma­tion for mu­se­ums, or just com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my host who might not be avail­able at ev­ery mo­ment of the day.

My three weeks in Europe were eco­nom­i­cal (about the same as a week in By­ron Bay by my cal­cu­la­tions) and en­joy­able. And, to my re­lief, my age was no bar­rier.

Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists will re­ceive a Braven 405 Blue­tooth speaker with a light­weight, durable and water­proof cas­ing, 15m wire­less range and 24 hours of play time; $129.95. More: braven.com.au.

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