Home is where the Airbnb heart is

Jeremy Hurst finds that a trav­eller’s life is still the life for him

The West Australian - - AGENDA -

Like many Perth kids, as soon as I was old enough to get a pass­port and pay for a plane ticket, I was outta here! And like most Aussies I went to Bali.

I then saved my pen­nies and made the pil­grim­age to Lon­don. I then back­packed and went back to Lon­don. Then more back­pack­ing be­fore hit­ting up Lon­don a third time. By then, I was fully in­fected with the travel bug — an in­fec­tion which would en­sure many re­turn trips to Bali in the com­ing years. I fell in love with the very essence of travel, which trans­lates to: no keys, no car, no mort­gage . . . just the open road and ut­ter free­dom (on a bud­get).

And then in­evitably, like many of us do, I ended up with a mort­gage, car loans, a job and a fam­ily. My trav­el­ling days were sud­denly over. I mor­phed into one of those par­ents at the back of the plane with the scream­ing, teething tod­dler, fan­ta­sis­ing about my care­free life be­fore airline travel with a kid . . . and check-in bag­gage. Those were the days.

Then I was struck with a thought. I could have my own bed and break­fast and live the trav­eller’s life vi­car­i­ously through my guests. When I had this idea, the shar­ing econ­omy hadn’t been in­vented . . . and B&B’s were not cool. They were Laura Ash­ley cur­tains and white doilies with English Break­fast Tea. I was go­ing to do it bet­ter. It would be hip, mod­ern and classy. I’d put Perth on the map so no one would leave.

As the years passed, I even­tu­ally fin­ished build­ing my B&B and the la­bo­ri­ous task of styling. I sourced the lo­cal govern­ment ap­provals and set to work build­ing a WordPress book­ing web­site. It was ter­ri­ble and I couldn’t get it to work let alone block out dates or up­date it eas­ily. I’d have to han­dle money, take a bond, no won­der most B&B own­ers were 65 and over. I did not have time for this stuff.

And then it hap­pened — I was in­tro­duced to Airbnb. It changed ev­ery­thing. I now had a sleek on­line list­ing that han­dled book­ings, money and ba­si­cally my web­site for free. It was al­most like the busi­ness part of this busi­ness was taken care of.

My wife and I waited for the book­ings to roll in. They didn’t. We jazzed up our pho­tos and de­scrip­tion, dropped the price to “des­per­ate” and then it hap­pened. Our first guests. And boy were they cool. First up, they were Bel­gian. Next up they rode their bikes up to the Perth Hills on a 40C Perth sum­mer day with their six-week-old baby in a Bel­gian bike trailer. I love them for be­ing our first guests. We chat­ted, we be­came tour guides, we talked life, pol­i­tics and why their baby never cried and ours had colic. We served them break­fast. It was prob­a­bly one of my favourite things to ex­pe­ri­ence serv­ing our very own guests. It all took me back to my trav­el­ling days, when my heart was more open to con­ver­sa­tions with com­plete strangers and shar­ing uten­sils at a YHA. Sure we were ner­vous at first but once we re­alised how nor­mal and nice they were, all the wor­ries were for­got­ten.

Not ev­ery­one “gets it” when you be­come an Airbnb host. Why have strange peo­ple in your house you don’t know? What if they get food poi­son­ing and sue you? What if, what if, what if . . . I knew that if I thought like that, noth­ing would hap­pen. So we stepped off and into the un­known abyss of Airbnb Host­ing. And it has been won­der­ful.

All this was nearly two years ago and we now host guests on most week­ends and the oc­ca­sional week night. More than 80 per cent of our guests are from some­where in Perth.

We get to meet peo­ple from our own city. It seems that hav­ing a B&B isn’t about the B&B at all. Not re­ally. It’s about the con­nec­tions with the peo­ple you meet. It’s Nat from South Perth. It’s Leena from Sydney. It’s Ash­ley from Joon­dalup. We’re all just peo­ple and we’re all pretty great.

One of the great in­ven­tions of our time may just be the way in which we’re lever­ag­ing tech­nol­ogy to bring about shar­ing. I just wish it had been around when I was start­ing out on my own travel ad­ven­tures.

Jeremy Hurst is a co-founder of www.space­toco.com

Jeremy Hurst’s Airbnb home.

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