A carefully considered Airbnb in Florence lead to the perfect location within the city. As we made our way up the steps to our location for the evening, we were somewhat perplexed with the directions given. The directions stated, “When you get to the location, stop at the apartment below and the gentleman by this name will escort you up to your flat.”
We stood in front of the flat number given to us, waiting to see who would pop out of the door. An elderly gentleman came out and started to speak Italian. Being that my partner and I knew an extremely small amount of Italian, it lead to us pointing and giving simple gestures. As we maneuvered our way through the difficult conversation, he finally lead us up to a flat almost at the top of the complex. We arrived at a flat that was small, yet very satisfying in comparison to some we had been to in Europe. As we made our home away from home for the week, we settled in and started our journey through the Tuscany region of Italy.
The question often arises as you travel the world, would you rather stay in a hotel or a local residence?
There can often be mixed reviews within the subject and it really comes down to preference. I will tell you, if I really have to choose, it would be a local residence all the way. There is something about staying in a local persons home that gives you a feel for a city. The way they position their furniture, the books lining the shelves, the products that they have in the home for their patrons. There is something unique about the way you are treated and the experience you get. A hotel is standard, you will more than likely get exactly what you wished for. Something familiar to you. A similar setup each time that you have come to expect when you travel. A house or apartment of a local citizen can lead you down numerous possibilities. The good, the bad and even sometimes the ugly can arise. That’s the exciting part!
On an impromptu trip back to Michigan, I found myself booking a room at an Airbnb in Sacramento. No frills included, just a room inside of a local persons home. The person stayed at the residence. After checking in with the host, I came down to the living room. As we started to chat about various worldly topics, he started asking questions about why I was in Sacramento. After discussing my trip, I asked about the best route to the airport. After telling me about the possible routes, he asked where I would be parking my car. Being that I hadn’t really thought about it, I told him that I would probably just take my car to the parking garage at the airport. He enthusiastically replied that I should just leave my car at his home and he would take me to the airport. After thinking through the situation, I agreed. Not only did he drop me off at the airport, but he also picked me up. Would I ever have had this hospitality if I were to stay at a hotel? I would assume that it would be doubtful.
Vancouver was a city that we had traveled to already, but we wanted to venture out and experience Vancouver island. The city of Victoria is at the heart of the island. A gorgeous city that makes you feel almost like you have traveled to Europe. We booked an Airbnb that looked lovely in the photos. A recently built apartment complex that overlooked a passing river in the city. A perfect location for us to settle as we traveled the island. Several busses and a boat across the water, lead us walking down the street to our location in Victoria. Meeting a kind couple that handed us our key, we were comforted by a quaint room with a modern sheik look to it. Sprawled across the book cases, various books on the history of the city and attractions to see. As we traveled the city and back and forth from the room, we met several locals with their own stories to share with us. A coffee shop below only made the apartment even more appealing as we woke up several times to the kindness of the employees pouring us a great cup of coffee.
Paris, the city of love. A perfect place to get wined and dined and experience the luxuries of life. Our Airbnb was minimal. A small studio apartment with only the essential amenities. It was our first experience in Europe and our definition of a true European apartment. As we came to learn from various trips, most apartments we visited were minimal and don’t span across large amounts of empty space as they do in the US. It seems as if every bit of space within the home has meaning. The courtyard outside was the only space that seemed to allow an open area for you to explore. Our host was kind and was always quick to respond to any scenario that we encountered. What we loved was not the minimalist apartment, but the location. Traveling two blocks across, we came across the most iconic view of Paris. A perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. A walk in the morning could be to grab a coffee and stare up at the triumph of this attraction. Our favorite part of the trip was actually acting as if we were Parisians in the city. Stopping off at a local market street, we grabbed carefully crafted cheeses, meats and a bottle of french wine. As we sat in the courtyard, we ate our simplistic meal and enjoyed the surrounding area. A hotel room might have made for a more luxurious experience in the city, but I’m not sure we would have had the same love for Paris, if we looked at it more as a tourist as opposed to a local.
Even local trips give us an instant lift. A trip up north to Dunsmuir to see waterfalls was extremely gratifying. We had just finished hiking to several top waterfalls in the area, when we pulled up to our stay for the night. It looked like an interesting trailer park that had turned into a hotel. A little run down, we made our way to our Airbnb. The double wide we came upon was nestled in at the end of the drive. Looking at it, you would be a little unsure of what you were getting into. When we entered and came into the living room, we saw the most amazing view of Mount Shasta out the window. A perfect location with a view of Mount Shasta and a river flowing below us. After a night of waterfall chasing and a few too many beers at a local taproom, we indulged in our hot tub and fire pit that was included in our location. A hotel would have been far away from any of these amazing views and amenities. A hotel would have also cost us a tremendous amount more for all that was given to us. A mere $150/night was a perfect price to pay for our own view of luxury in this Northern California town.
Staying local in comparison to a hotel, gives you a different perspective. It’s for people that want to live closer to how locals live. An experience that takes you away from your normal view of a getaway. The coffee they leave behind, the location or little extra touches are all part of the experience. If you stay in a hotel, you get the usual. A hotel room, great service and maybe a little better bed to sleep in. When you stay at a local persons home, you get to experience a different scenario. Have all of our experiences been good? No of course not. We’ve had some bad arrangements as we’ve traveled across the world. The possibilities lead to a better situation though. You get a chance to experience something you’ve never experienced before. A vacation needs to involve getting closer to the people and location you visit, you won’t get close at a hotel made for tourists. Give living like a local a try and I know you won’t regret it, regardless of the situation. Even if it challenges your vacation, it gives you a little something different outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes outside of our comfort zone is the perfect recipe for an amazing vacation.