Sunday, April 9, 2017

Airbnb and a a quick update

For the past 12 years, in two different jobs, I have traveled to a different city almost every week.

From 2005 - 2015, I traveled to Memphis, TN from Nashville. From August 2015, when I changed jobs, to the present, I have been traveling to Birmingham, AL.

The length of time for this travel varies. When I went to Memphis, my general schedule was Monday - Thursday, but not always. Rarely was I ever there Monday through Friday.

But I was there enough that I got a small apartment downtown near my office. It was convenient to have my own place to go to when I was there, but when I moved out two years ago it was evident I had been there ten years and it was a pain to get rid of stuff and/or move stuff home.

In my current position, the drive is shorter, which is great, and I probably average a couple nights a week. I have a staff of ten folks there who report to me and it's because of their proficiency that I don't have to be there all the time.

A lot of people question me about why I do what I do. During the early years when I was driving to Memphis and back almost every week, and it was a relatively new thing, some folks would question me to the point of irritation. It was probably just me, but sometimes I felt judged, as if I were neglecting my family or something.

I was probably a bit paranoid about that.

The fact is, it worked for me and the current situation works for me. Wife still has a job here in Nashville and we have no desire to move. I am fortunate to have had employers with enough flexibility to allow me to do the back-and-forth.

Although all my children are grown and away from home now, during the time in the previous job when two of them were still at home and I was traveling, we maintained our family just fine. When I needed to be home, I was, and all was well. Wife and I still have a good marriage today, even though I travel some.

That's really not the point of this post but I always feel like I have to explain myself.

Anyway, when I started the current job in August 2015, a co-worker offered me the use of his guest house when I was in town. We agreed on a nominal amount I would pay him per night and it worked out beautifully. I knew, however, that it would not last forever.

He notified me this past November they would be needing the guest house for some family members and I would need to make other arrangements. He gave me through the end of the year. It was a good run and, again, I knew it would not last indefinitely.

As I pondered my options, Wife and I discussed it and I told her that, if I could avoid it, I really did not want to get an apartment in Birmingham. I enjoyed having the one in Memphis and there were some advantages, e.g. I could leave some things there from week to week. But the thought of doing that again and furnishing it wasn't very attractive to me.

During the 14 months I was in my friend's guest house, I had to clear out each week when I left, so I learned to be fairly "minimalist" if you will. I would pack easy-to-prepare food and make use of the small refrigerator in the place, but managed to take everything with me week to week.

As I pondered my options, knowing that getting an apartment would cost less than staying in a hotel and almost deciding to bite the bullet and do that, Older Son suggested Airbnb. It's a company that was formed a few years ago where people offer rooms in their homes, or their entire homes, for rent, usually at a price that is much less than a hotel.

Just like Uber (the ride sharing program) has disrupted the taxi industry, Airbnb had disrupted the hotel industry. But I think the hotels are still doing fine, best I can tell, and most cities allowing Airbnb have forced hosts to charge taxes similar to the hotels. And frankly, I think that's fair enough.

I decided to give it a try and it has worked great. The booking, communication and payment are all done online. I have stayed in five different ones, and only once have I met a host.

Two of the ones I have stayed in were actually someone's home where the host lives, but both were split levels with separate entrances, so I had total privacy.

I'm not interested in sharing a room or a bathroom with anyone, although if I were willing to do that, I could really get off cheap. But that's pretty much non-negotiable. At my age, I'm not interested in sharing living quarters unless it's with my wife.

So far I have always found places where I have it all to myself and the cost has been less than what I way paying my friend for use of his guest house. So our budget for this is still pretty much the same, if not a bit less.

I try to be the perfect guest, following my host's "house rules" carefully and leaving the place just as I found it. I have given good online reviews to all of my hosts except one, and for that one I sent him a text and told him my complaints, which were (1) even though he had a "no smoking" policy, it was clear someone had been smoking there, and (2) the trash cans were full of trash. He was somewhat apologetic, but I didn't think quite enough, so I have not been a repeat visitor there.

All of the hosts except that one have also given me very high marks as a guest but he did not give me a bad one. He just declined to give me a review, as I did him.

I am not going there at all this coming week, but I am already booked for the last couple of weeks in April.

It's a lot of fun looking for and finding a place and looking for the best deals. I'm starting to repeat some of my stays. I might eventually get tired of it and consider doing something else but for now, just like the travel itself, it works for me.


Wife and I recently learned that we will be grandparents TWICE this year!  Older Son and DIL are expecting in October, and they are having a boy, just as Daughter and SIL are. We are, needless to say, quite excited.

We had a rare time of all of us being together a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta. Younger Son was doing some travel with work, so we all converged on Older Son and DIL at their place for about 24 hours, and it was incredibly fun.

We must seize those opportunities when we can.