Monday, June 27, 2016

Airbnb - When you can't travel, travel comes to you.

My guests come from all over the world - and, the next state over.  Checking my guest requests is a bit like finding a message is a bottle - you can never predict who is asking to book and what the reason might be they have chosen Ames, Iowa as their destination.  I eagerly open the message, then open my Airbnb account to ]get a better look at who this individual is that wants to come and stay with me in my 1960's Luxury Condo.

Tonight as I was trying to determine if I could host one more traveler this summer, I had an ephiphany. Some of you may have read my post on this blog from December 2014, "Prairie Anchor." In that post I speak of the reality of my life as the guardian of a disabled daughter.  I lament that the travel I so long for is unlikely in my life.  As well as being anchored to wherever Molly is, I am also anchored here because of the vast resources I've had to use to support her to accomplish the most healthy and holistic life she can have.

About the same time I opened the metaphorical door of acceptance to the realities of a rather stationary life, I also opened my literal door to Airbnb.  After sixteen months of being a host, I've entertained over 25 people.   I've had visitors from 12 countries, or about 5% of the countries in the world, and from 11 states, roughly 20% of the US states.  

Travelers from near and far remind me that Iowa is an interesting and glorious place, even through their lens of living in the exotic locale they come from.  I can not argue with the wonder they feel for our rolling hills, our crops, our snow, our sweltering heat, our parks, our flora, our neighbors, our architechture.  

If the opportunity presents itself, I ask my guest what a typical day is like for them back home.  Some tell me about their day as if I was their assistant in charge of scheduling,  Others give me glimpes of the beauty and joy they find in the nature around them, the people they love, and the work they feel passionate about.  The later allow mw to travel vicariouly to their part of the world.  Sometimes language is a bit of challenge . . . which makes the exprience all the more rich.

Almost all of them bring at least one concern with them.  It may be the presentation they have to give at a conference; they wonder if Ames will be a good fit for them for their studies; they worry about if they'll know when their elderly parents can no longer live independently here in this community; they hope to say something caring and reasonable to help their daughter break up with her abusive (in their opinion) boyfriend; they want the children they've been alientaed from for years to know their side of the story.

Some have left early - the hope that this time their family would acknowledge their partner (and their sexuality) didn't happen; an attempt to reconnect with a high school girlfriend didn't work out; they met their true love and moved into their hotel for the rest of the conference.  Some stayed longer - the loved one they came to partner through hospice hung on longer than my 14 night maximum, and I made an exception; the specimens they were studying didn't grow out as fast as expected.

With every departure there are equal parts disappointment and relief.  I wonder if I'll ever get to see them again, to hear the next chapters in their stories.  But, ah!  I get my place back to myself.

I've put a small world map up in my guest room with pins in every country and state the guests come from.  I also have a guest book where more of the guests share a paragraph or two.

Now, instead of bringing out travel journals and pictures of my travels, I walk into my guest room and page through the guest book or put a new pin in the map.  For now - this is my travel experience. I still have not given up on Paris with the family, or a month in India . . . .