By the time, I had reached Rome, my blistered feet, overpacked suitcase of leather, and fresh mozzarella breath told the stories of my travels. Florence had given me beautiful monogrammed leather and a wonderful history of art and culture. Venice had stuffed my belly with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes drenched in balsamic vinegar. And both cities had left their mark on my feet with lots of blisters and scrapes. After three hours on a train, all I wanted to do was sleep.
So far, all my Airbnb hosts had been wonderful but I hadn’t stayed at a place with the host. We met Cassandra in Venice and Sylvia in Florence, but they did not live in their Airbnb rentals. I was a little nervous, yet excited to stay at Luca’s B&B. As someone who enjoys her space, I wondered what it would be like to have strangers as roommates in a foreign city for five days. As an Account Planner at an advertising agency, I wondered how long I could ask them a million questions before they accused me of being nosey and rude.
Nicole, Luca’s girlfriend, met us at the train station with her German accent and European hospitality. “Hello!!!” she excitedly greeted us. Max, my boyfriend, and I followed her about ten blocks to the bed and breakfast. During those ten blocks, she spoke so highly of the city and her job and her love for meeting new people. When I meet strangers, I usually have to remind myself that not everyone is looking for a new friend. And I tend to use the word “friend” loosely. “My friend who I met on the El train yesterday…I don’t know his name but he always sits on the right side on the 5 PM Red Line, and we talk about the Cubs…yeah. Him, my friend.” You get the picture.
The apartment was simple and felt like home. Luca greeted us with his strong Italian accent and hugged us as if we had known each other for years. He immediately pulled out a map and started to show us the secrets of Rome. Nichole made us an espresso and served us some food. What great hosts, I thought to myself.
As the days went on, Nicole and Luca did the typical host duties. They served us prepackaged pastries for breakfast, coffee and helped us map out our day, but at the end of each day our relationship with our hosts began to change. Suddenly, I realized we were no longer random couples meeting through Airbnb. We were friends. Friends who began to share stories about our past, learn from each other and encourage each other to be our best selves. Evenings were spent on the rooftop of the bed and breakfast, laughing about life, talking about German and Italian culture, discussing American politics and hearing Nicole’s wonderful saying “Live and let live” over and over again. By day 5, I wasn’t sad to leave Rome, but I was sad to leave my new friends who had so graciously developed a friendship with a random American couple who decided to stay at their place based on Airbnb reviews.
Over time, I’ve become a go-to person for friends and family who are looking to travel and every time I tell them about my international Airbnb experience they cringe. “You stayed at an Airbnb overseas? Those seem sketchy”. And every time I reassure them it is the best way to travel. Airbnb connects you with people, not just places.
Traveling isn’t always about the destination or the historical cities and beautiful scenery. It isn’t always about buying beautiful leather bags and shoes or eating delicious pizza. Traveling is more than a review on a website or a picture of an Airbnb apartment. Traveling is about meeting new people and connecting with human beings. Our world is huge, and the most important part of this world are the people who live on it.
If you read Luca and Nicole’s reviews, you’ll immediately want to book their Airbnb space. Be prepared to make new friends and gain a deeper understanding of Italian culture. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/121609 You’ll be telling me “Grazie” after your stay.