A Not so Hostel Hostel: An Airbnb Experience in Charleston, South Carolina

Cheers to Charleston for winning the Best Small City in the U.S award! (Conde Nast)

With a week to kill between jobs, I found myself driving down to my favorite part of the United States, the South. For months, I had been pinning pictures of Charleston, South Carolina. I booked a room at the Not so Hostel Annex. Located just three blocks from the main street downtown stood a cozy little yellow house. A giant tree covered half of the front of the house and a porch swing gently swung as the humid evening breeze flew in.

The hostel was simple and instantly reminded me of my family vacations at the beach. It smelled of sand and water, a glorious smell of vacation and relaxation. My room was nothing more than a bed with a light and a nightstand, but it welcomed me with open hours after 10 hours of exploring during the day.

Perhaps the best part of my stay was meeting the host, Bailey. Bailey ran the hostel and decided to quit her full-time job to run the hostel. She wasn’t your typical host. She wasn’t running a bed and breakfast, so she didn’t serve you breakfast. She was a landlord, so she didn’t provide you extra keys or a map of the area. She was there to be a friend. She was there to ask you about your travels when you came back at night and laugh with you and listen to your excitement after you visited The Battery and the market. Her laid back attitude made the experience great.

If you get the chance to stay at the Notso Hostel Annex in Charleston, I highly recommend you get to know Baily. You’ll leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated. And you may even make a new friend.

Check out one of the rooms in the Notso Hostel Annex


Berlin Hospitality Outside Our Apartment Walls: An Airbnb Experience in Berlin

As I stepped off of the plane at the Berlin airport, I quickly pulled out my passport, holding it like one of those characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who won one fo those golden tickets The long-awaited stamp on my passport was about to happen. I had managed to have customs organize my Italian stamps so well back in the Spring, and I had found the perfect place for my Berlin stamp on page 3. I walked and walked and walked and soon realized; there would be no stamp in Berlin. Disappointed was an overstatement. Why was the stamp so important? Because it branded (no pun intended since I’m a brand strategist 🙂 ) me as a temporary resident of Berlin for the next four days. My blank page 3 looked disappointed as well.

After a long journey by train and foot, we arrived at our Airbnb in a cozy little neighborhood in Berlin, but our apartment was difficult to find due to lack of technology, sim cards, and a delayed schedule. We found our building and my boyfriend hunted to find the internet to get the key from our Airbnb host. I sat on the steps of the apartment, still upset that my passport would never tell the story of my travels to Berlin and overwhelmed by jetlag. I just wanted to get in the apartment, take a shower, and unpack.

I began to notice the neighborhood. It suddenly hit me that it was not an ordinary neighborhood. People set out their glass and plastic bottles outside the public garbage cans so those who were less fortunate could trade them in for money. Older kids rode their bikes slower, so their younger siblings didn’t have to ride home alone from school. People shouted from balconies “Hallo” and asked if they wanted a coffee from the shop down the street. Another tenant in the building even offered us her phone and let us in the lobby so we could take a break from the sun. Was I witnessing extreme amounts of kindness in this foreign city? It seemed so much different than anywhere I had visited.

Soon, our wonderful host Vilius arrived. He was a no-nonsense type of man and welcomed us as if we were his friends. He pulled out a map, telling us where to go and what to see. He warned us about the not so nice parts of town. The apartment was clean and modern. No complaints! I highly recommend staying at his place if you visit Berlin. He was patient and kind despite our late arrival and he even cracked a smile behind his stern, Germany personality. He seemed to fit right in with the other nice folks in the neighborhood.


It hit me after a few days. It wasn’t the wonderful apartment or Vilius’ amazing hospitality that made our stay so wonderful. It was the apartment’s front steps and windows that overlooked the neighborhood. It was the people that lived outside the walls of our Airbnb. They helped us experience what it means to be a Berliner: kind. If it weren’t for Airbnb, we would have never experienced the people of Berlin the way we did. I gave Vilius’ apartment five stars, and his front porch ten stars. 🙂 I wish there were a “made me feel like a local” rating dimension for Airbnb.

Sometimes it’s not about the cleanliness of the apartment or how many beds it holds or if the WiFi is fact. Sometimes it’s about if your Airbnb apartment will introduce you to new people and make you feel like a true local. I soon realized I no longer needed a passport stamp to feel like a Berliner. I just needed to be kind to everyone around me. Thanks to Vilius’ Airbnb apartment, I learned what it means to be a Berliner.

Check out Vilus’ place here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/88981?checkin=09%2F24%2F2015&checkout=09%2F28%2F2015&guests=3&s=XKpw


Remember Your Passion: An Airbnb “Art”partment Experience in Florence

I had preconceptions of Florence before I stepped off the train. Venice met all my expectations and dreams. Florence just seemed like a city in between Venice and Rome filled with a bunch of art. Working in advertising had increased my appreciation for art and creativity, but my short attention span causes me to walk through art museums at the speed of lightening. See it. Looks good. Let’s move on. I knew Florence would be nice, but I was more excited about Tuscany. Wine! And short attention spans are fun when you’re drinking wine (chug. new glass. chug. new glass. let me try two at one time!).

As I walked through the streets to our apartment, I could smell the artistic talent, history, and appreciation. Yes – it’s so strong that you can smell it. I walked down the streets of Florence as my boyfriend, Max, worked on contacting our Airbnb host, Sylvia.

A few moments later, Sylvia arrived at the apartment. Frazzled and out of breath, she hugged us and led us up the stairway. Sylvia was a walking piece of art. Her outfit was an assortment of random accessories and colors, resembling a Picasso painting and her personality was certainly that of an open-minded, all over the place artist. It wasn’t until the end of the trip that I realized she was a walking and breathing Florence – an artist full of life and creativity who wasn’t afraid of going against the grain.

She opened the door to she apartment, and suddenly I felt like I had stepped into the Florence Museum of Art. Her walls covered with paintings depicted humanity and politics, contained graffiti and bright colors. As I walked around the apartment, I realized that everything was art, not just the paintings on the walls. Bedspreads and lamps and coffee tables and kitchen tables and bathroom tiles were all painted with unique colors and designs and felt as if they could live in an art museum. She explained that the paintings on the walls could be purchased for a small price. We could take home a piece of her lovely Airbnb if we’d like.

Each time I came back to our Airbnb I came to realize that it wasn’t the actual paintings and art that was turning around my “art is boring” attitude. It was the passion and stories behind the art. Sylvia spent hours creating art about things she felt most passionate about and wanted to share her own perspective with the world. And her Airbnb became a space where she shared that perspective. As a guest, her Airbnb became more than my home for five days. It became a reminder that we all have a fire inside of us that is waiting to be ignited.

Traveling is about immersing yourself in the culture. Florence has great art museums, statues, and history, but overall it is a city passion and drive. If you get the chance to visit Florence, I highly encourage you to stay at Sylvia’s “art”partment (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/72941). Not only will you gain an appreciation for art, but you’ll reignite your passion for whatever it is in your life that makes you tick. You’ll discover your blank canvas and take off running.



From Hosts to Friends: An Airbnb Experience in Rome

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.