Christmas of 2009 found me pet-sitting one Bengal cat, a Ragdoll, a German shepherd, a Golden retriever, and a community of fishes trapped in a 20-gallon Marina fish tank, at a friend’s house. My first BnB experience. Well, if you want to call it so by the time you are done reading this piece.
This is how the story began. A family friend wanted to travel to South Africa. His housemate was headed for Canada. But there was a dilemma in waiting. They could not take their pets with them.
My family lived in Botswana’s copper mining town, Selebi Phikwe, in the central district. About 405 Km away from their home in the capital. A town that had a habit of turning dead over the holidays. And we needed to escape the ghosts, at a fair price.
The deal? Pet-sitting in exchange for a ‘free’ house. Call it barter trading if you must, but that saw us travelling to Gaborone for the holidays and spending close to ten days in the heart-stopping 3-bedroom bungalow. Pets, lawn and glam included.
That may not count for your everyday AirBnB experience. But it met the needs of both parties. Maybe not every trade includes money after all.
Brian Chesky and Jeo Gebbia concocted AirBnB as renting out space with the resident still living in the house. Today’s BnB experience however entails folks renting extra apartments and beautifying them to accommodate guests, without sharing.
If computers can evolve, so can BnBs.
The thought that we call such houses BnBs is appalling. Air mattresses have long been replaced by modern stylish beds that would have you sleep through your stay. But by grace, your host though not living with you may slide in an extra mattress in case you are allergic to bed-sharing. Read, the star-like sleeping colleague, partner or tour buddy.
With the Easter holiday less than four days from today, this article is in time to demystify the BnB experience. It all starts with guests from all over the country invading your touristy town. Well, that is the story of my city, Mombasa.
The exact thing your village folks experience when you decide to invade your native home over December. Favour returned. Thank you!
Hotels in this coastal city are charming. Those at the beach are even more laudable. But on the honest side of the pocket, most cannot accommodate the middle-class folks. The nation-builders. The folks that really need the break.
That leaves us with the option of giving up our homes for them in exchange for money. Read that as, ‘giving them the other houses we rented and furnished for such times as these.’
Such are apartments furnished to the original tenant’s financial prowess. Or is it thrill for the shilling? But trust me, some look a hundred times better than our homes.
My suspicion however tells me it has something to do with the wisdom of an Ancient Roman playwright.
No guest is so welcome in a friend’s house that he will not become a nuisance after three days.Titus Maccius Plautus
So we make money out of them. In a somewhat sweet way.
How else would you explain the colourful couches, plush shaggy rugs covering the sitting rooms, and kitchenettes with utensils only seen on BBC Food?
And don’t get me started on the beds. The increase of wholesale bedsheets shops puts the old Indian-owned shop downtown to shame. The former stocks bedsheets with dreamy designs, made-to-fit pure white mattress covers and pillows your head could kill for!
The tone of the BnB experience however varies from one class of BnB to another. I will focus on two in this article. The luxury holiday BnB adventure you wish you would have every other day. And the business class. Let’s begin with the latter, shall we?
The Business BnB Experience
First, the location of a BnB does not determine the price demanded. Most of the time. What counts is your host’s determination in making you wish you could relocate to their home. Or just keeping you well enough so you can do what brought you to town and leave. So the next culprit takes it up.
And even then, most BnB hosts have apartments for different business sub-classes. And different pockets. In English, your pocket determines the BnB you get. The heavier the business deal, the more generous it gets.
The average business BnB avails reliable Wi-Fi, a Smart TV ushering you to YouTube Movies and News, and a chance to sign with your Netflix account. Something you ought to have. That level of entertainment covers your business trip’s needs.
You also have access to a work desk, a chair, a comfortable bed with Thailand-designed bedsheets, and a quick all-in-one bathroom. Not more than four glass plates, simple stainless steel spoons, a knife, and the other knickknacks you would otherwise have in your kitchenette as a bachelor. No offence.
Call it comfortably basic. And don’t ask for a further bargain. Such are owned by middle-class fellows. Often.
When the fun comes to play, and your pocket is into affluence, your BnB experience comes with elements of extravagance.
You have all-paid-for DSTV premium and Netflix to the game. Enlist also recliner sofas, a Soundbar accompanying the Smart TV and potted plants in the sitting room. A dining area endowed with a close imitation of Ashley Rokane’s 7-piece table set.
Air conditioners replace overhead fans. Full ovens evict table-top cookers. Luxury silverware cutlery dines with the BBC food dinner set. And the microwave, water dispenser and toasters are on a whole new level.
You pay for the swimming pool planted in the middle of a well-manicured lawn. Whether you use it or not. The juice and alcohol bar, though you still pay for the drinks. And have daily housekeeping. It’s your money anyway!
In other words, this is an exquisite holiday home listed in the BnB section of the Internet. The furnishing completes the statement. Such is owned by the bag-bearing guy operating flights above the middle-class fellows.
I would say, to your pocket.
Because the perfect BnB experience does not exist. What does is your pocket dictating where you stay, why and when. Lest you forget, when the demand, as caused by holidays, comes to play, the prices go up.
And that has nothing to do with value addition. It’s more of demand versus supply. Also spelt as human greed or something of the sort. So says economics.
Of course there is a hybrid of the exquisite holiday home and the business adventure. The question you ought to ask before you complain about the amenities provided however is, “What are the must-have amenities for the visit I am about to make?”
A BnB, unlike the hotel, allows you to make your meal at will. You could concoct your heart’s delight in the middle of the night. This is good for those of us who could use a dose of strong coffee and cinnamon pancakes between dreams. A non-stick pan and a tabletop cooker do the trick.
Simple with a twist of difference in environment is relaxing. But if your preference is grander, knock yourself out. With your pocket’s permission though.
So before you curse your last BnB host because this time you have landed one that tastes a class higher, remember your budget.
No Trade Like It
When the last day of 2009 came, one thing stood out about the BnB experience my family had. Reduced rent. Pet Care to be precise. That was way less than we ever thought possible. Not to mention, we pumped it into other fun activities!
While we had to plan the visits to the movie theatre, seeing relatives in Gaborone, shopping and swimming sessions around the pets’ feeding and grooming time, it was a worthy sacrifice.
So when I help my clients pick a suitable BnB, what matters most is the crossbreed of the state of their pockets and the experience they desire. When the pocket is pressed against the desired experience, I emphasize on ‘a change is as good as a rest.’ Take the affordable BnB and explore the location the way a true tourist does. Or a digital nomad for that matter.
Your mind, body and soul will thank you for choosing the humble abode and going all out on what your eyes desire. After all, the true BnB experience is comfort. Not the exaggeration of your pocket’s flexing ability. Otherwise, the stay is iced with regrets.