If I was good at poetry, I would write an ode, a lover letter, a rhyme, whatever to Airbnb.
The first website Dan and I check when booking accommodations for any city, in any country is Airbnb. For those of you who may not know, Airbnb is a website where hosts can list their apartments or homes, rooms in their homes, or even rooms in hostels and it is available worldwide. So instead of staying in a hotel or hostel, you can rent someone’s home or apartment instead. We have proven to ourselves time and time again that we like Airbnb so much better than staying in hostels or hotels. The reasons we like Airbnb better:
- We get our own private space which is cherished while traveling for over 4 months. They are usually quiet and away from the party scene that many hostels attract.
- As a couple, we save money by being able to cook in our own kitchen and most of the time, the price of an Airbnb is cheaper or equal to both of us renting beds in a dorm in a hostel.
- It’s a good chance to meet people from that city or country. The hosts either meet you at the home or you are able to easily communicate with them through the Airbnb app. Dan and I have also rented rooms in people’s homes and have had great experiences connecting with the families as well (see below). Therefore, you always have a local to whom you can ask questions!
- It’s a cultural experience. You are practically living in an apartment or a home in that particular country. It almost makes me feel like I actually live in that city as opposed to feeling like a foreigner staying in a hostel or hotel.
- The reviews are very helpful in deciding whether you’d like to book someone’s place AND the hosts can leave reviews for you too so that other hosts will want you to stay with them in the future. Because of this, we have never had a bad experience.
If I’ve convinced you to join Airbnb and start using it anytime you travel, which I hope I have, let me know and I can send you a $20 Airbnb credit which in turn gives us $20 when you travel and $80 if you host.
Fauning over Airbnb is long overdue as I’ve had this crush for quite some time now. However, the past few days that Dan and I spent just outside Otavalo, Ecuador has made me want to sing its praises even more.
We choose to book La Casa de Luis which is situated in a small pueblo called Araque, just a short 25-30 minute local bus ride to Otavalo. We were a little concerned since it wasn’t exactly in Otavalo but the reviews of Luis’s home were great, the pictures beautiful, and the price right ($40 a night including a wonderful breakfast and private room and bathroom) that we just couldn’t pass it up. Luis was very communicative with us, answered all of our questions, and provided us with exact instructions on how to arrive in the tiny town from Quito by bus. A sign of a good host!
The first sights of Luis’s home seriously impressed me. It is located off a dirt road but is beautiful on the outside and quite large. Upon entering, everything was very clean, modern, comfortable and not to mention the views of Lago San Pablo and Volcán Imbabura from the upstairs terrace. Luis and his family (himself, his wife Germania, his father, and his daughter Kelly) live on the first floor (which is comforting) but we had the whole two top floors to ourselves as no one else had booked while we were there. Had nothing further happened, we would have already been completely satisfied with our stay.
Luis is currently adding another private room with a bathroom.
View from the 3rd floor terrace.
Excited to get out and see out the area, Dan and I walked into Araque to find some lunch. There really isn’t too much there, to be honest, but a few very tiny restaurants and a couple of shops. We ended up walking down the main road about another hour or so into San Pablo that has a little more going on, with a small plaza, shops, bakery, etc. Araque and San Pablo are very traditional Ecuadorian pueblos. Many woman still wear the traditional indigenous Quechua clothing and herd their cows down the main cobblestone streets. I also did not see one other tourist there which made me feel like we were somewhere really special. This alone made me feel excited to get out of busy Quito and to experience a lifestyle that many have in Ecuador.
Quiet street in Araque.
That night after going to bed, Dan awoke with horrible stomach pains. I’ll spare you the dirty details but basically he was chained to our shared room and bathroom for the remainder of our 3 days feeling terrible. These situations are so horrible because there was nothing I could do for him except go to town and get him Sprite, Powerade, bread, crackers, and talk him into taking the antibiotic we have with us. Upon finding out he wasn’t feeling well, Luis and his wife were concerned and helpful. Germania brought Dan medicinal tea around the clock whenever he needed it, a compression rag with herbs, and continuously asked about and checked on him. She went above and beyond as this is obviously not included in the Airbnb package. Part of me feels like her TLC really helped him recover.
In the meantime while Dan was miserable, I was starting to feel that way as well. It’s not easy for me when he is sick either because a) I can feel his pain and b) I’m left lonely without my travel partner to do things with. Before I could feel too lonely however, I befriended Luis’s 8 year old daughter Kelly and her cousins who kept me company playing cards, jumping rope, and just chatting when I wasn’t out and about. In the evenings, Germania even invited me to try Quimbolitos (a traditional sweet made inside of a cornhusk) and had me for dinner. This family truly went out of their way to make Dan and I feel comfortable. Kelly, Luis, and Germania really started feeling like a family to me. They saved us! They saved Dan’s life (in a sense) and saved me from not having good memories of Otavalo by worrying about Dan and feeling lonely. (Although I think Dan’s memories may not be as fond as mine except for their kindness).
Instead my memories will be of traditional and beautiful Araque:
The Otavalo Market – the most outstanding market I’ve ever seen filled with everything. Textiles, jewelry, crafts, food, animals, and more:
I’m bringing scrunchies back.
Traditional outfits the women wear. I seriously wish I could pull this off.
My new friend I made at the market! She was so adorable! Also, take notice of the sandwich in my hand: fig and cheese deliciousness = $1.
Lago Cuichocha – about a 45 minute drive from Araque sits this crater lake. It means Guinea Pig Lake in English. You can walk the perimeter which can take anywhere from 3-5 hours. Since Dan wasn’t feeling well, we just stopped by to see it:
And of course time spent with the Luis and family:
The sweetest 8 year old girl.
Our final dinner with (starting left): Dan, Luis, Germania, abuelita (grandma), abuelito (grandpa), and Kelly.
Each time I meet our Airbnb hosts, the more I know that Dan and I are getting so much more out of it than we would if we’d have stayed somewhere different. The personal touches the hosts provide and friendships we’ve made will be things I remember forever. Not to mention the fact that Airbnb saved D and me.
I think it is safe to say that my crush on Airbnb has grown into a full blown life long relationship. So, I decided to give this poem a whirl:
Medellin is where my love for you grew, as you provided us the perfect apartment for two.
In Bogotá we stayed in the apartment of Rolo, thank God because we couldn’t have figured out that place solo.
Completing so many outdoor activities in Bariloche I almost died, but remembering our apartment was so centrally located I could have cried.
Mandala was the best hostel I’ve ever known, so thank God Airbnb had their listing in El Bolsón.
Americo and Maria in Punta Arenas opened their home, and when I walked in on Americo after his shower I screamed, PERDON!
Santiago we just couldn’t seem to leave behind, another traveler staying in FOUR separate apartments I dare you to find.
A spontaneous road trip in Chile with no booked accommodations, we thought was a good plan, until we couldn’t find anything, and back to Airbnb we ran.
ElquiTerra was the cream of the crop, that for the rest of my life I died to just stay and set up shop.
The colors of Valpo did make us swoon, so easily I could have lived on Pablo’s balcony until June.
We were filled with so much wine and booze, that Nina and I danced the nights away to Celine Dion, in our apartment in Santa Cruz.
And lastly La Casa de Luis, truly made me realize that to using Airbnb, I will never cease.