#2119 | Jemma for Airbnb: Apartment Goals in Melbourne facilitating Life Goals in Overall

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This Airbnb Listing, Melbourne CBD
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You always know it’s going to be a good trip when you check into your airbnb and gasp.

Which was exactly what happened on day one of Melbourne – when our host opened the door and we were greeted by the most sublime living room, opening up to a balcony offering mad views of the city.

“Ooh,” Jenny (our host) said, looking at us. “I do so like it when people love the place.”

And then she gave us a quick house tour (washer and dryer here, here’s how the nespressso machine works, and please water my flowers for me every other day!) and left us to soak in the place. And soak it in we did. In fact – we wanted to move in permanently and live here forever – so intense was our level of affection for the place!!

The pictures of the place actually dont do it justice – nothing quite captures the way the natural light fills the space with a sense of calm, nor the way the french cafe music (Cafe De Paris, Disc 1) floating from her cd player fills you with a sense of deep seated satisfaction. Or the way the cool air rushes at you as you step into the balcony to water the flowers or people watch (the balcony overlooks many nearby rooftop bars). Or the way you’re gently woken each morning by the sunrise peeking in from the strategically positioned bedroom window (you can pull the blinds down if you’d prefer to sleep in).

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Waking up to this every morning T-T

The apartment isnt family-home kind of large, it’s more 2-3 adult housemates living together kinda size. And everything in the apartment is geared towards that chic adulting lifestyle – from the thoughtful interior design (the little mirror and drawer by the door for a last minute hair check and to leave things like keys, sunglasses, lipsticks, that you’d need to remember to bring out) to the creation of reading nooks to either read alone or hang with friends before bed. It reminded us so much of our Airbnb in Paris from two years ago, and we couldnt help but swoon over every little detail in the place and surreptitiously take notes for future reference.

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Mirror by the main door to do final checks before heading out

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Small passageway between the living room and bedroom – with a shelf of books!

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Morning coffee run from a street down – Seven Seeds Coffee from Traveller Coffee

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Working remotely in the mornings by the kitchen table in the living room

And let’s talk location. Located in the private little alley of Liverpool Street within the busy CBD, the apartment already has the air of being a private find. It was so incredibly central that although it was within the Free Tram Zone, we walked everywhere – the only times we needed to take the public transport was to St Kildas on a different side of town, and also when we booked a Klook tour bus to take us to Yarra Valley.

The fantastic location meant that we could wake at 6 (I started transitioning into a happy morning person in Melbourne, possibly because there is no better way to be woken than by french music and the gentle rays of first light?) and go for a coffee run – Traveller Coffee one street down opens at 7am and serves coffee from Seven Seeds – and then come back and work remotely off my laptop till 11 before heading out again for brunch. Words cannot describe how happy this arrangement made me: I’m a bit of a self confessed workaholic, and I loved, loved the fact that I could wake up early and be productive for a good five hours before going about my day. Already the day is a winner when you start by ticking a whole bunch of things off your to-do list. Five hours means replying all my emails, finishing strategy proposals for a client, drafting two or more blogposts, and mining administrative tasks (making bookings for the coming week, planning out the finer details of my anniversary with Shane – to be the day after I landed back in Singapore). Xiaoqi would often wake a couple of hours later, by which time I would have take out coffee and bagels waiting for her, and we would work across each other on the wide kitchen table before getting ready at 11 to head out to brunch. Twice on the trip we woke early to set our laundry to wash, a sure sign of adulting.

After brunch, we would roam around the city, see things we wanted to see, and then head back to the apartment to work out at about 4-5pm and transfer the laundry from washer to dryer if it were laundry day. Because Xiaoqi is a fitness nut, she actually brought a yoga mat, and so daily we would meander back to the apartment before dinnertime to work out together in the living room, shower, then finish up some work on our computers before heading out for dinner and wine. This arrangement worked because she definitely knew she wanted to exercise everyday (to be fair, if you were in Melbourne, foodie city, you would feel the need to work out daily too) and we knew two things to be true: 1. nobody can work out after wine and 2. we would have wine every night.

And then after a fantastic dinner (we went to amazing places. AMAZING.), we would happily return to the apartment to wind the night down by reading a couple of chapters from our books (i went to town in a small cozy bookstore a mere two minute walk from our apartment, I tell you) either in the living room or in bed – warm bedside lights facilitated this – and then turn in, happy with our day.

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All the time I thought to myself THIS IS THE LIFE I WANT TO PERMANENTLY LEAD.

So much about the apartment and it’s location facilitated this. Beyond being an amazing apartment contained in itself, it was also a vessel to achieving that adulting life goals I had always dreamed of. If I lived here, I told myself, I would be the happiest, most productive person ever. To be fair, I’m generally happy in disposition, but I was in a very, very good place in Melbourne – and much of this had to do with my insane love for our airbnb.

Most of our treasured finds from the trip were also stumbled upon mere minutes from our apartment. Let me lay it out for you:

Right at the foot of our apartment building: Rice Paper Scissors, incredible fusion vietnamese tapas and wine. 0 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

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Also, a comic bookstore right at the foot of our building.

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Paperback Books

Around the corner: Paperback Books, a curated cozy bookstore overflowing with handpicked books. 2 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

Next to Paperback: what is possibly my favourite wine and cheese bar in the world – Self Preservation, full blogpost here. 2 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

Two steps from Self Preservation: The best pizza in the WORLD – Ombre Salumi Bar, full blogpost here.2 Minutes walk from our Airbnb

In the other direction: Bodega Underground – late night Mexican joint, where the octopus tacos and beef quesadillas made us emotional. Open till 3am, perfect for a little nightcap. 1 minute walk from our Airbnb.
Read the full bodega blogpost here.

Down the street from Bodega: Chinatown and Little Shanghai – famous for xiaolongbao, a type of chinese soup dumpling, and with perpetual long queues. It opened at 12, which meant living nearby ensured we were FIRST IN LINE. Actually this applied to most places, our location meant a bit of strategic navigation ensured we hardly had to queue for anything. 3 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

Down the main road from Liverpool Street: Princess Theatre, Melbourne, where the Book of Mormon was showing at the time. We were so near that on the first day, after checking in, we could rush down to the theater to inquire after last minute tickets – and we snagged first floor platinum stall tickets originally retailing for about 278AUD according to the counter girl for 50AUD each. For comparison – when I first watched Book of Mormon in London, I paid about 100SGD for the furthest seats from the stage. So this is INCREDIBLE VALUE. Last minute tickets are the way to go man. And what a way to start our trip! 3 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

I could go on. But get the idea?

I have said over and over again that when selecting a good place to stay, factor in location, because if youre paying a bit less to stay somewhere further that you’re going to have to pay more daily for transport, then it only makes sense to top up a bit more for the better experience of staying somewhere you have to pay less (or on our case, nothing at all) for on-trip transport. And this airbnb was the perfect example of that. It only makes it more perfect that the apartment was what it was – gorgeous, chic, our dream adult home. I recommend this place so hard – I know if and when I come back to Melbourne, I’ll be back to stay with Jenny right here.

This Airbnb Listing, Melbourne CBD
Sign up at Airbnb.com/Jemma for $50 off your first trip!

x
Jem

#2083 | #LADiaries Airbnb Walks – The Last Bookstore

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Los Angeles, America

Dusky evenings in downtown LA. I try to make it a point to visit a bookstore in every city I go to – part because of my love for reading, part because I truly believe that bookstores form such core part of our culture’s heart. My favourite bookstores, thus, are scattered around the globe: Three Lives and Company in New York, Liberia in London, Topping & Company Booksellers in Bath… and now added to the list, The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA, stop number three on the Old Bank District: The Historic Core Airbnb Audio Guide.

How do you not immediately want to run into this bookstore the minute you see it? What a name – compelling, challenging. And yet, not easy to stumble upon – perhaps because it being my first time in LA, I didn’t know my way around and thus wouldnt have walked past this street without being specifically guided there. Last week, a reader wrote to me and detailed the number of places she had been, following my travel guides on this blog. When I plan for my travels, there are also some travel forums, blogs and video channels I go to as an automatic resource. The point is – travel guides and online repositories of content still play a big part in the process of discovery and trip planning, and the newest entry into the fray is Airbnb with their launch of local guides and audio walks. When it was announced at Airbnb Open, I wondered how something that made so much sense was launching only now. But that’s part of the beauty of Airbnb, I think, and all industry innovators and disruptors – always changing things up and coming up with new ways of experiencing that you never knew you needed till now.

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The Airbnb Audio Walks are part of a collaboration with Detour, and you can find them under the Places tab in your Airbnb app. It’s still being rolled out in different countries, but for now its mainly in the USA. Essentially, it’s a free bonus you get with the Airbnb app which is GPS tagged so it brings you through “walks” in different neighbourhoods and cities. Sounds perfect for solo travellers – but it’s actually geared towards groups too, because you can sync your tours with your friends and all do the walk together. This is so great because it’s like a free walking tour but pegged to your own convenience – and made better only by the fact that the tours themselves are freaking ace. This particular one that features The Last Bookstore actually has different locals bring you through the walk in the audio guide – and one of the is the owner of the freakin bookstore, Josh Spencer. So yes – not a bad way to spend an afternoon, especially if there’s an Airbnb audio guide available in the city you’re visiting.

And so, into the bookstore we go..

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I have to say, being on a press trip, I didn;t have huge blocks of free time to wind around the city. My free time was mostly spontaneous, and in short bursts, and it was in that way that Los Angeles and I got acquainted. It wasn’t half bad – in fact, I’d like to think that I made quite good use of my time there, thoroughly filling my days with things and experiences and also leaving just enough to know that I’d be back. I thought to myself that I’d just pop in and spend an hour in the bookstore (after all, I wasn’t about to sit and read a book – just take a look, perhaps buy a book, and ask for recommendations) and then head out and check out other things within the city. But of course this was wishful thinking. Once I stepped in, the next time I saw the sky again it was dark, and dinnertime, and I was forced out by the alert on my phone that my next scheduled itinerary event was happening. And so that is a roundabout way of saying that yes, I loved it, and yes, you should definitely check it out if you’re in LA!

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The bookstore is a secondhand and new bookstore, and consists two floors and a ton of themed rooms. It’s won a lot of praise for its stunning design, and a true bibliophile could honestly spend hours and hours in here!

Some of the themed rooms they have include rooms gravitating around art, rare book rooms, $1 book areas, children books, so on and so forth. I’m pretty proud to say that I saw our homegrown Singaporean graphic novel, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, on the shelves in the Graphic novels and Photobooks room. It’s a little overwhelming when you first go in because it’s impossible to know where to start, but what I did was go straight to the second floor where the book labyrinth was, and then work my way down from there

The walk up:

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The flying books are my favourite, they remind me of Harry Potter!

These book themed installations are done in collaboration with various artists in LA, and David Lovejoy is featured very prominently. I deadass got the scare of my life when I turned the corner in the stairwell and bumped into that android human book thing. Jeez. America.

There are corridors which imitate art galleries along the second floor, and I spent a happy twenty minutes or so perusing them. I believe the art gallery Spring Arts is located there, where occasionally artists will come and take residence and interact with customers there – but I didn’t get to see them when I was there. And there’s also this jail cell looking room with the sign EMPLOYEES ONLY which I presume is where the booksellers can go take their break, but I didn’t get a photo of that unfortunately.

The Labyrinth:

I ran to the Labyrinth when I saw it, not even kidding. This is what my dreams are made of!

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Everything on the second floor goes at a dollar each, but the real draw for most people is the way the second floor looks like a portal into a whole different dimension. Again, it’s segregated by genre – the science fiction room is a legitimate VAULT – but the devil is in the details. Everything – from the way the light falls dramatically on certain titles – to the magnifying glass hanging over some books – is planned with the very deliberate care of someone who loves the place. And check out that book loop!

All of them, again, were done either by volunteers within the LA book community, or by local artists. The collaborative effort of this place was touching, but also sobering – in the window, a sign: What are you waiting for? We wont be here forever.

Back down to the first floor:

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The art on the wall is made fully of paperback books!

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There’s a one hour time limit for couches – presumably so you dont fall asleep there. No computer terminals to help you find books either, you just approach the “section care experts”, and they mentally log where you can find what you’re looking for. I ended up buying my first ever copy of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay which at that time was impossible to find in Singapore (now I have three copies cos I keep giving them away) and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness which was in the same year made into a movie. Would have gotten more (dollar books!!) but.. luggage space. Anyway. They pack your purchases into a brown paper bag, very old school, and then off you go.

When I stepped out of the store, it was dark. I had overstayed my initial plan – as expected – but I left happier, with two books, and no regrets.

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What a recommendation. I cannot imagine any book lover coming to LA and not visiting the last bookstore. And if you do live in LA – what are you waiting for? They wont be there forever.

The Last Bookstore
453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA

You can access Airbnb Audio Walks now via the Airbnb app.
Airbnb.com/jemma for $50 off your first stay x

x
Jem

#2077 | #LADiaries | The Undercover Host

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Airbnb Open, Los Angeles

I don’t need to mention that one of my childhood dreams was to be a journalist for you guys to have figured that out on your own. I had my eye on Columbia for the longest time because of their journalism degree, but such dreams are not made to be self-funded, and so, sans-scholarship, I stayed in Singapore for under/postgraduate. Though this by no means is a complaint – having met some of the best people in my university here, having stumbled into media and presenting, having been offered so many opportunities by the grace of God and the kindness of people around me… my life would have been so incredibly different if I’d spent the last six years of my life elsewhere. And all that was my roundabout way of saying, kind of, that I got to live out one of my journo dreams last year end at Airbnb Open 2016.

I’ve been labelled press many times, but this was the first actual full blown press conference I’d attended, and it was an insanely eye opening experience. From the early morning breakfasts at the press center where journalists from all over the world were aggressively typing out stories and bouncing ideas off across the room, to rockstar press talks where the crowd went wild as the founders of Airbnb walked onstage (seriously, those dudes are like the Zuckerburgs of the news world or something), to hanging out in the interview room where a million interview were happening simultaneously.. it was surreal. It was like living in a television set while also watching it unfold. I looked around, I thought, this is what an alternate universe for me would look like. I thought, I’d better do some interviews. And I did.

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Live Streaming the press conference – the broadcast arena

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Breakfast at the press center! + my weak attempt to be healthy.. which didn’t last long. HAHA

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A grainy picture of me at the press centre, in between keynotes and panels by the Airbnb team

Despite sitting on the traveller, not host side of things, I found myself attending a bunch of talks specifically catered for hosts around the world. That was another thing I liked about Airbnb Open – that it wasn’t just a press-centric conference – it was an entire festival where Airbnb Superhosts from around the world flew in to meet each other and exchange tips on hospitality and hosting, as well as get the chance to meet and talk to the Airbnb folk themselves, to see what was upcoming and to get their questions answered. Because I am a busybody, I sat in for several of the discussion panels for hosts (quietly of course, trying to be invisible at the back end of the room) to listen in, and boy am I glad that I did.

Different talks cater to different audiences, and when you listen in for something that is not catered to you, you learn so much about the other side of things that can also be unexpectedly very useful to your own experiences moving forward. This is something that holds true for everything, and I am and have always been a big supporter of stepping out of your comfort zone and expanding your interests beyond what you’re good at/familiar with. This is why I encourage my students in school to read books about things in genres they’re not used to, to participate in debates they don’t agree with, and to generally try and stay open to learning about the other side of things. This as a practice imparts empathy, perspective, and is generally interesting. And of course, this is just me being long winded (again) – what I meant to say was, sitting in for the host talks paradoxically gave me as a traveller a lot more assurance about my experience using Airbnb, and taught me what additional things to look out for when starting to embark on trip-planning!

You guys already know about how to select an Airbnb listing from my previous posts on the subject. If you haven’t read my Guide to Picking the Perfect Airbnb Listing, I strongly suggest jumping on it because it isn’t just a guide I wrote for the blog, it’s one that I put into practice every single time I travel – and it’s one that is formed from experience!

However, here are a couple of the more interesting things that I didn’t have to learn through experience, but learnt through the panels and talks:

1. All hosts are legally required to disclose surveillance devices in their listings, and strongly discouraged from having them, including but not limited to CCTVs, baby cameras, and recording devices. If they disclose this after a traveller has booked, then the traveller can cancel with a full refund without penalty. This is something that I’ve always wondered about, vaguely, so I’m glad i have a firm answer on this.

2. The search result placements of Airbnb listings are sorted based on relevance, ratings, and rate of acceptance. Which means that if a host is likely to cancel on you, or has cancelled on many guests before, their listing will be negatively affected on the search result placements! This was super interesting to me, because I’d always wondered how you could get so lucky as to be placed on page one of the search results HAHA.

3. The number of options under Amenities are always being updated, so it becomes easier for a host to define and distinguish their listing, and conversely, for a traveller to filter down listings according to what they want out from a place! For example: I think most recently Airbnb has added a whole bunch of options under the Family amenity section, and so you can possibly filter for a listing based on whether they have a changing table, a babysitter recommendation, so on and so forth.

4. There is now co-hosting on the Airbnb platform.

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Sitting in on the Airbnb Co-hosting talk

The co-hosting part was the most interesting thing to me. In fact, the co-hosting announcement was part of one of the keynote for Hosts that I sat in on, regarding their new and improved Airbnb app for Hosts. Another announcement they made during that talk was the impending launch of photo sending capabilities in the Airbnb messaging app, which is honestly going to be the best development we see in both user and host experiences with the app, I think. It’s not so bad for city listings, but when you head over to the countryside, like I did last July in the Isle of Skye, it can be pretty tough to find your listing if you’re driving for miles and miles on an unending highway – so the ability for a host to send you a photo of a landmark or some kind of visual indicator of where to turn in, etcetera etcetera, can be incredibly useful.

But I digress, again.

Co-hosting, which they announced as slowly being rolled out worldwide, is the ability to add a trusted family member or friend as a cohost from their own account so that they can help you manage the listing when you’re away, without giving that someone access to your personal account, personal details, or payment information.

This may be a point of convenience to hosts, but it is so much more a point of safety to travellers. Just the fact that you have to add another account’s profile as a co-host already ensures the second host is more or less legit and verifiable. But beyond that, the new feature means that you’ll never risk being met by someone who isn’t your host and isn’t officially verified by your host, and also offers hosts an option beyond just leaving their keys under the shoe rack somewhere if they’re not available. It means that I don’t have to worry about what happens if I arrive at a strange timing – cos my host can just add a neighbour as a co-host who can let me into the house, and it being endorsed by the Airbnb platform also acts as a safeguard for me so that I know beforehand who’s coming to meet me, I can see their profile picture and face, and I can communicate with them beforehand. It also allows the host to pay the co-host a percentage of the rental fee – which was a small point that I really liked, because it meant that bored old aunties have a way of making extra income by helping their neighbours check in guests, and it not only promotes a sense of community within the actual local neighbourhood, it also injects more money back into the local economy directly.

One of the hosts I spoke to – not about this, just in general – mentioned to me how putting up a room in her place on Airbnb gave her the extra income and final decision-making push to scale back her full time job into a part time one, just so she could also work on her art. And I thought to myself: there is an academic paper in there somewhere, a social study, that needs to detail the way Airbnb has played into the gig economy, and enabled individuals to pursue the less financially feasible passions in their life. And here you go – cohosting might just be one of them.

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Listening to Brian Chesky, the face of Airbnb and one of three founders, give a keynote

Lastly.. sitting in with the hosting community gave me a lot of insight into what the host goes through.

Perhaps this isn’t the most useful or pragmatic thing to takeaway from a conference, but it certainly was the most emotionally resonant. I already wrote a piece last year on the way certain hosts use their listings as vehicles for social commentary, and given my own experience with multiple hosts world wide, I also love how they take it upon themselves to share their culture and life through friendship and food with guests in their own home. But on a more local, person-to-person level, I loved getting to see the human side of the hosting community as a whole. I listened in on a group of hosts enthusiastically discussing the best way to make their guests feel like the first guest in the place – exchanging little touches to make them feel welcome. I listened to them talk about cleaning techniques, how to make your home smell nice and welcoming, how to get rid of lime buildup in crevasses and corners of your listing, what the best cleaning equipments are.. Basically, I listened to them try, passionately, to turn their homes into a home for me. It was incredible. It felt so .. is cute the word? But the word feels too trivial. Human, perhaps. It was endearingly, amazingly human and sincere. And that reminded me that this was what Airbnb was and has always been founded on – people, wanting to meet other people, and wanting to make homes all over the world. I think sometimes I forget, especially when booking whole listings and not just private rooms within Airbnb listings, that I’m not leasing a place from a faceless professional entity, but from people who have found it in themselves to open up their homes and invite me into their lives. It could have been you. It could have been me. Welcome home, the Airbnb website says.

The corporation is the corporation, and it does a wonderful job. But the people make the warm and lovely building blocks of the community, and they are the stuff that fuels and fires up Airbnb as an entity.

Thanks for having me at the Airbnb Open, guys. More #LADiary entries to come. x

x
Jem

#2072 | #LADiaries – Waking up in Airbnb Ktown, obviously.

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Waking up in LA
sign up at airbnb.com/jemma for $35 off your stay

Oh, my Airbnb #LADiaries are far from over, friends. But it’s a short one today, because I was flipping through my trip photos and was just reminded of how gorgeous our listing was, a crime not to document, really. Sometimes, I look through Airbnb listings even when I’m not actually going anywhere simply because the entire site serves as a reminder that apartment goals are totally, hundred percent achievable. They’re not just a studio photoshoot set, people live in these beauties! And then other times, being very, very lucky, I get to live in some of them, and live the dream, if only for a little while.

This one was picked out for me by the Airbnb team when I was in LA last November for Airbnb Open 2016. They sure know me, I thought, as I walked in, the place was all sun-filled with natural light and wood. Beautiful. I actually had a friend stay at the exact same apartment during her trip to LA a couple years back, and I saw her little profile picture next to her testimony under the Airbnb reviews when I was checking the listing out online, pre-trip. It was something along the lines of Love love love love love this place, and I screenshotted it and texted her, normally a totally deadpan person, you love love love loved this place?

Shuddap, she said, but yes, ok, it was great.

Anyway, I was suitably hyped up before actually landing in LA, and the place did not disappoint. Huge, by any standards, and gorgeous. So comfortable, too. You went to America and stayed in Korean Town? my boyfriend asked, but then I sent him a picture, and he said, oh, ok, fine, I get it. So yes, another case of when pictures speak for themselves.

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The iconic LA view from our balcony. At certain angles, when the sun hits just right, you can see the hollywood sign!

It never ceases to amaze me, how people open up these absolutely gorgeous homes to strangers to come live in. If I owned a place like this, I would want it all to myself, all the time. I’d never leave! But again, another part of me is grateful that people do, because it’s been such a source of gorgeous memories for me over the past couple of years, and also an avenue to friendship. Just last month, my London Airbnb host Hayley came to visit me in Singapore – we went for fish head steamboat and she swore it was very, very good. And then we went bar hopping. So I guess some things dont change, country to country.

While she was here in Singapore, I asked how her London listing was doing. It seems a bunch of you had gone to stay with her after my post on her listing, which was both really nice for me and a mighty surprise for her – she was initially under the impression that Singapore was one big family, and everyone who went were friends or friends of friends of mine. Which I guess is true, in a way. But while she was traipsing around Asia, she put her Airbnb listing on hold – another thing I never realised you could do, take it offline for awhile if you need a break and want to go travel. Which gave me a bit of a nice insight into hosting habits and lives. If ever, one day, I should find it in me to lease out my home and life as well 🙂

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the absolutely gorgeous black and white kitchen in our LA listing

Which was kind of my segue into saying that this LA listing, gorgeous as is, seems to be doing a bit of the same. I’d like to imagine that the host is off relaxing and taking a well earned break up in Palm Springs, or something, while her listing is offline. And so if you want to stay with her in the summer when she returns, you can either bookmark this blogpost, or check her out when she’s back, at this link.

Safe travels, and happy dreams, you guys. x

x
jem

#2061 | #LAdiaries – Airbnb Trips: The Adventureman

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Malibu, Los Angeles

Following the announcement that caused a tizzy the world over, I signed up for my own Airbnb Trip Experience. More accurately, I got signed up – two weeks before I boarded for Los Angeles, I got a text from Elaine (from Airbnb) asking: So.. what are your thoughts on surfing?

If you’ve been a reader for awhile now you’ll remember that I learnt to surf on the Gold Coast, which I promptly realised that I both a. Loved and b. Sucked at. But you know me – just because I cant do it well dont mean i wont like trying. So obviously I replied LOVE IT without realising (in retrospect, a bit stupid – should have suspected it) that it meant that I would be going surfing. I was booked for The Adventureman by Quinn Carson in Malibu Los Angeles, a half-day version of the 3 day lifestyle immersion that he actually offers on the Airbnb app. I knew none of this till much later: all I knew was a time, date, and meeting point + notes on appropriate attire and a general idea regarding the nature of my activity. So an eighty dollar uber ride from Downtown LA later, and hola Malibu!

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Malibu is gorgeous and also where the rich and famous live. “That’s Jessica Simpson’s house,” my uber driver pointed out, gesturing vaguely at a huge white structure as we sped past. Not remembering what Jessica Simpson actually did, I nodded and rearranged my face to look impressed. Finally he deposited me along a private looking beach, which i was genuinely impressed at, and drove off.

And here came my first fun fact, courtesy of my Airbnb Experience Host – all beaches in Cal State are public. This of course annoys to no end the rich people who want to think that their beachfront houses come with, well, private beaches. And it is hilarious because all I could imagine while trying to surf was the picture of a rich old man sipping his tea and trying to enjoy his 6 billion dollar view while determinedly trying to block out the fact that some noob looking asian tourist is crashing into waves right before him. Ha!

(Yet another example of the weird things you find out when you hang out with locals that differentiate your experience from the typical tourbook one. The knowledge that you’re the bane of some rich dude’s existence thanks to Cal State law. We must all rebel in the small ways that we can.)

Previously mentioned Airbnb Experience Host was called Quinn, and he and his friend took us for the day. We were a strange, assorted group from all over – there was a tv presenter from Auckland, a fashion editor from Germany, two journalists from Italy, a tv-writer from New York. And then me, the postgrad student blogger? instagrammer? online presenter? bookworm??? Even I dont know what I am. English majors, you will quickly find, have big philosophical struggles with issues of identity. But we were all level at that point, facing the waves, and going oh shit.

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Even to a total newbie, surfing is a bucketload of fun. Most of the people in the group hadnt surfed before, so Quinn brought us through an on-ground (on-sand?) lesson on the theory of the thing, and told us that we’d probably forget it all once in the water anyway. Spoiler: we did.

The actual surfing lasted over an hour, by the end of which we were all wiped out. Update: half a year later, I still suck at surfing. Half a year later, I still enjoy it immensely. And what better ice breaker than watching each other wipe out in the face of a monster wave? I must tell you that literally nobody looks good wiping out. Everyone makes an incredibly hilarious and stupid face. The hope is that as you go on you wipe out less and less, and so the frequency of people seeing you look ridiculous is diminished manyfold.

Seven tan lines and a head of copiously salt-drenched hair later, I dried off with the rest of them and we drove to a spot in the mountains to have a picnic bench lunch. Happily chomping on my sandwich, I looked around and realised that I would literally never get to sit around and lunch with so many varied people from different cultures and backgrounds otherwise. Those of you who’ve been long term readers know that a big part of why I love Airbnb (and travel, in general) is the opportunity to meet and understand new people, mostly in the form of my live-in hosts. And with this new Airbnb Experience feature, it seems that group has expanded to other travellers who have similar interests – or at least, similar attitudes when facing new experiences that could potentially be very embarrassing. Ha! See above: re wiping out.

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The second half of the Adventureman experience was hiking – something which I definitely did not realise beforehand. I actually hate hiking because I am terrified of falling down and breaking my face. In case you haven’t realised, I am extremely clumsy. But 2016 was all about pushing boundaries, and so despite fleetingly considering making a run for it, I chumped up and attempted the Malibu Creek State Park hike to the soundtrack of Quinn rattling off his favourite spots and memories from place to place.

Malibu Creek State Park is actually absurdly beautiful, and I found myself grateful that I’d been brought here because I don’t think I’d choose to go of my own volition. Lots of movies were filmed there – like Tarzan Escapes, Love me Tender, and Planet of the Apes. You can actually see the rock wall thats so heavily featured in Planet of the Apes, and the number of people taking selfies with it was actually pretty hilarious! Strangely enough, I never saw LA as much of a nature place – I knew they had a huge beach culture, of course, but my impression of LA had always been pop-culture based: griffith, DTLA, urban lights.. very curated, very specific. Never would I imagine going to LA, putting on some boots, and just going for a hike, though come to think of it, my American friends are very outdoorsy. Is this what being a local is like, then? In that hour long hike I saw everything I never had the option of doing. Back home, in the city grid and grind that I love and live off, the option to just get in a car and go frolic in some nature an hour out from the city was never really possible. Not that I’m complaining – different cities lead different lives. But experiencing the adventure man life for a day was pretty great, for a change.

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And that’s what Airbnb’s Experiences represented to me, I think. Going one step further and not just living in another person’s home, but experiencing life in their boots. I wrote a piece on a different Airbnb Experience last month, one with a south african author who uses the Experience feature as a vehicle on social commentary. That, to me, was something you’d never be able to do on your own, and something innately valuable to understanding the cultural and deep seated political issues embedded in a country’s history. This one is more straightforward, and doesn’t try to impart any moral lessons. But both do similar things in allowing you to live out the life of another person in a slightly being-john-malkovitch way. And both promise to be extremely unique and immensely enjoyable.

I speak from personal experience when I say that I hundred percent recommend The Adventureman to anyone headed the LA way. From what I understand, Experiences will be rolling out to cities all over the world soon too, so perhaps one day I’ll see you guys in a Hainanese Chicken Rice cooking class in Singapore? Who knows. But till then, surfs up. x


Airbnb Experiences is now available on the updated Airbnb app.

x
♥jem