#2061 | #LAdiaries – Airbnb Trips: The Adventureman

UntitledUntitled

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!

UntitledUntitled

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.

Untitled

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.

UntitledUntitled

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.

Untitled

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

#2050 | LA Diaries: Airbnb Murder Mysteries / Trips, Experiences

Untitled

Taken at The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

imagesLos Angeles, America

What are the stories you want to tell?

This is a question that followed me around like a little rain cloud throughout my press trip to Airbnb Open LA 2016. I’ve been working with Airbnb for over a year now, and sometimes it feels like I’ve told most of the stories that can be told. I mean this in the best way possible – I love that people can open up their homes to others, create a micro-economy of their own. That tourists and travellers alike have a way of injecting currency into an economy on a very local level in a way that directly impacts the people who actually offer their homes to you, as opposed to having your virtual money disappear off into the endless loop of commercialised corporations. And host stories are new every trip, of course – each new place I stay in I hope to make friends that give me some sort of insight into their world. But something that I always wonder is – how do our voices evolve – how do we start telling newer, better stories?

And that was one of my small, secret aims of this trip, to try and come away with one good story, one thing that I feel resonates with me and hopefully you guys.

One of the biggest announcements Brian Chesky (CEO of Airbnb) made this Airbnb Open conference was the launch of Airbnb Trips. No longer offering only the opportunity to rent homes, Airbnb is now evolving to become a one-stop travel service. This means booking flights, ordering groceries, making restaurant reservations, all within the app. It means the launch of audio tours, free city e-guidebooks, car rental services. It means the launch of Experiences.

Experiences is without doubt the single biggest thing about Airbnb 2.0, simply because it is so novel, and makes so much sense. Is it a completely new idea to pay a local to bring you around? No. These things exist, and they’re called tours. But is it a new idea to have a local invite you to partake in the intimacies of their lives? Possibly. And now it’s being made so convenient too – to do it all on one app: booking accommodation, food, flights, and having your days planned out for you. This, Chesky announces, to gasps and insane applause, is the future of travel.

As the press con dissolved, I found myself wandering around looking for hosts to talk to, to try and understand what sort of experiences they would actually be offering. I met a dude from Miami who brings guests paddle boarding, diving, and for a boat party, over the span of four days. I met a couple from London who want to teach people to pluck and grow their own organic food. These were all interesting and sounded all kinds of awesome, dont get me wrong. But I kept looking. I was searching for something else.

And then I got a text from Elaine, one of the Airbnb girls.

“Jemma, you here?” she asked, “There’s someone I’d love for you to meet.”

Untitled

This is Nicole Biondi from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s an author – she’s penned crime thriller novels for the last five years, with more to come, and has worked in tourism for 17 years as the head of the Cape Town tourism board. Elaine introduced me to her because I also write fiction (albeit less successfully with exactly zero novels to my name lol) so she thought it would be interesting. Well, it was – but not for the reason she might have suspected.

What I wanted to know from Nicole was:

1. Did hosting on Airbnb subsidise her artistic endeavours?
I mean, let’s be real. Unless you’re JK Rowling, writing hardly pays the bills. You run on passion, mostly. And your day job – be it working in a cafe, teaching english, or being a train attendant. Or being an instagrammer, lol. What I wanted to know was if Airbnb hosting could be your day job, a supplementary income that got you by while giving you flexibility of time to work on your creative projects.

PS. the answer for her was not really, because she only decides to host on Airbnb twice a year max. (Hosts as in, in her home, not host a Trips experience)

and

2. What was a crime thriller writer doing hosting an Airbnb Experience, anyway? As an aspiring writer myself I can tell you that any time spent not at your desk writing is frustrating. Why have dinner or watch a movie when you could be working on your writing? As you can tell, my social life has gone out of the window. But I had a strange suspicion about her agenda, which turned out to be more or less true..

Nicole’s experience is called Madame Mystery.

“Tell me about it,” I said. And so she did.

She’s penned a whole story that she’s inviting you into, a mix of fact and fiction, called the Botanist Brigade Murder Mystery legend. You begin with a hike up Table Mountain, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, and a total bucket list item on every traveller’s list. Halfway up, she brings you into Woodstock Cave for a picnic breakfast, and then introduces you to the name carved into the cave wall – J. W, Lawrence, a man who died on the 15th of May, 1965. Your mission throughout the day is to follow the timeline between 1865 and present day, to figure out why and how he died. It’s a real life Cluedo mystery! And, boy – if you like Escape Room games, you’ll love this.

The Experience consists meals and snacks (starting with breakfast in the cave), a gorgeous hike, an artisanal gin-tasting session that also includes a tour of how gin is made, and ends off with a three course south african meal where you become the characters in the story to try and solve the mystery. All this for 2,000 South African Rand, which translates to about $143. Not bad for an all-inclusive, unique experience.

But that still didn’t answer my question – why is she doing this? So I asked her, again, and she looked at me. Aha, she said, and I knew she knew what I was referring to.

“Because they think they’re having fun, these guests. But I’ve tricked them into coming on a little history lesson with me, on South African history, the black community, and how life has changed for those of us living in Cape Town.”

There it was. She was using Airbnb Experiences as a vehicle for social commentary. I wanted to punch my fist into the air. Yessss! I had solved my own little mystery correctly. She went on.

“Writing is exorcism. There are things you need to get out. This is common to every storyteller..”

And storyteller she is – she told me on the side that she not only wrote stories, she also worked as an emcee, a performance poet, and a voice artist.

I nodded. Go on.

“And when I tell these stories, be they on paper or to unsuspecting Airbnb guests, I want to change the way they see the world. Just a little bit.”

Yes.

Something you need to understand about Nicole – after seventeen long (and I should think, successful) years as the head of tourism, she quit to work in an NGO called Innovation Edge that focuses on developing early learning in children aged 1-6 by funding ideas and initiatives in marginalised communities. It made sense for her, I think, as someone so passionate about social issues, to move from tourism to a non-profit.

“Did it annoy you?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “To have tourists caper up to Cape Town just to look at it as a gorgeous tourist holiday destination without bothering with understanding the social structure or history of the place?”

“Oh my god,” she rolled her eyes. “You have no idea.”

We then spent a good part of the next hour talking about South Africa – mostly her, talking intensely, and me, listening, trying to absorb, and asking the occasional question. Much of this conversation had nothing to do with Airbnb as a platform, therefore potentially majorly irritating the Parisian journalist who was waiting to interview Nicole on Airbnb Experiences. But Airbnb is not a product in and of itself. It is a platform. And this platform you can use to book accommodation, browse listings, read city guides. So why not use the platform to push a social agenda? I totally got Nicole’s rationale behind what she was doing, and loved it. And despite not being technically a part of the official Airbnb Experiences Ethos, it still aligned nicely with Airbnb’s aesthetic of trying to get people to understand each other and cultures, trying to create a more inclusive, loving world (Look at their latest announcement – a mandatory non-discriminatory rule). Just that what Nicole is doing is on a far, far more local level.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post called The Broke Student’s Guide to Being Human. Those of you who remember that will understand why meeting Nicole was so important to me. As someone who comes from a position of privilege (i mean, come on. A chinese woman in Singapore is like being a white person in America), it is easy to forget and important to remember that your privilege often works at another person’s expense. Let’s not play the privilege game – the comparison of who is more, who is less, who is equally privileged. There will always be someone more fortunate. Someone vastly poorer. You are born into a body and social station which is not of your choice, and all you can do is try to be fair, and kind while learning to navigate it.

But in traveling, this is easy to forget. It is so easy to ooh and aah over the gorgeous mountains of cape town while ignoring the incredibly insane income disparity that exists there. So easy to shudder at the gunshots in the middle of the night, that you hear from your rented room in a small town of Medellin, Columbia, thrilled at your authentic local experience. But your holiday experience is another person’s everyday reality. And while it may not be your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the entire social historical context of whatever city you go to, it sure doesn’t hurt.

I wont attempt to explain the social fabric of south africa. Learning about it from Nicole was endlessly interesting to me, but I have no faith in my ability to do it justice, or replicate her words with the same level of conviction that can only come from a lifetime of personal experience. But go. Ask her. Ask any host you stay with, any local you meet on your Airbnb Experience. Ask them for their story. Ask them why they’re doing what they do. If it pans out well, you’ll find yourself enriched, your perspective widened, your capacity for empathy hopefully deeper by the end of it. And if it doesn’t, well. You’ll have a story of your own to tell.


Airbnb Experiences is now available on the updated Airbnb app.

x
♥jem

#2049 | jemma for airbnb: totoro in shin-okubo

IUntitled

imagesTokyo, Japan

Another day, another beautiful Airbnb. We stayed in this gorgeous traditional meets modern apartment in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo, on our recent Japan trip. Shin-Okubo is better known as Koreatown in Tokyo, which is strange because anything korean related only spans one small street. That said, it is a wonderful area in Tokyo, not subject to the ridiculous crowds of Shinjuku or Shibuya, but accessible to everything all the same via either one stop on the jr line or a ten minute stroll.

Japanese apartments are known to be small, but efficient. Very rarely will you get a huge sprawling apartment with a lot of empty space like the type you might find in resorts or less land-locked cities. Tokyo is crowded, and so apartments stack, and they don’t waste any space. But japan is also home to some of the best and innovative designers (after all, it is the home of muji), and so apartments, though small, never feel cramped.

UntitledUntitled

The boys on their futons

Part of this involves the fact that their beddings can be rolled away and kept at the start of the day, though of course lazybums like us leave them out and survive on them throughout the day. When I mentioned this to my sister, she said it sounded awful that we all had to sleep on the floor.

“Aha,” I said, “But it is a japanese floor. The most comfortable floor in the world.”
“Aah,” she replied, nodding wisely, not understanding anything I said.

It might not make sense to anyone who’s not had personal experience with the japanese tatami futons. But sleeping on the floor, in japan, is just as comfortable as sleeping on a bed, if not more. And in the winter, these futons can be plugged into a socket that makes it a heated blanket instead! How bout that. I dont know how they get out of bed to go to work at all, I imagine a heated blanket would be impossible to resist in the mornings. But then again, #japan..

Untitled

and me, teetering on the side of my mattress so i dont get my outside-clothes on the sheets

The rooms in the apartment were segregated by these sliding paper doors that are characteristic of japan. If you’ve ever watched a Ghibli film, you’ll know what I mean – those little sliding doors that make up both their cupboard and room doors. This means that they can be opened half way to open up the rooms to each other so everyone can chat across the apartment, or to let light in so sunlight floods the place without having to turn the lamps on in the darker parts of the place.

Untitled

And reading on the sofa, which folded out to become yet another bed in case your travel party is larger than normal… who knew you could stuff so many people, hypothetically, into the same place? PS. Here I’m reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which is like Murakami on drugs – strange, weird, but interestingly, easier to come to terms with. Would recommend.

Untitled

and a little work corner, if you need to get some writing done

As I’ve said many times before, it’s all about finding a balance between a great apartment and a fantastic location. Location is almost always the key, and that doesn’t mean getting a place thats necessarily in the middle of the city centre, but also places that have things to do and see around them, and so not just places that are smack right in the middle of a quiet residential neighbourhood. Luckily for us, this place had both. I consider Shin-Okubo pretty central, and there were a TON of things to do nearby. There was even a cafe right below our airbnb that I dropped by a couple of times to sit and work – it opens till 2am. 🙂

It seems my criteria for Airbnb listings has also informally extended to include proximity to convenience stores, adding on to the previous checklist of a easy walk from the train, the train station being an easy segue into the city centre, etcetera etcetera. Two minutes from our apartment we had one of Japan’s wonderful 7-11s (and so, breakfast for the trip settled everyday), and two minutes from that we had the Shin-Okubo train station. As I mentioned previously in last year’s Broke Student’s Guide to Tokyo, getting an airbnb on the JR Yamanote line is essential to any first timer in Tokyo because the day pass for the JRY gives you access to nearly all the hotspots you’d want to see. And while I’d been to Tokyo before, it was all the boys’ first times, and so the JR line rule still applied!

PS. Buying the JR Yamanote day pass is easy – just buy it off a machine. If youre not sure on how, then go approach the station master and tell him you want a JR Yamanote day pass. He’ll show you how to do it – the Japanese are really helpful! It’ll set you back about 750 yen for the day. Which sounds like a lot, until you realise that it costs about two bucks per train ride anyway.. so count how many places youre intending to see, before deciding if it makes sense to get a pass!

But one of the absolute best secret tips we got from our Airbnb host? Hitting this late night eatery hiding out on the second floor of an obscure building a street down from where we stayed. TORIKIZOKU, a traditional yakitori place that’s mad cheap and delicious – 280yen per item on the menu, including drinks!!!

UntitledUntitledUntitled

Torikizoku
2-23-1-2F Hyakunincho, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture

The stuff you only hear of if you get to know a local, hey? Even if you never get to meet your host (as in our case, a self-check in airbnb that was mediated primarily through messages on the Airbnb app), your airbnb listing will often come with an e-Guidebook which most people miss out on – it’s in your trip itinerary after your booking is confirmed 🙂 It usually consists checkin information, house rules, and places of interest around the area, and is created by your host, so you know what that means – LOCAL TIPS GALORE.

But honestly. Ho-nest-ly. Tokyo is so amazing that there will never be a time when I feel like I’m done talking about it. This is the fifth japanese airbnb I’ve stayed in (tokyo last year, then osaka and kyoto and osaka again), and you’d think that it gets repetitive after awhile. But you would be wrong. Each place I’ve stayed in brings its own flavour to my trip, and I’d like to think that they set the background to your experience in each new city, be it a traditional, uber-cosmopolitan, or uniquely modern apartment. And that’s part of the reason why I’ve always returned to airbnb time and time again, I suppose – even before I started working with them long term. Just a bit of side-talk: I get a lot of emails from you guys everytime I publish a new Airbnb post, and I’m always both surprised and grateful that people havent heard of it (probably because it’s such a big part of my travel plans) and also that people are willing to try. It really signals to me a sort of adventurousness that is new – we used to all be so safe in terms of our choices when we travelled, but if not now, when are we going to try and explore the world / new destinations on our own terms? It’s on that note that I’m thrilled to announce: I’m flying to LA tomorrow for a weekend, on agenda for Airbnb Open and to chat with them about what makes Airbnb, well, Airbnb. The future of travel. So stay tuned, because more on that real soon! x

Ten days in Tokyo: perfection. Miss you already, tokz. Till next time.

This Airbnb Listing
$33 off your first booking here

x
♥jem

#2019| Jemma for Airbnb: Sydney Warehouse Livin

UntitledUntitled


imagesSydney, Australia
Airbnb/jemma

Yet another one to add to my list of interesting slash unique Airbnb finds.

Last September I was in Sydney, technically for Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival, but in reality I’d flown seven hours to spend some precious hours with dear friends that I hadn’t seen in ages. The great thing about globalisation, I suppose, is that opportunities to live and work abroad are aplenty in the modern day and age, the bad thing about it is when these opportunities happen to the friends around me. I kid, I kid. (Or do I?) Selfish reasons aside, I’m genuinely grateful to be privileged enough to be able to fly over for reunions when I can, and September was, well, lovely.

And of course every travel opportunity is an opportunity to stay somewhere new, somewhere unique, a little pocket of experience that I find myself privy to without having to commit to the whole lifestyle: think about it, the ability to live in an igloo for a week without having to commit to the eskimo lifestyle! And so on. This is airbnb.

In September I found myself doing my favourite thing, which is essentially scrolling through endless pages of airbnb listings which feed my voyeuristic side, and I finally settled on this incredible converted warehouse in Alexandria, as in, the Grounds of Alexandria, you know? Instagram speak. Pfft. But seriously – this place was a huge expanse of space by city standards, a double storied place with the bedroom upstairs, loft style. Open concept living. And if I lived in a city that allowed me to convert my warehouse or garage into my own bachelorette’s pad, you’d bet I’d do it.


Said Grounds of Alexandria, which was in the same neighbourhood as my Airbnb pad

Bachelorette’s pad it was. Nellie and Isabel crashed with me when they were in Sydney, and the kitchen that bled into the living room and lounge area meant that we could always chat across the space no matter what we were doing, and it felt incredibly cozy despite being such a large space. During the second half of my trip, I had Jenna and Bert come crash as well, and only in retrospect did i identify what this was – a giant slumber party in my rustic converted warehouse.

It fit so seamlessly into Sydney for me, and although I know the word is passé, I really dont know how else to describe the place besides resorting to the word ‘cool’. I mean, living in a warehouse! It was my artist’s co-living space dreams come true. If I ever had the opportunity to move to a big city to work on my writing, it’s exactly what I’d imagine myself to do – share a converted living space with other similar types: musicians, artists, writers – and of course, here I am assuming that they’d want to live with me. Ha. (But – and I do try to be objective – I’d like to clarify that I’m a pretty damned good housemate to have.)

One more thing – and the cherry on top of the cake, really. The lady who owned the place must have been mad close to her neighbours, because they knocked a tiny hole in between their apartments to create a tunnel where their cats could freely roam between the houses. I was told about this beforehand, of course, but it didn’t do anything to stave off my delight when a couple of tabby cats rolled into my living room one evening when I was minding my own business. Another morning I woke up, and a cat was napping on my feet. If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that this is my idea of perfection.

UntitledUntitled

with one of the tabbycats

My one regret was that i only had a very brief brush with Kylie, my host – I generally try to dedicate some time to hanging out with my airbnb hosts to try and get to know them and the city via them a little better, but it just so happened that Kylie was out of town when I came to visit, and so she left self-check in instructions, and I pretty much just slipped myself in. What that did do, however, was assist me in operating under the illusion that I was living, you know, alone, in a new city, by myself, independent and all. Ha! Look at me, playing at being all grown up. If you must know, it was fun.

Experience refurbished warehouse living here as well.

Untitled

Sunset walks in the park near the airbnb pad

I’m aiming to stay in a yurt next. Isn’t life exciting, you guys?

x
♥jem

PS. $35 off your first brush with airbnb, don’t forget. register here!

#2006 | Jemma for Airbnb: Shoreditch Loft Dreams

HQ2DSC_7480DSC_7540DSC_7290


imagesShoreditch, London
Airbnb/jemma

I’m going to just go out on a limb here and say that my one unique talent is finding the best places on Airbnb.com.

Last June – has it really been that long? – but yes, last June, I hit London for the third time. London seems to be becoming a bit of a yearly thing for me – so many people I love having decided to settle there, but this time I was there for my best friend’s graduation in the sleepy university town of Exeter. I extended the trip past that to hop between the most iconic/standard european destinations with an old girlfriend, who was a first timer to both london and paris. So London for us was divided down in two: pre-paris, and post-paris. Pre-paris London was spent wandering down the normal touristy areas – london bridge, the shard, the thames, etcetera, and we stayed right by London’s Bridge with the most amazing Airbnb host in the world, Hayley. More here.

Post-paris, though, found us in Shoreditch, East London, a hipster neighbourhood which has been fighting against claims of gentrification for the last couple of years. Haters gon’ hate, I say. I personally found it lovely.

But let’s talk about my unique talent; ref: start of post. I rented a private room in this gorgeous sunlit loft right by the Shoreditch tube station, an unusually large place for London city. The first night, we shared the apartment and some conversation with a couple from New York who were renting the other room. This is why I love renting private rooms on airbnb – it’s a sure recipe for guaranteed conversation and possible friendship because you live with other people and you have to make some form of small talk. Force yourself to converse! It’s good for character. The couple we met were two halves of an entirely too inspiring whole: one was a ballet instructor, the other the publicity director for the Book of Mormon on Broadway. The best part? The publicity director was an English major in Univeristy. It was a beautiful moment of clarity for me, a I see the light moment and all that. Career options for English majors! I adored them. They moved out the next morning.

We had the entire apartment to ourselves the next couple of days, the hosts themselves being off to Switzerland to visit family. The last night, they returned from their trip and we had some (organic) tea with some (equally organic) strawberries together. See what I mean about the area being supremely hipster?

DSC_7288

The dining table is made of an old door, yes

And there we had the story behind the apartment explained to us by Sebastian and Sandra, our lovely, effervescent hosts.

The apartment we were living in was a converted office building, which explains the huge floor space, the brooklyn-esqe fire escape, and the emergency exit sign that they felt was too cute to remove. They were probably right: we had previously assumed it was intentional interior decor. It certainly fit the theme. Plants grew out of every corner in the apartment, hung from the ceilings, and sprouted out of pockets in the walls, because what better for one’s mental and emotional well being than to feel at one with nature? And most of the furniture was either sourced from vintage markets or handmade. See: table which used to be a door, above.

DSC_7520DSC_7571

The sofa bed which is really actually just a bed.

More often than not, your living space reflects your personality, and moving around in the open concept apartment really gave us a sense of what Sebastian and Sandra were like as people. The apartment spoke to us, and I dont mean this in a figurative sense. Every day that we lived there, we uncovered new post-its and sharpie-scribbled notes on all possible surfaces. The fire escape door reminded us to be happy. Above the coffee machine: a post-it note – what you focus on EXPANDS. And when you washed your hands after taking a poop, on the mirror: today is a brand new day!

You live here, day in, day out, Sebastian explained. It needs to fuel you with positivity. It begins at home.

He was on to something there, for sure. It was impossible to feel worried in that apartment, and it was nearly impossible to leave it and venture outdoors to explore. The living room smelt of life from all the greens (and with a bit of help from the aromatherapy diffusers they had going), and there was constantly soft jazz playing in the background, flushed speakers and an iPod somewhere. And the kitchen was an open hug – stocked with ethically grown fruit (it said, on the label) and organic tea / coffee, that guests were welcome to help themselves to.

DSC_7498 DSC_7292

This is Chaplin, the goldfish. You have to feed him if no one else is around.

Because we only had one night overlapping with the hosts themselves, we weren’t around to take part in their usual routine, something I very much regret. They get up every morning at six to do yoga together, and either cook or eat out in the evenings. (Couples should start and end the day together, Sebastian had said.) They hold meditation sessions for their guests and friends every month, and organise movie screenings in their living room for the shoreditch community once in awhile. It would have been the perfect in for a non-londoner, a great segue into the buzzy, modern lives of the young city dweller. Lucky for the guests who lived there during those nights: it must have been incredible.

Still, I’m not too fussed. I’ll be back in London again within the near future for sure, said best friend mentioned at the start of this post having decided to stay on in the city to pursue his masters. And when i return, I’ve been cordially invited to join Seb & Sandra – maybe not for 6am yoga, but definitely for one of their fantastic dinner slash movie parties. All organically prepared, of course.

Say hi to / live with this incredible couple: listing link here.

Till next time. x

Untitled

x
♥jem