Friday, August 23, 2013

Lis' Story: An Airbnb Experience in Copenhagen

We’ve decided to give airbnb a try on our visit to Copenhagen.  We found the site while Googling for budget accommodation in Copenhagen and remembered it as something we had discovered previously but never explored.  Airbnb is a wonderful concept that allows people in cities all over the world to host travellers in their homes in a rather informal but very personal arrangement.  The hosts provides a bed and often a simple breakfast and gives visitors the chance to make the acquaintance of a local.  The visitor shares their own stories and experiences, bringing another part of the world to the living room of hosts. 

Airbnb was founded in August of 2008 and is based in San Francisco, California, It is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries.

As we travel through Europe we realise the world is slowly becoming a far more global place.  Since leaving the UK, our passport has not been checked or stamped once.  Perhaps, one day in the future, we can cross all borders of our planet without standing in endless queues that separate citizens from aliens.

This is my first time in Copenhagen although Steve has visited previously for a conference on Urban Planning.  We’ve travelled here using a Eurail pass and find train travel incredibly relaxing, giving us
time to enjoy the passing scenery and get caught up with work.  The train trip to Copenhagen took us by surprise when our train drove in to the ferry.  We were all asked to leave the train and stay in the top deck of the ferry till the crossing had been completed.  We are constantly amazed at the efficiency of travel through Europe.

Lis has given us detailed instructions on how to get to her place from Central Station in Copenhagen.  We follow the blue pipe from her local station to the apartment complex she lives in.  We learn later this blue pipe is actually a water pipe that was cheaper and more convenient to construct above ground and deceives visitors like us into thinking it is public art! 

From the minute Lis buzzed us in, we knew this was going to be a positive experience.  Her welcoming voice invited us in to her home and her life.  She ushers us in to a delightful sitting room and a bedroom that will be our private space during our stay here, while we will share the kitchen and bathroom. 
Over a cup of refreshing green tea in her kitchen that brings the outside in via glass windows that stretch across its length, we share stories of each other while Lis gives us an introduction to her city and her home.

Our curiosity is peaked when she tells us about the flat she lives in.  It is a housing co-operative with a body corporate that looks after much of the grounds and the outer work on the building.  It is difficult for Lis to translate the exact arrangements but we realise it is different to traditional home ownership.  A primary advantage of the housing cooperative is the pooling of the members’ resources so that their buying power is leveraged, thus lowering the cost per member in all the services and products associated with home ownership.

Lis has stocked the fridge with a wonderful array of fresh, wholesome food for our breakfast.  The bread, cheese, ham look wonderful and home made blackberry jam as well as milk and juice for us to enjoy tomorrow. 

We learn quickly that Lis is a girl who enjoys her food and more importantly her life.  She works to live and her evenings are full of activities – dancing, movies, singing or a dinner with friends or family.  As she shares her stories I feel an instant connection with this person who only an instant ago was a just a J!  She says she knew it would be fine when we came up the stairs and she saw me smile!  
stranger on a website.   Later we learn that Lis had initially felt a little intimidated by the impression she gleaned of us from our website.  She had wondered if we perhaps might be too intellectual for her

Over tea I discover we are the same age, born just a few months apart.  She too is an avid traveller having once taken a year off to discover Asia as a solo traveller.  She has been to quite a few places off the beaten track including the funerals in Sulawesi, a camel safari in Rajasthan, travelling through Burma, learning marital arts in Japan and lazing on the beaches of Sri Lanka!  She has been to California, spent time ‘Down Under’, travelled to places like Mexico and Cuba and seen lots of Europe including Greece.  Lis lives alone now but till recently, she was in a long-term relationship, which ended amicably with a man she had been friends with for years.  We marvel at the many similarities in our lives and say goodnight feeling incredibly happy to be here.

We really enjoy Lis’s company during our stay in Copenhagen and formed a beautiful friendship with her.  We got along really well together and Lis invites us to have dinner with her during our stay at her home.  We agreed on the proviso we cooked together and so we spent a delightful evening cooking up a feast – pan-fried salmon, salad and lightly fried potatoes washed down with a light Riesling, which was then topped off with a beautiful white and dark chocolate mouse we discovered in a café downtown! 

The airbnb experience is hard to beat when travelling.  While it is still a commercial transaction, the exchange of cash is done via a website.  How much of your time and life you then share with your host is purely up to both of you.  There are no obligations because you are friends or family so what is given
is purely because you choose to do so.  Lis was incredibly generous with sharing her home and her time and it made our experience very special.  I think this experience will be hard to beat!  We found a kindred spirit and feel we made a friend for life.  We found in Lis, a person who loves sharing her city with her fellow travellers.  A person who wanted to give something back to her fellow travellers in the same way that she too had enjoyed the hospitality of strangers in foreign lands. 

We share many chats over food and drinks and felt quite sad this experience was ending.  As we hug and thank Lis for her hospitality, she tells us she is grateful to us for inspiring her to think about her own future and thanks us for being who we are.  There is nothing nicer that she could have said… 

Lis, we too wish you the very best for your own journey too.  We know that you will fulfil your dreams because you have the courage to chase them.  We too are thankful because you are who you are!  

1 comment:

  1. I'd highly recommend Airbnb, and I'd strongly urge you to consider neighborhood over location. It will make you feel like you are a temporary resident rather than a visitor. Copenhagen is easily walkable and bikeable, so I would think you can get anywhere you want to go.