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Airbnb — When a Home Away From Home Gets Way Too Homey

At an Airbnb the only place I could find for my toiletry kits was the floor. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The Airbnb Option: At one Airbnb the floor was only place I could find for my toiletries. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

We’ve done it. We’ve given Airbnb a chance — three chances to be exact. And, maybe I’m ready to go back to staying in a nice, clean, impersonal motel. Maybe we’ll pay a little extra money and cut bait on Airbnb’s “home away from home” concept.

Because somebody else’s idea of home isn’t always mine.

A Clean but Bleak Airbnb

Our first foray into Airbnbness took us to a spotless — but barren — house on a busy street in our son’s town on the Mississippi River. The kitchen was pretty nice, but the

An Airbnb it's not -- it's a mid-century vintage motel. Only a little more expensive than an Airbnb -- but more reliable. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The Motel Option: We once stayed in this Los Angeles motel; it was only a little more expensive than an Airbnb — but more predictable. Photo by Barbara Newhall

rest of the house was chilling: bare walls, bare wooden floors, and the bare minimum of chairs, sofas and lamps scattered about the cavernous house.

The beds were good enough, but there was no place in the bedrooms to put our stuff — no dressers and only a handful of hangers in the closets. I was reduced to arranging my clothes in neat stacks on the closet floor, which — as I said — was clean, clean clean. But bleak.

A No-Sleep Airbnd

Another of our attempts at an Airbnb home away from home was a nightmare — except I couldn’t get far enough into sleep to have a nightmare.

The place was a mess.  Literally. The bedroom was overstuffed with the owner’s clothes, shoes and worn-out slippers. The bathroom was cluttered with used towels, used bathrobes and used toothbrushes. Mold on the shower curtain. The kitchen counter

It's no Airbnb, but rather a real Bed and Breakfast, cluttered but clean and cozy. Candlewyck House, Pentwater, MI. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The B&B Option: Candlewyck House, a real bed and breakfast in Pentwater, Michigan, was clean and cozy — with fresh sheets and towels and friendly company. Photo by Barbara Newhall

was invisible beneath a battalion of half-used condiments. There was a hair on the bathtub and a hair on the kitchen sink. Fresh-smelling sheets were nowhere to be found.

A Just Right — Almost — Airbnb

The third place we rented held the Goldilocks place on the clutter continuum. Just enough stuff to be comfy, but not so much that we felt like we were crawling into someone else’s bed at night. It was clean and freshly painted — but, unfortunately, too freshly. The painters had finished up work just one day before we arrived. The paint smell was still tingling my nostrils days later at check out time.

There’s a good chance we’ll return to Goldilocks — the paint will be dry by the time we head back. It’s a nice place on a pretty street. There will be dressers to stash our stuff in. And nobody’s toothbrush will clutter the bathroom sink.

Back to Squeaky Clean Motels?

But maybe, really we’d be better off in a motel. Airbnb is supposed to be a good deal. But, actually, it’s only a so-so deal. The places we rented through its website were priced just under $200 a night, including the Airbnb service charge. A night at a nearby Marriott Residence Inn earlier this year — complete with two bedrooms, two baths and a sitting space and kitchenette, all spanking clean — cost us $244 a night, including taxes, etc.

For the extra fifty bucks a night you get clean towels, clean carpeting — and sheets so fresh and tidy and pillows so plumped and perky that it’s actually possible to forget that you’re getting into a bed that a total stranger occupied just hours before.

I wonder, if Jon and I are going to be making multiple trips each year to visit our adorable new granddaughter — would we be better off renting an apartment or condo?  A room in a bed and breakfast? How does anyone else manage long-distance grandparenting? Suggestions please! I’ll share them. Watch this space.

More grandmother stuff at “How to Grandmother When the Grandkids Live 2,500 Miles Away.” Also, “I’m Going to Be a Grandmother. Or Will I Be a Grannie, a Grandma, a Nana?”

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