AirBnb is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get. Hotels were cheap as hell in Southeast Asia, but on our budget, that wasn’t going to last. So we tried hostel-life for a brief stint in Russia before remembering we weren’t 19 year olds again. But now, as a pleasant median between the two disparate classes, we’ve become AirBnb aficionados so to speak. Indeed, we’ve had some duds (from the project-housing in St. Petersburg to the second-hand-smoke-den in the Basque Country) but more often than not, we’ve had amazing encounters. Especially round the Med.
Sure, in the back of your mind you’re always wondering if you’re gonna be the first guests to end up in the papers as the latest victims of the “AirBnb Killer,” if such a killer exists…I don’t see why one wouldn’t. But in our experience, a complete stranger’s house becomes a home undoubtedly because of the host.
On the island of Zakynthos, for instance, our host Stratos (yes, Stratos, the Greekest of all names) seemed shady at first. After we booked with him, he immediately messaged Rachel and propositioned if we’d rather pay upon arrival, off the books, as to evade the fees that AirBnb takes on bookings. Cheaper for us we figured, so, what the hell?
As suspect as his first impression was, Stratos was legendary. A firefighter by trade, possible gigolo on his off-days, he once passed us his phone to show us photos of a certain beach he’d recommended and three consecutive women randomly buzzed in, sending him photos of themselves. Stratos, however, went above and beyond, giving us impromptu tours of the city and spot-on local tips. He’d say amazing things out of the blue without a hint of irony in a thick Greek accent like, “Sorry if I look tired, I’ve been fighting fires all night to save the city.”
On the island of Corfu we were hosted by a Greek couple (the Vergas’) who could’ve been our own parents — and treated us like their own flesh and blood. This included folding our laundry, making sure we drank our milk and practically tucking us in at night. The mom, Renee, would print us out a daily suggested-itinerary on her custom letterhead stationary(she loooved that printer) and she’d do this adorable thing where she’d ask permission to ask us a question. “If you will permit me, but can I please propose something for you?”
When we left, the Vergas’ gave us a parting gift of a box of Turkish delights and an Old Irish travel blessing (printed, of course). It is for this reason that Greece will stay forever golden in our memories.
It’s also for this reason that we saw and experienced half the shit we did too. Sure, there’s guidebooks and online forums, but nothing beats local knowledge. From the best cliff-jumping rocks to the juiciest pita gyros to secret electric-blue beaches to deals on a four-wheeler, our guardian angel hosts gave us the inside-line to all of it. And seriously, an inside-tip on the greasiest pita gyro in town might be priceless. Definitely worth more than 2 euros.