Turning the corner, we find ourselves facing a neglected, leaf-strewn courtyard.
"I told you!" I shout over my shoulder. "This isn't the exit!"
"Yes it is!" my mother shouts back, her cheeks reddening from pride and effort, as her replaced knee struggles to keep up with my stride.
"That was absolutely an emergency exit! There's no one even here!"
Our argument had started several minutes ago, and several floors above, as we attempted to leave our hotel in Galway. Insisting that the hallway's door was an alternate exit, my mother pushed it open, leading us out on to the metal grates of the building's fire escape. As skepticism seeped across my features, she began descending, adamant that we would, "be on the street in no time."
The stairs led to the courtyard - I was sure we would retreat then, the enclosed, concrete grotto, proving her wrong once and for all. I always underestimate hubris.
"See, it's going to be right through that door," she chided, pointing in the direction of an industrial door fitted into the building's edge; it's paint peeled in ribbons around the "employees only" sign.
I'm standing still, staring at her in disbelief now. She can't be serious. I watch her march past and through the door; I run after her.
The hallway beyond is a scene meant for murder: dimly-lit, damp, and eerie. Still, she refuses to say she chose wrong. Still she continues forward.
"I think we're in the basement?"
It is after several turns that we hear footsteps. I stop in my tracks, grabbing my mother's arm to halt her as well. Together, we listen, our eyes pleading the other to figure out what to do. I can see an exit, sunlight streaming in through its edges.
We hear a door open behind us... slowly.
"Excuse me, ladies?"
I move to run, but my mother turns instead, facing our hall-mate.
"Excuse me," she repeats, "you can't be down here."
"We were just trying to get out," my mother answers back.
"This isn't the way... we've been watching you on the security system...didn't you realize you were wrong once you were on the fire escape?" she asks incredulously.
I can't help but laugh.
The woman says we are to follow her back up and out; we wait for her to turn, push open the door, and step out onto the street. Instantly we each fold in half, the hysterics too powerful for us to continue walking.
"I don't like to travel, I like to relocate..."
I hate hotels.
And not just because I was chased in the basement of one by its staff!
They're sterile - even when they pretend to look otherwise. The staff comes in and touches the sheets I am sleeping on. The lights always seem to have odd switches. Someone visually monitors me entering and exiting - silently judging my timeline (at least in my brain). And, the windows are very rarely able to be opened.
In them I feel enclosed, and after a few nights stay it is as though I've spent the week eating take-out and desperately want to get back to cooking "real food."
But more than anything, I just don't feel that hotels allow you to truly experience a place.
I don't like to travel, I like to relocate - pretending I'm a local for the time of my visit. And nothing allows me to feel like a "townie" more than renting a property where I can temporarily "live," instead of just sleep.
I find that I am often met with skepticism when mentioning Airbnb.
Why would I want to sleep on someone's couch? Don't you share the house though? Isn't Airbnb for, you know, kids... people who don't mind "roughing it" a bit, to save a few dollars? Is that even safe?
These are the unspoken wonders which flash in the eyes of others at its name. But Airbnb, while still relatively new (founded in August 2008, in San Fransisco, CA), is a completely reputable site, with over 3 million listings, in 65,000 cities, and in over 191 countries.
Often mistaken as a rental site, Airbnb does not, in fact, own the lodgings its lists. Instead, the company acts as a broker between guest and host, collecting a commission for each booking made through the site. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO, along with Joe Gebbia, co-founder and CPO, met at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and it was in Gebbia's San Francisco apartment that Airbnb was born.
But is it safe? Renting from regular people?
The quick answer: YES!
"By reaching beyond the traditional boundaries of rentals and hotels, Airbnb has opened vacationing up to new worlds... literally."
Airbnb is as safe as you make it. The company's philosophy is built around the concept of trust, and around returning to that base level of humanity where we question our modern media-enhanced fear of other people, and of the new. Is there a risk involved with Airbnb? Yes. But no more, or less than with any internet transaction. No rental property can ever 100% guarantee to be safe, and as for hotels, well we needn't look any further than Norman Bates. As for Airbnb, however, the company agrees to protect your money in the exchange, if processed through their site, and also allows you to report any experience and/or host that may have made you uncomfortable. In short, it's the age-old concept of "trust your gut."
"Trust your intuition: if you don’t feel right about a reservation, don’t book it!" (Airbnb.com)
You, ultimately decide wether or not the rental property is right for you - its host, its location, its amenities. And in the same area where risk exists at Airbnb, so does ultimate possibility.
Airbnb allows you to stay in places, and homes you never could have imagined possible: a treehouse in Australia, a hygge in Washington State, an old, 1920s caboose in Virginia, or a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. These are just some of the amazing properties available for rent through their site - all at extremely affordable rates.
By reaching beyond the traditional boundaries of rentals and hotels, Airbnb has opened vacationing up to new worlds... literally.
In my few short years as an "adventurer," Airbnb has already allowed me to stay in a secluded cabin in the Adirondacks, a two-hundred year-old Irish cottage looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, a tiny house, a converted barn, and log cabin complete with complementary wine and chocolate upon arrival.
I have never had a bad experience, or even close to one. Everywhere I have rented I have been met with gracious hosts, and clean, safe properties. Last minute changes have always been accommodated, and even when I was forced to leave a property early due to extenuating circumstances, my host offered my traveling companion and I free dinner at the restaurant they owned, and a refund of the day not used. The views from my rentals have been exquisite. My trips have been better for these amazing properties. And the hosts themselves have proven priceless in truly getting to know an area in a local, and intimate manner.
So take a moment to scroll through the site's pages, and see where you could be. Book a trip. Try something new. Try being a local, instead of just a tourist.