My husband and I have rented out rooms in our house since our second year of marriage. Before Airbnb was around, we rented rooms out to students at the university.
There are practical benefits of renting out rooms from your house to students or through Airbnb, including the extra security on the premises and the added income. But more than that, there are little things you pick up from sharing a space with different people. You see how similar people are. You see how different people are. Your eyes are opened to new ideas and ways of being. In the end, you become a better person.
We’ve discovered that hosting Airbnb guests is sort of like traveling the world from the comfort of your own home. Within days or weeks you may host someone from China who has never visited your country before, to someone from Australia stopping by on a world tour, to someone traveling in from across the country for a tech job. You get an inside look into other cultures that you would never get on a cruise ship or tour bus. You get to talk to real people.
I’m sure that living near LA affects the demographic of Airbnb guests for us, but I won’t let that point be overstated. We hosted students from at least four different countries when we rented out rooms in our house in Indiana.
No matter the demographic near you, I highly recommend trying out Airbnb. Host someone in a spare room… or go on a trip and stay in someone’s home. This is a surefire way to expand your horizons, no matter your personality type or profession.
There are several observations that have stuck out to me in all my experience as a landlord, hosting people in my own home:
- People carry different mannerisms, dispositions, and standards of “normalcy”. Some people quietly enter and exit without saying a word. Some stay visible and strike up conversation much of the time. Some are confident. Some are shy. Some are very aware of how they are coming across. Some are extremely considerate and thoughtful. Some are full of joy. Some are serious. All of these observations may sound trivial and obvious. However, when you see different personalities up close—sharing your space, acting a certain way, creating a certain feeling around them— you begin to see how much of life is changeable. You begin to see how much power people have to affect how others feel around them. You begin to see how people can be trapped in dispositions that don’t serve them. You begin to see your own blind spots. It helps you grow.
- There is something magical about gratitude, generosity, and joy. As a host, your desire is that your guests are pleased. It feels really great when your guests show appreciation, offer respects, and are in a happy mood. You feel like you’ve done a great job. I have made mental notes on these “feel good” behaviors because I realize that I have the power to make others feel that same way. It’s easy to receive gratitude, generosity, and joy. It’s not always easy to express gratitude, to be generous, or to act joyfully. It takes energy, especially when things aren’t going the best. But even when things are fine, it can be easy to just be “neutral” and not express anything to people, negative or positive. Whenever I host an especially exuberant or happy guest, I am reminded that I can spread that same feeling to others by a simple intention.
- Deep down, people are basically the same. Although the details and expressions are always different, there are some basic human desires, needs, and fears that all of us have. We want to be loved and understood. We can be nervous about change. We like some amount of adventure. We need to have some meaning to life. Particulars differ across cultures and nationalities. But underneath the particulars is something profoundly similar.
Having hosted people from over a dozen nations in my home has taught me a lot. I’ve learned little things, like how we can’t make authentic European bread in America because we have the wrong flour, and how Ethiopians love coffee. But there is much more. It’s more than words can communicate. I’ve learned how much I take for granted. I’ve learned the importance of showing great respect for all people. I’ve learned that listening is a valuable skill. I’ve learned that there’s a lot I don’t know.
One trait of successful people is that many of them love to travel. I’ve asked our renters over the years what they like most about traveling. The response I get is almost always the same: the people, the culture, and the food. There is something about travel that helps you get outside your own bubble and see a greater reality. Interacting with people from different cultures changes how you think about the world. That’s why traveling can be so valuable. And that’s why you should use Airbnb.