Why I host on Airbnb.com

Just FYI I am in no way affiliated with or paid to promote Airbnb.com…or am I? I’m not.

I first learned about Airbnb.com through a blog post (I don’t remember which one) about unconventional ways to earn extra cash. Airbnb allows you to rent out your extra room or your whole home to travellers (or you can just sign up as a traveller). was intrigued, but wary- I mean who would be staying with me, total weirdos?

Then I went to the Airbnb website (Airbnb.com) and watched their promo video featuring real hosts around the world explaining why they host, what their experiences have been, and what they’ve been able to do with their extra money (Video Here). Not only did it allay my fears, it actually made me excited. It looked really fun to meet travellers from all over and to fairly easily earn extra income. Plus, all the hosts looked like nice, normal people. (Good marketing Airbnb).

So I set up my hosting profile and within days had my first traveller booked to stay with me. It was really easy and the experience was great. Since then, I’ve been pretty steadily booked, earning me way more moola than I originally expected. So in terms of a way to make extra money, its been a great experience. (My Airbnb Listing)

I have also found that it’s a really efficient use of my resources. I have an extra room and bathroom that hardly got any use before. Now they’re earning me money (so far more than paying for my monthly mortgage & HOA fees).

I had been considering getting a roommate, but felt that hosting travellers would be a better fit for me, and so far I definitely think I made the right decision. I’ve really enjoyed meeting every one of my guests and they are so interesting to talk to. I’ve learned about the places they’ve lived and visited, have been shocked by how many ways there are to earn a living (I’ve had flight instructors, students, pro skydivers, artists, herbalists, nurses and more stay with me), and more often than not made new friends.

I have also had a fantasy for awhile about running a “real” bed and breakfast and I feel like this is great experience for me if I ever decide to do so.

For these reasons I host on Airbnb and really love it.

Thinking about hosting also?

  • First, I’d peruse the Airbnb website- you can set up a profile without listing your space and look around, see who else is on there and learn about what’s involved
  • It’s a great way to earn extra money, but if you’re not also interested in taking care of people and really providing a safe, comfortable, clean stay for them, its probably not for you
  • If you’re hesitant because you worry about the people staying with you, I think there are a lot of great ways to find guests who are a good fit for you and your place (I’ll post more about this soon). I also think you can be very choosy- if you’re worried, only accept guests who have at least a couple of positive reviews from other hosts that they’ve stayed with and who have a profile picture, as well as a few security verifications (done through Airbnb). You have total control over who stays with you. Plus, I’ve only encountered a few pirates and cat stranglers (kidding).

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about my experience with Airbnb or to let me know about yours.

Yes! My Princess – Butlers Cafe

In Japan they have these restaurant/bars called “Maid” cafes where women in frilly maid outfits serve male customers. Not as sexy as you might think though- this is no strip club. Mostly they giggle and pout and call the guys “master”. We heard from one former patron that it was “creepy”. Also most of the food is shaped like cute bears and kitties.

Girls can go in too, but my sister and I decided to seek out the male equivalent and found ourselves at “Butlers Café”. Given what we’d heard about maid cafes we were prepared for an uncomfortable experience, with lots of giggling and trying not to openly mock our butler servers. Especially after reading the website (www.butlerscafe.com) which explains:

In order to see the smile of the Princess of Japan, elite players who graduated with honors from Butler University in each country, gathered in Butler’s Castle. Deep in the quiet forest birds are chirping, Butler’s Castle is on the mezzanine location overlooking the beautiful lake.

That want you to feel happy and, in spirit more princess us. This is the wish of most of our Butler.

To modern, princess who live in active also need healing and relax sometimes.
To have a “secret” to shine more your smile. Princess of everyone, please come to Butler’s cafe all means.

Clearly.

After a lot of searching we found Butlers Café on the 5th floor of a pretty grungy building, the other floors being occupied by cheap restaurants and bars. Not quite the mezzanine floor of a castle overlooking a forest and a lake as the website promises. We took a cramped, dark elevator up to the 5th floor and were in hysterics when the doors opened.

Fake flowers, hearts and plaster cupids everywhere. Classical music playing in the background. A white-gloved butler in black coattails greeted us, saying “Hello, my princesses” bowing low and taking our hands, escorting us to our table.

Um, OK. I could get used to this.

Butlers Café hits some deep, subconscious girl trigger. You can’t help but love it. It was like when I’d resisted reading the Twilight series and everyone was swooning and telling me how much I’d love it and I was convinced I’d totally think it was dumb. I was only going to read it ironically. But I gave it a try, fell in love, and now own a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Edward. Butlers Café is like that. You know its ridiculous, but Oh MY God I get to wear a tiara that a butler puts onto my head!!! EEEEE!!!

Add to that the little bell on the table that you ring when you want anything and all of the butlers say, “Yes, my princess!” Or “prince” if you happen to be the gay couple that dined at the table near us.  Butler Café don’t hate. Also, the toilet must be called the “powder room” and a butler must escort you there. They place napkins in your lap, pull chairs back for you, write your name in chocolate on your plate, and bow to you…constantly. And it all adds up to awesome.

No pictures of the butlers can be taken, but you may take pics of your food, they’ll take pics of you, and for an extra fee you can get a “lift” pic where they will carry you in their arms for a photo op. My sister and I decided not to get a lift pic, tempting though it was, because we were pretty sure none of the butlers could lift us. They were a bit on the scrawny side. And since one of the main goals of the café is to give women a chance to practice their English, all of them are foreign. So our butler, Butler Jeffrey, though he spoke in slow, over-enunciated English as though we had learning disabilities, was actually from Oregon. After an evening with us his English began to return to normal, but it was sad to see the effects of Butler Academy on his speaking normal skills.

Oh that’s right, Butler Academy. The story goes that Butler Café doesn’t take just any run of the mill butler, it only accepts the crème of the crop from the world’s most prestigious Butler Academies. Right… That was even harder to believe since another server, Butler Leo, appeared to be suffering from a minor form of leprosy. Or had gotten into a fight with his razor. Either way, sizable strips of his face skin were missing and he seemed dizzy and to also be struggling with speaking English himself. Hmmm…must have been slim pickings in the butler graduate world this year if that guy got hired.

In any case, maybe it was the delicious rose flavored cocktails with rose petals inside, or the pink toilet paper, but Butler Café won us over whole-heartedly.

The worst part was leaving…because it was awkward.

After paying our bill, Butler Jeffry announced that he heard our carriage outside and took our purses, and the head butler and Leo escorted us to the elevator. When the doors opened, we were met with three confused Japanese people who were coming from a normal bar the floor above. They waited while our butlers bid us a long and flowery goodbye, with bows and a special surprise of chocolates…which they nicely gave to the people in the elevator for having to wait. They were totally perplexed but took the chocolates. Then all 3 butlers- Butler Jeffrey, the head butler and Leprosy Leo bowed. Low. We were looking at the tops of their heads and they stayed that way for a good 10 seconds until the elevator doors closed, at which point my sister and I, and our 3 elevator friends, burst into hysterical laughter. There was no way to really explain that, even if we spoke the same language.

It seemed so sad to stroll back into the street, just a normal girl. But as they say at Butlers Café, “You don’t have to worry Princess, because we know that you’re always and already a Princess, Princess.” Thank you Butler Café, thank you.

 

 

Konichiwaaaaagghh Japan!

Day 1- Getting to Tokyo

Before leaving for Tokyo I was actually looking forward to the flight. My sister and I were loaded up with books on my Kindle, games on the iPad, a guided meditation for sleeping and plenty of snacks. Besides, weeks of travel planning had left me yearning for some sleep and mindlessness.

The first flight to San Francisco seemed longer than 2 hours. What? We still had a connecting flight of 10 hours to go? That seemed a little cruel.

Especially when we got an older plane without those cool in-seat personal TV screens. Still there were benefits. Did you know that trans-pacific flights get you free beer and wine? And that Sake is rice wine so it counts if you have cool flight attendants? Still, all the free sake bombers in the plane can’t buy you the freedom of being able recline more than 5 degrees. So when we arrived in Tokyo, we were feeling a little rough.

But we made our way through the immigration line, the customs line, the baggage line, the ATM line and finally the train ticket line in the humid, warm airport still brimming with as much excitement as we could patiently muster. And then we finally got on that train. That high-tech, sparkling clean, roomy Japanese train. We’d landed in Narita so we settled in for an hour and a half ride to our stop in Shinjuku.

At first we oohed and ahhed over the beautiful green landscape that flashed by our big windows whenever we broke out of the dark tunnels. But then my oohs and ahhs became a little more pained as all that flashing landscape started to make me queasy. And then more than queasy.

I’d spent years as a child throwing up on car trips. Every one. So I’ve gotten pretty good at a being a polite vomiter. I can usually give some warning, like, “Mom. I will need to throw up in the next 15 minutes so please pull over when you can.” And can even usually wait till a restroom is clear to start making my “Huuuuwaaahhhh” noises.

But this was a super high-tech, though not too steady, Japanese train hurtling to downtown Tokyo with nary a stop. So all I managed was to calmly removed a Ziploc bag full of snack bars and crackers from my backpack, mutter to my sister “I’m going to throw up,” in a gruff, Batman-esque voice, and then immediately start vomiting (mostly) into this bag.

At this point I chose not to look around and my sister gamely held up a jacket to curtain me from the view of the other passengers on this crowded train, but I’m pretty sure they were all disgusted. I felt disgusted. How could I do this on such a clean, polite Japanese form of transportation? I’m sure they were all judging me too, because what I didn’t realize at the time was that between the train cars are some really nice, super-high tech, clean Japanese bathrooms. I could have walked 10 feet, locked myself in the bathroom, turned on the bidets “flushing” music so no one heard my “heeecckkkk” noises, and then used the “toilet disinfecting wipes” to wipe it all down. The toilets even have “deodorizers” just to make it all peachy.

Instead, my sister fished a Drammamine out of the bottom of her purse and told me to put it under my tongue so it’d get into my system faster, which I did, but you should never do because it burns. And I sat with vomit caked in my hair and around my face, clutching a Ziploc bag of spew. Just go to the bathroom, I’m sure every other passenger was thinking, just go to the bathroom.

The drammamine did kick in though, and helped somewhat with the naseau, though it also made me extremely groggy. Like head lolling, eyes unable to focus,  stumbling groggy. Which made it extra fun to arrive in Shinjuku at an outside platform, in the rain, and then drag my heavy ass suitcase up the tallest flight of stairs ever, and then promptly fall down some other stairs.

Lesson: In a culture obsessed with saving face, you should try to avoid puking or falling on yours.