I travel for pleasure…a lot.
I travel to new cities, countries and continents each year. When people ask me about my experiences, I tell them about the wonderful people I have met and connected with, not the manmade structures I have photographed or climbed over. The same goes for accommodation. I have stayed in more hotel rooms than I care to remember with only a few which I could say were “unique”. I would much rather stay with a rice farmer and his family in a Sri Lankan village than the 5-star, Buri Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai! Don’t get me wrong, I like a little bit of luxury every now and again and would not pass up the opportunity if someone wants to spoil me rotten with a complimentary stay, however, hotel rooms are often expensive, lonely and impersonal for the solo traveller. When you find yourself waiting for the housemaid to come so you can make conversation, you know you have problems!
Increasingly, like many international travellers, I want the opportunity to stay in someone’s house, where I can have a unique and meaningful experience by connecting with a local and get to know the culture first hand. When someone welcomes you into their home and treats you as family, you come away with everlasting memories which cannot be measured in monetary terms.
Capitalising on my own experiences while using bed and breakfast and homestay accommodations in Asia, I decided to explore the possibility of starting my own business. The extra income would help offset my travelling addiction but more importantly enable me to meet like-minded people who enjoyed travelling. I felt there must be travellers, both domestic and international, to my part of Australia who would like to experience “real” hospitality and not find themselves in just another king-sized bed, in a non-descript, lonely hotel room.
Deciding to open up my house to strangers was not something to be taken lightly and my decision was met with apprehension by family members who were concerned about my safety. My grown children were certainly not impressed with the idea I would be soon renting out their childhood bedrooms even though they had long since left home!
There are a variety of important factors to consider before deciding to rent out the spare bedroom. These are my top two tips.
1. Like people.
You have to actually really like people. You must be prepared to welcome strangers into your home and treat them like royalty. The money is nice but it will not make up for someone sharing your house, using your bathroom and sleeping in your spare bed – no matter how much you are charging for the privilege. If you don’t think you can do that then maybe you should give the whole idea of being a B & B host a miss. Remember, your business will rely on good reviews and word of mouth so it ultimately it is up to you to make sure you give your guests the best experience they have ever had.
Take your time to research and talk to different operators and customers about their experiences. Recently, I had guests who specifically booked to stay with me to “take notes” as they were considering starting their own businesses.
I had previously used a well-known international organisation (Airbnb) on my travels for accommodation and with this knowledge, decided to list the spare bedroom in my home. Within two days I received a booking and the rest is history! My business, as a B & B host became not just a way of making some extra cash but it has also enabled me to meet some wonderful people and learn about their lives and travels.
My family’s fears of dubious guests stealing our cats, or other valuables, have been unfounded. I have hosted some amazing international visitors from Asia, Europe and North America, who want a unique Australian country experience complete with kangaroos in the top paddock and a thousand bush flies on the kitchen screen door. Most importantly, it is my responsibility to make sure my guests feel safe, comfortable and relaxed within my home. As one guest from Switzerland recently told me, “I am looking for an experience, with real people, not just a bed to sleep in”.
Most of my guests are just like me – they are tired of lonely hotel rooms. They are looking for connections with locals, whether it be in a large city or on a farm in the Australian outback. They desire a unique and meaningful accommodation experience.
And yes, I decided to move out of the master bedroom and turn it over to my guests, so now strangers do actually sleep in my bed!
What is the best part about sharing my home with strangers? Those strangers now depart as new found friends.
Tell us, would you let a stranger sleep in your bed?