As a child, most of my summer vacations involved staying in the frugal homes of aunts and uncles. What was supposed to be a holiday, often turned out to be a succession of nights spent sleeping on a mattress shared with three other cousins who took turns kicking me in my sleep every few hours. As a remnant mental scar, I began to value personal space on vacation above all else. A hotel room is almost sacred to me. The knowledge that a solitary space awaits me at the end of a long, explorative day, gives me an odd comfort.
Encouraged by fellow travellers, I’d toyed with and discarded the idea of homestay for many years, for a number of reasons. Among them was that, “I’ll have to sleep on the floor with cockroaches crawling all over me”. Another fear, being a fussy eater, was that I’d be offered unpalatable home-cooked food that I would have to eat to avoid hurting my host’s sentiments, (lest they call and complain to my mother).
Having surveyed homestays mainly in rural India, my biggest deterrent was always the visual I saw online. The websites were often crudely designed with odd assortments of pixels that appeared to depict guest rooms—most were entirely unappetising. That’s probably what made Airbnb so appealing. A clear interface, with nice DSLR photographs is often an illusion to draw in consumers, but the pictures cleared away most of my doubts about living in someone else’s home. Of course, the first time I tried the service, I was looking for a place in Paris. It’s hard for a place to not look good with the Sacre Couer peeking through the window in soft focus. I booked a private apartment to myself on that trip, but since then I’ve stayed in a variety of homes with a variety of hosts and homestays booked through Airbnb have fast become my first choice for any trip out of town, especially while travelling to metropolitan cities.