Airbnb has become a global name many people recognize but for those of you who do not know much about booking rooms this way here is a brief introduction. It started with some young guys who had a place to share for those needing a place to sleep when on the road. An air mattress would do for spare beds (thus the “air” part of the name). Now bookings include everything from sofa surfing to houseboats and tree houses. Mostly the places we look for are guest rooms, apartments, and cottages on the same property as where the host lives. We like to pick the brains of our hosts.

Our airbnb welcome at Tasman

Our airbnb welcome at Tasman

One of the attractive features about this type of booking is that you can not only check out where you are staying with lots of pictures, but you can check out the hosts as well. After you have stayed at a place, you are asked to write a review of your experience. The hosts also write reviews about YOU as a guest so everyone is vetted both ways. Your personal email address is not used and neither is theirs. Dave is the one doing the bookings for us and he is very thorough. He reads all the reviews and uses Google Earth to check out the town and neighborhood.
Staying with local people changes your whole perspective on travel. It makes your vacation a journey. Each host(ess) adds a layer of local color and depth that never would have been there had you stayed in a RV or in a motel.
Folks who are hosting in this way have to love people and trust them to come into their homes and their lives. Yet they are not “out there” the way a traditional B and Bs are. There are no signs in the yard, no advertisements of their accommodations and no attempt to make the living space “cute” with Victorian dolls and doilies.
Because we used airbnb in New Zealand, when we remember Auckland we will include in that memory our hostess and her dog Lucy. We will remember little daily notes to “sleep well” and the bottle of wine awaiting us when we arrived. Roturua will be thought of as experiencing a kind of family reunion with a lamb dinner and nice New Zealand beer. Our hosts there let us use their spacious guest room. We never would have discovered the local Blue Lake and redwood forest without them. And we got to teach them how to make a dirty martini. Napier had us sharing cocktail hour with our hosts and recounting our bucket lists. Our Wellington hostess drove us up a complex system of roads to views from Mt Victoria then dropped us and our luggage off at the ferry. Tasman had us sharing another dinner with our hosts and a writer friend of theirs and lots of tips about marketing, fund raising, and publishing. And at our last airbnb stay we lived with a couple and shared meals and TV viewing while cheering on South Africa against New Zealand in the ICC cricket tournament. (New Zealand won by a close margin and the cheers went up around the neighborhood.)

breakfast in our cottage

breakfast in our cottage

Most memorable was our stay in Fox Glacier where we had four days of sightseeing but also playtime with four year old Emma and two year old Thais. I got a little girl fix of coloring, playing with my earrings and bracelets, and a trip to the laundry. I got a big chuckle as I looked out my bedroom door and saw Thais giving me the special request of “Let me in” but licking the window!
Airbnb hosts are travelers themselves and seem to know what the traveler wants and what they like to talk about. The ones we met on this trip have been doing it for about a year or less. I think we benefited from that as they are still not jaded by any bad experiences. They all talk about the amazing people they have met. Hopefully, we give back a fraction of what they give to us in terms of travel needs, desires, and issues.
Our spaces have been varied both here and elsewhere in the world. We’ve stayed in guest rooms with a bathroom down the hall or guest rooms with bathroom en suite. We’ve often stayed in “in law” suites or little cottages on the property. Without fail, our places have been stocked with everything we need (except, a few times, without enough hangers). They are always clean and neat. (However, in New Zealand there are rarely screens on the windows so you will get bugs both living and dead). Many places offer their laundry facilities for us to use.
The host has a fridge full of breakfast items exclusively for us or we share the kitchen and help ourselves to what is there for breakfast. If no breakfast is provided that is mentioned in the description before booking.
After spending a few hours with these lovely folks you begin to love the way they talk, their ideas about all facets of life and what they think about Americans, Germans or Asians. You learn that there is a mild rivalry between Aussies and Kiwis and between the North Islanders and the South Islanders. And you get a big thrill when they say Maoris put wet “sex” (sacks) on top of their pit roasts. Would you really get that much information from other travelers over breakfast at the Hampton Inn?
Chain hotels are fine on road trips when you can’t know where you will be at the end of the afternoon. You can pull in, register at the office, and plop for the night. You don’t need or want an airbnb experience then.
When we had New Zealand on our bucket list I never pictured that getting to know people would be such an important part of my memories. Now I can’t separate any of the journey from the people who make it such a pleasure.

looking at the mountains

looking at the mountains

We have returned from being gone for over 3 months. In January we were in Tucson Arizona and in February and March we were in New Zealand. Most of our trip is on our blog arpsite.com.But some of the things we experienced I am posting here now that we are back in Cleveland.

In about the fourth week of our journey in New Zealand, there was a much publicized crash where a little New Zealand girl was killed. The drivers at fault were Chinese tourists. The media chimed in with reports that only 6% of the fatalities were caused by foreigners and most of them were Aussies who drive on the same side of the road as Kiwis. This statistic didn’t seem to satisfy people.
Citizens commented that many tourists get off a plane jet legged. They immediately rent a car and take to the road. Rental companies don’t give any instructions about traffic tips and safety. There are no tests of competency and no place to practice. Some of these citizens got so worked up they have been known to grab the keys of rental car users.

Some rental cars are easy to spot

Some rental cars are easy to spot

These reports made Dave and me sit up and listen. Dave had been driving in this country for a month at this time and I must say it was an adjustment. Both of us were on high alert when we took out the car. We picked up our rental on a Sunday, drove around Auckland for about an hour, then took to the Motorway toward Cormandal Peninsula. It was a hair raising drive because we went up over a mountain range and ventured through small towns with lots of round abouts. Whew!
At first we relied heavily on our Garmin for navigation. By the end of the third or fourth week we were a bit more confident. But, in the meantime, we had moved from big population and tourist destinations to less traveled roads on the south island.
Driving on the “wrong” side got easier, but both of us still wanted to get in on the wrong side and, even on our last day, Dave used the wiper instead of the turn signal. We came to call this the “pre signal.”Driving

We were outrageously happy that we had no mishaps of any kind on our trip. We felt, with the climate towards tourist drivers being hostile, we might not have been forgiven. But driving on our own and having the freedom to go to remote places was by far the best way to see what we wanted to see.
We loved sharing our driving stories along the way. People who are from United Kingdom countries and colonies got a good chuckle from us. Of all the experiences we’ve had, this is the one that they looked forward to talking about. Kiwis, what can I say? You have a twisted sense of humor.

Dear Family and Friends,

This was a busy year of crossing off long delayed and somewhat tedious things on the “to do” list. But we sure had plenty of fun too.
Last winter we spent January and February in Tucson and March in New Orleans. Arizona was sunny and warm so we were able to be outdoors a lot (except for a few weeks when I was laid up with sciatic nerve pain). There was a lot to do there including wonderful hiking and I had the added bonus of seeing cousins on both sides of my family and a friend from kindergarten days.Happy Holidays 2014 We moved to New Orleans and more rain and just in time to finish up their parade season. Happy Holidays 2014We meandered home through Little Rock and a visit with friends there.
The summer was busy doing rehab on the back, hip, and leg. I wrapped up a year of dental work with implants. I now have an expensive mouth full of teeth that should last three lifetimes. I also got to see plenty of my almost two year old great grand niece, Connie. I spoiled her and she exhausted me!

Connie and Elmo

Connie and Elmo

As usual, there were lots of outdoor activities in our mild and pleasant Ohio summer. Greg and I made a trip to Michigan to visit Greenfield Village and Bonner’s Christmas store.

Greg at Bonners

Greg at Bonners

September brought our 19th hiking trip to California and Point Reyes National Seashore. After my walking buddies returned home,

Karen, Carolyn, Judy, Kay, Margy

Karen, Carolyn, Judy, Kay, Margy

I stayed on with Richard, Chris and Jeff to travel down to Carmel, and visits with friends there and Pebble Beach and Big Sur. In October, I traveled to New England with Margy Liske and, after dropping her off in Deerfield, went on to Vermont to visit Noelle in her new home. Noelle and I went on to Maine to visit her son Jackson in Lewiston. On the way back we visited my cousin and her husband; Kathy and Tim Cole in York Maine.

Karen, Jackson, Elmo, Noelle

Karen, Jackson, Elmo, Noelle

After returning to Ohio our lives have been taken up with going away for the winter again. This time we are going to Tucson in January then off to New Zealand for February and March. After 7 years of accumulating, I finally cashed in all my frequent flyer miles and now we are busy getting prepared to leave the country. I’m buying bigger luggage and hope to bring home some wooly things. There are more sheep than people in Kiwi Land.
Dave has been busy on his computer helping friends with their business endeavors. He also displayed his needlework and woodwork in September at an art tour around Cleveland. We officially live in an arts district now. If you’ve seen Humira advertised on TV then you now know someone who takes it. It has helped Dave with his arthritis. He and Dan still have their daily get togethers to solve the problems of two aging downtown buildings and, of course, they solve other problems like global warming, wars, and race relations. We also had a lovely visit from Dave’s niece and her daughter. It’s really good to be reconnected to his side of the family.
Much of our lives is covered in this blog but for the next three and a half months, I’ll be on a writing hiatus. I’ve decided to leave my laptop in Ohio and travel with a tiny tablet. I’ll resume the blog when we return to Ohio in mid to late April. Be prepared for travel stories when we get back.

Peace, love and kindness in the New Year.

Dave and Karen cruising on Lake Erie

Dave and Karen cruising on Lake Erie