Saturday, 4 July 2015

A New Website!

Recently I decided to upgrade this blog - and re-name it.  Everyone can use a fresh start once in a while, right?  Now I have my own domain name -  The name was chosen to reflect what I consider my genetic makeup.  As concluded by scientists recently, 20% of the human population have a single gene that is strongly associated with the strong desire to roam, to explore, to travel.

The new blog will not continue to mix in posts about software - it is strictly for topics related to my travels and living in Mazatlan.  The new website format gives me a wider array of options for design and posting pictures.

So please go take a look and don't forget to Like the new Facebook page also -

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Airbnb - I'm a fan.

My second article published on

I love Airbnb!

Many people have likely heard of Airbnb by now and maybe 50% (I’m guessing) of you have tried it, either as a Guest or as a Host.  I am writing this for those who are curious and would like to know more about it from a first-hand experience basis.  I do not receive any compensation from Airbnb.

I have stayed in 10 or 12 different properties in 4 different countries, ranging from a room in a house to a full two-bedroom apartment.   Right now, I have listed our condo in Calgary on Airbnb for the rest of the year and will be experiencing what it is like to be a Host.  Since I will be in Mazatlan and my husband, Mike, is working on contract in Winnipeg, I thought I would try it and earn a little money from it.  I could just rent it out, furnished, in a normal way as I have done in the past with a house we owned, but using Airbnb as my middle-man gives me a good layer of protection and regulation.  Guests must have a profile on the site which Airbnb verifies as true.  If they have stayed in other Airbnb properties, the Hosts will have put up a review of that Guest that you can read.  You can decide to rent to only people who have good reviews if you wish.

However, Airbnb provides an insurance policy of sorts for any damage or theft done to the property by a Guest and acts as a mediator should any problems arise between the Host and the Guest.  So, even if they have had no reviews yet, a Host does have a certain comfort level from that.  Airbnb handles the payment from the Guest by charging a credit card after they have checked in – if the Guest does not contact Airbnb and say there is a problem upon arrival, then the funds are released to the Host in full.  It goes to your bank account electronically.  You can even specify that you charge a cleaning fee and a security deposit, extra charge for extra people, and Airbnb will collect that as well.
As an experienced Guest, I can say I have not yet been disappointed with any place I have stayed.  Hosts shoot for a 5 star review from you because it enhances their online image and they can begin to charge more and get return customers.  However, there was one host who thought it was acceptable to keep the cat litter-box right inside the entryway by the front door where you came in!

When you go to the, enter the city where you want to stay and the dates (it isn’t necessary to enter dates at first if you just wish to browse), and also check off criteria such as you want to share a room, have a private room, or rent the entire place.  You can also search by pet or children-friendly, among other things.  The appropriate listings will come up with pictures and a map where they are located.  The profiles of each property normally have a very detailed description and other information, as well as reviews by other guests and the star rating.  You can send an inquiry only if you wish to ask for more information.  Once you put your dates in and send off a request to book, the Host can either approve it, deny it, ask for more information from you.  You will see the total price of the booking when you make a request and if you wish you could send the Host a message and try to negotiate a lower price.  Usually, the Host has pricing by night, by week, and by month with discounts for longer stays.  But you can also ask for a special deal and if the Host agrees he/she sends you a “special deal” offer that you can accept or not.

I had an inquiry myself today for my condo and used the “special deal” feature to send to the potential Guest, but it was not accepted in the end.

Arrangements for your arrival at the property differ with each one.  At the very first one we stayed at in Dartmouth, NS, our instructions were to enter the back yard and get the key from under a can in the back shed!  The owners were just renting a room with bathroom to us in their house, but they were not going to be at home when we arrived.  So we let ourselves in.

At another, just recently in the UK, the instructions were to take a gate key off of a hidden part of the gate where the key was taped to it, then open the gate, and once inside the gate, open a box where the house-key was hidden and let myself in.  In this case, the studio apartment was in the back of a big Victorian house with a separate entrance and the people who lived above me were unrelated to the owners of the apartment.  It was self-serve all the way.  The owners were not even in the country.  They were in easy contact with me by texting and they did say there was a local person available if I had need of her.  I was quite happy with the apartment which was well-equipped with small kitchen completely outfitted with pots, pans, dishes utensils, a few spices, instant coffee, stove, fridge and even a clothes-washer.  I walked down the street to a small shop and bought a few eggs, milk, and bread for breakfast.  There was already some butter in the fridge.

One Host in Calgary had 3 bedrooms for rent in her house, one with an ensuite bath and the other two shared a bathroom.  She had coded electronic door locks on each bedroom with a chalkboard hung outside that had the code written on it.  You could then change the code for your stay.  She lived in the basement, but was rarely there.  I had let myself into the house with a key in the mailbox.

In Malaga, Spain, the owner of a two-bedroom apartment was also the owner of the restaurant it was above.  I arrived and found the owner in the restaurant and he showed me up to the apartment and left me with the keys.  My son, Tim and his friend Amanda arrived later at night after I was already in bed and the owner let them in.  If had any questions or issues, he was right downstairs.  He also gives a 10% discount on purchases in the restaurant for Guests.  We left when the restaurant was closed and so we were told to just leave the keys in the apartment.

At another apartment in Malaga, my flight arrived very late and I told the Host I would not be at the apartment until after midnight.  For an extra fee, she arranged for two nice Spanish ladies to meet me outside the apartment and let me in.  Otherwise, I would have picked up the key from a little cafĂ© across the street.

I love the creativity and flexibility of this new “sharing economy” service!

When the Founders of Airbnb first got started in 2007, they were young and broke and decided to advertise on a blog that they had two air-mattresses for rent in their apartment.  They succeeded in renting them for $80 a month, which was the reason for the name Airbnb.  They went on to try to build a business out of it and created the first website but for months and months they only earned about $200 a month.  They went to a well-known VC for funding and were turned down.  The VC stated that he did not see any potential and that people would not be interested in allowing perfect strangers to stay in their homes.  Later, they were able to raise a first seed round of $600K in about 2010, after the drummer of Barry Manilow rented an entire house on Airbnb.  A year later, they raised several million more from several investors, including Ashton Kutcher.  Airbnb is now valued at $10 Billion.  Yes, with a B.

If you haven’t tried using Airbnb, I highly recommend it!

PS.  Our condo has now been rented through Airbnb until Aug. 31!  It is not the norm to rent for this long on Airbnb - short terms of a few days or weeks is what Airbnb was designed for, but since I am a beginner and don't have any reviews by Guests yet, I decided to do this mid-length rental and know that I have the solid income for that time period.