Airbnb: Homestay or hotel service?

I usually don’t write so much about work related stuff, but as my work and studies are related to tourism they get easily mixed with free time ;).

Have you tried Airbnb? I bet many of you have!

I have too – as a guest, many times since 3 years, and as a host since last summer. As a guest I have been renting only a room and the whole place, I have got to live with the hosts and not to meet them at all. I have stayed in private apartments, a boat, and buildings where all the apartments were used for Airbnb. I think Airbnb gives great possibilities for different travelers and almost all my Airbnb experiences have been good (on my last trip in London two different hosts cancelled our booking just one or two days before, that wasn’t really nice, but ended well). However, since I have started hosting my thoughts about Airbnb have got mixed – and I would like to share my feelings.

Last summer I helped my mom by co-hosting her guests coming to our house in Tampere and at the end of the summer we felt quit professional on house cleaning and laundry. And also the house was much cleaner than probably ever before! All the guests we received rented the whole house, not a room, so we only met them for giving the keys and showing the house. Now I am doing the same thing in Rovaniemi, where Christmas season is the busiest time of the year and the city is full of tourists. There are so many tourists here lately, that according to Lapin Kansa, the local newspaper, Airbnb apartments have quintupled in 1,5 year!

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Home yard in Tampere

Most of the guests come only for one night, as Rovaniemi is the gate to northern Lapland thanks to its international airport and the railway station. I don’t really mind people coming for only one night, actually the good thing on it, is that in such a short time they don’t really have time to make the place dirty, so cleaning is always fast. However, what takes time are the laundries, as sheets and towels have to be washed daily so that they have enough time to dry for the next guests! On Airbnb, you are also suppose to attend certain ‘grades’ about your hosting, which in addition to cleanliness includes different things for different people, for example the quality of the bed, decoration or equipment of the apartment, soft towels… Actually it’s quit amazing on what kind of things people can give comments!

Many blogs about reasons to use Airbnb instead of hotels enhance the same things: You get to live like a local, you have more flexibility, you get interaction with the hosts, you have more space for a cheaper price etc. However, I don’t agree anymore with all these points and I am even starting to wander which are exactly the reasons people are using Airbnb nowadays? Well, for myself I know it’s the cheaper price and a different style of accommodation but i’ll go back to this later.

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Christmas opening in Rovaniemi with the main attraction of the city: Santa Claus

As a host I have noticed that people’s expectations are starting to be higher and higher and sometimes it feels that the whole idea of ‘staying in a local home instead of a hotel’ seems to be totally forgotten.  People are asking me to drop their suitcases to the apartment at 8 am,  checking in at midnight, or asking if I can leave the key somewhere so that they can check in when ever it suits for them…. They don’t answer to my messages which makes communication and planning difficult, especially when I also work every day. The check in and check out times marked on the profile, the fact that the apartment is actually a home where someone lives the rest of the year, or that the host is a person who also has a full time work next to Airbnb hosting do not seem to affect the guests.

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Tourists leaving for a safari in Rovaniemi

These things are probably related to the case that it is very common nowadays to rent many apartments for only Airbnb usage and make that as a full time work.  Like mentioned above I have myself slept in that kind of apartments too – I didn’t know it when doing the booking, though. But honestly, the Airbnb experiences that I remember as very good ones, are the ones when I was actually staying in the house with the host and we were talking and sharing.

Here in Rovaniemi I had one guest like that, as we actually went to have dinner together. I was very tired and not sure I wanted to go, but it ended up as a very nice dinner – the guest was  interested about life in Finland and about our culture. He thanked me later and told he had learned a lot. After that dinner I was feeling that this is what Airbnb should be! And that is what I understood about the idea of Airbnb when it first started… Stay like a local and meet the locals?

Once after the guests had left the apartment and I went to clean, I found some bottles and cans in the bin. No-one in Finland throws those in the trash as if one doesn’t recycle otherwise, everybody always brings their bottles back to the shop and get their deposit of them! Of course this kind of things you can’t know if you are a foreigner and you don’t talk with the locals – what is a shame is that you probably still don’t know it when you leave the country… And how many other things you have missed about the local culture in addition to the bottle deposits?

As guests and hosts on Airbnb we do save money, but I just think that we could get so much more. I have personally got good friends through Airbnb and I have learned a lot each time I have stayed in someones’ house – sometimes it’s been just the time of a breakfast but enough to get to know something new!  I know the concept of Airbnb is changing, but wish people would still think about it as a homestay which could bring them something different than hotels, not as a hotel-service.

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Throwback to Brazil and Iguassu Falls were I first tried Airbnb in 2015.

 

 

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Getting an apartment in Finland VS. Paris

Few months ago I wrote about my flat researches in Rovaniemi and moving plans there. Well, time went super fast and I always started to write something and then never finished. Now I am actually already settled in Rovaniemi in my new flat, but I can still give you a little shortcut about looking an apartment in Finland, and tell you how easily things work here…compared to Paris at least!

Some background information: When I moved to Paris in 2009 my first apartment there was a 9m2 “chambre de bonne“, in the 6th floor (without elevator!) of a very hype building in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The rent was 615€ per month. And to get that ‘awesome’ apartment I spent about 2 months of visiting places and learning how to make a proper file with all the documents that landlords were asking… From working contracts to tax-informations…. I also had to ask my French grand parents to caution the apartment and to help me on paying the 3 months of rent that was asked at advance!

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The only picture that I could find about that tiny Parisian apartment, was from the day that I moved out from there!

This is to give a little sigh on what looking for an apartment in Paris, can look. I made the same thing few years later with my ex boyfriend and even then it wasn’t much easier, but we were lucky and got some help from our workplace on that time…

Anyway, in Finland no-one asked anything, when I confirmed the first apartment that I was offered.

First I applied for the student-apartments in Rovaniemi, but as they could offer especially shared flats, I also started to look on the private markets.  After many years of sharing my apartment with someone, this time I really felt that I want to have my place. As private markets in Rovaniemi were quit stuck, I also sent an application for KAS, Municipal Housing Homes. It’s a kind of real estate agent for the citys’ apartments. I just needed to fill the application online, and BIM! In two days they already sent me an offer! I was really surprised about that because I had heard that when you apply for the municipality, it always takes time… They sent me an interesting offer which I had to accept or reject within 5 days. Without seeing the apartment, being still in Kalajoki for my summer work, I decided to accept it. In France  I would have never-ever accept an apartment without seeing it first, but in Finland I know that they respect all the laws and do things very correctly. The only thing I was afraid of was that the walls would have had some horrible colors… (few years ago one of my friends moved in an apartment that she hadn’t seen before, and it was quit a surprise when one wall was pink!).

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I could only see pictures from outside, but any from inside, because there was still someone living…

 

But the most surprising thing for me was, how easily the processes went. We agreed everything by phone, the only document that I was asked to send to the agency, was a proof of my study place. I was almost about to ask “are you sure, you don’t need any other documents?” But I decided to stay silent and be happy that any incomes, tax returns or birth certificates were asked…  And the same day I got my lease by email, printed it, signed it and sent it back as an iphone picture. And that was it! I got they keys by showing my ID at the agency few weeks later.

I don’t know if that went so easily, because I’m a student now and because I rented trough that agency, but in general people who rent on private markets also, never need to show as much papers and proofs as in France. Of course I get the point of that in France, where is so much more people living, but it’s literally a hellish nightmare to rent an apartment in Paris.

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The first week I slept on air-mattress, but it didn’t matter because I finally had my own closet for my clothes!

Actually my positive surprises didn’t stop there, as the next thing I had to do, was the electricity contract. The KAS-agency gave me names of electricity suppliers and I just needed to contact them by email or by their internet-site and in 24hrs they sent me their offer and we made the contract trough internet. I didn’t see anyone or talked in phone with a single person, but I got my electricity contract, AND everything was working since the first day I got to the apartment.

And yes! When I got to see the apartment for the first time, after that I had signed the contract and already paid one month of rent, I was satisfied :). I have one small bedroom with a balcony, and one living room/kitchen + bathroom and entrance, around 40 m2 and the rent is under 450 e per month. By bike I’m 15 min from the university and the city-center.

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The next amazing things about Finland are the student offers ;).

 

Traveling with “strangers”

As you can read in my previous post, in May, I spent 3 weeks in Mexico with friends. We were 4 people traveling and visiting friends and family living there, so on some moments we were a group of 7 people traveling together.

For me, this was the first time that I was traveling that way, I mean with a group of friends for more than few days, and in further destination. Usually I’ve been traveling alone and as a couple. Or with a group of friends for some city weekends and student/work trips, and of course with my family…  So before this trip, I have to admit that I was a bit anxious. Not about the destination, or the trip, but more about the cast.

Why it was such a big deal for me this time? I’m used to travel, and I usually get along with people everywhere.

Well, maybe the fact that now I was leaving with my new boyfriend for the first time, and with HIS’ friends.  I actually had no idea with what kind of people I was going to travel, except that we were all from different backgrounds with different nationalities (one Finn, one Spanish, one Greek + me) . …  So, it was exciting and scary at the same time to leave for 3 weeks with my boyfriend, about who I didn’t really know how he is while he travels (you know, that ‘joke’ about the first couple-trip as a test? 😉 ), and then the 2 others, who were a couple as well and who I had met few times before, but who I didn’t really know.

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First step was planning the trip. As I was in Lapland the whole winter and the others were in Tampere, I was trying to do my best to not feel like an outsider when my boyfriend was telling me what they had been talking or planning about the trip. At the end the most of the plans we did all together in April, when I was back in Tampere. The good thing was that since the beginning we all agreed on the same point: That we will have many places to visit because of all our friends and family who live in different cities in Mexico, but we don’t want to hurry too much and only travel for long distances during the 3 weeks. We are going for holidays, not for a marathon.

As I’ve been working as a travel agent, and used to plan itineraries and hotel bookings for clients, it also took me some efforts to not wanting to decide about everything and do all the bookings by myself. Many moments I was thinking it’s better to not say anything and let also the others the possibility to choose. Also because of my work I’m always very interesting about touristic sites in different places, and doing suggestions on the program and places to visit. In this case I was checking a lot by myself, but at the end I did very few suggestions. P1100192

Before leaving, we decided the itinerary and booked the sleeping places. As we didn’t want to  be too dependent of a program, we didn’t book anything else at advance, and that worked well.

Before leaving we also noticed that we are all different regarding on safety and health-things. When I travel, I usually just use my commonsense, and ask locals about the places not-to-go or other tips. And maybe I have always been very lucky, as nothing have ever happened when I have traveled. I’ve once been attacked in Paris, in my own building, but never on my trips. So when people  were saying that Mexico is a dangerous country, I was answering that so is France, Brazil and Finland. Well, for my fellow travelers this was a more important question and came out many times before, and during the trip.

Well, nothing happened and the whole trip went really well.   No-one was even really sick, except one or two days of some little stomach-problems, but it could have been worst. That was also something that we were talking a lot; the hygiene and the food… But luckily everybody were still willing to try all kind of food and to eat also from street restaurants.

To travel with people that you barely know, is an interesting experience. We learned things about each others and about ourselves… For example who is super stressed before a flight or gets angry when he’s hungry, or who is faster on the morning and who’s the one that everybody else is always waiting for, or who hates travelling with buses, who always needs to go to the toilet, who gets tired the most easily and always sleeps when there’s a moment for that, who’s trying to be positive all the time, who loves see and beaches – who not, who doesn’t like the tropical heat – who does…

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Like I said before, everything went very well.  Of course there were some moments of frustration, I’m sure all of us would have done some things differently if there was a possibility for that. I for example, would have stayed more days on the beach, and if I was alone, I would have spent more time in the hostels to get to know the other travelers and to meet new people. I also would have stayed more with my friends, who I was visiting… To have more time to talk with them and to see their life in Mexico. I also would have spend more time just by myself. But regarding the fact that we were almost 24 hrs all together during 3 weeks, and we didn’t fight at all, I have to say that I’m proud about all of us.

This was a good experience and I’m happy I did it, but I’m not sure I would do the same kind of trip soon again. I still prefer my liberty, and to spend more time in one place, to really become familiar with the surroundings and people. I also want to be able to go to eat a simple sandwich if I’m hungry, instead of looking for a typical local restaurant for an hour, or to leave from a museum earlier if I’m feeling tired…

The good thing is that now I have people with who to share the memories and with who to talk about the trip! That’s something I’m missing when I travel alone.

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Three weeks in Mexico, with few sentences

4 People, 4 nationalities (Spain, Greece, Finland, France), 3 main languages (English, Spanish, Finnish), mixed with French and Greek. Age scale from 24 to 32.

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One country.

3 weeks.

7 cities.

Several climates.

MEXico

Desert, jungle, Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

Cactus-trees, Palm-trees, flamboyants, primaveras, bougainvilleas….

About 30 hours of 7 different buses and 2000 km (+ one national flight).

3 different hostels, 2 hotels, one Airbnb, 2 local houses.

7 different local guides.

3 European wives settled with a Mexican husband.

New and old friends, brothers, sisters…

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A lot of corn, chili and lime.

Some tequila and Mezcal.

Mangos, goyaves, pineapples, melons, papayas, mameis, bananas, avocados…

Grilled cactus and grasshoppers.

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Museums, pyramids, bars, restaurants, boat-rides, mines, mangroves, supermarkets, market-places, lucha-libre, shopping, eating and drinking again and again…

Liters of water bottles.

Kilometers of walking around cities under +30-35 C.

Sunscreen, sombreros and mosquito-protection, hydro cortisone and after sun.

Colors, smells, sweat, flavours, and a lot of fun!

 

 

 

Back in Paris – back home

Since Ivalo the blog have been quit silent. I have had some inspiration issues, and problems to finish my many drafts on different subjects.
Now I’m writing from the bus to Tampere. I just landed back to Finland, after one week spent in Paris. Paris, the city were I used to live for 6 years and which I left last summer for Finland. Being in Paris felt extremely normal and at the same time very strange. Last time I was in Paris for holidays, was on summer 2009, and few months later I moved in there.

When I was a kid I spent my holidays in France, in Le Mans, with my French grand parents and cousins.  And during all past 6 years, Finland was the place where I went for holidays… To meet friends and family, to eat local food that I was missing, to do Finnish things. Now, that have changed again. Now I’m going for holidays in France, but sharing my time between Paris and Le Mans. No matter the country you are it’s always the same; your time is limited and there’s a lot of people to see and things to do. And as with my Finnish friends when I came to Finland for holidays, also my French friends have their life with work and family and I can’t suppose they are 100% available for me when I come.


And the biggest different with Paris now, is that I don’t really have a home there anymore. Luckily one of my very good friend hosts me whenever I need, and I feel at home in her place… But before I used to have my place in Paris, my home where I always went once the plane have landed. Now that place is not my place anymore, and it felt strange to not go there…

Being back in Paris 10 months later I moved out from there, was very confusing. Places and people haven’t changed, I still speak French and know how to use metros and how to behave and communicate in different places… Nothing is difficult, everything’s natural and goes normally. In a way I felt much more at home in Paris than in Finland! I think last years I got so distant with Finland that it still takes time to get to feel at home there…. A lot of people have told me that I’m more French than Finnish, despite the accent I have when I speak French. And I feel so too.


After few days in Paris, I still don’t regret I left that city, no matter how much I love it! Paris is still very tiring. When I take the metro to cross the city in one hour I can’t not to think how in Tampere I cross the city in 15 min by bike. Or when we talk about holidays with friends, I realize in Finland it’s totally fine to stay at home for holidays, in Paris it’s almost not possible to imagine that… Being in Paris now, reminded  my about the life style, the hurry, the pollution, the traffic – it reminded me why I wanted away from there.

But also spending evenings with my friends, with who I have studied, with who we share the same professional interests and with who we are in quit same life-situations – that makes me to miss being there. Drinking wine which is good and cheap, eating cheese and charcuterie, going to Japanese – Corean – Italian – French restaurants for half the price that in Finland….


I guess, like my Spanish friend once said, I’ll always have a kind of identity-crisis, as I will always be between Finland and France and never able to be in the both countries at the same time.

What a wonderful year…

Wow. When I think about this year, I still get breathless.

It’s been the most exhausting and exciting year ever… And I really had no clue about how full of events this year would be, when I spent the last New Year in bed with almost 39 of fever and suffering about some horrible food poisoning. I was in Paris, and thinking that it was the first time since I moved to Paris that I wasn’t celebrating New Year with anyone, I was really too sick… And in my little superstitious mind I remember I was also thinking “this can’t be a good year, as it starts so bad…”

Well, now I’m in Ivalo in Finnish Lapland, but the road was long to get until here! 😀

When I left Paris for Brazil in March, I was saying to my current boyfriend that when I come back, I want to leave Paris for real. But I wasn’t thinking that I would do it alone, AND, that I’ll not leave only Paris, but also France!

So….Brazil was awesome. I haven’t enough words to describe those three months spent in Foz do Iguaçu, but you can read some of what happened there in the beginning of this blog (April-May 2015). That experience allowed me to meet the most amazing people, to realize a lot of things about me and my dreams, to discover wonderful places, to see new opportunities opening for me and also put me in front of the most hard decisions that I’ve ever took.

And one decision led to another. In June I came back to Paris, and in July I was already in Finland with all my luggage from last 6 years.

During about 4 months I enjoyed, I struggled, I cried, I was extremely happy… I went trough all kind of feelings and  finally ended up to Lapland with “waitress” marked on my payslip.

Of course things were not as easy as they seem written here in. But this was to say, that I’ve been extremely lucky this year, because I’ve seen few of the most beautiful places in the world within less than a year. Iguaçu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Helsinki, Tampere, Lapland…

I’ve been taking very different means of transportation to go to work, under extreme climates and temperatures… In Paris I was cramped in the subway among hundreds of people, in Brazil I took the bus or walked under the sun in + 35 C, and now I’m biking in -25 C, under the polar night!

And I’ve been discovering new cultures and tasting new foods and flavors, having conversations in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Finnish, French. I’ve exchanged about travel-tips and cultural differences with so many people, I’ve been partying and having caipirinhas, beers, wines, glögis, and so much more!

All these countries and places also included a lot of hellos and goodbyes…

This year I’ve left and let go some very important people from my life, but I’ve also got a lot of new ones. Actually the year 2015 was not only rich with new cultures and natural or geographical places, but especially on relationships. It’s better to not be sad about what we’ve done or what we’ve loos, but to be happy about what we have gained. Except that I’ve met wonderful new people which I hope I’ll keep in my life for ever, I’ve also got closer to my family and old friends again. And this has been really amazing.

And I want to thank all those lovely people who I’ve met and got back this year! You people, really made this year a very special-one ❤

 

I’m very excited about the new coming year, and sure it’s going to be a great one also…  I hope and promise only one (or two) thing for the coming year; Less of big changes and not so much running  ;).

Happy New Year everybody! Enjoy the moment, your loves and what you have now….

Next stop: Ivalo

“Booking status: confirmed”.  I have never booked a flight northern than Tampere or Helsinki, now that’s been done too! Next week I’ll take the bus at 4 am from Tampere to Helsinki, and the plane from Helsinki to Ivalo, where I’ll spend the next 4 – 5 months! So, this is the third time this […]