Su casa no es mi casa
The key to unlocking a great Airbnb vacation

Zach Hively - 02/02/2023

Look, I realize that vacation rentals – let’s just call them “Airbnbs” because that’s what they all are – are responsible for a great many of the world’s woes. These include housing shortages and jacked-up costs of living, gentrification, several Kardashians, the lion’s share of the endangered species list and methamphetamines, probably.

But they are still my preferred way to stay in a stranger’s home on vacation, when I actually go on vacation. In adulthood so far, this averages once each decade. Plus, they have kitchens. This is preferable to hotels, where I cannot even pretend that I will cook my own breakfast.

Not using the included kitchen that I COULD use is just one Airbnb perk. I’d like, for your vicarious vacationing pleasure, to declare several other benefits – unlike the apples and the baggie of ham that we did not declare at customs on our way home. We brought them along for the flight after not eating them for breakfast for a week. Then I did not take them out of my backpack before customs because I was hungry, and also because I forgot.

Speaking of hunger, let’s make you hungry for travel with these Many Benefits of Staying in an Airbnb.

• Ease of Access

After a long day of international plane travel, all one wants is to lay one’s head on another person’s used pillow and fall asleep so fast that one cannot wonder for long about how foreign head lice differ from domestic ones. Such was our wish.

We were in good spirits after traveling by car, plane, moving walkway, plane, bus, customs line, and bus to the one coastal town in Mexico that spring break hasn’t heard about. I was able to use our Airbnb hosts’ directions – and the knowledge that “a la izquierda” means either “to the right” or “to the left” – to guide our taxi straight to the front gate. The taxi drove off, and I pulled up the host’s instructions for easily and safely accessing our new home away from home.

“The purple gate will appear to be locked,” the instructions read. “It is unlocked.”

“It’s locked,” said my travel partner – let’s call her “Maggie” because that is her name.

I, being a man, tried the lock myself. It was locked. I managed to message our Airbnb hosts. I’m not sure what I wanted them to do, seeing as they were at that moment in California or some other place that was not Mexico, but I hoped it would be something useful. They, however, did not reply in a timely fashion.

So I did what any former middle school math student would do: I skipped to the next word problem – the keys to the house, reportedly left, securely, under a cloth on a table by the front door. Unfortunately, the front door and this purported table were inside the gate, which had not yet been unlocked.

The irony of a gringo jumping a wall to get into someplace in Mexico gave me the boost I needed to do so very quickly and discreetly. Maggie guarded the luggage because she is scarier than I am, while I fetched the key. This was challenging, considering there was no key.

“There is no key,” I muttered through the gate.

“No key?” Maggie said back.

“No key,” I said. “Unless you can find it,” which, her being a woman, seemed likely. My whole life, women are finding things that don’t exist until I ask them to look.

Maggie passed our backpacks over the gate and then jumped it herself to prove me wrong about the keys. But the keys did not materialize. I wrote our hosts again, as timestamped proof that we were not breaking and entering in case the authorities ever got involved.

We made ourselves right at home on the rocking chairs on the patio and watched the sun set on the locked doors and welded-shut windows of this beautiful one-bedroom casa with well-tended garden and fully equipped kitchen. We laughed a little, we cried a little, and we got hungrier and hungrier, until I decided to jump the fence again and fetch us some food and possible camping supplies from the mercado on the corner.

While I was away, the hosts responded that this situation was very unusual and they would try to get ahold of Juan, the property manager. In the meantime, they suggested we dig for the possibility of a spare key buried in the corner of a flower bed opposite a radiant pink bougainvillea. We did not find the key, but we had corn chips, real Mexican corn chips, made with actual tortillas and not whatever comprises Tostitos. And we had a bottle of tequila from the highest shelf in this little mercado, which I ordered using my best Spanish pronunciation of the label over and over until the clerk understood my accent from sheer repetition.

We were prepared to hunker down for the night, mosquitos be damned, when Juan arrived with a hefty set of keys and a heftier set of apologies. “I thought today was yesterday!” he said many times.

Now we move on to the next Airbnb benefit: You get to leave public reviews.

Beautiful outdoor space. Through the window, the kitchen appears useful. Clear directions and very communicative hosts! I already can’t wait to go back.

– Zach Hively

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