Friday, 9 December 2011

Any room at the inn?

 9th December 2011
In 2007 I packed away my worldly belongings, filled my back pack full of ‘Rough Guide’s’ (the travel bibles, not a bunch of slaggy Girl Guides) and headed off with a round the world ticket.

On my journeys I met many people who went out of their way to be kind to me. 

One such couple drove past me while I was hiking up through the forest to find a view point in Noosa (Queensland, Australia). They turned their car around and offered me a lift up the hill. They were worried because they’d seen a dodgy looking man in the car park at the top. We got chatting and they invited me to stay with them in Napier, New Zealand when I was passing. They told me later they have made similar offers many times, but I’m the only one to take them up on it! The world should know by now that if they make an offer like that – I’m going to say yes!

Noosa Sunset.

Five weeks later, they were there waiting for me at Napier bus station. They invited the whole family round for dinner, with me as guest of honour, gave me a guided tour of the city and finished off with a VIP trip to the vineyard where John used to be estate manager. 

Oh I do land on my feet!


Then there was the couple from Sydney I met on the ‘Adelaide City Tour’. They invited me to call in and see them when I was passing through. 

So I did! I got the ferry over to Manley and they took me on the most amazing trip around the north Sydney beaches. Not to mention the wonderful lunch over looking the sea, which they refused to let me pay for.

Lunch time view.

I could go on. Over the years, the kindness shown to me by complete strangers whilst travelling has restored my faith in human kind, time and time again.

Now I’m in the position to do a bit of paying back.

To try and keep money coming in, until I become a media tycoon, I’ve signed up with a company called Airbnb, who specialise in advertising your spare room to tourists. It’s for the kind of people who want a more local experience – who are going to be out exploring all day and just want a bed for the night. We used them when we visited Boston, staying in a brilliant location for £60. A hotel would have cost us three times that.

Now that I’m signed up and receiving guests, I’m trying my best to pay back some of the kindness I benefited from when I was travelling.

The site is ‘powered’ by reviews and feedback. Thankfully, our first guest left us a glowing review. I did go a little loopy scrubbing the cat flap and folding the end of the toilet paper into a triangle – convinced it would make all the difference. 

‘Guest 1’ was a doctor who came to Manchester for a training course. 

“So, you’re from Iran,” I said “I bet that’s nice?”

He looked puzzled. Actually the IE on his profile stood for Ireland. The fact he was half Sudanese and half Russian – working in Dublin, had thrown me. I’d put two and two together and come up with seventy two. I’d wondered why he’d chosen to read Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ from my bookshelf.

His first priority on arriving was finding a kebab shop and somewhere that sold fags. You’ve got to love doctors!

The morning that he was due to leave, there had been a slight frost, which meant the metro system had ground to a halt. Not wanting him to be lost in the big city (clearly Manchester is much worse than Khartoum) I drove him all the way into the city centre to catch his train – throwing in a city tour along the way.

“On the left we have Old Trafford, home of Manchester United.”

“Straight ahead we have what was the Hacienda, but they’ve pulled it down to build trendy apartments,” etc etc.

I waited for several days for his review to come through. Curses, I’d tried so hard. However, when it did finally come it was lovely:

“Alison and her husband are one of the best hosts i met , They made my stay comfortable by all means.  They are very friendly and easy going . The area itself is quit and save with a very good transport the City Centre. I definitely recommend them for every body”.

Hurrah, we were off, and it wasn’t long before I got my next enquiry from a mother and her teenage daughter from Bavaria in Germany on a four night trip. I managed to talk them out of a day trip to Edinburgh (four hours there – “hello Edinburgh” – four hours back), but they wanted to see pretty much most of England during their stay.

In the end they had a day in Manchester – the best thing about the city was apparently Primark! The following day they went to London (they liked very much but were disappointed by the guards outside Buckingham Palace who were too far away to take a good photograph). Finally they had a day in Chester. They didn’t stop!

“My daughter and I stayed for four days and we enjoyed it very much; Alison and Tris were very kind; give many good Informations

So as I sit here writing, I am waiting for my next guest to arrive. At first I thought he was Swedish, but he is actually from Singapore, studying at Stockholm University, visiting the UK, and specifically visiting Manchester to see United play tomorrow. 

It’s a really cool thing to do – hosting all these intrepid travellers and explorers. Helping to make their trip brilliant just like others did for me.

Oh – is that another booking just coming through? 24th – 26th December? Have I got room for a donkey? 

Jesus Christ - Well I never!

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