Showing Up

photo (7)On Friday afternoon, as I sorted laundry—matching duvet covers to sheet sets and pairing taupe towels—I went over the details of who’d be arriving at my house that day. I was out of practice. A family friend (and Microsoft intern) had left earlier in the week after a three-month stay. My other guest, a woman from Boston who’d interned at a financial company, had checked out that morning on her last day of work. She’d been with me since mid-June.

A lot had changed in those months. I’d published Letting People In while both of the interns lived in the house. Microsoft knew I was a writer and had published my first book, but Boston did not. Every few weeks, he’d ask me how things were coming along with the book. I’d nonchalantly answer, not wanting to weird out a current guest by talking about a book I’d written about past guests. I often wonder: if guests discover I write about Airbnb and what happens in the house, will it affect our interactions? Will they worry that I’ll write about them?

For the next book, to escape this setting for the first book, I thought I would hit the road and write about my experiences as an Airbnb guest. Perhaps visit the southern and eastern half of the United States—regions I’ve always wanted to explore in more depth. I thought I could use my interactions as a guest as a springboard for more stories—stories people are asking me to expand on in more detail after reading Letting People In. But I am not there yet.

My first book arrived organically and the story was easy to write. I loved meeting guests from around the world and seeing how our interactions helped me grow as a person. Helped me climb out of the emotional and financial shithole that I was in.

Because the first book was a little too easy to write, I question what the next book will look like if I write the hard stuff. It’s a challenge I’m toying and teasing myself with at present. There may be a walkabout in the fall, but it might not be Airbnb-centric.

As I look around at my Airbnb host peers—those of us who are publicly championing the brand and helping to onboard and guide new hosts—I don’t know if I have the business acumen and stamina they have. I didn’t start hosting or write a book to make gobs of money—I simply wanted to connect with people. There’s little incentive in promoting a company like Airbnb, and I don’t want to forever stand on a soapbox of their brand, as it’s secondary to the real interactions I seek.

I have been fortunate to connect with more and more people each week as I expand my Facebook and Twitter presence. I love hearing feedback from readers and hosts who’ve read the book. It’s thrilling to contemplate what’s next as I grow a pair in my development as a writer. I like being scared shitless and not having a plan. I find that’s the place where I unearth my best material.

My new guests and their companions checked in Friday night. Everything worked fluidly after I re-greased my hosting wheels. Each time I walk away from interaction with a new guest, I feel honored to host them in my home and act as their personal concierge to this amazing city. It’s an odd life, the life of a host, but an immensely thrilling one.

It’s kind of like writing. You never know who or what will show up.

“In travel writing there’s the story you’re sent to report and then there’s the story behind the scenes, and the latter is always vastly more interesting.”    -Andrew McCarthy