Bringing the Couchsurfer experience to Airbnb

By | Hussel, Thoughts, Travel | No Comments

Before Airbnb, I swore by Couchsurfing. As a student I used it to travel both the US and Europe and have experiences money couldn’t buy. At home I paid it forward by offering up my space, free of charge for travelers. The Couch Surfers I met reminded me of what’s important. That was 2007. My last stay organized through the website was 2014; the year I joined Airbnb.

My friend had an account and I didn’t have any reviews so we booked with hers for my first trip in Austin. The apartment we stayed in showed signs that it was clearly someone’s real home and the second room was rented to another Airbnb Guest, we were convinced the host was sleeping in his car to make a few extra bucks. You could now pay to get the authentic experience of staying in a local’s home. I was getting older and more and more of my trips were weekends away vs long-term travel so I began to feel less comfortable using Couch Surfer. My priorities shifted towards convenience and some of the Airbnbs I stayed in were run by companies, where I never even saw the host. I didn’t have a problem with this, but I began to miss the human interaction and spontaneousness of the Couchsurfing platform.

I’d never had a space I use to host on Airbnb, but everything changed late last year when my tenants moved out of my LA duplex. I listed my place on Airbnb and decided I didn’t want to just list a space for the money. I want to interact with my guests (without intruding) and turn their vacation into a memorable experience – just like the old days with Couchsurfing. I’m now 7 Guests in and I feel as though I’ve been able to accomplish this fairly well so far. My travels gave me the opportunity to stay in many Airbnbs around the world and take from them the best bits and incorporate those into mine. I look at this the same way I would a design project. It was tough getting started but now I’m in the optimization phase. I value guest feedback and constantly look to improve their experience. Running an Airbnb is bringing real-time insight into the value of focusing on the guest experience, honing my entrepreneurial skills and most importantly, it allows me to bring back what I remember to be the best parts of traveling.

Greetings from Hicksville Trailer Palace, California

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Hicksville Trailer Palace is essentially a kitsch desert playground where adults run wild.

How to Get to Hicksville

Well, we can tell you Hicksville is in Joshua Tree, California but as for the exact location, that’s a highly guarded secret. After booking through the Hicksville Trailer Palace website we received an email telling us that more details will be provided closer to our stay. A couple of days before check in, as promise we received a bunch of useful information which included a number to call when we were half an hour away. We followed the instructions and arrived at Hicksville approximately 2.5 hours after leaving West Hollywood.

joshua tree hicksville trip

Two nights in the Fifi

We stayed in the Fifi, a trailer designed by the owners of Fifi Mahony’s wig store in New Orleans. Compared to our neighbours, The Lux and The Integratrailer, ours was the most spacious. We had a double bed, wardrobe, plenty of storage space, seating area, table, sink, fridge with a small freezer and heating. What made the Fifi unique was the bar area, make-up vanity with lights, chandeliers, oil lamp hanging dangerously above the bed and light-up wig display.

2015-12-19 14.06.072015-12-19 15.09.43inside the fifi trailer

What about the other trailers?

Our friends stayed in the New World Trailer. It had a kitchen equipped with a stove. This was handy since we stayed during winter and it was a bit too cold to be BBQing comfortably. The New World also slept 6 people making it an economical choice for large groups.

Recent bad weather had got the better of the Tee Pee, which is decked out with a fire pit. The Sweet, a classic Airstream with a 70s theme had an outdoor setup that looked like it would be perfect for Summer. Other trailers included The Pioneer (western themed), The Integratrailer (alien themed), The Lux (The Cramps themed) and The Pony (which is in a stall).

pee wee and tee peethe new world hicksvillethe sweet hicksville

Activities available at Hicksville, in the Winter

If I could do the trip again, I would definitely choose to visit in Summer. This place is built for Summer days by the pool and long nights drinking under the stars. The temperature in the Winter was limiting but we still had fun. Activities available to us included:

  • Hot tub – great in the afternoon before it got too cold
  • Archery and BB Guns
  • Library
  • Wifi
  • Putt Putt Golf course – $10 per person per stay if you want to try it out
  • Table Tennis
  • Photo booth – $5 per set of photos but the screen doesn’t work
  • Outdoor games like the one pictured below
  • BBQ
  • Fire-pit – we packed lots of warm clothes so it was quite enjoyable outside at night by the fire.

2015-12-19 12.30.552015-12-19 20.02.212015-12-19 22.06.042015-12-19 13.29.38 Gooooood_morning__Hicksville.__trailerpark__joshuatree__usa__mericaHot_tub_with_a_view___joshuatree__trailerpark__Hicksville__merica__usa__CA__camping__California

What to pack

Besides your swimsuit, toiletries, clothes, food and drinks, make sure you also pick up a few “camping” necessities. You will need charcoal for the BBQ, wood for the fire, lighter fluid, matches and plastic cups. All of these can be purchased rather cheaply from the local Vons on your way into Hicksville.

Don’t rely on going anywhere for meals. You’re paying to stay at the Trailer Palace so you might as well enjoy the great outdoors and cook your dinner on the BBQ. There’s plenty of fridges available to store perishables and even a microwave if you’ve brought something quick and easy that just needs heating up.

We’re Aussie so we cooked a Sausage sizzle both nights of our stay. For those that don’t know, a Sausage Sizzle is simply snags (what Americans refer to as Polish Sausages), cooked onion and tomato sauce (ketchup) in a slice of bread.

For breakfast we made bacon and egg rolls and for lunch we had nachos. We also brought lots of snacks and treats to cook on the camp fire.

As far as drinks go, we took a massive bottle of gin, fresh limes and soda water. There’s an ice machine which was a pleasant surprise. Just because you’re staying in a trailer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little bit of luxury.

Oh, the places I have been

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My first ever overseas trip was in 2007 to Japan. Jetstar were celebrating the addition of a new route from Brisbane to Osaka and tickets were $500 return. I’d put my Bachelor of Marketing on hold and was working as a receptionist, very unsure of what I wanted from life. After seeing the newspaper ad, I spent the entire day rallying up troops and convincing myself that I had it in me to step foot outside Australia.

So began my never ending lust for travel. From that day, my life would never be the same. Eight years on, and one of the friends from that trip shares my live goals like no other – Buttons. Tonight I was reading her Passports and Polaroids blog which details preparations for her move to the USA after winning the Green Card Lottery. As I delved deeper, and each new post had me thinking ‘I wish I did that’, or ‘I did do that’, I came across post, ‘Where I’ve Been‘. Well now I am doing that. I’m writing my own list.

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Getting started as a Brisbane Uber Driver

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I’ve been playing catch up since arriving back in Brisbane after seven months in the US. There’s been a lots of life admin to take care of, including finding a job. A job that’s flexible with my uni commitments, pays well and hopefully provides a break from thinking about design and my major project.

Lucky for me, Uber has just started up in Brisbane. Uber is the San Francisco ride-sharing start-up that’s revolutionising the taxi industry all over the world.

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