One year before our full-time travels began, I had a five day obsession with selling everything we owned, quitting our jobs, and living in a tent with our dog Odin until we ran out of money. I was stuck on I-64 on the first day of a new 90-minute, round-trip commute, immobile, bored, listening as NPR began to repeat itself. And it occurred to me that at this very moment, in some national park, there was a spectacular cliff. I envisioned it gleaming in the late afternoon sun, a sort of cross between Lion King’s pride rock and the life-size posters behind the REI checkout counter. I could see it so vividly. And I spent the next five days in my car acutely aware that sitting on that amalgamated cliff would trigger something in me that was dormant sitting here in traffic.
This relentless fixation, with all its sensations of warmth and freedom and whimsy, lasted until Friday evening when I was scanning Craigslist for pop-up campers, unable to solve for the fact that we would never be able to leave Odin alone. I looked at Jay sitting on the couch across from me, and a few sentences with him confirmed the ridiculousness of this fantasy. I cried, went for a walk, and let my enthusiasm for travel revert back to college nostalgia or hibernation for the next eight months. Then this happened.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
We get engaged on a romantic vacation to Arizona after dating for years. Rudy, the stuffed deer over seeing Jay’s grandparent’s mountaintop cabin, is the sole witness to the proposal. We start talking about the future, which leads to talking about the present. We have this uncomfortable inability to fully explain why we live the way we currently live.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
We open the Airbnb website for the first time and each create accounts. We immediately get sucked in and spend an ungodly number of hours flipping through homes, filtering for wifi and pet-friendly. We start researching the possibility of Jay working remotely and Erin leaving her job to run her own business.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Our landlord emails us to say that they are selling our townhouse and unless we want to buy it, we have six weeks to get out. We go on a very long walk, get lost in the adjacent neighborhood, and decide to leave St. Louis.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Jay receives approval to work remotely.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
We open the basement door and stare at the sea of stuff we’ve hauled around since college. We get overwhelmed, go get venti Starbucks, return to the basement, and start sifting through our belongings. The first hours of sorting consist of simply moving individual item from one pile of crap to another. By the evening, we’ve started to post items on Craigslist. For the next three weeks, our refrigerator is covered with post-it notes tracking the current state of each item: to post, posted, negotiating, sold.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Erin gives her employer three weeks notice.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
We cover our garage with blue painters tape in a gradation of lines that correspond to the storage unit sizes we’ve found in Kansas City. We start playing with vertical configurations of our remaining belongings in an attempt to fit everything in the smallest unit possible.
Friday, May 19, 2017
We pick up a U-Haul in St. Louis and neither proprietor asks us if we’ve ever driven a 30 foot truck. Jay gets the U-Haul to our townhouse, we load all our stuff into the truck, and our conversation oscillates between being convinced we should have reserved a smaller U-Haul and praying that everything will actually fit.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
We drive everything across the state, arriving in Kansas City in time to attend Jay’s brother’s high school graduation party. Our mammoth U-Haul is parked outside the party for all attending friends and family members to see. This leads to various questions about our current state of employment and whether or not we’re homeless. After the party, we line our storage unit with all our stuff and then squeeze Jay’s Corolla in the very middle. We celebrate when he turns off the engine and we’re finally confident all of our stuff will fit.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
We sit at a card table in our empty apartment and start looking for Airbnbs for the end of June. We’re looking for places north of Kansas City that have a weekly discount, good internet, and allow dogs. We’ve waited too long to be picky. Two homes match our criteria in two different cities: Omaha, Nebraska and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We send off our first Airbnb request and within minutes get an email confirmation with the subject line: You’re going to Saskatoon.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
We leave St. Louis and drive to Kansas City to spend three weeks with family members, preparing for our trip and working on wedding preparations for the fall. We buy a wedding dress, pick up wedding bands, book a photographer, and pick out invitations. This is the longest continuous chunk of time we’ve spent with our families since we were juniors in college.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
We leave Kansas City at dawn and drive to the Fort Stevenson’s campground in North Dakota. There’s a moment at a cement picnic table outside a gas station in South Dakota as we’re eating our peanut butter tortillas in the cold, grey wind where we look at each other as Odin shivers and wonder what the hell we’re doing. That night, Odin learns what camping is.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
We wake up at 5:00am to find a rainbow over our tent. We drive to the aptly-named town of Portal, North Dakota and attempt to cross into Canada. We’re allowed to proceed only after the U.S. Border Patrol agents put Odin behind a chained fence, make us wait in the office’s lobby for a good 45 minutes, and search our car until every item is just slightly out of place. They can’t understand why we’re driving to Saskatoon. At 4:30 in the afternoon, we check into our very first Airbnb.
Six Months Later
The goal behind bnbNomad
There’s this great quote from the writer E.L Doctorow that goes like this: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” As we sit here, drafting this inaugural bnbNomad post, exactly six months have passed since we loaded everything into a storage unit. To date, we’ve stayed in 14 different homes in three countries, ranging from a couple of nights to month-long stays. Each step along the way has been an active decision: where do we want to be next, how long should we stay, which route should we drive. But there was never a moment in which we committed to live a full-time Airbnb life. We were already doing it by the time we were cognizant of our approach.
For now, our headlights shine on this: we love meeting new people, we love seeing new places, and we don’t want to unload that storage unit just yet. And the further we follow this road, the more aware we are of the knowledge base we’re accumulating and how committed we’ve become to the Airbnb community. We want to share what we’ve learned. As we launch bnbNomad, our goal is this:
To help hosts maximize their Airbnb potential with tips and tricks based on our experiences as full-time guests
To guide first-time and seasoned guests alike towards the very best of what Airbnb has to offer
And to give any curious travel-lover a look into a fully nomadic Airbnb lifestyle