Nearly a year after trading our steady midwestern routine for this nomadic life, our travels circled back to the very city we left: St. Louis, Missouri. From four different Airbnbs, we explored neighborhoods we scarcely knew despite calling STL home for a combined twelve years. A mix of novelty and nostalgia, the month lent itself to reflection on what’s changed and what hasn’t. Jotted down over the course of April 2018, here is a daily catalog capturing one month of Airbnb living.
Week 1: Tower Grove
Once again, we forgot it was Easter. This has become a chronic problem for us. Last year, we were tipped off by a laminated sign of a burrito in an Easter basket taped to Chipotle’s locked doors. The year before that, the epiphany occurred in the grocery store’s deserted parking lot. This year, we managed to inflict our perennial oblivion on generous friends by asking to stay with them for the weekend. Consequently, this morning was an apologetic scramble to extricate ourselves before the family festivities began. As soon as we’d left, we became starkly aware that our Airbnb wouldn’t be ready for hours and that, with the exception of brunch restaurants and parks, the city was effectively closed. It was cold and windy, and so we wound up at the Cheesecake Factory. These awkward gaps between Airbnbs never occurred to us when we jumped into a life of full time travel. As our drawn out meal came to its inevitable end, our host unknowingly saved us with a small text letting us know the apartment was ready early. When the appointed 4:00pm check-in time rolled around, we were already unpacked and snuggled up on the couch as the hail started. Within minutes the bright green garden below was solid white. St. Louis’ weather is notoriously finicky this time of year.
Week 2: St. Charles
I spent the morning counting quarters at the laundromat and watching our clothes go round and round, sloshing against the soapy glass. I’ve heard this moment so often mentioned as a metaphor for meditation, watching the internal movement from outside the machine. Today, it just looks like laundry. Jay and I divvied up the chores with sticky notes on the fridge. He’s in charge of reconciling the budget, figuring out how to get our latest batch of mail to an address we can access here in St. Louis, and finding a new pair of jeans. His old pair finally gave out, in Vegas no less. I’ve got laundry and groceries. Traveling full time has eliminated a huge swath of auxiliary tasks produced by living in one place. There’s no home to deep clean, no lawn to mow, no basement or garage or closets that perpetually need to be organized, no garbage bins to remember to take out on a given day, no utilities to pay. But there are also no systems in place. We’re inevitably reinventing the laundry doing, grocery buying, mail retrieval wheel. We used to rely on Amazon Prime deliveries so heavily that the first time Odin’s kibble started to run low on the road, we had to figure out which pet store actually carried that brand. Petco, it turned out.
Week 3: Tower Grove (Again)
Odin spent the afternoon curled up in his bed under the table. Our latest Airbnb has two stairwells connecting the building’s four apartments, one set at the front entrance and another set at the back. Odin made quick peace with the footsteps on the ceiling, but he’s reluctant to believe that the boisterous travelers clomping up and down the stairwell past our door don’t pose a threat. In fact, he’s rather confident that his bark serves as the sole deterrent keeping our fellow Airbnbers from bursting through our door, which is how he wound up with his bed under the table. After getting up and down several times, we positioned him in arms reach of our workstation so we could more consistently reward silence and scold woofs. This training has led to Odin’s latest invention: an apartment bark. It’s a muted version of his full-bodied bark which he manages to produce without opening his mouth. He generates the sound from his throat which then fluffs out through his loose cheeks while he keeps his jaw closed. Afterwards, he looks back at me to see whether he’s actually discovered a loophole in the no barking policy. I inform him that he hasn’t, but I admire his attempt. The walls, after all, are super thin.
Week 4: Soulard
This place is stunning. Our latest Airbnb feels like walking into a Restoration Hardware magazine cover: luxurious textures, rustic metallics, and a bed so beautifully made that it inspired its very own blog post. Within the first hour, we’d unpacked, popped open the bottle of white wine our host had set out, and kicked back with the Cardinals game that was happening just down the street. We could hear the fireworks celebrating a homerun just before the ball was hit on tv. The office where I worked for years in St. Louis celebrated opening day with a potluck, complete with hot dogs, cracker jacks, and cupcakes with icing piped into baseball seams. One of my colleagues would bring in red and white mardi gras beads for the celebration, but would always hang one string of blue beads on my door, the lone KC Royals fan in a city obsessed with the Cards. There’s a Seneca quote I return to often: “Everywhere is nowhere. When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.” I can’t say this is completely unfounded.