Carpe Diem Connections
How Airbnb Can Help You Accomplish Your Retirement Bucket List
By Yvette Francino
This book is dedicated to Craig Dunham. Despite an ALS diagnosis, he seized every day, even when he could no longer move or speak. His inspiration reminds me that we never need to be a victim and we can continue to live a full life, despite our challenges.
I think of Craig when I Seize the Day. It’s only fitting that Craig’s initials, CD, are the same as Carpe Diem.
Copyright © 2022 Yvette Francino
All rights reserved.
Ahh! We made it!
We’ve finally reached that time in life! Retirement! The kids are grown up, no more rat-race, and we are totally free to do whatever we want!
If you’re like me, an active, goal-setting junkie with a Carpe Diem mindset, you probably have so much on your bucket list, you don’t know where to start.
This is where my background as an Agile Coach comes in handy.
If you have no idea what it means to be an “Agile Coach,” the quick explanation is this: It’s all about adaptability. In the business world, there are frameworks that are geared for project managers and software developers, but the bottom line is that Agile provides a set of principles that help us embrace change and deal with uncertainty. And we all know that life is FULL of change and uncertainty.
The way we work in Agile is, basically, to break down big goals into shorter iterations. We can be very experimental during these iterations. We then reflect about what worked, what didn’t work, and what we might want to do differently if we want to continue with making progress on a bigger goal.
OK, back to creating a retirement bucket list.
I left the corporate world at the end of 2018 and first executed a 60-week project ending on my 60th birthday. I made a list of 60 goals and had 60 celebrations with 60 people. It was a transformational project and each week I blogged about the goal I’d accomplished. Besides a 60-week-birthday party, the project was meant to help inform how I wanted to live the rest of my life..
One of the biggest goals on my list was to “Become a Snowbird.” Some other goals were “Learn Spanish and speak it in a Spanish-speaking country,” and “Try Airbnb Hosting.” I had various travel goals as well such as, “Go to MeowWolf in Santa Fe,” “See the New England Fall Foliage,” and “Go to DisneyWorld with the Grandkids.”
In executing this list, I made some very exciting discoveries about Airbnb:
OK, now let’s talk about YOUR retirement bucket list. Chances are it includes some travel. Maybe it also includes supplementing your income, learning a new language, or chasing the sun. Let’s take a look at each of those items I listed above and see how using Airbnb might help you create your own retirement bucket list and live a Carpe Diem lifestyle.
I discovered Airbnb as a traveler about 7 years ago from my son, Matt. He’d recently gotten married and he and my new daughter-in-law, Stella, invited both families to celebrate with them in Mexico. We stayed at a beautiful home, walking distance to the beach, at a fraction of the cost of any hotel in the area. We also had the benefit of stocking the kitchen with groceries and enjoying some bonding time, cooking, eating, playing games and being together in a more intimate setting than a hotel would allow for. It was a wonderful way for our two families to get to know each other.
Since that first Airbnb stay, I was hooked. I've been a frequent corporate traveler, and despite having hundreds of thousands of hotel points, I prefer staying at Airbnbs whenever I travel. It’s surprising to me how many people of my generation (I’m a 1960 baby) have never tried it. And, honestly, if it hadn’t been for my son, I might not have discovered it myself.
I’m here to tell you, if you haven’t yet tried it, get the app now and do some searching! You’ll see there’s everything from cozy cottages, to tree houses, to luxury apartments, to tiny houses! You can rent a whole house or a shared room. You can rent for a day or a month. You can go bare-bones cheap or splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The flexibility is unbelievable.
Whenever trying anything new, it might be good to do a little homework first, or find someone who has some experience to help give you some guidance on making your first booking. I would suggest exploring and becoming familiar with the app, and then booking your first short stay - maybe as an overnight getaway, driving distance from your home.
You can use filters to find a place that’s perfectly suited to your needs. Filters can include things such as “pets allowed” or “dedicated workspace.” Now that so many workplaces have incorporated work-from-anywhere options, why not get a change of scenery?
Besides searching for your favorite amenities, you may also want to seek out your perfect host. Airbnb provides a “reputation score” for both hosts and guests. Hosts and guests are able to rate one another on things such as communication and cleanliness. You can search for a “Superhost” which is only attained by the hosts who have experience and high reputation scores from their visitors.
Note that you won’t have a visiter reputation score yourself when you make that first booking. I’d suggest setting up a profile so potential hosts can learn something about you. You’ll also want to communicate via an email inquiry with any potential hosts, letting them know the reason for your visit and to establish some trust. You can also review the host’s profile and the reviews from the previous guests. When I’m traveling solo, I find this to be a welcome way to bond with a host before the trip. Then, even if I don’t know anyone else in the place I’m visiting, I’ve made a new friend who can act as my own personal concierge with recommendations about local hangouts.
Once you’ve become enamored with Airbnb, you may want to take advantage of becoming a host yourself! As I mentioned, I had this on my goal list for my 60-until-60 project and it ended up being more successful than I ever would have imagined!
There were all kinds of benefits to becoming a host that I hadn’t even thought about.
First of all, I’d always imagined I would need to downsize after my kids grew up and flew the coop. Certainly a single woman does not need a big house all to herself!
However, after the success I’ve had with renting rooms, I feel so grateful that I didn’t downsize. I have made thousands of dollars from renting out rooms - money that I hadn’t expected to make, and can help augment my retirement travel budget!
Besides the extra money, I really think it’s fun to host! Hosting gives me the motivation to keep my home neat and tidy and to decorate for the holidays - something I love doing, especially when there’s someone who will enjoy it. How nice to get to share the things that bring me joy with visitors.
But, of course, the real added benefit are the people I meet! I have a little guestbook where I ask people what makes them happy. I give an example page of little everyday things that make me happy. I always enjoy reading what guests write in my book. I’m always so honored to get a little peek into their minds and hear what brings them joy.
Hosting a room also allows for so much flexibility. It’s easy to change availability so that if I’m having personal visitors or my own needs for the room, I’m not committed to hosting all the time. Since hosting was just meant to be an experiment, I’m not dependent on the income. However, once I realized how much I enjoyed hosting, I came to see it as the easiest income I’ve ever made!
I quickly became a Superhost, myself, and, of course, that was quite an ego-stroke. That, along with the post-Covid travel trends have kept my little room fully occupied since I reopened in May. My own travel budget is readily growing as I anticipate the fun I’ll have on the road.
Similarly to traveling, the Airbnb platform has a full suite of options, checklists, training, and support to help the hosts thrive and succeed. As of this month (June, 2021) they have gone through a major upgrade of features that help both travelers and hosts.
There is complete flexibility in how you structure your pricing and it costs you nothing to create a listing. Airbnb does keep a small percentage of each booking, but they provide all the marketing, the money-transfer, the support, the insurance, and a full community! All of these features allow a curious homeowner the security to experiment with hosting! There is virtually no risk from trying this as a side-gig! What a welcome opportunity for new retirees that are feeling a little uneasy about their sudden loss of income. This also provides an ease to the void of an empty nest, and the Marie Kondo push to declutter without the emotional drain of downsizing.
You might get so enthralled with hosting that you decide to make it a full-time business. I’ve debated about finishing my basement to rent out more rooms or even buying a second snowbird home.. My fantasy was to own beautiful “Carpe Diem Snowbird” homes between my current home in Superior Colorado all across the Sun Belt. I would establish the soon-to-be-famous “Carpe Diem Snowbird Airbnb Trail,” the joyful route where Snowbirds would flock November through April.
I love my Colorado home.. from May until the end of October. When the cold weather hits, I burrow under down comforters, shivering, teeth chattering, and dreaming about my next beach vacation.
My internal thermostat seems to run about 10 degrees cooler than everyone else’s. I’m always the “coldest” one in the room. A sweater is a must-have piece of gear, even on the hottest summer day, because of the air conditioners that are blasting cool air into restaurants or shops.
Since moving to Colorado 26 years ago, a welcome tradition has always been to have a winter escape to a warm-weather location at least for one week of the long winter. I’ve been dreaming about becoming a snowbird ever since moving to Colorado.
Let’s do a little Agile-coach-like analysis on this long-time goal of mine to “Become a Snowbird.” We start with the “Why.” It’s always good to understand the objective rather than jump straight to a solution.
I want to be a snowbird because I want to enjoy warm weather all year round.
Drilling down more.. Why do I want to enjoy warm weather all year round?
Warm weather gives me energy! I’m happier and more productive on sunny, warm days. I exercise more, feel healthier, eat better, and I’m in a better mood when the weather is between 70 and 80 degrees. When I’m in a good mood, I smile more and my happiness is contagious.
OK, I want to be warm, but might there be other ways to accomplish this than “Become a Snowbird.” How about selling my Colorado home and moving to California? Or Florida? Or Mexico? Or Costa Rica?
Well, you see the first problem. I don’t know where I’d move! There are just too many wonderful warm weather places to choose from! Add to that the fact that I really don’t want to sell my Colorado home (especially now that I’ve become an Airbnb Superhost Maven!) I have roots in Colorado.. Family, friends, and a home that holds years of memories, so no, I’m not ready to sell right now (despite the unbelievable seller’s market we’re experiencing!)
I’ve researched many of the “traditional” approaches to snowbirding… there are RV-communities, buying a second home, or renting a home during snowbird season. Each of these snowbird solutions comes with some complications.
Enter Airbnb! I don’t need to own these Carpe Diem homes I dream of.. I can, instead, enjoy them as a guest! Renting rather than owning is a much more realistic approach for a single retiree who wants to experience new adventures.
Owning one Carpe Diem home is enough! As much as I love my home, maintenance is expensive and time-consuming. I’m getting away with not downsizing, but I certainly don’t need to own multiple homes at this stage of my life. Much better to enjoy a variety of beautiful homes, having new experiences, exploring new places, and meeting new friends. What an exciting journey to look forward to each year!
An Airbnb Tour is a much more economical solution for Snowbirding than any of the other options. All the traditional Snowbird rental units have sky-high prices and are typically multi-bedroom vacation homes, not at all practical for a solo snowbird.
I have had so many wonderful experiences as a solo traveler with Airbnb. What a welcome change to not have single supplement fees. When I’m traveling solo, I usually stay in a private room, with some shared common space. I typically look for a Superhost - they are always friendly and we automatically have Airbnb hosting in common.
Airbnb doesn’t have a whole “Carpe Diem Snowbird Airbnb Trail” mapped out yet, but just wait! I see it on the horizon and I’m going to help make it a reality!
It’s been a life-long dream of mine to be fluent in a second language. When I was in High School, I studied Spanish, French, and Italian and applied to become a Rotary Club Foreign Exchange Student. After a rigorous application process, I was honored to be accepted!
I had noted on my application that I wanted to go to Spain, France, or Italy. My acceptance letter said, “Congratulations, you are going to Japan!”
Japan? That really wasn’t even on my radar! The only word of Japanese I knew was Sayonara! But, studious and determined, I studied the language and enjoyed my transformational senior year, hosted by three wonderful families. I learned Japanese enough to get by, but not enough to consider myself “fluent.”
Now it’s time to fulfill that life-long goal. So many countries that have Spanish as their native language also have those luscious warm winters I crave. Every winter, I can explore a foreign country and continue my Spanish practice! (I’m on Day 838 on Duolingo, but nothing beats being immersed in a foreign country, surrounded by people conversing.)
I already have my January, 2022, month-long stay reserved at an Airbnb in Escazu, Costa Rica! My initial inquiry revealed that the Airbnb Superhost is another independent, single woman, a jeweler named Emilia.
My entire stay, from Jan 1-Jan 28, in this gorgeous home is less than $800! The photos reveal gardens, beautiful decor, a cozy lanai perfect for reading, relaxing, and writing, and even a piano! (Another one of my 60 goals was to re-learn a Chopin Nocturne from my youth!)
I told Emilia that my goal was to practice my Spanish and she said she would happily help! She also offered to help get me rides to nearby San Jose and to the local gym where she said I’d be able to get a guest pass.
Since I went to a Spanish Immersion class, Conversa, in San Jose right before the pandemic hit, I have some contacts there that I want to reconnect with. I also have discovered some other fun things to do during my month in Costa Rica, including Experiences listed on the Airbnb site.
The Experiences feature is something I discovered on Airbnb during the Pandemic. There are hundreds of virtual experiences from cooking to home-based-scavenger-hunts. Locals from around the world are able to showcase a skill or show-off their special corner of the world. There are such a variety of unique experiences as people of the world find ways to share something that is different about their little corner of the Earth. Aurora Hunting, anyone?
Being an Agile Coach, I appreciated the innovative approach and creativity that Airbnb Virtual Experiences provided the world at large. During Covid, when the world was struggling, these experiences were a way of bringing people together. Even though there was a lot of hardship because of the pandemic, I, for one, appreciate the ability to experience people and places from all over the world with virtual meeting technology.
I’m glad that online experiences are still available, but I’m happy to see there are plenty of in-person experiences opening up, now that the pandemic is not as much of a threat. After a year of so many virtual gatherings, we can appreciate even more the special sense of community one feels from face-to-face gatherings.
I’m already getting excited about the experiences that are available in Costa Rica. Check out this Spanish Immersion Class that includes a trip to the Farmer’s Market, a cooking class, and a shared meal with a Tico family! What I love about this is that, similar to hosting a room in your home, it allows locals to make a little extra money by sharing their passions and skills. It’s a win-win.
Whenever traveling solo, I’m going to make it a point to try out local Airbnb experiences. Experiences have been shown to produce more happiness than things, and I absolutely revel in new experiences. Besides potentially learning a new skill, I will meet more people who can tell me more about the place I’m visiting.
I’d love to gather as much information as possible about all the places on my Snowbird Tours, but what really makes a place memorable is the people you meet along the way.
I’m also currently learning all about the Boulder-area in anticipation of offering a local Experience myself. Gathering all the information is also great content to add to an ever-growing notebook I share with my guests when I’m hosting.
Airbnb Adventures are like extended experiences! They are multi-day group trips that can range from 2 to 10 days. Like other things Airbnb, they are typically hosted by locals and they have that same variety, flexibility, and unique aspect that makes the Airbnb brand stand out.
I first learned of Airbnb Adventures when it was launched 2 years ago with the Around the world in 80 Days adventure promotion, using the Jules Verne novel as the inspiration. For only $5000, six people could visit 18 countries. The itinerary looked amazing but I had a busy schedule of my own Carpe Diem experiences at the time. I made a mental note to check out future adventures wondering if maybe someday I could host an adventure for snowbirds as I’d been dreaming about.
I can’t find news about how the Around the World in 80 Days adventure turned out or even if it actually happened. We, of course, have had a lot of changes and restrictions in world travel in the past two years, and the adventure travel and tourism industry was hit hard, so it’s not surprising that there are no world wide trips currently listed.
That being said, with most of the world loosening restrictions, there are hundreds of local multi-day adventures being offered.
A multi-day adventure is another item I’m going to add to my own bucket-list to try as I’m on my 2021-2022 snowbird tour. And who knows? I might even try my hand at hosting a multi-day Carpe Diem retreat or Snowbird Roadtrip Adventure for new retirees!
I’m a software geek and as such, I’m always interested in the usability, features, and functions of software applications and platforms.
I have to admit that I was a little confused by the Airbnb hosting software when I was a new host because there were so many options. Great flexibility can come with the drawback of feeling a bit of overwhelm.
However, as I’ve become more familiar with Airbnb, I now find it incredibly easy-to-use with an amazing number of improvements. In fact, Airbnb just recently announced Airbnb 2021, with over 100 upgrades to support this new post-pandemic era of travel.
I’ve perused these upgrades through the eyes of an Agile coach and I’m impressed with the focus on both flexibility and simplicity. Enhanced accessibility options, filters, and features aimed at improved experiences for travelers and hosts.
Airbnb has made it easier than ever for new hosts with step-by-step checklists of what needs to be done. Even when I was a newbie two years ago, I was surprised at how quickly I was up and operational. Now, with all the additional support and features, it’s even easier.
Airbnb has expanded offerings and support across the board, recognizing that how people travel is changing. As hosts, we like sharing our homes and experiences with others. As travelers and consumers, we enjoy the benefits and flexibility and authenticity that comes from local hosts.
There is also a focus on community with forums and community support, classes, articles, and a plethora of resources available for those of us who are Airbnb enthusiasts. There’s even some gamification, which is a definite hook for people like me who are motivated by points and badges.
As I peruse the plethora of resources, I’m excited by all that’s available. Despite the hit Airbnb took due to the pandemic, they are now capitalizing on post-Covid travel trends. In the midst of the pandemic, they offered ways for people to bond and have virtual experiences, and remained optimistic about the future. All their actions epitomized the adaptability that I’m constantly promoting as an Agile coach. This adaptable and creative approach is paying off for the consumers and the providers.
A couple of weeks ago a friend forwarded me this promotion about the Live Anywhere on Airbnb program. Twelve people (with up to 3 companions each) will be selected to live as nomads, staying at Airbnbs anywhere in the world. Airbnb provides accommodations and travel allowance. In exchange, the participants provide feedback and help shape the future of travel.
I am loving this program for so many reasons. First of all, there is a focus on a work-from-anywhere lifestyle. Though now I’m at a stage of life where I don’t have a traditional job, I’ve been promoting, writing about, and speaking about work-from-anywhere since 1999! Tools, technology, and now, our world, have changed so much since 1999. Now we see that work-from-anywhere is possible, and in many cases, preferable!
However, what’s equally exciting (and more relevant for me) is that this method of travel provides a lot of opportunities for seniors. Most of us no longer want to backpack through Europe or feel comfortable in shared hostels. Now we have so many additional options, thanks to Airbnb.
I recently read the book, “Your Keys, Our House,” by The Senior Nomads, who talk about living the nomad lifestyle, living exclusively on Airbnbs. Now we need a book by a Senior Solo Snowbird!
Whenever I see ads about senior living, it’s almost always a picture of a happy couple. There are a lot of Senior Singles who want to travel and Airbnb has a safe way to do that! And there are so many wonderful new ways to have community and make friends along the way!
I hope I get chosen as one of the lucky 12 for the Live Anywhere on Airbnb program. However, even if I don’t, I plan to execute my snowbird Airbnb plan starting with Costa Rica in January.
I’d love to find other singles in the 55+ group who are excited about travel, especially during snowbird season. I started a group on Facebook called Carpe Diem - Singles Enjoying the Good Life. The idea is that we could perhaps find travel buddies or give recommendations about our travels, our bucket lists, and our experiences.
January, 2022 Update: Though I didn’t get chosen for the Live Anywhere Program, check out the interesting people who did!
Now, Airbnb’s sponsoring another program that is even more suited to my personality and interests - an opportunity to live in a 1 Euro renovated house in Sambuca di Sicilia, Italy!
Whether it’s on the road or online, I hope you’ll join me on this next exciting adventure! It’s all about the journey. Let’s make every day count!