There are three things I hate: rude people, pie that’s cold on the inside, and finding an apartment. Apartment hunting kills me the most.

I recently moved to San Francisco to work for Airbnb’s Department of Happiness (customer service). I chose to use Airbnb for temporary housing as a show of faith in the company.

The first place I selected was James’ “Queen bed in private room” in Berkeley, which featured only one hand-drawn image of the his apartment’s facade and a minimalist charcoal sketch of himself. Sketchy, right? Once I stepped into James’ place, I was blown away by the homemade art on the walls – everything from self-portraits of my hosts to a globe made out of Play-Doh and toothpicks. It was awesome.


Both James and his wife work in the service industry, but only to support their real passion: writing music together in their band The Manna Tease. They guided me to the local open mic spot at the Starry Plough, delicious soul food at Louis the Pie Queen, and the weekly fair at the Ashby BART station.Since my first experience went so swimmingly, I went hunting for places in nearby Oakland – known for rabid sports fans (have you met Oakland Raider fans?), political upheaval, and high crime rates.


This reputation made the insanely sweet messages my Oakland hostess Vicki Dello sent me all the more unexpected. I had her entire basement to myself – complete with a tea set and human alarm clock.

Vicki is a published author and spiritual leader, which is why I had the joy of waking up at precisely 9am to a circle of qi gong practitioners humming “om” in the living room above. There’s no better way to emerge into consciousness.

Vicki told me about her life in theater and her path to spirituality, her favorite local cultural spots, and, of course, the areas I shouldn’t walk through at night (like any good mom/host). When I did return home, I found copies of her book The Way of Joy on my bedside. I felt equal parts her student and her guest.

My experiences on Airbnb showed me that we’re more than just spaces for rent: we’re about people. When you go back home, what makes it special? Mama’s cooking? Dad’s cigar collection? The local brewpub?

When you click the little “Book It’ button, you’re getting a space and a host – and all the experiences only a host can offer.

Oh, and did I mention the last place I stayed in was a trailer that got featured in Newsweek? If you use Airbnb, maybe you can be famous too.

This post was written by Airbnb Customer Service team member Étan Berkowitz, who recently moved to San Francisco from New York.