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Something new: Running an Airbnb place in our senior years

If one googles Airbnb, the description would be this: an online marketplace that connects people who want to rent out their homes with people who are looking for accommodations in that locale.

We’ve heard about Airbnb, but for seniors like us who are not tech-savvy, we didn’t give it a thought, much less the idea that it was an opportunity to  augment our income.

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When a nephew who is computer-savvy came to visit us in December, the hubby proudly showed him the tree house. It was his “baby,” and he designed the structure himself. Our main house is just beside the sea, and at the back of the house are centuries-old mangroves with a clearing that leads toward the sea. It is in this clearing among the mangroves that the hubby built the tree house, which is made of bamboo that sits on the water on stilts.

From the tree house, he built a bamboo bridge-way, and at the end of it, one can go swimming during high tide. My husband loves to swim in the sea, and I think this is the foremost reason for the extra expense that is the tree house.

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When we transferred to Bohol three years ago, we agreed to downsize, and being childless, decided to build just a one-bedroom house. There was an existing small structure on our lot beside our house which we renovated and converted into a guest bedroom. So at first, I thought of the tree house as my husband’s folly, but later came to love it. It is truly an idyllic place. Every day, we never fail to see a few large migrating birds among the mangroves, and the constant tweeting of small birds is a daily occurrence. It is a quiet sanctuary that is a perfect place for my hobby—painting. It is also an ideal place for small intimate parties.

The visit of the nephew was propitious in the sense that we were able to use his tech knowledge to put the two rooms, the guest bedroom and the tree house in the marketplace rentals, specifically Airbnb. The hubby had been toying with the idea for quite a while, because these rooms are empty most of the time. The rooms are simple but comfortable; the guest

bedroom is air-conditioned with its own bathroom, while the small bedroom in the tree house has only an electric fan, a shower and a washroom, with the toilet located a few steps away on the ground for sanitation.

A few weeks after we were on the rental marketplace, we got our first booking, a couple. They opted to stay in the guest room. The funny thing about this first booking is that they ended up looking for another place to stay on their first night, because the woman saw a big house lizard—a normal occurrence in our place probably because of the mangroves nearby. We couldn’t reason out with her that, while it was fierce-looking and much bigger than an ordinary lizard, what we had was completely harmless.

Just a few minutes after the incident, Airbnb contacted us to ask if we were agreeable to refund the guests after the guests contacted them about the incident. We agreed that they should be refunded.

We have had over a dozen guests since the first booking, and that kind of incident has never happened again.

The novelty of hosting complete strangers hasn’t tapered off as yet. I thought at first that it would be a hassle to have strangers around, but as it turned out, it was no bother at all, because they are mostly out the whole day. It is only during breakfast that we get busy as their stay includes a free breakfast. The hubby likes to cook, and I must say that he thinks about what to serve and cook with much enthusiasm that sometimes I have to remind him in jest that it’s only breakfast.

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When we had vegetarian guests, he went out of his way to look for various local fruits, and even served them mango with “suman” or sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf. The effort he gave into this one meal really paid off, because the reviews about it were all excellent, with adjectives like “amazing,” “fantastic,” “delicious” used to describe this one meal. I know that, like any passionate cook, it made him happy if everything he prepared was consumed.

Our guests are young people in their 20s and 30s, which probably accounts for their adventurous spirit and their lack of concern for the trappings of luxurious accommodation.

In fact, most of them opt to stay in the tree house. I’ve noticed that they love to commune with Mother Nature and appreciate the simple way of living.

One guest wrote in his review that every night, he would be at the end of the bridge-way to gaze at the stars and watch fireflies flying around. And the hubby and I had never even done that. It took a young European to point out what we had been missing and taken for granted.

We have no regrets opening our home to complete strangers. For the hubby and me, it is a great way to relearn how to interact with today’s young people. We’ve come to appreciate that behind their adventurous spirit and modern outlook, they are still conscious of the beauty of nature even in its simplest manifestations. I also love that most of them haven’t lost the basic courtesy that the young accord seniors like us.

Indeed, we welcome this new household setup, from just the hubby and I, our helper and a dog, to having two to four house guests from time to time. I feel that we never stop learning with guests around. I think it is one of the best ways of keeping up with the times and being young at heart.

It is also nice to know that most of them love not just Bohol, but also other places in our country. From Bohol, they usually go to other parts of the country, or they had been to other places before coming over. Our tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” has never been more apt and meaningful for us.

Marilyn Duterte Oppus, 69, lives in Baclayon, Bohol. She loves their new business, which also allows them to block some dates and not accept guests so they could also take a time off and go on vacation.

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TAGS: Airbnb, Bohol, guests, senior years, tourists
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