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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Traveling the world in Airbnbs

Uploaded: Sep 5, 2019
When I received a press release last month touting Airbnb’s explosive growth across the world, my mind turned immediately to my Pleasanton friends Jay and Ofelia Gomez.
The long-time residents operated Ofelia’s Kitchen on Hillcrest Avenue (north of East Avenue in Livermore) for nearly 20 years before selling the business in 2014. Those 20 years were characterized by six-day weeks (only closed on Sunday). Her home-made soups and sandwiches were delightful. She made her own wheat bread—grinding it from organic kernels—daily.
Freed of the six-day work weeks, they have settled into the new season of life with two parts. There’s the nine months from September to June when they are committed two days a week to leading Bible Study Fellowship groups. Jay leads a men’s group, while Ofelia leads a women’s group in Spanish.
And, then there’s summer when they hit the road and make full use of the Airbnbs. My bride and I have been blessed to travel fairly widely, but are pikers compared to what Jay and Ofelia have done in the last few years. Sitting down with them last weekend, Jay said they have taken three trips longer than 70 days and used Airbnbs exclusively except in that rare instance where they had to rely on a hotel. With the same length trip next year they will have spent a year in Airbnbs.
The Airbnb press release noted that the company’s listings around the world topped the number of rooms of the biggest seven hotel chains combined. It reported four million check-ins on one Saturday and more than six million listings worldwide.
That made it easy for the Gomez family to travel and get in touch with real people. They returned last month from a 75-day trip that had them flying from the Bay Area to Oslo, Norway and then on to Greece. From Greece, they went into Turkey, then to Slovenia, Georgia, Moscow and then onto the Scandinavian countries.
Ofelia remarked, because kitchens are available at many Airbnb properties, they saved lots of money by cooking for themselves. In many cases, the owners guided them on what they should see and where to go. One, who owned a farm about 30 minutes from town, picked them up and brought them to the farm. Then, after describing the market they should go to, she handed them the keys to her car with the provision they return it by a certain time.
Ofelia lays the foundation for the trips by using TripAdvisor and its reviews and then checking the locations on YouTube for the low budget approach. The combination allows her to determine where she wants to go and reserve Airbnb rooms. Once she’s completed that, Jay develops a spreadsheet with their itinerary and then loads it on a Google map on his laptop. It was amazing to see how much land they traversed on their recent and second European trip.
They love the outdoors, so her bias runs toward beautiful places. She also tries to avoid staying downtown, feeling they would spend all of their time there instead of exploring other parts of the city.
On their most recent trip, they only traveled by plane twice once they landed in Greece before taking the flight home from Oslo. Buses and trains are their favored mode of transportation. Jay reports buses allow him to see the countryside instead of being focused on driving a car. They reported no language challenges—they speak English and Spanish (they were born in Colombia).
In 2018, that wasn’t the case when they traveled through Asia, visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam and spending a month in China. Particularly as they got to the more rural areas, they need an app to translate. In China, they also found that people did not carry cash, everything was paid with the WhatsApp. They had to download it to do business. They were also surprised how modern some of the Chinese cities are and what a contrast they are to Laos, for instance. Jay said it was like driving from Tijuana into San Diego.
They’ve also used Airbnb in Hawaii as well as trips around the East Coast, the mountain West and the deep South. They connect with local people, watch their budget carefully and celebrate the amazing world God has created. Are there challenges—sure—but check out their smiles when they talk about their adventures.
One Airbnb lodging in China was located 200 steps above street level and that was after climbing a steep hill. The directions weren’t great, so it took a bit to find the right unit once they reached that level. Jay loves Google maps to navigate to Airbnbs and it came in real handy at this location.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bill, a resident of another community,
on Sep 5, 2019 at 11:15 am

I'm anti-Airbnb. Airbnb is nothing but trouble. Can you imagine what every neighborhood would be like if everyone rented out their homes? Too many irresponsible Airbnb hosts (and guests). And if you're Airbnb stay isn't a pleasant one - it's your own fault for being cheap. Thankfully, most people don't utilize this flaky, highly unregulated start-up company, if you can call it that. You have no one to blame but yourself, if and when things don't work out. Read Airbnb reviews - mostly one star. In today's society, anyone who lets a total stranger in their home (overnight) is foolish. Trust is like respect. It has to be earned. I understand the joy of meeting people, but letting every Tom, Dick or Harry into your home (that you met on the internet) should be against your better judgment. Airbnb horror stories are everywhere. Wise up.

Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Sep 5, 2019 at 2:59 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

I've been wanting to try out AirBnb so I looked for one down in SoCal. Although the daily rates I found for certain places were economical, when the cleaning fees were factored in it was cheaper just to get a hotel room.

It was a very frustrating experience.

I'll have to look at it again and see if perhaps it was a one-off thing.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Sep 5, 2019 at 4:57 pm

I've never tried AirBnb, and I never will. For all the obvious reasons. The last straw I saw was on a cable news show. A couple in Florida was vacationing, and a camera was in the bedroom. The husband worked in IT, and spotted the camera. The homeowner had filmed several couples in his home. If you want to risk being filmed on camera (in a bedroom), perhaps AirBnb is for you. No thank you for myself. Why people use Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, etc. is beyond me. You're going into the home or personal vehicle of a stranger.

And even if you found a trusting person to rent from (not that you can trust online reviews). There is NO GUARANTEE that person will be there when you drive or fly in, especially outside of the country. They could end up in the hospital, or dead for all you know. Then what are you going to do? It's easy money renting out, but you have to be pretty desperate for money to do so. And desperate to save a buck renting from someone else. Do you really want to live by "house rules" while vacationing? Or do you want to be able to come and go as you please. If you can't afford a hotel, you can't afford to travel. There are less expensive hotels for those that can't afford nicer ones, or just don't want to spend the money.

Happy vacationing!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Sep 6, 2019 at 10:27 am

Unless you've forgotten, crime exists EVERYWHERE.

I wouldn't single out BnB' can be murdered, raped, robbed in the top hotels in the US and abroad. IT EVEN HAPPENS IN PLUTONIA!

Posted by Boring, a resident of Beratlis Place,
on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:06 pm

Your bloviated blog is boring.

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