Feature Photo: kevindooleyPhoto: longlostcousin

A new website seeks to hook travelers up with local digs around the world.

“Travel like a human” is the motto of AirBnB, a website devoted to hooking up travelers with lodging (from rooms and apartments to tree houses and castles) around the world. The site now boasts accommodation in 101 countries and has been getting all sorts of media hype in The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other places.

So what’s this all about, anyway? Essentially, you sign up for AirBnB and post information about the lodging you’re offering, plus photos that make the place look like a drool-worthy boutique hotel. Make sure there are huge windows giving out onto the Champs Elysées or the Tokyo skyline, and funky leather couches with nice end tables and avant-garde lamps in gorgeous lighting. Or aim for a different market and take a straight-up shot of your dog-eaten couch, offering it to poor, weary backpackers for twenty bucks. AirBnB offers a range from the backpacker to the deluxe.

That said, the site is not necessarily a place for the hard-core budget traveler getting by on Greyhounds and ramen. Most of the accommodations are below market rates but still hover in the $50-150 range, which means that if you’re usually dependent on hostels or Couchsurfing, this might not be an alternative.

Photo: striatic

At the same time, the quality you get for that price is most likely going to be infinitely higher than what you’d get in the smoke-stinking ancient hotel with yellowed mattresses that charges a fortune based on location alone.

The apartments, houses and rooms on AirBnB are downright, well, homey…they are, after all, where somebody lives year-round, not some dank pit that houses passerby after passerby.

As for hosts, the site looks like a great way to make some extra cash from your place. If you’re living abroad in a remotely strategic area, with a remotely decent apartment, this is a sweet way to drum up some extra income.

But what stops me is always the awkwardness factor. Do I need to make chitchat? Coffee? Invite the guest out for beers with my friends and I? Feel guilty about having friends over for beers? I don’t like navigating those host/guest boundaries, especially when there’s money involved and I have just met the guest in the last twenty-four hours.

And, I wonder, what sort of issues do these people face with their landlords? I’d like to give hosting a go, but I wonder what my neighbors would say about new sets of foreigners coming and going every week or so. The site doesn’t seem perturbed by rental issues thus far, maybe because most people don’t live with their landlords or interact with them, or because many people are renting apartments and houses they own? I’m not sure, but it seems some sort of legal ramifications might creep up somewhere.

All in all, sites like AirBnB and Couchsurfing are changing the traditional way in which people travel.

What do you think of this, Matadorians? Would you use this service? Would you rent a room, house, bungalow, mattress? Do you like the way these kinds of services are changing travel?