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Stories of Belonging: Creating My Travel Story With Airbnb

Technology + Gear
by Katka Lapelosová Aug 10, 2014

TRADITIONAL ACCOMMODATIONS are rarely a part of most travel stories. I’ve never read about how someone’s life was changed after staying at the Holiday Inn North Charleston, or one of a dozen Marriott properties here in New York City. Many can elaborate on their experiences at pimped-out luxury resorts, but those places are often out of reach for the majority of travelers.

I started using Airbnb because I wanted to feel like I belonged in the Grünerløkka neighborhood of Oslo during my visit. I wanted to be inspired by the kindness of the people in my community in Berlin, who helped me interpret food labels at the market near my flat so I didn’t buy sour cream instead of yogurt. I wanted to stay in a fun apartment, the interior details personalized by my hosts in Mexico City. I felt at home snuggled in sheets that smelled like lilies, lounging on broken-in leather couches watching fútbol on TV.

Airbnb properties have quickly become as much a part of my travel experience as any other aspect of the trip — not just a place to sleep.

Since launching their redesign at the beginning of July, Airbnb has become even more integral to the fuller expression of travel. Their rebranding taps into the needs of Millennials and other current traveler archetypes, and the company is acutely aware of their target demographic — travelers who want more out of trips than what once was a typically packaged vacation.

Elements of the old Airbnb business model are still present; travelers can book shared rooms, private rooms in a home, or entire properties in almost any city and region in the world. Prices are set by Airbnb members renting out their spaces, are often less expensive than staying at a hotel, offer more privacy and flexibility than staying at a hostel, and maintain a higher level of stability and security than Couchsurfing.

Now, new interactive layers such as the Community section further enhance the brand. Members are encouraged to “create” symbols that are unique to their travels, based on the redesigned Airbnb logo, named Bélo. It represents the concept of belonging, which is a key component of the Airbnb philosophy, and something I can totally get behind.

While most hotels are very much about privacy and discretion, Airbnb wants us to tell our stories, and to make our experiences known.

The stories, and the symbol, are then posted on the community wall, where anyone is able to interact with, and become inspired by, the ways in which Airbnb is influencing millions of travelers. These symbols can be manufactured into personalized merchandise as well, allowing travelers to carry with them their memories in the form of stickers, postcards, t-shirts, and more.

Community is an important aspect that Airbnb is able to capitalize on, and one that more traditional accommodation options severely lack. Hotels are very isolated places. I usually don’t know the people staying in the rooms around me; everyone is in their own self-contained units, and the entire infrastructure discourages a sense of belonging.

But living with an Airbnb host, even for a short amount of time, fosters a sense of community. It helps develop a broader understanding of the world. It allows us to create truly personalized stories — and now the website offers a public forum for me to share those stories and inspirations.

Airbnb’s community and creative outlook offers a lot for its members. Travelers today want to know they belong to the world they live in. To me, that’s more valuable than any concierge, indoor pool, or “complimentary continental breakfast.”

Travelers today want to know “what moves us to share our homes, ideas, and lives.”

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