After 4 days of driving up from Austin, Kyle and I rolled in to Oakland sweaty, tired, and ready for a drink. Our first Airbnb was situated directly between Temescal and Rockridge – a corner flat on top of a sex shop called Secrets. We parked the U-haul, finagled the keys out of the lockbox, and dragged our bags and bikes up the three flights of stairs and into our first home of the year.
It was perfect. The sun was setting in every window on the corner-side of the apartment. The home was furnished in plants and memory-pieces, everything seeming to have a story. Our host, Mandy, came out of her room to welcome us and a few minutes later, we were all sitting down sharing a bottle of Scotch with a side of travel stories. The next night, Mandy let us cook her Thai food and ask her questions for this blog. One curry and noodle dish later, we had a new friend in the Bay. This – is what this year is about for us. Community. Travel. Presence. And Scotch (of course.)
There could not have been a better person or home to start Let’s Bnb with. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to our first Airbnb host of the year, Oakland’s finest, Miss Mandy Bliss.
When did you move to the Bay?
I moved here in 2003. It was right during that “dotcom bubble” burst, so it was a very different economic time.
How did you end up here in Oakland?
I was about 24 years old, had been out of college for a little while and had always wanted to travel around the world. The first thing I did when I finished school was save up as much money as I could, sold everything I owned, and took off with just a backpack. I traveled the long way around through Europe and Asia for a little under a year. I pretty much ran out of money here in the Bay area and thought okay – I guess I’m going to start a home here!
How do you make money?
I’m a public high school teacher. I teach biology to ninth graders in the town of San Leandro, which is just south of here. I’m one of 6 teachers in the district that teach biology.
Tell me about your idea of a good time.
Being around good people which includes my friends here in the area and new people that I’ve never met before. I like being that scout in my group to talk to the brand new person, find out what they’re all about, and share some stories and adventures. Hopefully it involves doing something I haven’t done before. I love going out and dancing to music or spending some time out in nature. I was a canoe instructor for a long time so I love being out on the water. I do a lot of art and so sometimes a good time just means I’m on my own working on a project or something. Just doing something creative is a big part of what I find fun.
When did you start hosting Airbnb guests?
Just a little over a year ago, my roommate at the time decided to chase a girl to Colorado. I was faced with the prospect of finding a new roommate or trying this new thing that I had heard about, Airbnb. My friend in Portland was doing it and it seemed to be working well for her, so I gave it a try and was really successful right away.
It was a little scary at first because I had a rent that I couldn’t quite afford, and I knew that I needed to split it with someone in order to stay here. On top of that, I had to invest in setting up the room. I’ve been booked ever since and it’s been a real pleasure.
Who are the most interesting guests you’ve ever had?
I think that what makes people interesting is just spending time with them. You see, I’ve found that everybody is interesting. They’ve all got their own stories and their own path that they’re on and I love hearing about it all. The people who have stayed longer though, are the ones I get to know the most about. One highlight for me was last spring I had a guy come stay here for a couple of months who eventually was going to become a party of 2 with a woman who he had met while living in China in the couple of years prior. They had been together for a few years over there and wanted to move to the Bay Area and get married. Once she arrived, they actually got married while they were staying here! So it ended up being a honeymoon suite and a wedding consultancy for a little while. Since the girl was brand new to the U.S., she had to learn all about wedding customs and where to buy stuff, so we went on a lot of shopping trips together and I helped her pick out her dress. They eventually ended up moving a couple of blocks away and have since become long-term friends. They’re actually coming over for dinner tomorrow!
So that’s a really fun one because it was a really sweet story. And that I got to play such a big role in their transition from China to the U.S.
What amount of guests who stay here are moving to San Francisco and what are passing through?
I think maybe a third of the people stay here are either moving here or are in some sort of temporary transient state where they don’t know exactly where they’re going to next. A lot of people are just bouncing around.
What advice can you give us for our first year in the Bay?
I would say that the biggest advice I have is to make sure that in the frantic pace that they Bay Area tends to scoop people up into, to make sure that you’re really dedicating some time to just enjoying the space. This area has an awful lot of unique things to discover and there are so many really great cultures to explore. So try as best you can to get out of the routines of things that you know you like and try a lot of new and different things. There’s going to be so much here that you’ve never seen before and you can discover a lot of things about what you enjoy, that maybe you didn’t even know yet.
One of the things that really appeals to me about this area is how people don’t take themselves all that seriously. I think its something that can take a while to get used to if you’re not from around here. Just relax and do the silly thing and don’t worry about it. No one’s going to be judging you for it.