Did you know that sharing the story behind your home can lead to even more bookings? Learn how from Superhosts and creative directors Tereasa and David.
Superhosts Tereasa and David know a thing or two about the power of storytelling. As parents, preservationists, creative directors in advertising, published authors, and the owners of Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, they’ve come to understand how weaving narratives can bring people together. When they began sharing their camp’s 90+ year old history online, it struck a chord and ignited a loyal following to their Airbnb listing. Here, they share some wise words on how to find and craft the story of your home.
Tereasa: Starting out [on Airbnb], we underestimated the power of telling our story. But we’ve seen firsthand just how transformative sharing them can be. As we started unearthing and posting camp’s history—as a 1920s speakeasy, a meeting place for the mob, a brothel, a summer camp for the Latvian refugee community, as well as our own connection to it—we found that people really resonated with it. And there was a hunger for more.
David: Most of my childhood summers were spent at Camp Wandawega—so I have a particularly deep connection to the space. Its story is so rich, and we love the fact now that we're part of this living, breathing legacy. As the history of the place began to reveal itself to us through our research, it was humbling to realize we weren't really the owners of this place, we're just the current caretakers.
T: As we’ve restored the place over the last 15 years, it was important to us that every object, artifact, and item honor Wandawega’s original time period. It’s a trip to the past and an escape from the modern world for our guests. To be able to preserve it, to be able to share the stories with others and then to also know that we can pass it on to our daughter is beyond special.
D: If you can inject a bit of history or a more personal perspective into your listing, people will naturally gravitate towards you. Here are our tips on how to craft and share your story.
Tereasa and David’s Tips to Craft and Share Your Story:
T: Even if your space isn’t a century-old speakeasy, there’s always a story to tell. To find yours, start by digging:
Do some research and put that in your listing.
D: There’s so much more that you can share aside from just the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. People want to know where they can get the perfect cup of coffee, they want to know your favorite spots—so dig around, find your point of difference and grow that. Guests are seeking a connection and a reason to be emotionally engaged—and stories help bring us together.
T: When we started listing Wandawega, David wrote in this very high-brow advertising sort of way that was like, “Relax in the sunset, and enjoy a cup of tea…” But we’re a blue collar place. We don’t have any amenities, we barely have WiFi, and we don’t behave like a hotel.
D: Very early on, we learned that we needed to manage people’s expectations ahead of time because the last thing we want to do is disappoint them. So we created our Manifesto of Low Expectations. It’s a playful way for us to introduce the rustic camp life. It tells people what to expect—which is often unpleasant bugs, woodland creatures, and zero air conditioning—so if you need Egyptian sheets or modern luxuries, this may not be the place for you.
T: We’re a pretense-free zone. And so we lean into that with the language we use to describe our space. We decided to be straight up with people. We took a tone that’s funny but painfully true. Hyperbole is pushed to the edge for us and it's what gives us a sense of humor, which makes us more approachable, I think. And you don’t have to be a copywriter to be approachable, you can just describe your place in a really humble way.
D: I personally find when I'm surfing Airbnb that I like when someone’s personality comes out in the way they describe their place. I want to know that you've got a sense of humor and you're someone that I would want to hang out and have a beer with. Don’t try to sell me the moon. Don't try to pretend to be the world's best anything. Just be honest and truthful and fun because people want to be comfortable when they come stay in your place.
T: Don’t be perfect. Be who you are—and not who you think you should be.
T: To increase interest and bookings, cultivate a social media presence for your home. Most people find us on social first, actually. They come across our images or through our Instagram feed—it’s a really great way to build an audience and invite them into the possibilities they can experience at camp. A couple tips:
D: When people visit Wandawega, I can’t tell you how many times people will tell me that they’ve seen a photo on Instagram and they want to sprint straight there to recreate that moment for themselves. Instagram becomes a bucket list of moments—and a visual preview of your space for your audience. It can often be the reason you get booked.
D: In the beginning, we made lots of mistakes. But we’ve learned to embrace what we call upfailing—and the messiness of life. For example, with storytelling, we learned that there’s such a thing as oversharing. As much as people love to hear about the brothel madam, the mafia, and the murders—they don’t necessarily want to know where it happened—especially if they have to sleep there.
T: Upfailing, to us, is about treating every obstacle as an opportunity to grow. It’s how you gain wisdom. It’s how you learn. It gives you a new way to move forward. Honestly, the best way to learn how to tell your story is just by doing it. Over time, you’ll discover what works, what doesn’t, and what resonates with your audience.
D: And you’ll most certainly gain confidence over time.
T: When we first started on this journey, I had this huge fear of sharing our “before” photos. I thought no one would want to come stay with us because of how horrendous it looked. But we’ve actually gotten the most engagement out of “before and after” photos.
D: People respond to honesty. They want to see the process. Again, they’re looking for a personal connection—so don’t be afraid to share parts of your personal journey. Keep it honest and tell your unique story.
T: Tell them about the secret spots in your house where they can sneak away. Anything! Just make it human and approachable.
D: When we think about how we interact with the spaces that we live in, or the spaces that we visit, it's all about the stories of the people that came before us. And it's about us creating new ones.
T: Every day is a story, every moment is a story. It's just whether and how we choose to share it. And in the world of hospitality especially, it's not the place you're renting that people are buying into, it's the promise of future stories.
D: Words and stories hold power. And we hope these tips inspire you to find your own voice.
T: We need [stories], people want to hear them, and they help bring us closer together.
-Tereasa and David
Check out the full #howtohost series here.
Thanks David and Lisa for your tips, I will certainly consider some of them. I have been with Airbnb for eight years+ and have had the best experiences and wonderful guests. My Motto has always been "To treat people the way you want to be treated". You can't go wrong with that Motto. Thank you Airbnb!!!!
Great advice! I have a question though. Years ago, we posted our listing. I spent hours crafting an intro message. One of my neighbors was interested in listing his house on Airbnb as well, and I shared as much of my experience as I could. Several weeks later, someone asked me, Did you post the cottage down the road too? No, I replied, that one belongs to someone else. Curious, I looked at my neighbor's listing. He had copied and pasted my entire intro. I was stunned, but I reluctantly rewrote mine to erase the confusion. What else can be done about that?
Dear god. Who has time for all of this? This isn't my full time job, I have one of those. I'd just like to get a booking from AirBNB now and then (every booking I've gotten for 6 months has been from VRBO/HomeAway). Why? I have no idea.
This was not helpful in helping me to figure out what the issue is. It just makes me feel inadequate and like I might be better off just renting to a full time tenant.
Very nice story! We have a rental in Wichita and we have had so many guests from all over, even foreign countries. When we started, I didn't know if we would have much success in Wichita. Wichita is growing quickly and becoming more exciting and a place to visit, plus it is the Air Capital of the World. Our home has been a project. for our family of 10. When we started hosting, with another popular website about 7 years ago, we didn't have much furniture and a limited budget. So we started by thrift shopping to outfit the home with furnishings. We joined Airbnb about 2 years ago and our Airbnb guests enjoy staying in our home, too! Our family is the cleaning crew and it has been a good employer for some extra spending money for our older children as they have pursued their own careers and college degrees. We enjoy having a home that is very clean for our guests, like we enjoy staying in and booking when we travel. Our motto is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"! Reading your story helped me realize that we all have a story to tell! Thanks for sharing!