Superhost Marianne suddenly found herself alone in the craftsman she and her late husband renovated together. To pick herself up, she launched her own business, opening her California home to guests from across the world. In her own words, she shares how hosting gave her life new meaning and what it means to be a female entrepreneur:
There was something beneficial about having life, having humans coming back into the house.
When I lost Mike, there was such a huge sense of loss, emptiness, a void. He had gone into surgery in May of 2017 for what was supposed to be a standard procedure, but there were complications and he didn’t make it. Four days before this, we had just celebrated 26 years together.
My daughter had moved home to stay with me. Almost a year later, she moved away and all of a sudden, I found myself alone in the house.
I don’t remember a specific incident or reason why I started hosting. It just kept showing up in my awareness. And then I took a trip in September of 2017 to see friends in Oregon, and I stayed in an Airbnb there. The host was a lovely fellow, and I explained what had happened. It started to dawn on me that being a host could be a possibility for me.
With my husband’s death, his pension ended and that was a big loss of income. I work for myself as a teacher, writer, and landscaper. I just wasn’t in a place where I could focus.
In my imagination, Airbnb was a source of easy-peasy cash flow. But it is work. And definitely being a single woman, I did have concerns about safety. I bought locks for the guest rooms and my room, but I think I’ve only locked my door once when there was a fellow checking in very late at night. A friend of mine who is also a host suggested I write the description of my home to attract the people I want here, and so far it seems to have worked. Maybe it’s naive, but I have a certain trust that for the most part, people are good.
Hosting became a way to be a little less of a hermit. It became a reason why I had to keep the house clean, a reason why I put on a brave face. You have to pick yourself up a little bit. Those were all good things.
I remember Mike with each person who comes in. It’s both saddening and empowering.
He loved working on this house. He was a carpenter. When we bought the house in 1995, it was trashed, a fixer-upper, and he made it such a beautiful place to live. In some ways, I get to experience his spirit, his energy when people come into the house, notice the woodwork, and say, “Oh, wow.”
I feel so proud. I feel it for both of us. How lovely it is that I can share that.
In the beginning, I would tell guests I had just lost my husband. Then bit by bit, it was no longer the first thing I shared.
I’ve been incredibly blessed with the guests I’ve had. Since I live in Santa Monica, they wanted to go to the beach, to the pier, and to Venice, so I didn’t really see them. I still needed lots of space and lots of quiet, so it was perfect.
Occasionally, we would chat over a cup of coffee or sit out on the porch swing with a glass of wine and the ocean breeze. Some of the guests were just lovely people to talk to. It was a reminder that life goes on, as cliche as it sounds.
One guest was a young woman. I hadn’t mentioned that Mike had died, but maybe she noticed his pictures around the house. She told me that she had lost her boyfriend a few months earlier in an accident. So I found myself in this incredible place of being able to open up not just the house, but a space for her to talk about her loss with someone who understood. And for me, she was someone I could talk about Mike with. There was common ground, an incredible synchronicity. We’ve texted a few times. She may or may not come back, but for a little while we touched each others lives.
As hosts, we share space, but sometimes it’s a place where we share so much more.
In opening up my home, I was able to give something even when I felt so depleted.
Now I have my own business. And there is so much to be said about being your own boss and having complete say over how your life evolves. There’s a real sense of power a woman feels when she’s running her own business.
It may sound a little woo-woo to people, but there’s something so sacred about welcoming a stranger. As hosts, we serve as guides to weary travelers. And when we are aching, hurt, and lonely, that interaction and connection provides a little bit of healing.
Photos courtesy of Marianne
I lost my husband December 2010. We had talked about buying and operating a bed and breakfast. Then, the summer of 2011, I read an article about Airbnb and thought, that's for me; although I only have a bedroom, I can be a host. When I signed up, the nearest other hosts were miles away in a university town. I didn't get my first guest until November and the next guest months later. Over the years I've hosted guests from around the world. My little town became a destination spot with many accolades. And like Marianne, my guests have helped to fill the void of loneliness. When our city started imposing a business tax and required a license, my business name became "Company's Comin' Airbnb."
So beautiful! Thanks for sharing Marianne’s hosting story. I completely get it. There is something very cool about the exchange of energy and especially in a home. The story of the home Marianne shared with her husband is changing, and she is changing - it’s being captured in every moment that she welcomes a “stranger,” into it to host them. Curious...as a writer, does Marianne plan to document this somehow? I’m a writer myself and have thought of a few ideas on how I’d like to capture my experiences as a host. It’s such a cool thing and I’m fairly new to it - definitely feels like the “right” choice I made to open up my home to people and make new connections. I love to get the reviews and I also pay very close attention to the adjectives people use to describe their stay in my home. That tells me a lot about the energy I put into preparing it for their stay. I’m a big believer in what we give out, we receive. Giving weary travelers a comfortable, safe, beautiful place to stay is priceless.
Thank you so much for sharing Marianne one can see that you are beautiful on the inside and out. I was so moved by your story. I love hosting people from all over the world all different and wonderful. At times it is also such a pleasure to help anyone of my guests who is in need. Being a host on Airbnb not only helps me with my income but also brings so much life and pleasure. My home would be very empty without my guests. I pray you find much joy and love in the future.
Thank you so much for reading. It has been quite the journey. And I know my Mike would be smiling down at me that our home is being shared in such a beautiful way.
Dear Marianne, your experience is very touching and I am glad that hosting was also a therapy for you, and that you can help others, not only for the hosting part. I am wondering how many women like us started the Airbnb because they were in a difficult situation and had to find a new way of living. Because we went through difficulties, it make us sensitive persons and better hosts, I think. All the best for your future. Emmanuelle
Wow! Marianne, you keep doing what you are doing.
What a wonderful inspiring story. Having your own business and working from home is time freedom. I love meeting people from all around the world and in my own country (New Zealand).
I don't know how I didn't see this story until now. Marianne, I very much identify with you and if we ever were to talk in person, I think we would find a lot of common ground. I lost my husband of 30 years in March of 2018 and my life screeched to a halt. He requested that instead of a funeral, I give him a day of memorial on our horse farm, where family and friends could gather. I did my best to comply and on that day, someone saw my little guest cabin across the field and mentioned Airbnb to me. I have tried so hard to remember who it was, but that day was a bit of a blur. A few months went by, but having never heard of Airbnb before then, I didn't give it much consideration at that time. As time went by, I decided I wanted to hang on to our farm and needed an extra source of income, so I checked out Airbnb on line and it clicked for me. I spent a month doing decorating and minor repairs to the cabin and opened for business. The day after I signed up, guests started booking and that was in October. I do all the cleaning and prep for guests myself, and have to laugh because my husband would be incredulous if he knew just how many times I have now cleaned that cabin from top to bottom. At any rate, thank you for sharing your story and I hope that you and I both continue to find our way to peace and happiness, despite our losses. It has been a long road over the past year for me personally.
Such a beutiful story! Thank you for sharing a special part of your life story.
Im sure you have inspired many others.
That's beautifully written. I am inspired to see other women doing things like hosting. It encourages me to hurdle the apprehension that exists as I am creating my listing. It can be a little intimidating as a woman to consider opening your home, and essentially yourself to strangers; perhaps exposing yourself to danger. But, if we are not experiencing fear and working through that challenge, we are not living; we are existing. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for sharing your story Marianne. It resonated deeply for me after losing my husband and then my son. So much of who we are is about loving.
For me, home is sacred space. The opportunity to care for others is an act of love, making our homes a sanctuary, and after a loss and some time to heal, preparing our home to welcome life/others again and caring for others as a host elevates my healing making return to life part of a sacred and very personal journey I’m learning to be grateful for every day.
“Caring for” is a huge part of who I am as is creating beauty, ambience, and comfort.
Yes to writing our listings to the people we want to host! It’s worked so well for me too! I’ve been delighted with my guests as they have been to be here.
Yes to running our own businesses- the freedom to create it as we wish to our own standards and the comforting rhythm of the ebb and flow and the freedom to take time to be gentle with ourselves when we need it.
We have areas in common being stewards of the Earth and for me being a healer, managing a retreat center and creating healthy gourmet food for special needs also complements hosting, healing, and where my heart is.
There are are many women here who’ve been blessed by returning to life on so many levels through this...creative and abundant return to who we are.
Sharing Home again is a beautiful thing.
It was such an uplifting story to share. I started doing Airbnb in Nov 2018 to earn some extra income and at the same time I feel happy to share my home and local guides with people who visits Cyberjaya. It makes me feel some sort of satisfaction some time, being able to give value to local/ foreign visitors from what I know - local knowledge, service, insights of local langscape, culture, cuisine and etc. You're definitely not alone Marianne. Keep up the good work!