Hello, all you lovely people in the ABB community.
Note - This post is written from the perspective of an Airbnb guest.
“Live in a stranger’s house, did you say?”, my soon to be bride asked me with an air of disbelief, “and that too on our honeymoon? Surely, you must be joking”, she continued, hoping I would laugh out aloud any minute and admit that I was indeed jesting.
Ambika, the love of my life and my bride-to-be was yet to hear about the home share concept and Airbnb - an ever-growing community which was built on trust above all things.
For someone who had never heard of this before, Ambika’s fears and apprehension was justified.
Let me take you back a few months prior to this conversation when Ambika and met for the first time. This was towards the end of 2012. We were introduced to each other by our well-meaning parents as an arranged marriage proposition. A sailor by profession, I was in Mumbai on my well-earned leave and my concerned mum was actively seeking for a suitable bride for her only son, fearful that I would die a sad and lonely death on some forlorn shore with no one left to grieve for me.
A constant drifter, and a solo vagabond until this time, I was content living my life as a hardened sailor and an intrepid backpacker. But then Ambika came into my life, and for the first time ever I began to contemplate having a partner in my life, albeit with certain reservations at first: would this mean no more extended travels? Would Ambika love travelling as much as I did, and be comfortable with my style of exploring? How would I backpack once I had kids? The questions seemed endless and the answers, elusive.
Ambika, at least as a first impression, and from what I gathered during our first few dates, appeared to be a person who loved travel and adventure as much as I did, although she had lived a fairly sheltered and domesticated life so far; in all her years of travel, she had never ventured off the well-trodden path. However, I detected an element of daredevilry in her - faint and just below the surface.
It was time to shake things up a bit, and see for myself what kind of a travel partner Ambika would be.
For our honeymoon, we had planned to visit Sri Lanka - our geographic neighbour and an idyllic and picturesque island nation which offered a range of travel escapades: rugged mountains, stunning beaches, quaint villages, and ancient temples. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to explore the entire spectrum of experiences - honeymoon or not.
I just couldn’t picture myself lying on a hammock, sipping mojitos and gazing into each other’s eyes all day long in a luxe resort for the entire trip. The ultimate bonding with my newly-wed would be on the road doing wild and off-beat things - a trek up Sigiriya Rock, a hot air balloon ride, an unplanned hike down a village path in Kandy, a meandering walk in the undulating tea estates of Haputale.
To Ambika’s credit (and to my relief), she seemed enthusiastic about the proposition of an extended vacation. It was as if a part of her was craving to be set free and eager to explore the wild side.
It was at this planning stage that I gently broached the subject of trying out an Airbnb stay in at least one of the destinations. Now I’ve come from the era of ‘Couchsurfing’ and the concept of home-sharing for free; and I shared the ideology that the only true reward of being a member was the ability to make friends and the social interaction that these encounters provided.
But for Ambika, this was truly uncharted territory.
In true sporting spirit, she agreed to consider the proposal. Mindful of not pushing her too far out of her comfort zone, I opted for a short two-day stay in Kandy (an ancient city famed for the Temple of the Tooth). Mind you, this would be my first Airbnb experience as well, and this stay would determine our outlook towards this platform.
It was a 50-50 chance.
A purely random selection of an entirely random listing on Airbnb eventually turned out to be one of the highlights of our honeymooning trip.
We could not have chosen better hosts than Roney and Sujatha for our initiation. Our choice of accommodation was modest, as was our expectation about the hosts. However, the care and affection that Roney and Sujatha showered upon us during those two days was unreal; never in our lives have we encountered strangers with such an incredible capacity to give unconditionally. The couple went over and above the requirements of a host and it was evident that their behaviour was not driven by their desire to get the best rating from guests.
Roney and Sujatha displayed the true hallmark of the Airbnb ethos and the platform’s unintended but truly remarkable rewards of being its member - the social interaction which turned strangers into friends; the ability to bring out the best in people irrespective of ethnicity, race or religion; and the natural, yet sadly underrated, values of trust and respect.
We entered Roney and Sujatha’s home as guests but left as lifelong friends.
Our first Airbnb experience thus proved to be a catalyst which prompted Ambika to jump onto the Airbnb bandwagon with renewed confidence.
(In case the reader is wondering if there was any element of a conventional holiday and textbook romancing that one would expect whilst on a honeymoon, let me assure you that we did spend the last week in a luxurious resort - lying in hammocks, sipping mojitos and gazing in each other’s eyes all day long.)
Fast forward to 2020, with over sixteen Airbnb stays, two beautiful kids in tow and some wild adventures along the way, the coy bride I had married has now turned into a daring traveller, who wears her heart on her sleeve, trusts people more freely, and seeks friendships where none existed.
Robert Brault sums up our relationship very well in this quote - "What we find in a soulmate is not something wild to tame, but something wild to run with."
I wish each and every one of you a blissful Christmas season. Here's looking to a bright and promising 2021: triumph over Covid, lifting of travel restrictions, normalcy to our daily lives and most importantly to a world which comes together collectively and thinks as one.
PS - Sadly Sujatha has since passed away a few months ago after a long battle with cancer and she has left a legacy of love and goodwill with the numerous family and friends who have had the privilege to have known her. We happen to be two such lucky persons. I have shared a post - Where do angels go when they depart earth? in memory of Sujatha on 02nd December for those who would like to read more about our experience with this lovely couple.
PPS - Thanks to AirBnB for all of the lovely experiences we've had so far, and to this community for your support and open dialogue. This platform is truly global and unique in terms of what it offers to members. I can only wish that ABB leverages this aspect and creates even more opportunities and experiences for social engagement. Special thanks to @Katie for providing me with this opportunity to post.
To New Beginnings!
Jason, what a beautiful post, you have captured all our hearts with your wonderful story of love and adventure, and have given us all the uplift we needed in this difficult year. Your story is what makes the 'Month of Celebration' feature each year so special.
Good on you mate, take care, and if you are ever down our way, our door is always open for you, Ambika and your tribe.
Thanks. We all do have a lot to celebrate and rejoice. The dark clouds only makes the rest of the skies appear bluer.
We’ve yet to explore SA and it is on our travel wish list, so we may just take you up on the offer. The floodgates are going to open soon and I can foresee a big spike in leisure travel happening soon - lots of people have been locked up for way too long😀
Totally love your post. The photos are great, too, especially the first one, in your formal wedding clothes, with the backpacks.
While a lot of westerners find the idea of arranged marriages to be quite contrary to their ideas about choosing a life partner, a friend of mine was seated on a flight next to a Indian woman and they got to talking about cultural differences. The woman said to my friend, "You fall in love and then get married. We get married and then fall in love."
I'd say your parents knew you pretty well and chose wisely. You guys obviously have a wonderful time together. May you have many more happy travels.
Hi @Sarah977 ,
I never thought I’d go down the arranged marriage path. I always pictured meeting my better half at some mountain getaway or an exotic island whilst on my backpacking adventures...my marriage with Ambika happened in the most uncanny fashion and with a lot of resistance from my side. There is certainly some divine intervention, else how does one explain a reclusive hermit being blessed with such a like minded spouse and two beautiful children. Believe in miracles...they do happen!
It would be really interesting to see some statistics as to how many marriages turn out to be good ones that stand the test of time, comparing those where marriages were arranged versus ones where they chose their partner.
I'd be willing to bet they are about the same. The village role of matchmaker was an honored one and it actually makes sense that a mature adult with life experience, operating from an attitude of both parties ending up compatible and happy (as opposed to it being to form alliances between certain families for money or power reasons) might have more insight into a "good match" than young people who fall in lust and get married, only to realize once the honeymoon is over, they really don't have a lot in common or even have quite opposing viewpoints on some really important things they never discussed before.
Hi @Helen350 ,
I come from the old school and believe in the age old adage: “If you are moved to praise, shout from the rooftop; if you are tempted to criticise, bite on your tongue.”
For me as a traveller, Airbnb is not an accomodation option - it is a home away from home and an opportunity to meet and socialise with locals. In comparison, hotels and resorts are too insulated from the local scenery, at least the candid and see-it-as-it-is type of reality.
What a beautiful story and family you have.
Thank you for sharing! We have so much story to tell and human connections thru Airbnb, I can't wait for some normalcy to resume soon.
Much love to your family.
Thank you @Jason1470 for giving us your authentic self in this story. Which is uplifting and forever progressive. They say we are all stories, just make it a good one!
May you, Ambika and your children have a safe and happy Christmas. 🎄
Hi @Cathie19 ,
Thank you very much. Love your comment about all of us being stories.
We’ve yet to make it to the Top End...maybe someday soon, I hope.
Wishing you and your loved cones a joyous Christmas season.
As for all being stories, that was my post last year.......
But I first heard the phrase, from Dr Who!
If you have a quiet moment, here is the link to Day 29, 2019.