...Without important amenities, I should say, because we have the sheets and pillows, the towels, soap (three kinds!), and the toilet paper. The essentials are covered!
What we don’t have is a much longer list, and it begins with wifi. No wifi! For some, depending on their provider, no cell service and no data. Also no electricity, no plumbing, no vehicle access, no transit, no touristy things to do.
What we are is a treehouse on a river in the woods. Two hundred metres away there is an outhouse, where sawdust is as important an essential as toilet paper. Dreamy, huh?
Okay, maybe in the right light. :)
When we started hosting, I was as surprised as you that we got good reviews, that we got guests at all to give those reviews – but we got them in droves.
So it is my job, in this Festival of Hospitality, to tell you what hospitality looks like without amenities.
It starts with accuracy…
“Tiny, cozy, rustic treehouse at the end of a rugged one-kilometre footpath: sleeping platform and woodstove inside; porch and hammock outside. Campfire pit with tripod grill on the riverbank. Appeals to leave-no-trace hikers/canoeists who look for time off the grid, who understand how to function sustainably and respectfully there, and enjoy being self-sufficient.”
That’s the summary, and you’ve noticed that it includes as much about what we expect as about what we offer. That’s on purpose. I added that once we started to get mainstream attention and, with it, mainstream assumptions. I highly recommend something like this on every listing, though: a sort of “here is what we are, and here is what you might want to be”.
It is working pretty well.
“This place is getting a lot of attention” says the sidebar on our listing. “It’s been viewed 500+ times in the past week.”
Did we get 500 bookings in the past week? More like 3. This is partly because we book up a month or two in advance, and mostly because 497 savvy viewers decided to book a place with running water!
Accuracy is its own filter...
Guests know what they are getting: privacy, quiet, wildlife, a campfire, starry skies, fairytale woods.
That tends to get emphasised in the reviews. But it is what they are not getting that gets emphasised by me.
Specifically, I assume the worst with instant book guests, that they haven’t read everything, and so ask them (nicely: “when you get a chance”) to open the “Read more about the space” and “Read all rules” dropdowns, as well as “Read more about the neighbourhood”.
You have heard this before but, really, undersell, over-deliver...
I’m like most hosts here, underselling and over-delivering.
No worries. I’m not spoiling our guests so that they will demand over-the-top treats when they turn up at your place. Over-delivering here means (surprise!) there are two reusable water bottles filled on the shelf. And a topped-up pail of sawdust. But, shhh, don’t tell ’em...
Thanks, Lizzie, for the opportunity to contribute. Looking forward to the rest of this series!
Thank you for this and your place looks so peaceful. One of our absolute favourite places we have stayed in was an Airbnb similar in the lack of amenities front- an eco hotel in Colombia. No street light, no cars, no locks needed- just being. The funniest thing is that we went for a walk thinking we could find food somewhere close by and got lost- no google Maps! To not lose our group we sang a chant sang generally by children about a couple who get lost in the forest (the irony... three people and only stars to guide us.
On this trip I brought my work laptop (catch up as I was off for about a month), that did not happen and after working 13 hour days for 4 months solid, this was a blessing. The moment I arrived my laptop died and I had no charger.
Living live minimally helps recentre you- and I can’t wait to go back and maybe one day to yours!
Good luck to you! :)
@Lawrene0 The most important thing in your post is a sub-header. "It starts with accuracy…"
Accuracy is key to all of our listings. Anytime you try to fudge what you can offer you will disappoint someone, or attract the wrong people, or be accused of gilding the lily. I know that some hosts just need the income, but my idea of misery is having an unhappy person staying in my house.
Sawdust. That brings back a lot of childhood memories, though we also had a bucket of lime. Is that used anymore?
Accuracy is my biggest concern with Airbnb Plus. Not being able to describe our place to people equally worries me and sets us up for unhappy guests.
Like you said, having unhappy guests staying in your house is misery.
I'm not being facetious when I say I really feel for the Plus hosts, @Amelia92 . I was briefly talked into putting our place up on a "glamping" site, where the description was written by their "experts". Good grief. They referred to our farmhouse as "the lodge" and rhapsodized about "miles of trails through deep woods" and the "super comfy" bed.
After much back and forth they agreed to be more realistic about the trail length, but not about the lodge or the sleeping platform. I am no longer listing there.
When they take away your ability to be accurate, they set you up for a fall.
@Lawrene0 @Yadira22 This is what happens when SF millennials who wouldn't be comfortable staying anywhere they couldn't plug in their hair dryer, would die if they couldn't use their iphone, or might get their new $200 "trainers" dirty are tasked with describing something off-the-beaten-path. Like the CS who just couldn't get it through his head that no, my guests wouldn't be able to locate my place with GPS co-ordinates because they wouldn't get a signal to use their phone on the road out to my place.
@Lawrene0 Loved your article. Let's hear it for amenity-free listings! (I don't actually consider towels and bedding as amenities, myself, they're basic necessities)
Although I do have Wifi, it's limited, and doesn't always work. Guests have told me they've really appreciated that there wasn't just unlimited, high-speed Wifi- that they spend way too much time online and it was nice to be forced to take a break from it-it's so addictive.
I also undersell and over-deliver. I offer to pick my guests up from the bus station and drive them back when they leave (easier than fretting about whether they'll find it on their own). Not mentioned in my listing. Free tea and coffee whenever they want it. Oil, salt and pepper and host of other herbs. Not mentioned in my listing. A basket full of products in the bathroom, from sunscreen to men's shaving foam. Not mentioned in my listing.
I may have asked you this before, but have you ever heard of Free Spirit Spheres? If not, Google it. I went to this place with a friend who knows the guy who makes these. They are so cool.
@Lawrene0 I so enjoyed your article and it took me back to my younger years when we would without much great concern or thought jump in our rebuilt van and drive to Mexico and just crash, park, camp out or whatever we wanted for 6 months at a time. Days before cellphones, internet addiction and a new world to live in. The days of Woodstock, thinking nothing of just grab a job for a few months to pay the rent and move on for more action.....to see what Haight-Ashbury really were like - we'd just go there. Those were the days - times felt so much freer and I think we had the most amazing artist and music of any time period. I am very lopsided on this one! And when traveling months in South america and seeing truly how folks/natives lived I thought nothing of using just a hole in the ground along side the locals. My my how times have changed.
There is still so much need for people to get away from it all - as is said. And I'm pretty sure folks would be much better off with time spent away, out of the Rat Race as its called - no wonder all the craziness - and no wonder there is this great surge for Minimal life styles - Less is More - Tidy, Marie Kondo and more. thanks for reminding me and sharing.
Thanks for your article so straightforward and clear and the reminders I got. Who can resist a tree house?? And yours looks awesome -your outhouse looks so modern and clean and I understand why all your guests love being there. and the crackle of the wood burning stove or cooking over a fire outside...It looks like the perfect journey, adventure and refreshing get away.....to restore and renew.........Thanks for writing and stirring my memory bank - I will always treasure camping with our father as a child and the smell of coffee and bacon cooking over the campfire. I'm so happy to see people are making their adventures and memories at your idyllic tree house and just think - years to come they too will perhaps recall treasured moments at your very tree house! peace & love, clara
Hey, thanks, everyone! Just so you know that I am not exaggerating about the no-wifi thing, our wifi at the main house was blocked for a few days by our provider when we exceeded our measly allowance this week. I had to work from the library. Not the end of the world, but annoying when unexpected. Thank goodness it's not an amenity at the listing, right?
But I'm back online.
So, @Susan151 , no to the lime. At least not here, since we are composting. I do think it is used elsewhere. There is the prettiest little church, St. John's-in-the-Woods, a few minutes from here, and the two-holer there does require lime. Plumbing issues aside, though, that chancel has the most amazing acoustics!
@Yadira22 , I love eco-lodges! I stayed in one in Saba. Colombia must have been amazing.
@Sarah977 , those spheres are very cool. I wonder how hard they are to clean. Ever practical...
@Clara116 , my love of camping comes from my dad, too.
@Lawrene0 The spheres are very well-designed inside. The guy who makes them used to design and build boat interiors. So there's a lot in a small space- it might take awhile to get in all the cupboards and nooks and crannies. On the other hand, hanging up in the air like that, they wouldn't get dusty or damp.