What I’ve learned hosting travelers with Airbnb for a year 

Of all the buzzy web companies that will define my generation, Airbnb is likely the one I’m most jealous of not creating.

As a traveler and host on Couchsurfing.org since 2008, like millions I missed the too-obvious opportunity that people would pay for a better experience with a similar global community. It’s brilliant and connective and exciting and has a solid revenue plan — and if it has become the primary example of racial bias in the sharing economy, that’s something to be corrected, not a reason for it to be destroyed (Likewise, criticism of it driving up rental costs is probably not true yet)

I joined the peer-to-peer housing platform in December 2011 and took my first trip using the service in February 2012 to Birmingham, Alabama with my then girlfriend SACM. More than four years later, I continue using the service to book travel accommodations, preferring the service for homey placements in residential neighborhoods with hosts who can give local recommendations. I just find it far more interesting than a hotel — it helps that they’re almost always more affordable too.

So I was excited that I could combine these interests — welcoming guests, offering advice and making some additional money — as an Airbnb host when SACM and I bought a home together a year ago.

Last month marked a year of our hosting guests via Airbnb. To celebrate, I wanted to share lessons, advice and, yes, data from the experience.

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Qatar: everything I learned while visiting the wealthiest country in the world

Joe is a friendly Filipino private car driver who has lived and worked in Doha, the capital and dominant city of tiny Persian Gulf country Qatar, for the last decade. He forces a laugh and answers “maybe” to any question I ask him that seems to make him uncomfortable.

Last month, I was in Qatar to mentor at a hackathon organized by Aljazeera, the global news organization based in Doha. Leading up to and during my time there, I did a lot of reading about the Gulf. I had a couple dozen conversations with people who live there, like Joe, and I did a fair amount of exploring parts of Doha, or at least as much as I could considering I spent most of my short few days there inside a convention center.

I found the country so interesting (and complicated) that I wanted to share nearly everything I learned about the Arab desert nation state. Find that below.

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Whitewater Rafting in Colorado [VIDEO]

While on our two-week national park puddle jumping trip through Utah and Colorado, my buddy Michael Butler and I took a day to do some amazing whitewater rafting on the Cache La Poudre River with Mountain Whitewater Descents.

The trip included a handful of Class Four rapids, a half dozen Class Three rapids and consistent Class Two water. I had done a trip on the Delaware River that I enjoyed, but this was even more thrilling.

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Utah and Colorado back country hiking road trip

With my good buddy Mike Butler, I just came back from two weeks road tripping and hiking Utah and Colorado and what a trip it was.

Overall, we spent $3,021.85 on the two week trip. That means each of us spent at least $1,510.93 driving some 2,100 miles and visiting six national parks, crashing in four hotels, two campgrounds and lots of tent spots.

Below, find a quick run down with hopes of going into greater detail later.

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Ireland

I spent the last week on a road trip dotting across the southern half of cloudy Ireland.

Touring with longtime friends Michael Butler and James Spadola, I knocked off a couple items on my list. We drove more than 600 miles and roughly hit this map. Our itinerary here and expenses here.

See highlights of the tour below.

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Hitchhiking in South Dakota: Story Shuffle 7 audio is now live

For Story Shuffle 7, held in a fine rowhome in the Newbold section of South Philadelphia inside a beautiful and eventually stormy night, I told the story of my first hitchhiking experience in South Dakota.

My lesson: trusting in strangers is a great risk that often comes with great reward.

Check out all the stories here. Listen to mine here or by using the player below.

LISTEN HERE

Tokyo: Archived Podcasting and Blogging from Junior Year Abroad with NBC

Four years later, I’m finishing this piece of archiving business.

A couple months ago, I announced I had moved my honors thesis to a subdomain of this site for the sake of organization and archiving. Following up on that resolution to make more tidy a rambling online portfolio, I have brought another dated, collection of work of which I am proud under this house.

I spent the better chunk of 2006 in Tokyo video podcasting, writing, traveling and learning on behalf of NBC Universal Digital Studios. Now all of that work can be found at japan.christopherwink.com.

See all the Episodes here and all the Archives here. Go and explore.

A few things interested me from my work in 2006:

  • Short, bad titles — The post headlines were all short and sometimes not even descriptive. I didn’t recognize then the importance.
  • I wrote a lot — I far outpaced all of my fellow castmembers in output, which is great, but I could have made much of the content terser and more straightforward.
  • I actually had comments — On many posts, I had a handful of comments. I haven’t transferred them… yet.
  • I never linked — I didn’t have a single link to a past post.
  • Photo albums, not in posts — Photos and the video episodes were never embedded. This is the one major change I’ve made, by incorporating them.
  • Yes, I called posts ‘blogs’ — But that was 2006. What’s the excuse today?
  • I learned and experienced so damn much — I interacted with an audience and explored and created multimedia, but ultimately, I was just a young kid learning. ..And what a clear stepping stone toward the WDSTL podcast I did while in Western Europe.

The exotic nature of local: or why generic foreign gifts suck

On Christmas Eve, why not discuss gifts.

For, what, the past few hundred years, the more far-flung and exotic the purchase or discovery, the better. Those emotions are mixed up into colonialism and exploration and Manifest Destiny and so many human and American spirits that I don’t care to explore them.

But I think there’s something changing there.

In 2005, I spent a small fortune in the local currency on hand-crafted wood carvings and jewelry from new friends and acquaintances in a Ghanian mountain village, all to be given to friends and family at home. I was back home for no more than two weeks before I showed off a necklace I was particularly fond of and someone remarked how similar it was to something she had seen at Target.

Oh.

I was brought back to this thought and what it means by a great last-page essay in the strong Philadelphia sustainability magazine Grid.

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Alaska (backpacking through the Last Frontier)

In 2005, when I came home from a summer studying in Ghana, I was on the phone with my grandmother, and she said “Now all you need to see is Alaska.”

For my grandmother, who died in 2009 as the last of my grandparents, Alaska was truly the last frontier. I found it so interesting that she was so enamored with this distant, oil-producing extension of the United States, of which it accounts for a fifth of its size.

Then you should go see it, I told her. Maybe, she said, but I don’t think so, not now.

So I went.

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Inquirer: My first couch surfing experience

A full-length travel story of mine focused on the five year anniversary of CouchSurfing.com at first destined for the Philadelphia Inquirer last January never found a home there. After a back and forth, I went another direction and it got a tad stale for the daily’s travel editor.

So, because I’ve shared other stories that didn’t run as planned, I’ll do so today. Additionally, as always, I also like to share some grafs that were reworked and items I cut from my original story, which also can be seen below.

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