Updated: May 16, 2019
As a digital nomad, one of the items you're checking repeatedly is lodging. Which neighborhood is best? What are the prices like? What kind of restaurants, bars, historic sites, and such, are nearby? Is it the kind of space that I'll need to locate a coffee house or coworking space?
These questions are only some of the multitude of issues that can race through the brain of a digital nomad.
Now I've used a variety of booking sites for lodging — AirBnB, Booking.com, Triposo, and a host of Facebook groups. Each of these avenues has its place in the world. AirBnB and Booking.com are platforms. Triposo is an aggregator. If you decide to take the route of using them to secure lodging while you travel the world, you should be aware of these challenges.
First, when you check with a prospective host about location, bear in mind that if you're travelling to a large city (>five million souls), s/he may not know the location of the nearest coworking space or coffee house. Even more significant, her sense of distance and what constitutes a long walk may be very different yours!
When I was preparing for my first stay in Medellín, I asked my host about a coworking space and his response was that he'd never heard of it! It took coordinating with the coworking space to get myself sorted into a routine that would work. My host it turned out was more accustomed to boarders who were from other parts of Columbia. As such, their concerns and needs were very different from mine.
Next, you know when you're checking to see how many beds there are in the room and whether or not the bath is shared or private? There is one more feature you need to check if hot water is important to you. Look for a mention of hot water! Seriously! Check this out unless you're one of those people who enjoys cold showers. If you aren't certain, send your prospective host/hostel manager a quick note inquiring about the availability of hot water. I have been surprised twice. Fortunately both times were short stays, a week or less, but imagine my unhappiness over washing my hair in ice cold water...NO FUN!
Third, item to be aware of is that sometimes the advertised room, apartment, or hostel has changed ownership, which in and of itself isn't' necessarily an issue. However, when you read all those glowing reviews, you have no way of knowing that they pertain to the prior owner's management and customer service. Ooops! Imagine my dismay at discovering during my second stay in Medellín that the owner everyone spoke so highly of in the reviews was no longer involved with the property. In his stead was someone who viewed the entire setup as a means of funding his lifestyle. Within the first of moving in, one of the other long term residents warned me not to expect Internet service around the middle of the month.
Why? The current owner always waited a week before paying his bill!
Initially I thought I was being pranked, but no. The Internet was unavailable for several days mid-month and every mid-month that I was there. Thankfully, I had a coworking space that I visited everyday so that my work continued. However, what if I hadn't found the coworking space? Could I lodge a complaint with the platform provider? I could, but they can't make the owner pay his bills. Could I say something to the owner? I could and he could also trash me on the platform making it more difficult for me to find my next rental.
Then there are the small annoyances that when I look back on them, I laugh. For instance, I like hanging my clothes. As such, one of the amenities that I always check is whether or not hangers are available. What can I say? Hangers, and hanging clothes, are important to me. Here I am looking at a prospective rental and yes, the host says that hangers are available. I'm happy with everything else that I see and I book my stay.
When I arrive and get myself settled, I discover that yes there are two (count them! two) hangers. While technically two hangers fulfills the basic requirement of "hangers," the situation isn't exactly what I had in mind! I travel with couple of my own hangers. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was a small annoyance.
Another small annoyance – hairdryers. I know; how can hairdryers qualify as an annoyance. Let me explain. The listing for the property said that a hairdryer was available. What the host didn't say was that the hair dryer dated from probably 1970's and had asbestos lining. No kidding, you couldn't make this stuff up!
Finally, my all-time unexpected occurrence is the host who decided to accompany me a day of sightseeing. I was planning to take an Uber to my destination. The owner came outside and saw me waiting for the Uber. He insisted that I cancel my Uber and he would walk me to the transit station to board a train. All right, I decided that maybe checking out the public transpo option might be a good idea.
Yet, when we arrived at the ticket office, he bought two tickets – one for me and another for himself! This man spent his entire day following me around! Granted, he was polite in a non-harrassing sort of way. Still, I didn't have enough command of Spanish at that moment to insist that he return to his home and that I could manage on my own.
Today my Spanish language skills are much improved and and future attempts to encroach on my plans will be met with a firm insistence that I can manage.
Lately, I've been gravitating to the Facebook groups. Why? It's simply because the people listing their spaces on those groups (I can tell) have encountered similar challenges to mine. How do I know this? It's in the excruciatingly detailed way that they describe their spaces, to the point that you almost have no questions when you've finished reading.
Still, it pays to check – reviews, with colleagues and other digital nomads – your assumptions. What are you assuming about this place at which you could be living for several months that could "reach up and bite you in the butt?"
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