Stories Travels

Life Lessons And How I Became An Airbnb Trip Designer For A Night

Cancel your Uber – surrender to the night and just embrace the unknown” – those were his exact words, as I recall, standing outside The Globe Theatre on Broadway downtown L.A. 2.30 am Sunday morning.

I was alone, it felt uncomfortable, I kept thinking, I hope nobody realizes that I’m here alone – a loser with no friends. Then another voice told me: C’mon you’re the coolest person alive, you traveled here all by yourself, all the freaking way from Denmark, it’s ok to be alone, to be uncomfortable and to feel this way, but it’s just a stupid feeling and it’s not real, so I went inside The Globe where the big party was happening, it was the end of a three day festival of traveling, hosting and belonging with Airbnb, I was tired and exhausted from everything, but also very high on life. I did not want this night to end just yet…

So I went to the bar and bought myself a drink.

I didn’t really want to be there alone, but I also didn’t want to give in to my feelings, that I knew were just feelings and not reality. I mingled, smiled at people, went downstairs to check my red lipstick, it was still perfect, I was perfect, nobody would ever know that I was alone. Went back upstairs and started looking for familiar faces, I thought, maybe I will meet someone I know. I did run into Eugene, a host from Galway Ireland, we had talked the other night, he was fun and great company, but he was also there with other friends and I didn’t wanna be clingy, so I let him run away and started looking for other familiar faces. I found none, so I started thinking, this was a stupid idea, I should just go home, and as I was getting ready to leave, I ran into a “friend” from Slovenia, he was with another “friend” from Sri Lanka, they were thrilled to see me, gave me a BIG hug and I was really surprised and very happy because they made me feel less alone. I really hoped everyone around us saw us hugging and how I actually did have friends.

I felt ashamed though – I remember meeting both of them the day before after a keynote presentation at the Airbnb Open – and I remember rolling my eyes thinking, geez, they’re from Slovenia & Sri Lanka and I have no interest in exchanging random conversation with these guys, I didn’t find them the slightest bit interesting, let me go, so I can meet cool people. BAM – life just taught me a lesson – that I am a seriously prejudiced person. I’m so ashamed. I’m sorry!

I have always considered myself to be a very openminded person, free from prejudice and preconceptions about people and cultures different from mine – I guess not. I guess this was one of my first big lessons being out here on my own – hit me right in the face! Bam!

Well…life taught me another big lesson that night and luckily it’s not something I’m ashamed of, but on the contrary, very proud (and it’s ok to say this, right?!) Yes – it’s ok.

As the party closed down around 2 am and everyone was getting ready to leave, I find myself standing outside the theatre surrounded by people, they all seem to know each other, well they did know each other because they all work together for Airbnb, a company that I have been trying to join for the past year.

As we’re standing there, I try to figure out whether I should go home or if the party is continuing somewhere nearby, but I decide to request an Uber ride home and just as I hit confirm, I look up and I make eye contact with this guy…we met inside at the bar earlier where he gave me a shot of tequila, but he was with another girl and she didn’t seem to care much for my presence, so I quickly resigned from the party, I did get his name though, it was Ben.

Ben walks over and says: “Hi”…I’m happy to see a familiar face, so I smile and he smiles back at me, then he looks at my phone, looks back up at me and says: “Cancel your Uber – surrender to the night and embrace the unknown.”

Before he even finishes his sentence, I’m already thinking that it was a bad decision to go home, I think to myself, damn, I’m gonna lose money now, then I think again, it’s 5$ I’ll survive and I hit cancel. The poor driver just pulled up – I turn around and look at Ben and I go: “I just cancelled my Uber, now what…?”

We get in another Uber together, apparently there is an afterparty somewhere – a house party, secret spot. I’m excited, I’m with a tall handsome guy I just met, he’s fun, he talks and talks about embracing the unknown and just letting go, I can tell that he’s happy, he’s among friends and he’s smiling at me – so I smile too. He takes my hand, we’re sitting in the back of a stranger’s car, like it’s perfectly normal, I love it, I love the excitement, I feel alive. The driver is a cool Korean ajumma, (older lady) she has a heavy Korean accent, I know this accent from living in Seoul, I love it, miss hearing it and I speak to her in Korean. She gets lost, she is driving in circles and I go: “Is everything ok?” in Korean, I’m proud that I still remember a few phrases, Ben seems puzzled, I don’t think he even knows where I’m from. The Korean ajumma finally drops us off somewhere in North Hollywood, at somebody’s house. I’m instantly reminded of my time in Toledo, Ohio, when we would do house parties during my High School Exchange Year. Random people, standing around, drinking, (then: Root Beer and Mountain Dew, now: Whiskey) talking, dancing, embracing the unknown and surrendering to the night. I LOVE IT.

Ben is sweet, he is joking and holding my hand, he says: “You’re at a very exclusive house party right now”, and I go: “Oh really?” Like I didn’t know, but I knew. I actually feel a little bit weird about it because I still don’t know anyone and this party is a lot more intimate than The Globe. Maybe they’ll all discover that I’m alone and don’t have friends.

Ben says: “You’re probably the only one here who doesn’t work for Airbnb”, I say: “I know, I feel kinda left out”, pretending to joke around, but the truth is that I do feel like I don’t belong there with them at that private party. “I’ve actually applied for over 10 different roles within the past year and yeah – I would love to work for Airbnb.” Ben looks at me, then asks me “If you could be anything right now what would it be?” I go, “I wanna work on the Trips team with Airbnb”. I tell him about the project that I did last year, how I developed a concept where locals could sign up to become a “Local” and host unique experiences for travelers. Giving people, who didn’t have access to a space, the chance to be a part of Airbnb’s global community. I also tell him about how I showed my project to Chip Conley, who then invited me to the Airbnb Open in Paris last year…I stop myself, I could go on forever, but I don’t wanna sound desperate, I didn’t know he was a Trip designer for Airbnb, I had no clue.

“You’re now officially a Trip Designer with Airbnb”

Ben leaves and comes back, he holds up a blue pin, “Have you seen people wearing this pin?” “Yes” “This pin means that you’re working on the Trips team, I just got this a few days ago and I’m so happy. There are 3000 people working for Airbnb and only 300 of us get to work on the Trips team”. I go, ” Wow, that’s really amazing, congratulations!”

He takes his pin and attaches it to my shirt, “You’re now officially a Trips Designer with Airbnb!”

I’m stunned. Intoxicated, in love with life and the unknown – I guess you really can be anyone you want to be – even if it is just for one night.

Don’t forget to surrender to the unknown, life is short.

Let that be a lesson for now, thanks Ben!

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