Outdoors/Adventure

Experiences from a summer spent outdoors (brought to you by Airbnb)

When I tell people we’ve been renting out our house on Airbnb periodically throughout the summer, I get mixed reactions.

“What about your bed? Doesn’t it feel weird to have strangers sleeping in your sheets?”

“Oh! That’s smart. I’ve thought about doing that.”

“Wait — your whole house? Where do you go?”

That last question has the longest answer. (Regarding the sheets: We wash them.)

Here are some snapshots of what it’s like to be elsewhere while our home is rented.

May 2021

My husband and I are finishing a 17-mile round trip trek up Las Vegas’ Mount Charleston, an ascent of 4,890 feet at altitude.

The trail that was lit by powerful, cool morning sun on our way up is now muted by afternoon shadow. I take careful steps down, knowing I’m tired enough that this is where I could easily sprain an ankle by simply stepping down clumsily.

I’m also on my phone talking with our neighbor back in Alaska. Our Airbnb guest has been messaging us that she is uncomfortable with the woman who comes to water the plants, not because of anything personal but simply because she’d like more privacy. She’s offered to water the plants instead.

I’m having the uncomfortable conversation with the neighbor, who now feels personally invested in our garden’s success.

“It’s been unseasonably hot up here,” she tells me. “I just hope your guest actually follows through and waters!”

I’m having a hard time caring much about my zucchini plants 3,000 miles away, but I know I will care upon arriving home. I chat a little longer with the neighbor and then excuse myself as my cell signal dwindles. I hang up and keep focusing on my footfalls. I know when I get back to the campsite I’ll need to follow up with our Airbnb guest.

I smell the sage-infused desert air and squeeze my eyes shut for a second, reminding myself that guests at my house are paying for my vacation.

June 2021

Back in Alaska, I notice that the bed of the truck where we lay out our sleeping pads and down bag is starting to fill with water when it rains.

The plastic ridges that line the truck bed make it so the water isn’t pooling directly onto the pads or bag. But I can’t stuff my sweatshirt next to me or it’ll get sodden. There’s nothing quite so depressing as heavy, sopping wet cotton while camping. I stuff paper towels down and watch them slowly absorb the water. It’s a band-aid, at least.

July 2021

I go to work in my husband’s office after camping every day. I work remotely, so as long as he and his staff graciously let me have a spot at their conference room table, I’m good to go.

I feel like a superhero, logging into my laptop while dressed in my professional attire (it’s Alaska; the bar is low) and chatting with my colleagues and clients just like always. Little do they know I woke up in a truck. (Actually, they do know, because I excitedly disclose this to anyone who will listen.)

It’s pleasantly dry and warm in the office. I enjoy the peaceful stillness and staring out a window versus being in the outdoors.

August 2021

The sound of rain on the truck at night is comically loud. I think about how many more sleeps until I get to sleep in my bed.

September 2021

The forecast says rain. What’s a little more? We’ve dealt with so much rain this summer it seems inevitable we will have more during the final weekend in our truck. At least we’ve fixed the leaks (mostly).

The rain ends up coming only at night in sweeping showers. It’s dry when we’re eating dinner, going to bed and waking up. On Saturday when we hiked, sun illuminated droplets on alpine blueberries and bright red fireweed, and the clouds added to the drama.

Back in the present, our Airbnb-ing is over for the season and we’re back in our house.

It was fascinating to be outside the way we were this summer. We made the choice to rent our house and we had to roll with it once the time came. We camped in the driveways of many gracious friends.

We have some extra cash that we’re funneling toward longer-term plans, but we also have extra experience and memories. It’s not all rosy in hindsight. It’s mixed. But the experiences were more than I would have had if I were simply at home all summer.

This push to do and be more is good for me. At the same time I felt more tired and stretched while camping throughout the summer. I have felt more of everything. More happy, more alive, more me.

I’m wrestling with this as I settle back in for the winter. How can I retain this feeling from home, with a sense of relative stability?

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

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