A last minute scramble is not how every mom dreams of starting a family vacation but there I was, desperately Googling cheap accommodations while juggling naps and lunch for my three little tykes.
We were just about to take off on a nine-day road trip from Halifax to Toronto and we had nowhere to stay for our New Brunswick stop. Finally, I found my solution: AirBNB! Many of my friends and family had gushed over their experiences of the low-cost lodging phenomenon but I was still a little sceptical. In desperation, however, I downloaded the AirBNB app and attempted to send a request to the owner of a Christmas tree farm in Keswick Ridge, NB.
I wish I could say it was an easy process for me. After a few failed attempts at getting signed up, then trying (unsuccessfully) to secure accommodation, I gave up.
“Oh well,” I thought, “I tried to be adventurous and it just wasn’t happening.” Frustrated with the poor user experience of the AirBNB app, I changed tactics and began looking up hotels. Just as I found one I was happy with, my phone notified me of a message. It was Gerald, the owner of the Christmas tree farm I tried to book! Apparently, the booking had gone through and he was looking forward to welcoming us.
My heart jumped a little bit and a few niggling doubts started to creep in. “Was this a stupid thing to do with three small kids? Was AirBNB reserved for the singles or couples who didn’t have to look out for the safety of kids?” It felt like my mind was going a mile a minute. “No.” I reassured myself. “You checked. This guy has awesome reviews…all five stars. It’s going to be great.” That was it! Adventure back on!
We hit the road and our spirits were high as we cruised along the highway towards our first AirBNB experience.
Gerry met us at the door of the basement apartment with a warm welcome and showed us around. He engaged the girls in a way that put us all at ease. Thoughtfully, he had set out stuffed animals on the beds that the girls immediately claimed and told the girls they could name the stuffies. They couldn’t have been more thrilled. Gerry showed us the quirky old stove with a pull out stove top (note: do not touch the silver knobs or the whole thing will just give up on you), the complimentary coffee for the morning, the extensive Blu-ray collection and the delicious homemade jam in the fridge.
After a quick supper, we scooted the girls to bed in anticipation of walking through the Christmas tree farm in the morning to look for reindeer (Gerry had said we would likely see wildlife!)
The wood panelling on the walls, the wood stove throwing off some nice dry heat; we couldn’t have asked for a cosier haven for weary travellers. As everyone drifted off to sleep, there was the feeling that we were in a peaceful, country setting as the house settled into silence.
As usual, the girls started stirring before the sun rose. I stumbled out into the living room area where my oldest kept me up to speed on the constantly changing kaleidoscope of colours as the sun came up over the country hills. “Now, it’s purple! Look Mommy, now it’s bright pink!” I would dutifully stop trying to figure out the Keurig machine and go over to the window to see the splendour that had so captivated my daughter.
After coffee and quick breakfast, we bundled up in all of our winter gear and hit the Christmas tree-reindeer trail.
My oldest two girls raced down the trail, excitedly pointing out every birdhouse and interesting leaf they saw. They were delighted to discover “baby” Christmas trees, stand in awe of the full-grown ones and of course, pick out their favourites. I tried to hush them as we made our way down the trail, hoping to see wildlife that Gerry had mentioned. Those expectations were quickly brought into reality though as I realized that a Christmas tree farm is quite simply too thrilling of a place to wander quietly about. The best we were going to do with three noisy kids in tow was an empty hornets’ nest that we spied in the trees (still an interesting find for us all!)
As I signed the guestbook I marvelled at the idea of letting strangers stay in your house. To allow people into your private home, to see pieces of your life and interests, it takes a certain level of vulnerability. As the girls were being buckled in, they remarked at how much fun they had and how they loved Gerry and his farm (they even were lovingly referring to him as Farmer Gerry!) While we had only met the man for a couple of minutes, I knew what they meant.
Our first AirBNB experience had offered a different experience to staying at a hotel where everything is uniform and plain. This stay had given us a glimpse into another life and the feeling that we were staying with friends.