Fish fed, Plants watered

Every month I travel to another city for work and book a place to stay on Airbnb. Staying in someone’s apartment is a much more pleasant experience than beginning and ending the day at a soulless hotel and yet is also strange to be inhabiting someone else’s personal space.

An apartment can tell you a lot about a person; what their tastes are, whether they are well organised, what sort of food they like to eat, what their social life is like, whether they pay their bills on time…

By luck, I managed to find an Airbnb host who also travelled once a month for work and so I became a regular guest. Dates were booked through the platform, short messages exchanged, and a key was left under the mat.

It was a nice apartment, fashionably decorated with a thick shag carpet, and a strong smell of eau de cologne. It had a well-stocked kitchen where I was able to cook properly and a strange little balcony with an oversized water-feature.

As per instruction, I made sure to feed the goldfish and water the plants every other day. Once the host asked me to dig out his health insurance details which he needed while away. Despite this level of trust, we never met. I stayed there a dozen times.

At the end of every trip, I made sure to leave the place as clean or cleaner than I found it, taking my rubbish with me. I was a well-behaved ghost who only haunts when the proprietor is away.

Then one month a message arrived: “The flat’s been sold. Truly thankful for all the times you stayed.” And so it was.

I don’t have any grand insight here, just a weird feeling of loss for a place that was never really mine. Airbnb’s tagline is “Belong Anywhere” which is an alluring idea for anyone who travels a lot but how far that concept really extends feels questionable.

David avatar

7 responses

  1. What a moving ghost story that could happen only in today’s digital economy. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Rado, it really is a weird world we live in!

  2. Wendy avatar

    Dear David,

    I totally understand your feeling, but there is nothing last forever the important is you’ve had an enjoyable and good memories times while you were there.

    1. Thanks Wendy, very true!

  3. Also David avatar
    Also David

    ‘…just a weird feeling of loss for a place that was never really mine’. This line really resonated with me.

    My mum was born in Da Nang, Vietnam – a city that has achieved significant economic growth in the last decade or so. After each visit, I always lament how this town will become just another homogeneous Southeast Asian tourist hot spot. But then again, this place was never really mine.

    1. Thanks for the note David, it’s fascinating how we can grow attached to places from a distance. In the area where I live in Tokyo, old buildings are constantly being demolished to make way for new concrete apartment blocks. It too has been quite discombobulating (!) to see the neighbourhood transform around me.

  4. Dorotea avatar

    David, thank you for sharing this short story! It is amazing how we feel deeply connected to some places and their Genius loci (spirit of the place) that are never truly ours…

    Also, thank you for the other contents, they are really inspiring!

    Greetings from Montenegro


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *