July 15, 2024

Adventure Chronicles Forum

Navigating Travel Tales

Why a Couple Who Visited 91 Countries Doesn’t Stay in Airbnbs Anymore

5 min read

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with John Martin, who previously worked in the aluminum industry, and his wife Beverly, both 60, who have been traveling the United States and the world since 2019. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

John: I retired at 55 at the end of 2019. Initially, we were going to live in a golf community in Palm City, Florida, and also do some traveling.

Beverly: I had been a stay-at-home mom for five kids. At this point, they were all off to college and getting married. I always wanted to blog my way around the world.

John and Beverly Martin kayaking in New Zealand.

The Martins kayaking in New Zealand.

Courtesy of John and Beverly Martin

John: When COVID hit, we realized we couldn’t travel internationally. Bev had the idea to buy an Airstream and travel the country. So we sold our house, bought the Airstream for $50,000, and visited all 50 states and 51 national parks in two years.

Beverly: We did two loops around the country. It was glorious. To see caves, desserts, and mountains — it was all just incredible. The California national parks were our favorite; they were just amazing.

John: It changed our life. We had never spent a single night in an RV before.

The retired life in Florida didn’t appeal to us. We were hungry for an adventure.

John and Beverly Martin hiking cliffs in Greece

The Martins hiking in Greece.

Courtesy of John and Beverly Martin

Beverly: After seeing the country, we had a conversation about going abroad.

We had worked a long time to save enough money and retire fairly early, at 55. Originally, we just wanted to travel part-time, but then seeing the numbers, I said to John, “We’re spending all this money to live in a golf community when we could take all that money and travel.”

Beverly: We were young for the community in our 50s; the average age was in the 70s. The thought of us playing golf every day until we’re 90 just didn’t seem appealing. So we took a chance, sold the house, gave away all our stuff, and catapulted into this entirely new mindset.

John: We took off in November 2021, first to Panama. Right now we’re in Sri Lanka. Just this morning we were on a safari, 10 feet away from a giant leopard climbing up and down a tree. It was unbelievable. We love our life. We can’t imagine going back.

Beverly: This is our 91st country. We’ve been everywhere from North Macedonia and Kosovo, most of Europe and Central America. We’ve swung through a lot of southeastern Asia. Seeing so much has changed our perspective.

For so many years, we were caught up in the rat race.

Their extensive travel experience has changed their initial preference for Airbnbs

John and Beverly Martin looking out a train window onto a Norwegian forest.

The Martins traveling through Norway.

Courtesy of John and Beverly Martin

John: We didn’t even consider hotels at first.

Beverly: When we started, our initial thought was Airbnb was the best option. It seemed the most affordable. And watching other nomads on social media and YouTube, it’s a very popular option.

John: After about a year, we started noticing we could stay at hotels for a similar price to the Airbnbs. It wasn’t that much of a difference. We didn’t have a terrible time with Airbnbs, but just found them to be not consistent. About half the time they were amazing, but the other half we had problems.

John: There was one host in Albania who wanted us to switch rooms last minute, but the new rooms were next to jackhammers at a construction site. We had a host in Bulgaria who asked us to cancel at the last minute, which we didn’t feel comfortable with. It was just little things that started to add up.

Beverly: Not all of them were bad — we had some amazing experiences, like a container home in Costa Rica and an artists’ retreat in Guatemala. But some other people who travel like us will stay for a month in a place to get a 10% discount. We don’t do stays like that.

John: We started checking prices and realized, you know, we’re not a big family that needs to spread out. We’re not staying in places for months at a time. We typically stay in one location around four to seven days. For our type of travel, getting hit with a $250 cleaning fee for just a few nights didn’t make sense. It was like: Wait a second, we could pay this at a hotel — and get a free breakfast.

John: We only eat two meals a day. So we get one of our meals paid for with a great breakfast. And with an Airbnb, you still have to go to the grocery store, bring stuff back, and cook.

John Martin walking along the rocks in Santorini.

John Martin in Santorini, Greece.

Courtesy of John and Beverly Martin

Beverly: We’ve been using credit card points to stay at Hyatts, then using the loyalty points to book more stays. That was another thing: Airbnb doesn’t have a loyalty program.

John: There was a hotel in Laos that would’ve been $600 per night in the US, but it was just $75.

Beverly: We’ve had some amazing stays, like a luxury hotel in Delhi.

Beverly: Next, we’re off to South Africa. We’re going to Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. We’re going to take a cruise up the entire coast of West Africa.

We have no plans of slowing down. We really wanted a challenge in our later years and this has been so exciting.

A representative for Airbnb provided this statement: There have been more than 1.5 billion guest arrivals at Airbnb listings in 220 countries and regions around the world since our founding, and our community of hosts and guests continues to grow. We take feedback from our community seriously and have made hundreds of product changes to our service — including steps to address fee transparency and checkout instructions — over the last three years.


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