Tag Archives: Opinion

Airbnb’s Growing Pains and Luxury Travel

It seems like Airbnb is growing up, just like brands usually do… or, well, people.

My parents like to travel in style. They prefer to stay in hotels where all their needs will be met. They will most definitely not stay in a stranger’s home. Luxury hotels are usually a preferred choice. Who can blame them? On the other hand, I – aka their millennial daughter – don’t mind other accommodations as long as they allow me to stay in the city I want to visit.

There is a little caveat to that; if I can stay in a luxury accommodation, I most certainly will. I love a good hotel! And even though I have thought about it plenty of times, I have actually never stayed in an Airbnb. For someone who loves to travel so much, sometimes I can’t even believe I haven’t tried it yet.

It shouldn’t surprise you though, because apparently, most millennials will rather stay in a hotel as well; with Airbnb being an option after exhausting the possibility of a full-service hotel or staying with family. In fact, only 23% of millennials polled in a study by Resonance Consultancy said they prefer staying in an apartment/condo short-term rental.

Airbnb wants to shed the idea that they mainly cater to couch-traveling solos (which is definitely an exciting way of traveling, but not for everyone). Now they want to appeal to market niches like family vacation and business travelers. They are expanding into the luxury space with Beyond Airbnb and Airbnb Plus. They are growing up essentially. I understand. I am also beginning to crave traveling mostly in luxury, just like many people my age.

Photo by Chevanon

Will that mean a change for Airbnb? Will their brand and what they represent change? Perhaps. Their goal is to become a one-stop-shop for travel (including booking airfare). They have a long way to go though, most luxury travel agents still don’t trust booking their clients on Airbnb, even their luxury properties. It’s a bit of an uphill battle but they will have to prove themselves, let’s see how this goes.

What do you think of Airbnb? I would love to know. Comment below or contact me!

Documentary Review: “A World Not Ours”

“The old will die and the young will forget”

These are the words attributed to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He was referring to Palestinian refugees and assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians would never try to return to their homes.

In the documentary film “A World Not Ours,” filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel shows us that this statement is certainly untrue. The young Palestinians are now old refugees and they still hold on to the idea that Palestine will once again be their home. The young Palestinians however, are trapped in a sort of limbo. Being stateless is their lifestyle, and they only become nationals of a country when the FIFA World cup comes around every four years.

Fleifel’s film is sentimental and takes a very different approach to documenting the refugee crisis. A very personal approach given that some of his own family is still trapped within one kilometer of Ain el-Hilweh; the refugee camp home to over 70 thousand people in the south of Lebanon.

Ain el-Hilweh, Palestinian refugee camp housing over 70 thousand refugees

“To me, going to Ain el-Hilweh was better than going to Disneyland” remarks Fleifel in a voice-over. He says that it took him years to realize that the people in the camp were not there by choice. Through old home footage of children playing football in the streets, and celebrating the FIFA World Cup, he outlines his skewed childhood views and contrasts them with footage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the disillusionment of those who are trapped at the camp.

He interviews his friends, uncle, and grandfather, which in turn humanizes the faceless statistics about the plight of the refugees. His friend Abu-Eyad puts our everyday conflict into perspective, when he remarks that he would like to “go on a mission’ and blow himself up, because he sees no future for himself – trapped in a place where his everyday life has absolutely no meaning.

Abu-Eyad in his home, in Ain el-Hilweh

“Palestinians really fucked us over, I wish Israel would just massacre us all…” says Abu-Eyad while contemplating his future.

This film was filled with contrasts. The music was upbeat, yet the feeling inside the camp was one of helplessness. Is this how human life should work? They belong to no state so they are not allowed to live a fruitful life? The immediate answer should be no. That is not however, how thousands upon thousands of refugees view their life. Just like Abu-Eyad, they see no future, and they see no meaning.

You can watch the trailer here. Also, don’t hesitate to comment, or contact me to let me know what you think!

Documentary Review: “Thank You For The Rain”

Good documentaries connect you with the world; they bring you another perspective, or perhaps transport you into the past.

Thank You For The Rain” takes us to a small village in Kenya, where Kisilu Musya is attempting to organize his community to become more empowered in the drought that faces them, by planting trees to bring in the rain.

Musya’s wife in Kenya. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

The documentary was directed by Julia Dahr, a Norwegian filmmaker who after meeting Kisilu, is drawn by his enthusiasm and drive to make a change. After asking Musya if she document him and his family for a month, she accepts an unconventional request: to share the camera with him. Kisilu is not exactly an experienced cinematographer, but through his lens, the message of the documentary is even clearer: the problem of climate change is not a theoretical one, it is an everyday man problem.

We begin by seeing Kisilu’s village facing a drought that is severely affecting farming; forcing other farmers in the community to seek other work. Kisilu’s family struggles with making ends meet, and his son is sent back from school because the tuition had not been paid. Despite the trouble, the farmer remains optimistic that the rain will come.

“Everything is being contradicted”

The village starts seeing signs of rain and are happily expecting the first teardrop. Soon the rain comes, and flood comes with it. Kisilu’s home loses its roof and trees fall due to the storm of rain. Yet, the farmer uses this obstacle to remove the apathy of his village towards climate change, and drive them to action by spearheading a tree planting campaign.

Kisilu Musya in kenya organizing his community. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

Through his activism, Kisilu gets invited to Norway, to speak among climate activists. Where he learns about the European lifestyle, sees snow for the first time, and is amazed at the living conditions Norwegians manage through such difficult weather. He goes back to Kenya with a new sort of enlightenment, with the idea of bringing European effectiveness and organization to his hometown. There, his activism becomes his sole purpose.

Shortly thereafter, the Climate Change Summit takes place in Paris, and Musya is thrilled to receive an invitation to speak at the United Nations where world leaders are making decisions. His initial excitement quickly turns to frustration when he realizes most leaders who are there to “fight climate change,” will only do something to fight the problem just as long as it does not interfere with their economic endeavors. Tensions are high in the climate summit, and disagreements between leaders result in a climate agreement that is disappointing to most climate activists. Especially Kisilu, who goes back to Kenya still determined to put in efforts every single day to improve his community.

Dahr perfectly captures the farmer’s strength and resilience of spirit; and the message is clear to anyone who loves this planet. Even if you go at it alone, you must put in effort every day to save it.

You can watch the trailer here!

Kisilu Musya at COP21 Summit about to speak in front of policymakers. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

Traveling at 15, a better version of the Quinceañera?

Every place has a different rite of passage, whether its a simple thing like your first drink, your first date, prom, or a more elaborate moment like a debutante’s ball, or a Quinceañera party.  Many of us go through different rites of passage, and they all have different effects, different weights on our soul, mind, and heart; but for many of us, there is none quite as powerful as our first trip abroad.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people” – Anonymous

If we are open to it, even a short term trip can change our perspective. Change who we are; push our limits and drive us to discover new horizons. It’s no wonder many people feel the need to travel to “find themselves.”

It is tradition in many Latin American countries to have a Quinceañera or “Fiesta de Quince Años,” when a girl turns fifteen. Historically speaking, turning fifteen meant a girl became a young woman. She was not a child anymore, and she could be presented to society; which in many cases meant she was ready for marriage. Of course, even though the meaning has changed over time, the celebration remains. For over half a century, there is another form of celebration that takes place not in the shape of a party, but of an excursion.

The tradition (if we can call it that) has been embraced quickly enough that most girls in the position to take the trip, choose to travel with new and old friends and neglect the party altogether.

Many consider summer to be a time for freedom and discovery (myself included). There’s no better time to open your mind, and experience a different culture. The travel companies which organize these tours focus on having the girls (and most recently boys too) truly experience the countries visited. Not only through museums and monuments, but through history, food, and their ways of enjoying life.

In fact, this was a personal experience as well. Both my mom and I chose to not have the party when we turned fifteen; and instead, went on a trip for a month around different European cities, with other like minded girls.

There was a lot of time spent sitting on buses, hearing our tour guide explain the history of the place we were visiting. Some of the times we would even listen. Others we just dreamily looked out the window and hoped for an exciting adventure to come our way. We visited over 10 countries, most of which was traveled on the tour bus. Some of us had our first kiss with a Scottish guy in a club in Florence while dancing to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” song (some of us never even knew his name). Others experienced moments of solitude in a foreign land where no one spoke our language. We made friends. Got into fights. Lost weight as a result of walking around emblematic European cities (despite the fact of eating our weight in chocolate, bread, and pizza). And made unexpected connections with people of completely different cultures.

For most girls taking the trip, it’s the first experience traveling abroad without a family member to guide their actions. Even though the travel companies (like Protocolo) provide chaperones, it is a new found freedom which encourages a new outlook in life. Many of us came back with higher expectations for our lives. Desire for deeper meaning, and to one day go back and widen the experience even further.

For generations, this trips have been shaping the vision of many young women who, over the course of a summer, become more independent, open-minded, cultured, and excited for life. No longer do they see the world through the lens of their hometown or through their family’s protection. As Mark Twain said best, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness…”

Any interesting experiences you’d like to share? Would love to hear about it! Comment, contact me, or share!

Cheers!

Some travel resources:

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