Contact Us

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel like editing my grammar? Go for it! 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

LizzieWilliamsTikh.JPG

Words

"There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t seen, too many memories I haven’t kept long enough." - Irwin Shaw

Airbnb & Me | The (So) What

Lizzie Williams

If you’ve been following my Airbnb series at all then you’ve heard me talk about “the why” (I do it), “the who” (is staying with me), “the how” (you set it up), but now I want to talk about “the what” - or more specifically, the so what. I want to share some of my perspective on why allowing residents to host Airbnb guests contributes to the vibrancy of a city. I will also explore why I think we need to set up systems and policies to encourage the sharing economy instead of seeing it as a disruption in our neighborhoods or threat to stability. From my perspective there are four primary benefits of being an Airbnb friendly community and hosting Airbnb guests:

  1. THE SIDE HUSTLE - It provides additional income for residents (which increases tax dollars collected)
  2. LOCAL FIRST - It supports Grand Rapids’ culture of localism  
  3. COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS - It allows visitors to be welcomed to our community by passionate community ambassadors
  4. OPTIONS - It provides affordable, unique options for visitors

Now let me dive into those a bit...

THE SIDE HUSTLE

Ok, let me just put this out there: Airbnb is a legit side-hustle. Like Uber, Lyft, and other shared-economy businesses, it’s a solid way to earn some real cash. Just for context, I’m currently making about an extra grand a month. (And that’s just for a spare bedroom in an old house where you have to deal with a wild little dog and a common bathroom!) For Grand Rapids, a City with a median household income around $39,913 (according to the 2014 census), an extra ~$12,000 (pre-tax) for simply using the space you already pay for is not something to scoff at. For homeowners, that extra income could help pay down a mortgage, make home improvements, cover utilities, put extra money toward student loans or contribute towards savings. I know fellow-hosts who use a percentage of their Airbnb income to support local non-profits that they are passionate about and others who use it exclusively to travel. For me, it’s a combination of things.

For many in GR, having extra income to put toward home expenses without having to get a second job or take in additional roommates is a huge opportunity. According to The Regional Consolidated Community Development Report the total number of cost-burdened households (which is defined as, those paying 30% or more of their income toward housing expenses) in the City of Grand Rapids currently sits at 25,220 households. Of those, 9,075 are home-owners. That’s a significant number of people who are likely looking for unique ways to offset their home costs. Even for those of us in our late 20’s/early 30’s who have good jobs and no longer want roommates (as delightful as they may be!), but are still looking for ways to earn extra income, it’s a great option. I had wonderful roommates for many years but what I like about Airbnb versus a long term renter is that I can choose to block days that I don’t want guests. This comes in handy when I know I have a busy week, or want a guest room available for friends/family who are in town. It’s flexible, it’s manageable, and it’s an asset I already possess.

LOCAL FIRST

Having guests in my house on a regular basis makes me think about my space a lot - the cleanliness, the design, the vibe - all of it. Due to that frequent attention, I’ve found myself making more investments over the past nine months then in the previous three years combined. The reason I don’t mind making investments in my house - and even ENJOY it - is because I know that every investment I make is a decisions to “vote with my dollars”. What I buy, and where I buy it matters.

Research shows that when $100 is spent at a local business that $68 of that stays right here in the community, vs. the $43 that stays when that same $100 is spent at a non-local business. I know that I have the choice to support fellow local businesses, or big box stores. To purchase new flooring from Verhey Carpets, which was a Wealthy Street staple long before the bakeries and beards, and to invest in beautiful statement pieces from local artists like Amy Carroll instead of a grab-and-go prints from Ikea. I like only having to drive a mile to snag stain and supplies at Rylee’s Ace Hardware vs. hoofing it out to 28th Street. I've also really enjoyed having the financial flexibility to hire some talented GR entrepreneurs like Steve Naylor (Paintworks) to do my interior painting, Kelley Howley (Hunt & Gather) to consult on interior design decisions, and my will-work-for-food neighbor who keeps my yard lookin' fresh. These are my decisions, my investments, because I know that every one of those shops, families, and individuals are making similar investments in our local economy. 

COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS

I have learned that, as a host, I have the option of influence on what version of Grand Rapids my guests get to see. Every-single-time a guest asks me for a suggestion on where to go/eat/shop/visit they have taken me up on at least one or two of my recommendations. I encourage them to go see Jason and Peter at the Cakabakery, to have a drink at one of Larry’s restaurants  - perhaps Derby Station in Gaslight Village, or Logan’s Alley on Michigan or the new Little Lucy’s in the Creston neighborhood. I tell them that Terra has great happy hours and that Harmony’s Good Earth pizza is my all time favorite. I clue them in on the delicious egg sammies at That Early Bird, the margs at Donkey, and that my #1 cocktail can be found on the NW side of town at Long Road Distillers. I encourage them to walk over to Rebel.Reclaimed, because they have the most unique gifts in town (and because Chip is the best), to check out Erica’s bomba$$ prints and clothing at Woosah and to grab a juice at Malamiah in the Downtown Market. If they are looking for the best boutiques in town, I steer them towards my personal go-to’s: Lee & Birch, Denym and Gina’s. They always go, and they are always impressed. This level of care and commitment towards being a community ambassador matters just as much for local businesses as it matters for the guests. They get to dine, shop and visit wonderfully curated local gems that are recommended based on their individual preferences. They get to see the many great neighborhoods of Grand Rapids. They aren’t stuck choosing between franchise stores they have in their own city for lunch and they don’t have to resort to the mall as the only option for a new outfit.

OPTIONS 

The majority of guests that I have hosted were choosing to stay in an Airbnb for two primary reasons: to stay in a walkable neighborhood, to save money, or a combo of both. As mentioned in a previous post, just under half of my guests are fellow Michiganders and many of them decide on a whim if they are going to visit. They book last minute and often have the option to drive home if they don’t find a place to stay, or they simply decide not to come. Many of them keep hearing about how great Grand Rapids is and they want to explore the neighborhoods, try the restaurants and, of course, drink the beer. They ride the Rapid, they visit our museums, they spend their money in local restaurants and businesses. They go to Stella’s, to Founders, to Bombay. They see shows at the Pyramid Scheme, the Intersection, the Arena. And then they catch an Uber back to Eastown, grab a quick Yesterdog, a gyro at Sami’s or a nightcap at Billy’s. The crowd that stays with me and my dog for $55/night in Eastown, is simply not the crowd that would be forking over $250 for a night at the Amway Grand, albeit a wonderful hotel.  

Staying in an Airbnb is a great option for people who don’t have other options. I hosted a couple from a small town in Ohio recently that had been saving up for weeks to go to a concert in GR and stay the night. The woman was a manager at an Arby’s and her boyfriend was a car mechanic. It was a big deal for them to take two days off work. They were so happy when they heard about Airbnb because it provided an opportunity for them to enjoy a mini-vacation. They had actually driven to Grand Rapids for concerts before, but in the past, they would literally drive the 5 hours back to Ohio because the nearby hotels were out of their price range. Finally, they were able to find a nice, safe place to rest that was under $60 a night.

An independent videographer from Detroit recently shared a similar sentiment. He said he certainly couldn’t afford to stay in the downtown hotels because it would cut so far into his margin that he’d be losing money on the shoot. He had tried the “affordable hotel” route but the ones that “weren’t too bad” had increased their rates from $80/night to $118 over the course of the last 12 months. Not to mention, these hotels are typically out on a busy commercial thoroughfare that doesn’t display the best of what our community has to offer. He had resorted to driving back and forth to Detroit for every shoot until his son told him about Airbnb. He stayed with me for his first time a few weeks ago and he was so relieved to cut out the 5+ hours/day of driving - and it only cost him the price of tank of gas.

----

Let’s make Grand Rapids a city that ENCOURAGES homesharing. That welcomes people. That allows for its residents to build capital in unexpected ways that contribute to a growing economy. To encourage residents to think creatively, to learn the responsibilities of having your own small business, while still having the support of a large community. To share our stories, to make improvements, to patronize other local businesses. There is so much possibility from the good that comes out of the human connections that Airbnb creates. Let’s be a community that’s leaning in to the possibilities instead of creating more rules, regulations and red tape. Let’s stop being afraid of "what could happen” and let’s instead focus on all of the amazing things that could happen, if we let them.

 

The Bag'n'Bagel Eggstravaganza

Lizzie Williams

Note: I wrote this for the OST blog on 10/18/16 but thought I'd share it here too. :) 

The Bags’n’Bagels Eggstravaganza

I walked into OST this morning and my sleepy senses came alive with the smell of bacon & eggs, the sound of caffeinated colleagues, and the sight of 30+ adults coloring with crayons.

A few weeks ago, in our employee-led Community Outreach Committee meeting, one member suggested we encourage employees to decorate bags for Kids’ Food Basket’s annual “Brown Bag Day”. Kids’ Food Basket is a nonprofit that provides nutritional sack-suppers for kids who might not have access to dinner. They serve schools where ~90% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program. KFB is currently providing 7,500 sack suppers A DAY to West Michigan kids.  They host their annual “Brown Bag Day” to challenge the community to provide 75,000 decorated bags to add that extra special touch for the students they serve. Everyone on the Comm Outreach team agreed, this was a worthy cause and we wanted to help out.

After the decision was made to participate in Brown Bag Day we paused and asked the question: “what does that look like for OST?”. We all knew it wouldn’t just be an email asking people to decorate bags and bring them in. We know, in our DNA, that with every challenge, and every project, there is a traditional way, and then there isour way. Here at OST, innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in every meeting and in every conversation. So, we got creative.

Two Community Outreach Committee members, Joel Vanderveen and Steve Henderhan, took it upon themselves to try out a new method of encouraging our busy business professionals to decorate bags with the help of an age-old motivator: food. After brainstorming, seeking feedback, and planning, the concept for “The Bags’n’Bagels Eggstravaganza” became a reality. Everyone in the office was invited to stop by the OST kitchen between 8:00AM-9:30AM for a made-to-order breakfast. Steve & Joel cracked, chopped, sliced, flipped, toasted, and assembled. And then, they collected. Each item ordered required a certain number of decorated bags as currency.

Menu:

  • Bagels & Fruit – Assorted Bagels with Cream Cheese and Fruit Salad (self-serve) 
    • Cost: 3 Decorated Bags
  • Eggs n’ Bacon – Scrambled Eggs, 3 Strips of Thick-cut Sobie Meats Bacon, and Toast 
    • Cost: 7 Decorated Bags
  • Breakfast Sammy – Egg, Cheese & Bacon on a Bagel 
    • Cost: 10 Decorated Bags
  • Omelet – Onion, Green Pepper, Tomatoes, Bacon and Cheese
    • Cost: 15 Decorated Bags

Instead of shooting out an email, hoping a few people would make their kids decorate bags, but knowing most would take a split-second pause, only long enough to remind themselves that they “don’t know how to draw” or “don’t have time” before clicking “delete”, we ended up having a DELICIOUS breakfast, laughed a lot, got to channel our inner artists – and we ended up with 332 beautifully decorated bags and many new enthusiastic KFB supporters.

There are a million little decisions we make every day and countless repetitious behaviors – I want to encourage everyone to take a few minutes today to look at a task, a project, or a routine, and ask yourself, could there be a better way to do it? A way to broaden it for greater good? An opportunity to not just check a box on your to-do list, but to make an impact? At OST, these are the questions we ask ourselves every day.

AIRBNB & ME: THE HOW - HOSTING AIRBNB IN GRAND RAPIDS

Lizzie Williams

HOW TO LEGALLY HOST AIRBNB GUESTS IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

So you’re interested in hosting Airbnb guests? Awesome! I hope you love it as much as I do! I have to admit though, when I first decided to host Airbnb guests according to the rules set up by the City/State I found myself frustrated trying to find information online. In order to help streamline the process for my future fellow hosts I put together a little guide based on my experience. 

While going through the process of becoming an Airbnb host you will need to interact with several departments within the city of Grand Rapids: the City Clerk’s Office, the City Assessor's Office, and the Fire Department. It’s best to go in assuming that these departments don’t communicate perfectly with one another so be prepared to follow up with them, as necessary. Also, plan to practice a little patience. I was initially told me the process would likely take 5-7 days and it ended up taking 63. Hopefully this guide will help it move a little quicker for you. :) 

BEFORE YOU APPLY, MAKE SURE YOU QUALIFY!

  • This has to be an owner occupied dwelling (sorry renters!).
  • You can only rent out a single room, couch, or other sleeping area.
  • You can only rent the space to a max of two adults (children are permitted).
  • The owner has to be on premise while the rental is occurring, so you can only offer the “shared room” or “private room” options - not the “entire home/apt” option.
  • If you own a condo and the association doesn’t allow Airbnb then that ruling holds over the City. If your association does allow Airbnb rentals you will need to include a letter of approval from your Condo Association along with your application.
  • Here is the City’s official fact sheet.

THE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO HOSTING AIRBNB GUESTS IN GRAND RAPIDS

  1. You will need to fill out some paperwork and either drop it off, or mail it, to the City Clerk's office at 300 Monroe Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49501. The items you will need to provide:
    1. A Class B License Application which can be found here.
    2. A non-refundable check written out to the “City of Grand Rapids Treasury” for $280. (There is also an annual fee that you will need to pay every June for the following year which begins July 1. That renewal rate is currently set at $129 but check for possible changes before submitting payment.)
    3. The floor plan of your home (all levels, excluding the basement). These do not need to have exact measurements associated with them so you can always just draw them or mock them up on your computer if you don’t have copies of your “official” floor plans.
  2. The Fire Department is supposed to call you to set up an inspection. If they don’t call you within a week I’d suggest calling them directly at 616-456-3900.
  3. During your fire inspection they will visit your home and be looking for these things:
    1. That the room you are renting out has a working fire detector with lithium 10 year batteries
    2. That every level of the house has a working fire detector with lithium 10 year batteries
    3. That you have clear exits
    4. That you have at least a two foot clearance around both your furnace and your hot water heater
  4. You will receive a packet of information from the City’s Assessor's office that lets you know you need to adjust your Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) percentage within 30 days of receiving the packet. Once you have a Class B License you are no longer eligible to claim a 100% principal residence status exemption.  
    1. What’s a PRE? A Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) exempts a residence from the tax levied by a local school district for school operating purposes up to 18 mills. for the City of Grand Rapids.
    2. How will this effect you? “18 mils” equates to $18 for every $1,000 of taxable value on your home. For example, if your home’s taxable value (you can look up your taxable value here) is $100,000 that would mean you could get an $1,800 ($100,000 / $18) exemption if you had PRE of 100%, but, if you have to lower it to 75%, for example, you would only get 75% of that exemption which would mean $1,350 (75% of $1,800) which is a $450 difference. 
    3. How to calculate your new percentage? (Keep in mind: to determine the square footage of a room just multiple the width and the length of the room.)
      1. Figure out the square footage of the house that is exclusive to you (the owner) and would be “off limits” to your guest (i.e. your bedroom, perhaps a private bath, a private office, etc.).  
        • #1 _________sq ft
      2. Figure out the square footage of the common areas* that you both have access to (i.e. living room, dining room, kitchen, shared bath, den, etc.). 
        • #2 _________sq ft
      3. Figure out the square footage of the house that is exclusively used by your guest, that you would not access while they were staying with you (i.e. their bedroom, perhaps they have a private bath, etc.).
        • #3 _________sq ft
      4. Add #1 + 50% of #2  to determine #4, the total square footage associated with the owner
        • #1 _________sq ft + %50 #2 _________sq ft = #4_________ sq ft
      5. Now, take the total square footage associated with the owner (#4) and divide it by the total square footage of the home (not including the basement) to determine your PRE percentage.
        • #4_________ sq ft/ _________total sq ft of home = _________ %
      6. You will need to enter that percentage on line 12 of the PRE affidavit. That form cab be found here.

*Per MCL 211.7cc (32)(b) "Common area" includes, but is not limited to, a kitchen, dining room, living room, fitness room, porch, hallway, laundry room, or bathroom that is available for use by guests of a bed and breakfast or, unless guests are specifically prohibited from access to the area, an area that is used to provide a service to guests of a bed and breakfast.

AFTER YOUR LICENSE IS APPROVED

  • Once you receive your Class B license you must include the permit number in all advertising, so make sure you post it on your listing!
  • Within 10 days of issuing a permit, the City Clerk’s Office will mail postcards to all owners and residents within 300 feet of a one-room rental.
  • You are finally good to go!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Keep a positive outlook, even after all the fees and taxes you will have to pay (license, income tax, adjustment to PRE), you’re still providing a great service to visitors to our community. :) If you find yourself with other questions or concerns you can always reach out to the City Clerk’s office, contact one of our City Commissioners or leave a comment here and I'll do my best to respond!

______

If you found this guide helpful and you do decide to host Airbnb guests, please considering using my Airbnb Host Referral Link which will earn both of us future travel credits! 

Airbnb & Me | The "Who"

Lizzie Williams

When I imagined what it would be like to live on my own, I always hoped my house would be a place where people dropped by on a whim. I envisioned a house that was full of life and light, and where people could come to feel encouraged, or regroup. Three years after purchasing my first home in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood, I can proudly say say that’s exactly what I have. My 100 year old house has become a buzzing ecosystem of friends, family, dogs, guests and people that help me keep it going.

In January, I made the decision to begin welcoming short-term guests to stay in my spare bedroom through Airbnb. It’s something I had been interested in ever since my first experience staying with an amazing young couple in Montreal back in 2012. Welcoming guests from all over the world has allowed me to create a space within my home for community and connection in a time when it seems the drop-by has been replaced by a text and the shoulder-to-cry-on has been substituted with a sad face emoji. So far, hosting has been a remarkable journey with a cast of characters that have seasoned my life in unexpected ways.

Co-workers, friends and family all ask a similar series of questions when they find out that I’m an Airbnb host. Right after, “Do you have any horror stories?!” (no) and “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to get murdered?!” (also, no) the most common thing people want to know is: “Who’s staying with you?”. I decided to take a step back and reflect on all the guests that have stayed with me so far and share a little bit about them here...

_____

Over the past six months, I have welcomed 71 guests into my home, for a total of 101 nights. I have had visitors from all over the world, including those born in Poland, India, Andorra, Brazil, France, Australia, and Cuba. Many people are from right here in Michigan though, 45% to be exact. Following Michigan, the other common locations that guests have visited from were: Arizona (16%), Indiana (6%), Ohio/Nebraska/California (5%), and Illinois (4%). Visitors have ranged in age from 6 years old to 65 years old. Not too surprising, the most common visitors are 25-34 (23%), followed by 18-24 (22%), 35-44 (13%), 55-64 (11%), and only a few that are either <18 (4%) or between 45-54 (4%).

I’ve hosted doctors, and med students, architects, and fans of Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve hosted new brewery owners, and best friends on beer tours. I’ve hosted faculty from the University of Michigan and students from Michigan State. I’ve hosted professional cyclists, ballet dancers, models, as well as brick estimators, steel salesmen, and car mechanics. I’ve hosted a tech startup entrepreneur from the West Coast, a fabric designer from a small town in Iowa, and an Energy Touch Healer from Maine.

My house has filled many needs for many people: a soft bed to sleep on for a family heading North, a place to take a cold shower after an eighth grader’s soccer camp, an anniversary destination for a young couple, and even a place to prepare for handful of job interviews. My pillows have felt the bobby pins of bridesmaids up-dos and my shower floor knows the sweat of a mosh-pit. My walls have heard quiet arguments of a newly married couple, as well as tears of laughter from a 21 year old who was woken up by my puppy gently licking her armpit.

I’ve listened to stories of heartache, rejection, disappointment, and even loss. An African American woman shared the frustration of being unable to hail cabs and land jobs, due to the color of her skin, a gay man shared the unwillingness of his partner to move to Grand Rapids for fear of acceptance, and a man who had just dropped out of his Master's program to take over his family farm after his father unexpectedly passed away. I have attempted to console a young man who got the call while sitting on my back deck that he lost his job, and I have sent my sympathies virtually to a young woman who had to cancel her visit because her husband had just been killed by a drunk driver. These people, their stories, they’ve changed mine.

There have also been many moments where I’ve belly laughed and where my heart swelled. I couldn’t help but crack up when a woman from Poland visited for a wedding and told me how sorely disappointed she was in how tame the reception had been. She couldn’t believe that there weren’t the normal Vodka-bottles-served-over-ice on every table that she was used to. I had a young Autistic boy who, upon arrival, immediately started giving my pup belly rubs, only diverting his attention for a moment to quietly ask if he could call me “Liz” instead of “Miss Lizzie,” like his parents had suggested. 

One of my favorite nights was when a couple who had recently moved to Michigan from Boston ended up skipping their evening plans to drink Moscow Mules and local Grand Rapids’ brews with a friend and I. A few beverages in, they told us an amazing story about how a week after they purchased their house in Ypsilanti they found news articles that revealed a prostitute had murdered the previous homeowner in the kitchen only a few months beforehand. Disgusted, they decided to rip out the kitchen, and as they pulled back the new-looking laminate floor, they discovered a wooden sub-floor below. As they looked closer they realized the boards were splintered with knife gouges and some wood had been removed as evidence. Well, that explained the new floor boards!

There have also been many wonderfully normal evenings. I’ve gone out to dinner with traveling salesmen, watched Louis C.K. with a small business owner, made meals for a Doc working 12+ hour shifts, and even brought a French student to my parent’s house for our weekly Sunday Dinner. Some of the time it’s quiet, some of the time it’s loud. Sometimes we talk about the weather, and sometimes it’s politics, policy, and potential. One of the best conversations I ever had was completely non-verbal with an older couple that was visiting the United States for the very first time to watch their daughter graduate from college. They didn’t know any English outside of “Hello” and “Thanks”; I knew two less words than that in Cambodian. They visited for a weekend, and we smiled often and gestured. Through the silence, we shared coffee, tea, warmth and gratitude. It was a powerful exchange.

In addition to giving me a platform to spread positivity about my hometown, Airbnb has challenged my expectations of what can transpire when you choose to trust a “stranger”. It has been a remarkably 21st century way to not only bring the world to my doorstep, but to constantly acknowledge how similar we all are, despite our wide variety of experiences. Everyone wants to connect, to be heard, to have their anxieties reduced, to be nourished, to be clean and comfortable, and to rest. I love that, what was once just a spare bedroom, can now be that source of comfort to new friends from all over the world.

 

Airbnb & Me | The "Why"

Lizzie Williams

I’m 29 years old and I live in the same city in which I was born. I literally live .6 miles from the hospital where I was delivered. Typing that sentence actually kind of freaks me out. There’s a reason for the tightness in my chest when I admit to things like that, albeit brief. I always thought I was going to live somewhere else.  When I was young I imagined that someday I’d be leading an adventurer's life in the Colorado Rockies, soaking up sunshine with fabulous friends on the California Coast, or making moves in the European art scene. Like every other kid in my age bracket I just knew I was cut out for something major.

Well, I graduated in 2009 during the recession and as I watched people I knew lose jobs, sell homes, and long-time business collapse, my dreams of grandeur were put on pause.  Many of my friends moved away to cities like Chicago, LA, Denver or Austin where the economy wasn’t hit quite as hard as it was in Michigan. After 15 months working two part time jobs on top of an unpaid internship, and applying for jobs all over the country, I finally found an opportunity to work for a small non-profit focused on community leadership development that was housed out of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

During my tenure at the Center for Community Leadership I was privy to many conversations with employers, leaders, politicians and passionate community members who were all putting their heads together to figure out ways to keep people from leaving the state, and how to bring people back. “Attraction”, “retention”, and “millennials” were words I heard in meeting after meeting. It started to make me wonder: why would I keep trying to leave when all of these people I look up to are doing everything they can to get people just like me to stay? Why would I leave when I have access, insight, and connections that would take years to build in a new community?

Yet every time I would feel confident in my decision to invest in Grand Rapids as my home there were always others, who had left, who would question my decision - as if that’s what it was. They would tell me that “in order to grow professionally” I needed to leave - that I would “get stuck thinking too small” and they expressed their “concern” that I was simply settling. I began to wonder that too. I would flip flop from feeling empowered and grateful for the opportunities I was being afforded to feeling weak and scared that if I didn’t leave soon I never would, and then perhaps my whole life would follow a path of least resistance - or even worse, mediocrity.

Fast forward a few years and with the help of experience, confidence, mentors - and an exceptional coach - I figured out how to reconcile some of my inner quandaries. I learned two powerful lessons about what it means to live up to your own expectations: one, is that wanting to achieve “something major” has a lot of room for interpretation - and sometimes the way you get there is by stringing together a lot of “something minors". And secondly, when you take the time to identify what you really want, deep in your heart, you find that there are infinite ways to get there.

When I used to express that I wanted a life of “adventure," what I discovered was that I really wanted a life that included meeting new people, challenging myself and creating unforgettable memories. When I said I wanted a “fabulous” life, what I really wanted was to find a community that was fun, fast-paced and full of energy. And when I expressed that I wanted to be an “artistic influencer,” I am now able to realize that what I really wanted was to be surrounded by interesting people, doing great work, who were pushing the envelope and who were passionate about beauty, design and introspection. Now I know that I didn’t need to move away to find these pieces of life, I just needed to be intentional about seeking them out.

One way to bring many of these experiences to bear was to think creatively on how to use the resources I already had: my time, my energy and my home. I decided to start hosting guests through Airbnb. Since I decided to become a host, I have found many of the things I was looking for right here in my own home, plus so much more. I have a house filled with the wares of local artists; one guest even generously described it as feeling like “every room is an art gallery.” I have extra income that this year alone has allowed me the financial flexibility to travel to Nashville, Paris, Amsterdam and Croatia. I have new friends with wild stories who live all over the world. I have been intimately acquainted with people from communities I’ve only ever known from a distance and who find themselves in Grand Rapids for a myriad of reasons. By deliberately welcoming individuals of all creed and conviction into my home, I’m challenged to look at the world with fresh eyes every day. I ask questions, I listen intently, and I’m finding ways to invite the world to me - to sit on the same couch, to drink the same coffee and to sleep under the same roof.  

As I sit here, in the final months as twenty-something, I am finally able to boldly claim: I am not stuck in Grand Rapids. I am choosing to be here. My home, my neighborhood, my roots are becoming a destination, and thanks to Airbnb, I’m enjoying every second of this fabulous adventure welcoming the world to my living room.  

 

________________

Keep an eye out for the next post in my Airbnb & Me Series focused on The "Who". :)