Creating empathy one guest a time

If a song played every morning when Gabriela wakes up it would be Beyonce’s Run The World. I have no idea if this Costa Rican badass feminist actually listens to Queen Bey, but what I do know is that when she moves its with the same purpose those drum beats prepare for Beyonce’s entrance on the record.

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Gabi, 37-years old and born in Alajuela, Costa Rica, is one of Air BnB’s most sought-after San Jose hosts.
If it were not for her mother, Gabi would not be a native of Alajuela, the province home to famous hot springs and Volcano Arenal.  

“My parents were migrants in Ohio, they were looking for the American Dream.”

Six months into her pregnancy, Rita, Gabi’s mother, decided she could no longer handle the quest for the dream or the weather — the family moved back to Costa Rica and three months later Gabriela entered the world, drum beats and all.

Becoming an AirBnB host can be a lucrative opportunity, but not everyone does it and those who do are not always successful. Frankly, not all people are cut out to receive guests, but Gabi manages to master the work in a manner I haven’t seen before. 

“I feel at home when I am with people who are different and diverse.”

Gabi goes on to say that “diversity is our most developed state of civilization, so I am always in need of coming together with different people.”

The key here is that Gabi doesn’t only treat AirBnB as an opportunity to make more money. Rather, she focusses on the importance of building a global community. According to AirBnB’s website it’s a “trusted community marketplace for people,” Gabi puts intention in creating community and because of that more than 400 travelers have wish-listed her home, the lovely house, light, hush and air!

Air Bnb
Gabi has been an AirBnB member for five years, but became a host three years ago.
More than 3,000,000 homes are listed on AirBnB. Gabi decided to join the community three years ago. She made the decision because she feels her home is beautiful and wants to share it with others.

“You don’t know your guests, but you care about them.”

That’s not something Gabi had to tell me; it’s something I felt from the moment she messaged me back.

“I’m a bit nervous because this is my first solo vacation,” I typed to her back in March.

“I totally understand you being nervous…but Costa Rica is lovely and you will find a lot of people to help you!”

I can be quite needy, it’s one of those personally traits that sneaks up when my independence takes a nap, but I truly haven’t needed anyone else but Gabi. The reason? She prepared me with a full page of information four days before my check-in. When I arrived, Gabi sat me down to review a map of the neighborhood and handed me two pages of things to do and see in Costa Rica.

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Among my belongings: a map Gabi made, a country-wide draft itinerary, and a full page of things to do and see locally in San Jose. 

 

Gabi is such a great host that one wonders if she has any other jobs. It turns out, she has four. In addition to being the chosen of AirBnB’s marketplace, Gabi prints lamps, works as an anthropologist for Civil Society Organizations and Teachers Unions, directs graduate student research at a local university, and does private sector consulting.

Lamps
On her free time, Gabi prints and sells lamps.

Of her five jobs, AirBnB hosting is a family business. Gabi’s mother, Rita, is also a host. Seeing Gabi talk about her mother is comforting; she sort of glows. “My mom is kind of amazing,” she says smiling beautifully, “I think she is a feminist and doesn’t know it.”

Rita has six other children. She raised all seven while building a career and remaining an active member of her local catholic church.

“My mom truly feels enthusiastic when people are doing well, and she has built her feminism according to her catholic values.”

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“Equality is something you build everyday, it is not given for granted,” Gabi says reflecting on how Rita, her mother, has helped mold her feminist theory. 

 

 

To close out our conversation, I asked Gabi this, “if everyone you have hosted could only write a one-sentence review about you, what would they say?”

“Thinking of my guests, I would say…” — Gabi starts to answer, but after a few words, she’s brought to tears. It’s clear that those who have shared her home are family, many of them having become lifetime friends. With her global family in mind and through quivering lips, Gabi says she’d review herself with this sentence…

“Always grateful and always looking forward to meeting again, no matter for how long.”

To book with Gabi, click here.

“AirBnB is amazing, it goes beyond the shared economy. It goes until the very point of allowing us to learn collective intimacy and instant bonding, through that we create empathy. “

–Gabi, AirBnB host of three years

 

Lessons Learned Moving Over 1,300 Miles from Home

While living in Vermont for five life changing months, God saw it fit to implant the glorious idea of community organizing in my mind. Before I knew it, I was interviewing for a job to work at a grassroots community organization in Miami-Dade. When I wasn’t searching for KKK chapters in the South and alligator attacks (yes, I know super ignorant of me), I was anxiously apartment hunting and trying to convince myself that I really wanted to move so far away. News flash! I’ve been living in Miami-Dade for about 10 months now and here are a few lessons I have learned about “adulting” while away from the cradle.

  1. You can do it! Moving out of your home state won’t be easy, but you can do it.
  2. Take time to estimate your financial situation as accurately as possible or else you’ll be bloated from stress for like three months.
  3. Do it on your own terms. When I applied for the position I have now, I intended to begin work in June because I knew I wouldn’t be financially ready to start in January. However, this position was one of my top picks and I felt a bit of pressure to say “yes,” so I did. What do you think happened when I started in January–I had no money and remember experiencing stomach growling stress. Now, I probably budget a little too much because of FOFAP (Fear of Financial Ass Planting).
  4. Trust others. For the first three months I lived with a kind stranger and her partner on Miami Beach for only $550 a month. The room and bath even came with a cute little pooch. What a steal!
  5. You won’t make friends like you did in college so you’ll have to friend date… I hate dating so I still have no friends.
  6. Love yourself. I’ve become really good at giving Flose some lovin’ these last 10 months. I take her out to the movies, I treat her to dinner every once in a while, I make sure she gets her exercise–stuff that will make her heart smile.
  7. Even with all the self lovin’, you’ll still get lonely sometimes. Learn to deal with that loneliness in a healthy way. Sometimes that means having a glass of red wine and watching Friends for three hours. Other times it means having a well deserved cry session. And rarely it means sleeping in for a few hours in your messy living space. I’m not sure if any of those examples were healthy, but whose judging!
  8. You’ll quickly learn who your actual friends are versus acquaintances. Actual friends will send random texts to check in on you. They’ll make an effort to visit around the time of your birthday even if you have to crowd three or four people in your room. When you have a really shitty day at work, they’ll sense it and send an “I love you” or “Tell me what’s going on with you” text or they’ll actually pick up the phone to hear your trembling voice. They’ll plan a road-trip with you and spend lots of days with your talkative ass. When you’re home, even if it’s just for a day, they’ll make an extra effort to see your Florida-kissed smile. And when they’re in town, they’ll make time for you, even if it’s a two-hour dinner and they’re still drunk from three days of partying. This is not to discredit acquaintances, they have a place in your life but don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re your rock.
  9. Your relationship with your parents will get stronger. My dad and I spent close to 45 minutes on the phone one day. Like he had more to say than, “did you eat today,” seriously. Although, my mom still gets upset if I don’t make contact for a couple of days, when we speak the conversation is of value. I have learned to appreciate my parents in a way I never did living at home or five hours away when I was in college.
  10. This lesson is kind of scary and caused me a bit of anxiety over the past week… You’ll start to realize that you parents are aging and that shit ain’t cool.
  11. Your siblings will still be assholes to you, but they’ll be the nice kind.
  12. Spirituality, God, will find you even if you’re running away from him. When he catches you, you’ll hold on tight and begin to rebuild your relationship with him even if it’s not in the traditional sense.
  13. Treat your body with respect. I don’t mean that in a woman shaming kind of way. Drink water, eat vegetables, don’t binge drink, exercise… stuff like that because chances are you’re not that responsible and haven’t found a primary care doctor so you can’t get sick.
  14. Even with all that body respect, you’ll still get sick. When you do, you’ll really miss your mommy.
  15. Find a hobby or two.
  16. Learn to roll with things, because not everything will turn out how you expect it to.
  17. Breathe.
  18. You are awesome, moving far from home is hard, and it’s okay if you don’t get everything right because no one does.