Solo Traveler: The Art of Renting

Solo Traveler
Column by SHERRY HARDAGE
 
The Art of Renting

It dawned on me one day in Florence, that without engaging in the art of renting, all the travel I’d been doing for the last few years would not have been possible.

Still clearly a novice, I don’t know every website that features places to rent. A full apartment isn’t always needed or wanted, and I’m only marginally comfortable renting a room in a home and sharing the bath.

At www.airbnb.com people post their spare rooms for rent. Sometimes a private bath is included; often the bath is shared. Some furnished apartments are available, as are odd-ball accommodations like a yurt, houseboat, or teepee.

I’ve used Air BnB many times, mostly with great success. The website includes a feedback mechanism that allows both owners and renters to describe their experiences and let future users know what they are getting into.

I rented a room with private bath in Madrid for two weeks. It was on the outskirts of the city but close to a Metro stop. Some time was spent traveling back and forth to the museums, plazas, and central entertainment districts, but it was less expensive than staying in a hotel, and much safer for my electronics than a youth hostel.

Courtyard of a casita in Mexico. Photo by Sherry Hardage

In Istanbul, I rented a room with a shared bath from a woman who lived in a large apartment near Taksim Square. She had not been entirely forthcoming with her on-line description. I was prepared to share a bath with her, but it turned out she rented other rooms too, and there was only the one bathroom!

She had posted her apartment as non-smoking, but she smoked on an open balcony that allowed the smoke to drift indoors. My room was clean enough, and had a window I could keep open. It wasn’t worth the effort to find another place, especially in Istanbul, where most people smoke like chimneys.

In Barcelona, I was able to rent a room for two weeks with a meticulously clean woman. What a pleasure to cook in her well-stocked kitchen. We went to the market daily, shared a few meals, picnicked at the beach, and spent evenings in tapas bars.

She was a wealth of information and support, as well as a great tour guide when she had the time to spend with me. That kind of friendship doesn’t always develop, but when it does, it makes solo travel worthwhile.

Cave apartment in Turkey. Photo by Sherry Hardage

Creative renting is not limited to lodging. The Internet is full of deals on transportation. Not purchasing a ticket on the Internet in Italy meant I paid almost twice the online price at the train station.

I can rent a car, moped, hot air balloon ride, motor boat, or Segway from Internet websites. In most cities a Metro or bus pass lets me ride all over the place with a professional driver at the wheel.

A seat on a multi-million dollar airplane, capable of hurtling through the skies at 30,000 feet and landing in every major city in the world, can be rented for a pittance. Planes are about the best rental deal on the planet, and once in a while an edible meal is also included!

I’m slowly learning how to discern a good deal from a mediocre one. Surfing the Internet is handy for making comparisons with little effort. Like any art form, experience counts for most of one’s skill. The rest of the skill is built on taking risks.

It can feel scary to stay with people you don’t know or rent a place from some random apartment owner. With experience though, a creative renter can take that leap with confidence and land in a comfy bed, ready to see some fabulous sites in the morning.

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