airbnb enables a new class of tourism: the anti-tourist!


The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

With each New Year comes a list of goals and resolutions that we hope to cross off our annual bucket list. My list and vision board for 2013 definitely includes travel. If yours does too, Airbnb is a great option to try if you are looking for a cool place to stay with a limited amount of funds, thanks to the joys of the sharing economy and our interconnected online social world.

Never heard of Airbnb? Don’t feel too bad I hadn’t either before last year (when they were named Inc Magazine’s runner up for Company of the Year 2012). Having lived as a poor student traveling around Europe and various corners of the United States, I considered myself to be quite the green and savvy traveler with a shoe string budget reputation. The number one way I managed to get around without breaking the bank was relying on my vast network of friends who have offered me their spare beds, couches, futons, and floors, so I could avoid the expensive and not-as-much-fun experience of staying at a hotel.

While planning a trip to San Diego for a conference, my plan to stay with a friend fell through. Since my California network was non-existent, I needed to consider other options. After all, I needed to make my journey to the Sustainable Brands Conference in a financially sustainable way. So I looked into three options: the first was to find a roomshare with another conference attendee; the second was to finally use my membership with; and the final was a newly suggested option of Airbnb.

I had seen Airbnb mentioned in the Sustainable Brands program – Christopher Lukezic, their Director of Communications, was one of the speakers – and decided to check it out. Airbnb is short form for “Air Bed and Breakfast” and allows people with a spare room to put that room up for rent on a per diem basis. Some people rent out their entire flat, airstream, tree house, train, and so on. In Christopher’s presentation he mentioned how one couple rented out their now grown children’s tree house and were able to retire early and use Airbnb to pay their mortgage. So if you have some spare space, you might want to give hosting a try.

cool spaces

Airbnb’s website and app are both very cool and user friendly. You need to create a profile so that other users can rate you as a guest or host. This allows hosts and travelers to get a sense of whether they will be a good fit. You can connect your account to your Facebook account, which allows you to see if you know people who know a person you are considering hosting or visiting. My favorite part of the website is that it gives you a map of the different listings for each city. This feature is one of the big reasons why I choose Airbnb over other sites.

For my San Diego trip, I was able to use Airbnb to find an apartment that was just one mile from the conference. It was a perfect scenario. My host was actually traveling in Europe, and her friend Ale was on sabbatical and was traveling for a year before her return back to Italy. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to spend with Ale, since I was at the conference starting really early each  morning to rather late each night. But when I did see her, we had great conversations and I learned a little Italian. I had my own room, closet space, and was provided towels to shower. I got all of this for half of the price of sharing a room at the resort where the conference was held. Very sweet deal!

Airbnb’s app and website are really fun to poke around even if you are not planning to travel anytime soon. They have a “popular” section that lists the coolest listings and you feel like you have traveled around the world after spending a few minutes browsing. Check it out for yourself and have fun traveling or hosting and contributing to the sharing economy. It might make 2013 one of your most memorable years.


Wordless Wednesday: Artsy Pittsburgh

[Well, Less Wordy Wednesday, anyway]. Back in April, I had the good fortune of participating as a vendor in the Handmade Arcade in Pittsburgh, PA. I had never visited this city before, and was delighted to find that there was a thriving arts community there. With the little bit of spare time I had that weekend, I had a chance to visit the Warhol Museum, which contained some amazing art and art history.

Across the street, I was impressed to see a building fully adorned with the artwork of Shepard Fairey.

After surrounding myself with so much art, I felt inspired to create something. I was super happy that the museum had a DIY room, where I had a chance to use my silkscreening and collage talents.

Some great reasons to ride the Megabus in 2011

photo copyright Megabus

This post was written by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate

As a devoted public transit junkie who had to find her way to and from NYC on a regular basis for school, I became an expert of every conceivable way to make the ~170 mile journey. Clearly driving was not an option – the tolls alone cost over $20, then factor in gas and parking, and you have an expensive, time consuming journey. And while Amtrak is a sexier choice than most when it comes to public transit, I found myself spending average of $100 each way for the regular train (the Acela, which is about 20 minutes faster, has nicer accommodations and Wi-Fi, but costs twice as much). But the train is not always smooth convenient sailing. Out of the six trips I’ve made, I’ve arrived late three times: once I experienced a power outage between Philadelphia and Baltimore, once I had to wait while they arrested someone on the train in Newark, NJ, and once I sat on the train for an hour as we rescued passengers from another train that had broken down.

As a poor college student and now a recent grad, the train is something of a luxurious splurge, so an economic alternative would be to take a bus. Having taken the greyhound (one way $40 or $36 with a student advantage card, and even less if you purchase your ticket online), I have had a few problem-free experiences, but too many unpleasant experiences to consider it, unless it is my only option. A cheaper option, and a bit more pleasant, is the Chinatown bus, which rolls up with a different unmarked bus each time. The cost is $20 cash on the bus or you can pay online. The experience is not horrible, but the pick-up and drop-off spots are often pretty sketchy.

Based on these experiences, none of these options can hold a candle to the Megabus, a life-saver for the eco-traveler on a budget. For the general public, this is exciting because it offers rapid intercity travel with tickets starting at $1 (yes that’s right, $1!), plus a $.50 reservation fee. Now this doesn’t mean that every ticket is $1, they start at that price and go up depending on when you buy your ticket and how many people have already purchased a ticket. It’s something of a game of luck, and it feels like winning the lottery when you can score your all-time low ticket price (before last week my all time best price was $8 round trip from Baltimore to NYC). So if you can book your trip a month beforehand, you have a decent shot at finding the $1 fare, especially on weekdays. If not, a day ticket from Baltimore to NYC is on average $17. Another awesome bonus is the buses themselves, which are all brand new (double deckers when going to and from NYC), clean, comfortable and equipped with free Wi-Fi and power outlets.

For this transit junkie, the best part of this deal is that the Megabus’ Baltimore stop isn’t in sketchy downtown Baltimore but right off of I-95 in White Marsh. Two other sustainable bonuses are that the bus is a certified green coach and you do not need to print your ticket since all you need to do is show them your confirmation number. I keep mine on my phone, so it’s paperless!

But wait, there’s more! If you haven’t taken the Megabus yet, be sure to make 2011 the year you try it. The Megabus used to only service the East Coast (it’s in the Mid-West too and started out in the U.K.) by going to and from NYC from various cities (including Baltimore and Washington D.C.) with NYC asvthe main hub. But starting in December 2010, Washington DC became a major hub offering stops in Richmond, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, Knoxville, Hampton, and Christiansburg. So, theoretically, one could take the Megabus from Knoxville to Toronto! Wow!

But yet it keeps getting better! Megabus is giving away 200,000 free tickets from January 12th until March 1st!  Check out the promotion here. The $.50 reservation fee still applies and you still need to use the same strategy of booking early to find the tickets offered for $0.00. I already booked my ticket for an interview in Connecticut that cost me $1.00 roundtrip from Baltimore to Connecticut and back – most exciting deal of my life!!!

So, if you haven’t hopped on a Megabus yet, jump on this deal and work on your Greener travel while on a budget resolution for 2011!

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Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate

On our recent travels through the west, we passed through Boulder (a place I definitely need to spend some time exploring in the future). We stopped by the Pearl Street Mall and took a walk around, looking for a good place to have lunch (we chose Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace, which turned out to be an excellent decision!).

image copyright

We passed by cute boutique after cool-looking storefront. But the one that caught my eye was The Boulder Bookstore. It was filled with lots of books, fun gift items, and a surprisingly large selection of fair trade chocolates! I wanted a copy of Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring to read on the plane home, and figured this indie bookstore would have to have a copy in stock. I inquired at the desk, and was told that I could find it in the Ecology section. I found Silent Spring, and also made a wonderful additional discovery – Edible Wild Plants: Wild Food from Dirt to Plate, a new book by John Kallas, PhD, founder of Wild Food Adventures.

I have been on Kallas’ mailing list for over 2 years, but have yet to attend one of his amazing wild food events, which are mostly held in Oregon. So I was very excited to find a book through which I could glean some of his expertise in the field of wild foods.

While I love my collection of wild foods books by Euell Gibbons and Jim Duke, I was thrilled to see the detailed information provided on each plant profiled in Edible Wild Plants. Like Gibbons, Kallas goes into depth on just a few plants (only 15 plants, as this book is part of a series he plans to write over the next few years). And like Gibbons, he includes recipes for each plant.

However, Kallas’ book has the added feature of multiple photographs showing each plant during its various stages of development. This has been my major complaint with other wild plant books, in that it is often very difficult to identify a plant based on just one photograph. As Kallas points out in his book, “The same plant can look different not only in this book but in other books, depending on the angle of the photograph, the condition of the plant…” and “While moving through different stages of growth, a plant can transform so much that young and old versions look like different species.”

When I opened the book in the store, it fell open to the first of 17 pages devoted to one of my favorite wild plants, garlic mustard (which I wrote about earlier this year), including 16 photographs and two recipes. I knew I had to buy it!

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je suis une touriste

photo copyright Kia Guarino

The following post is by blogger Kia Guarino

This week I have thoroughly enjoyed walking the line between tourist and Parisian! I have finally developed a routine for my school and volunteer work, which I has been fun and fulfilling. However, this week has been especially fun, as I have met some incredible people and was able to do some touristy things in the very enjoyable company of others.

We spent Sunday touring the gardens and the chateau in Versailles. Despite being very cold, it was a perfect way to spend the day. I was informed about the detailed perspective that can be seen throughout the grounds that were all carefully crafted to emphasize the power of Louis XIV after he moved the court from Paris to Versailles. It was also developed in three stages, beginning as a relatively small brick hunting house and eventually transforming into one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

photo copyright Kia Guarino

Since it was a Sunday and it was Valentine’s Day, it was very crowded and the gardens were still dormant. But despite all of this, I was thoroughly impressed. I would like to go back in the late spring/early summer when the gardens are in their full glory,

Monday we visited both the highest and the lowest (at least almost the lowest) tourist hotspots in Paris. The sewer system (les égouts – une vision souterraine de Paris!) was developed after a massive flood covered Paris 100 years ago this year. It was smelly and cold and the tour was in French, but I still had a great time! There are a number of old machines that were developed to clear the dirt and to deal with the noxious gasses and they also told stories of finding an alligator and other creatures down there. You definitely need to go with people you can laugh about the dripping ceilings with.

photo copyright Kia Guarino

Afterwards, we wanted to visit some of the many museums in the Trocadéro area, but unfortunately it was Monday so they were closed. Instead, we had un café and waited until about 6hr to begin our trek to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Since it was a cold Monday, the lines were shorter than normal, but they still were not short.

We waited for about a half hour at the bottom to get our tickets then rode to the 2nd floor. There we walked around and enjoyed the sunset over Paris, which was breathtaking. It was very cold there and we waited in line to ride to the top. At the end of our 30-minute ride, we could not feel our extremities, but it was worth it! We actually rode up the middle of the Eiffel Tower as the lights were sparkling to show the hour. While it is more magnificent from the outside, it was still a lovely experience!

On top, the view was amazingly beautiful, but we did not spend too much time up there as we were certain we were going to lose our fingers to frostbite.

One thing about Paris that I have really enjoyed is the diversity and the constant exposure to different cultures. In my French course alone we have people representing about 8 different nationalities and I have met people outside of school from at least 5 different countries. I really enjoy the proximity to the rest of Europe and even the relative accessibility to Asia and Africa.

Despite the unusually cold weather, Paris has continued to dazzle me!

A Day at the Museums

Musée de Louvre

The following post was written by blogger Kia Guarino.

Chaque mois le premier dimanche, tous les musées à Paris sont gratuits! So, recently I went to The Musée de Louvre and The Musée D’Orsay and took advantage of this amazing offer. I love the Louvre – it houses some of my favorite paintings and statues in the world!

One thing that really strikes me as interesting is the fact that, not only does it house many of my favorite paintings, but the windows act as artwork in and of themselves. There are one or two windows near the French painters that have the most incredible views. At one point, I was able to look out and see I. M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid, the courtyard with the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triumph in the distance. I had never been to Musée D’Orsay before and despite a lot of construction work going on, it was amazing to see Monet and Van Gogh’s work up close. The crowds were definitely a little less bearable than the Louvre since Musée D’Orsay is a smaller museum. But again, it was still worth going since it was free!

For those two museums, the lines were not terrible since I was out early in the day. But as the day wore on, all the other museums that I passed had lines that wrapped around the buildings. I definitely recommend getting an early start. This was especially the case with Louvre, since it was extremely crowded around the Mona Lisa (it looked like rush hour downtown NYC!). There were some areas, though, that were pleasantly filled, including the French Renaissance painters, which I loved.

It was a perfect day for museums, especially for some of the best in the world!!

Je Suis à Paris


The following is an update from blogger Kia Guarino, on her adventures in Paris

I am currently sitting in my bed in the apartment I will be living in for the next two months, thoroughly exhausted and exhilarated by my first day here. Very different from my last stint with living abroad, I believe these next two months are going to be packed full with studies, volunteering and the occasional babysitting! I can’t wait for it all to get started!

Today was great. My wonderful host took me to a beautiful café on Trocadero where I had a croissant and a café crème. Of course, despite practicing for precisely these moments, I stared at the pretty waitress pretty blankly and had to be rescued from my lack of French skills. Hopefully that will change. I was also shown around the neighborhood, which is gorgeous despite the unusually cold weather. From that circle, which is a block form the apartment, the Eiffel Tower can be seen and is very large. Much of the day was simply situating myself with the area and transportation, etc., but just over 12 hours feels like a week! It’s all so exciting!

Je vais à Paris

Musée du Louvre: Image copyright Paris Convention and Visitors Office

The following post is by guest blogger, Kia Guarino

There is an unfortunate amount of snow on the ground in New Jersey today and I am hoping my flight takes off on time tonight! I am off to Paris this evening to immerse myself in French language and culture in an effort to quickly learn this useful and beautiful language. I will be in a position of discomfort for at least the first week as I struggle to become proficient enough to hold a conversation, but I think the challenge is worth it.

Since graduating, I have had a strong desire to continue learning. I was not as burnt out as I would have expected when I finished school, and I am really looking forward to the day I return to graduate studies. In the meantime, though, there is still a great deal of studying I have to do to improve my application. Since I hope to pursue a career in international development work, I decided that I should challenge myself to learn French to the best of my ability in a short amount of time. I have a background in Spanish and Italian, but I decided to try something different, to really challenge myself.

When I was handed an amazing opportunity and very graciously offered a place to stay in Paris, I realized this was something that could and should happen. Of course I am nervous and worried that my sprinkling of French will make the transition difficult, but accomplishing such a biggoal is rarely easy!

I am going to be staying in the heart of the city of lights and studying at Alliance Française a few days a week. I am looking forward to the superb people-watching that Paris sidewalk cafes offer and I even purchased a sketchbook in order to document it.

tower of macarons from dalloyau

I will be writing updates about the challenges and beauty of the city, and my two months immersed in another, wonderful culture. I will also be eating crepes, baguettes and fromage, not to mention visiting my favorite source for patisseries in the world, Dalloyau. You can download their mouthwatering, beautifully photographed catalogue here.

Au revoir!