What if he thought I come on to all my Airbnb guests? What if he felt unsafe?
I signed up to be an Airbnb host shortly after being dumped. When that three-year relationship came to an end, I knew I needed to be open to new people and experiences, and hosting visitors to my city, Philadelphia, in my home seemed a good way to do it. Im a social worker in palliative care, and I thought, If I dont open myself up to opportunities for connection now, Ill regret it.
It was October 2015 when I received a message from a French man called Clment, saying he was on the bus from New York and needed a place to stay for three nights. His picture looked a little dorky, and I thought, Hes probably harmless. I never normally accept same-day guests, but this time I thought, Why not?
He let himself in using the key I leave for guests, and I came home to find him on my couch with both of my cats. He turned around and his eyes sparkled at me Id never been looked at like that before. I could tell he thought I was attractive, but I had sworn off dating, so after 10 minutes of recommending things to do, I called it a night. Before I went to bed, he said, Oh, do you like crepes?
The next evening, Clment asked if Id share a six-pack of beer and said he had walked 10 miles to see every place Id recommended. As we talked about our lives, I felt a real connection, and a hopefulness that Id lost through online dating and its deceptions. I wondered if hed try to kiss me how unprofessional would it be to kiss him back? What if he thought I come on to all my Airbnb guests? What if he felt unsafe?
I woke up to crepes cooking on the stove and the smell of freshly made coffee. At work I felt impatient to get home to see him. We didnt have each others numbers; I just hoped hed be there. We spent his last night on the sofa, cats on our laps, chatting and watching TV. I was waiting to see if hed make a move, but after hours of only our elbows touching, I said, I really want to kiss you but I dont want to make you feel uncomfortable. What do you think? He said, I want to kiss you, too.
The next day he asked for my number. I gave it to him, but said I was only interested in friendship; he later said he watched me through the window as I went to work that day and wept. I only wanted a really serious relationship, and I couldnt take this seriously I knew he wouldnt travel to another continent once a month just to get to know me, and it would fade to nothing.
He ended up cutting his trip to Maine short to come back and take me on a date. While we were eating, I said, Did you book somewhere to stay? Because my Airbnb is full tonight. He looked scared until I told him, Im just kidding you can sleep over. The next day, I said I still wasnt interested because I didnt think long-distance would work. But after many Skypes and FaceTimes, I did finally allow him to visit from where he lives in Germany.
The language barrier became more of an issue as we continued dating, and at the start of every visit wed have many misunderstandings and Id worry we couldnt make it work. But we also shared a lot. One stay, I told him things that were so painful to say, they made my throat hurt. He kept surprising me by being so kind.
After seven months, I fulfilled my dream of quitting my job to live and work in a tiny hotel on an island off the coast of Maine for five months. There was no phone reception, so we could only speak on Skype in the staffroom. Each visit, he had to fly to Boston, stay with my dad, then at 4am drive three hours to Maine to get a boat. Once we got through that, we knew we wanted to be together for ever.
I hadnt travelled much before meeting him, but he has brought out the explorer in me, and together we have been all over, to Norway, Morocco and Amsterdam. We are in love we just need to figure out what our future is going to look like. Its not going to be easy for us to live in Philly, it would cost a fortune just for Clment to get a visa but its such an adventure. When I opened up my home to strangers, I had no idea my world was going to get so big.
As told to Moya Sarner.
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