Sharing economy opens windows into new worlds

Louise Heppleston writes about her experience as an Airbnb host in Hebden Bridge


Since the kids left home (with only a little prompting) I’ve had a spare room available. For two years it was occupied by a lad leaving care…and his stash of weed, his staffie and his under-age girlfriend.

A few months respite, and I had a failed asylum seeker in need of free board and lodging. And legal advice. And support to visit the immigration centre on a weekly basis.

I figured there must be an easier way to make use of my lovely little room. A little redecoration, half an hour setting up my page on the website and voila! I became an Airbnb host.

Since last October, I’ve been surprised at the variety of people who have stayed. And I’m beginning to see Hebden, my home of 30 years, through different eyes.

Sue, who’d spent a few days on a writing course up at the Arvon Foundation, and who wanted to stay on and explore Hebden a little further.

Sally, a self-builder from London, who I bumped into again up at the Nutclough a few months later – still pursuing her dream of self-build northern style.

Bill, a Californian, but born in Burnley – we shared a love of red wine that we may have over-indulged a little. He was a landscape photographer who spent a few days out with his tripod in never-ending rain and low cloud. But hey, it’s Hebden in November.

I’ve also had a bloke from Amsterdam, over for two nights to take in a gig at the Trades Club. He was a chemistry teacher with great English (that was a blessing) and we had long discussions about our different education systems over a pint at the Fox and Goose.

Then I’ve had Daisy, on the production team of the newest BBC series to be filmed round these parts. She stayed for 2/3 days a week over several weeks and I glimpsed a whole new, not-so-glamorous world of film. Outdoor night scenes filmed in January’s rains are not exactly Hollywood.

So, what have been the good parts? Being able to share my local knowledge – that’s been invaluable for my guests. Having a window opened onto their worlds – that’s taken me on some interesting journeys too. The money I make goes to support a child care project in the Nairobi slums, but come retirement, will be a welcome source of income. (Declare it under the ‘Rent-a-Room’ allowance on your self-assessment and you’re unlikely to pay any tax). As a way of living quietly and gently sharing my house, it’s a far cry from teenage boys and destitute asylum seekers.

For more info, here’s the link to Louise’s Airbnb listing

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