How to choose a long term Airbnb

A few weeks ago I decided to take a leap and spend a month in a new city that I have grown to love – San Diego. Right at that moment the research began on how to choose a long term Airbnb.

Should I sublet someone’s apartment for a month? Do I get an Airbnb? What neighborhoods should I stay in where I won’t need a car? Am I sane for doing this?

I’m still on the fence with that last question 🙂 but, for the others I was able to spend a week doing my investigating and ultimately found the perfect little bungalow to call home in April! So, how did I do it?

While sipping on some hot cocoa (if you know me, you know that’s my favorite beverage in the world), I pulled out my laptop and started browsing:

  • Safest neighborhoods in San Diego
  • Walkable neighborhoods in San Diego
  • New Yorker in San Diego

The amount of search results I pulled up was insane. Seems I’m not the only one looking this up! One site I came upon that stuck out to me was Doorsteps.com. It not only had walkable and safe locations but, information about each. Summary of the area, places to eat/drink, cultural attractions, types of housing, etc.

I narrowed my search down to two areas: Hillcrest and East Village. Mostly cause they look eclectic, full of culture and people my age. However, a part of me chose those because they remind me the most of my home and favorite city, NYC.

I wasn’t going to just let a website decide where I stay so, next was going to local friends to get their opinions. Well, not to my surprise both areas received great reviews. However, my friends daughter lived in Hillcrest and loved it. Hearing a real life experience in that neighborhood is what ultimately helped make my decision. Hillcrest it is.

Hillcrest is known for its restaurants, bars, shops and vibrant LGBTQ community. Already, I feel like I’m at home! It is right near Balboa park which is filled with the famous San Diego Zoo, Gardens, walking trails and much more. Also, a great gym is right up the road from where I’m staying. It’s perfect!

Alright so, the neighborhood has been selected but, now where the heck do I live. My criteria to make it less of a vacation and more like I am living in San Diego was:

  • Must have a solid internet connection. I work remotely so, it’s a blessing I can even do this. I HAVE to make sure nothing slows me down from doing my job.
  • A functional kitchen. I don’t want to eat out for every meal.
  • My own space. I didn’t want to rent a room in someone’s house. Rather a studio, guest house or whole apartment.
  • Living space for nights I want to lounge out.
  • Well lit street. As much as you can do research, you don’t know the area until you’re there.
  • Unique Southern California vibes. I wanted a bungalow.

I was in luck when I started putting my filters into Airbnb because there was quite a few solid choices.

  • A 2 room vacation home – full kitchen – internet and parking. However, the home was attached to a house with 3 kids. Nope, not doing that.
  • A full apartment right on 5th ave. All I could need in a long term home for $2800. HELL NO! I don’t even pay that much in NYC.
  • A studio bungalow, on a hill, with a kitchen, internet and zen garden for $2000! YES!!!!

Now $2000 sounds like a lot, even for me. However, this is $500 less that my monthly NYC expenses when you factor in WiFi, cable, utilities and parking being included. I won’t have a car but, I at least know I have that option. Check this baby out!

I am beyond excited to get to San Diego and start my new journey. I have no clue how it’s going to go but, that is the fun part. No one ever knows how life is going to go or when it is going to end. So, live it. Enjoy it. Explore it.

Until next time, when I go through how to pack for a month long trip in one suitcase, happy planning!

Xoxo,

Sara

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Living in Airbnb for a month!

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Sipping hot cocoa in La Jolla during a rainstorm

Growing up I always heard how amazing and beautiful San Diego was from my dad. After Vietnam, he was stationed there for 2 years and fell in love. So, when I got the chance to go, shortly after his passing – I jumped!

The second I landed dad was there, in spirit, when I saw the marine base on the runway. I knew that second that I would love this city.

Fast forward two years later and two more trips to San Diego and I love it even more now than I did then. I feel this connection with my dad when I am there and this urge to explore more.

Me and my dear colleague and friend enjoying lunch at Dukes in La Jolla.

This past week I spent 8 days in San Diego producing a user conference for the tech company I work for. After the conference ended – which was a great success despite the unusual rain – I decided to stay an extra few days to venture and relax!

I met up with my dear friend and took in a comedy show, walked the San Diego Zoo and saw all the beautiful animals, spent a day with my colleague and friend pampering ourselves and just fell more in love with the city, it’s people, food and breathtaking coastline.

Catching a show with my friend at American Comedy Co.

While sipping hot cocoa in a cute cafe during a rainstorm, I started thinking “gosh, I could live here”. Back and forth I went through the pros and cons: pros: sunshine, mountains, ocean, warmth, dads fav city, new experiences and friends to make, great job market, that coastline cons: far from my family and my best friends plus there is a part of me not ready to give up on NYC and the one who has my heart. I always had many pros but, the cons I had were definitely hard to swallow. My family and friends mean everything to me but, I need to mean something to me too and so does my happiness.

After a wonderful week, on Monday I flew back home but, the thought of spending more time in San Diego was constantly on my mind.

After once again going over pros and cons and remembering I work remotely and am really great at my job (confidence is key) – I took a risk and did it.

View from Dukes in La Jolla

No, I did not pack up and move. I’m not that spontaneous. However, on March 30th I will be heading to San Diego to spend 21 days living in an Airbnb. This is the best way to really see what it would be like to live and work there and if my love is a temporary/only when traveling feeling or deep and permanent.

I invite you to follow me on my journey where I hope to learn things about myself I didn’t know, explore areas of the city I’ve never seen, make memories with my friends and meet new ones, enjoy every bit of sunshine AND go to Disneyland!

For my friends and family back East – it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon! Y’all still have my heart.

Happy planning!

XoXo,

S.A.S

P.S. I’ll leave you with a pic of this cutie!

Exploring Seattle in 1.5 Days…Alone!

As a corporate event manager, I travel a lot for work. Most of the time it is to cities I have frequently visited but, sometimes I get lucky and wind up in new, exciting locations. I am also someone who tends to travel on my own and not hold back on any experiences!
This August I was lucky enough to find myself in Seattle. Typically, I do not have a lot of time to explore but, this time I allowed myself an extra day and a half to venture. I did not expect to fall in love with the Emerald city.
On August 4th, I arrived on a red eye flight and slept for a good portion of the day before heading out to begin exploring.
Guitar Art at the Museum of POP Culture in Seattle
That afternoon I found myself at the Museum of Pop Culture. Where Fantasy met Horror and Jimmy Hendrix and Nirvana were memorialized. It was a place of wonder, education, beauty and fun.
My favorite was the horror exhibit where I came face to face with my nightmare…Michael Myers.
During my visit, they also had an insanely awesome Marvel feature. I met some pretty super heroes there ;).
Next up was a delicious dinner at Taqueria Cantina. I enjoyed their taco salad and it was a hit! I definitely recommend checking them out if you find yourself in the area.
Lastly, I decided to be a bit spontaneous and get a tattoo to honor my dad. I was going back and forth in my mind of what to get tattooed. I already had “Make Every Breath Count” on my ribs to symbolize his lung transplant but, to honor his life – no idea.
I also am a huge fan of Disney and I wanted something to symbolize that.
Well, when I sat down to think I realized. My love for Disney, fantasy and happily ever afters is all because of my dad. The first movie I ever saw was with him and it was Little Mermaid. We both cried when Ariel waved her dad goodbye at the end (I still do). Then, the last movie we ever watched together was The Lion King. While home on Hospice care, he wanted to watch it so badly. So, that was it. Getting something that meant so much to us was the decision.
Not only did Fenix Tattoos take me in as a random walk in with no problem but, Leo was so gentle and I didn’t feel a thing!
Mt. Rainier

The next day, I decided to venture out of the city and take a day trip to Mt. Rainier. Funny story, I booked myself on a last minute tour out to the mountain which is a 3 hour drive and well, I was in such a rush to book something that I didn’t realize I booked myself on an all Mandarin speaking tour! Leave it to me haha.

With that said, even though I couldn’t understand much – minus the few English updates the guide would give – I had an amazing time with my travel buddies. We all had a common interest and a love for nature. Things like that speak louder than words. Love, kindness, exploration and adventure are universal!

Narada Falls, Mt. Rainier National Park

From Narada Falls to the star itself, Mt. Rainier – everything was breathtaking. It brought me back to when I was in Peru and I hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. It was peaceful, challenging in parts, familiar and overall beautiful. I truly love nature and any chance I can take to immerse myself within it – I will.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves!

Narada Falls, Mt. Rainier National Park
Mt. Rainier

After 10 long but, amazing hours I was finally back at the hotel and ready to get back to reality and produce a successful event.

All in all, my time in Seattle was AMAZING. To wake up and not only see a booming metropolis but, mountains and greenery too was a nice change of pace from the Concrete Jungle where I live. I believe I truly experienced Seattle enough to really appreciate the vibe of the city and the love for nature that people bleed out there. I definitely want to go back and experience more and I highly suggest you do too.

Thanks for reading.

Next stop, Denver!

XoXo,

Sara

P.S. Here are a few pics of the event I produced while out there.

Solo Trip to Peru: Trekking Machu Picchu

Autumn

For many years the idea of going on a solo trip to Peru and Machu Picchu was in my heart and on my mind. I would occasionally test my endurance by hiking local trails, check flight prices, refresh my Spanish, and seek advice from friends who had gone on similar journeys.  However, anytime I would get close to booking, something would come up causing me to not go.

Finally, in September 2016 I booked a solo trip to Peru and Machu Picchu. I officially was going to spend 10 days in Peru including a 4-day trek to Machu Picchu with Contiki. My solo trip would be in September of 2017. I had a full year to prepare. The trail runs, stair steppers and dieting became a way of life. After all, if I was going to push myself to what I thought would just be my physical limit – I was going to be prepared. However, little did I know, my preparation would be derailed and my life would completely fall apart.

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Cafe in Cusco

On June 24, 2017 my father passed away. After 8 years of constant health battles and scares, lung cancer ultimately took his life. I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about waking up, going to sleep, eating, let alone care about going on some trip. I was at the brink of canceling when – after talking with family & friends – I realized that is the last thing my dad would have wanted. In fact, he would have been so disappointed if I had put my dream aside. So, I decided to keep my plans and make this trip more than just proving I could physically do it but, use it to awaken my heart, my soul, and to feel again.

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Pisac

It was crunch time! I had 2 months to get back on track. What do I wear? What equipment do I need? What? What? What? I had no idea. Luckily, there are a lot of blogs out there that give advice on these things. My favorite was The Ultimate Machu Picchu Packing List by Megan Spurrell. She gives the rundown on literally everything! The other few things I packed that didn’t make her list were:

  • Moleskins – those blisters can be a capital B
  • Go-girl (thank me later)
  • Mosquito net – just for your head – those gnats in the jungle LOVE biting that area

The day had arrived. My 23 hours of travel was about to begin and I couldn’t be more excited! Okay, sure…I wish the amount of time spent eating airport food was less but, guys – I WAS HEADING TO PERU!!!!

Cue *car slamming on breaks* noise.

Make that 36 hours of travel…I was delayed and had to stay overnight in Miami.

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Phew, I made it. Greeted with Coca Tea, I made my way to the hotel in Cusco where I would spend the next couple nights getting acquainted with other solo travelers on the tour,  acclimatizing to the high altitude (this is no joke) and touring this beautiful city.

There were 5 of us in our group. One of my favorite things about Contiki is that you get to meet so many awesome people from around the world. In our group we had ladies from Scotland, London, Perth, and Philly. Our guide, Joel, was a Cusco native and you could just feel the love he had for his home. The passion, knowledge, and excitement that would radiate from him while he would teach us about the culture, history, and archaeological sites made the experience even more priceless. I already knew this was going to be the best trip of my life.

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We did so much our first day that I could have sworn I had been there a week. I was falling in love with Cusco. We toured the Plaza de Armas, Convento de Santo Domingo, and the local market. We went to dinner and made Pisco Sours, tried our first Peruvian cuisine, shared tons of laughs, and began to form a bond!

Next to come was Llamas, Alpacas, and Vicuñas. I totally wanted to smuggle one home but, I am too pretty for detainment.

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And can we talk about the colors you see while you are touring Peru? The country is full of color and natural beauty. After all Pachamama does watch over the land and bless all those who live there. But, I was blown away by the bright and beautiful colors of the clothing, the alpaca yarn, and the homes that displayed their flag of Cusco. I’m totally not going to lie – I thought the city was super gay pride when I first got there and was extremely excited. But nope, that’s just the flag of the Inca territory. It’s still beautiful though and represents pride. #naivewesterner

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We spent the night in Ollantaytambo, an adorable little town in the Sacred Valley rich with history and culture. It’s also known as the gateway to the Inca Trail. Yep, tonight was our last night in a modern hotel with toilets, beds, and cell phone service. We toured the town’s ruins, had a delicious meal, and then went right to bed. Tomorrow, we would start our hike – at 5:30 AM!

“I can do this.” “It won’t be that bad.” “Older people do it.” – Yeah I was just a little nervous.

As we crossed the Amazon River – yes, I said that correctly – the Amazon River. So cool! I was taken in awe of everything I was seeing. The men with their mules, traveling to the town from the top of the mountain to get their monthly supply of groceries for their families. The llamas, just doing what llamas do. The vegetation. The mountains.  The river. Everything was perfect. Can I just stay here forever? Nope, because I had about 25 more miles, 10,000 ft of altitude, and a million tears to get through before I reached my destination.

trail

Day 1: “Not so bad” they say. “It will be easy” they say. In all reality, it is tough. It is not the end of the world but, it is not at all easy. You need to be in somewhat decent physical shape and even then…you will struggle. As you start your journey through the Andes to your first campsite in Huyallabamba you will learn all about Inca steps. Jagged stone steps on steep inclines. So. Much. Fun. I cried, what would be the first of many tears this day. Not because I was sore. Not because I wanted to give up. It was because I was doing it. I was feeling again. This is what I needed. What I wanted. What I set out to do.

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Day 2: The absolute hardest day. Today would test me. Not only was it physically demanding – you hike up those lovely Inca steps for 4 to 5 straight hours. But, mentally you really learn a lot about what you can handle. As my knees began to buckle and my breathing became faint (you hike 4,000 ft in elevation in 4 hours) my will to keep going was swiftly decreasing. Thank God for the amazing women in my group, for the most supportive guides ever and the insanely, badass porters that would jet by with all our luggage and equipment. Because of them, I was able to put myself in check and “get ‘er done”.

At one point on the mountain, I started crying and saying I was over it. It felt like it would never end. Then, a white butterfly – where there shouldn’t be any because we were so high up – flew around me and landed on my shoulder. Dad was looking out and trekking right along with me. We were doing it together.

I found a rhythm: stop to breathe every 25 steps, drink water every 50, and keep positive. After 4.5 hours of uphill, passing through breathtaking cloud forests- we made it to Dead Woman’s Pass. Don’t worry, it’s called that because it looks like a supine woman.

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It was an accomplishment that we were all so proud to have achieved. As we rested at the highest peak of the trail, we took in all the surroundings and prepared for what was next. Three hours downhill. Down Inca steps. If you think going up was hard, going down was a whole new challenge.

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As we made our way down to our next campsite the views got even more amazing. From cloud forests at the peak to bamboo-filled, sub-tropical jungles in the valley – I never thought I would see all that I was seeing.

Day 3: Today was only 5 hours of hiking. After 7 hours of day one and 10 hours day two, 5 hours was going to be a breeze. I was a bit nervous because they said day 1 was going to be easy and it was pretty tough but, today was not that bad. It was a steady terrain of ups and downs – all Inca steps. There were definitely difficult moments but, all in all it was a good day with more and more gorgeous views. We even got to the campsite early enough to catch Peru vs. Ecuador soccer game. The porter’s had a cabin where they were streaming the game for 3 soles a person. It was a hidden gem and we were the only travelers included. Yeah – we were pretty lucky!

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Day 4: Rise and shine was at 3:30 AM. Why? So we can get first in line at the checkpoint when it opened at 5:30 AM – to be the first to start the 2-hour trek to the Sun Gate. We wanted to see the sun hit Machu Picchu at the perfect time and…we did. We made it to the Sun Gate within 1.5 hours. The gringo killers did not claim our group.

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We did it. I did it. We made it to Machu Picchu. The view from the Sun Gate brought me to tears. I had never seen anything so beautiful, breath-taking, and cultural – in my life. Was this real? Did I actually make it? It’s been 2 weeks and I still can’t get over the fact that my body, my mind, and my soul actually did it. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of travelers to have experienced it with either. Seriously, they all were amazing and I was so proud of each one of them.

After the trek, we toured the ancient site and then I enjoyed a nice Apu burger and many, many beers. Hey, I deserved it.

“If you didn’t sweat, cry, laugh, and smell bad…you didn’t do it right.”

The next few days we would spend celebrating, touring more of Ollantaytambo and Cusco and enjoying our last moments together.

Peru, you are a beautiful, diverse, rich, historic city. I will always cherish the time I spent in you and I only hope to return again soon.

Most of all, thank you for making me feel again.

Until next time.

XoXo,

Sara

Want to book your own solo trip to Peru and Machu Picchu? Let me help you!

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