Monday, December 15, 2014

What it's like to work at Airbnb, yo.

On Tuesday mornings my phone vibrates at 8:50am on my desk, and everyone at the office snags the last bagels from the toasters, fills up with coffee, and piles into our open area on the third floor for the weekly meeting. For any other workplace, this is probably a mundane, pain-in-the-ass gathering..but not at Airbnb.

Lots of people have asked me about what it's like to work at Airbnb. The way they ask, you'd think I worked at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. And I suppose, from what they've read online, magazine covers and the experiences they've had traveling with us, it's understandable. Airbnb is unlike any other company in the world. 

First off, I love working here because of the people. I don't know how they did it, but I could sit through an international flight with anyone in my office. Everyone has a story, we are all passionate, with a heart of gold. The people I work with every day have been hostel owners, baristas, magazine editors, non-profit founders, boutique owners, and any other profession you can think of that demands intelligence, resilience, hard work, and a love for people. Dreamers AND doers. We have our own unique hobbies and expertise outside of work that we share with each other, like fine beer tasting, button making, coffee roasting, marathon training, safety lanyard making, painting with Bob Ross, etc. Most of us love to host or attend fun, local events (like once I almost got killed in paintball), which makes living in Portland so much more interesting. We have a Happy Hour every Thursday, which means an open bar at super hipster venues and we all share coconut water with each other the next day. Well, not like SHARE..but we have loads at work and we drink it. Since most of us have lived in Portland for a fair amount of time, my colleagues are also a wealth of Portland knowledge. It's really easy to belong at Airbnb because we're so diverse that you're bound to find someone with the same quirks. We've also got each other's backs. If I'm ever in need of a pick-up truck or want brunch buddies, I know I can send out an office email and be taken care of. Many of us are Airbnb hosts in Portland, and ALL of us have traveled and stayed at Airbnbs. We are fans. I think if you want a spectacular company, you need to start with spectacular people. Airbnb knows this, and the people that continue to join us are just, so cool. 

Second, our work. When I started in our office in Portland, we only had about 40 people. Now we have over 220 people, and we're still going to be growing into next year. That's just the Portland office, the headquarters are still in San Francisco. We are a start-up, but becoming one of the largest start-ups in the tech world. We are making history in live time, because we are changing how people travel. The mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, and where there will be no more strangers. Far fetched? I think not. On my last trip, almost every stranger I encountered became a friend. Love and friendship is an international language. In every new city I visited, I booked Airbnbs and so I had someone there waiting for me, to welcome me, to highlight the best places to go, and we left as good friends. No joke, we're Facebook friends and everything. I felt like an Airbnb commercial. Most of us in the Portland office are Trip Experience Specialists. I talk on the phone every day with users, both hosts and guests from all over the world. They tell me everything, from the good to the bad, but one thing is apparent to me: everyone just wants a unique accommodation experience and to connect with others when they're traveling. And we do that. One of my favorite things is that if a guest is having an unexpected experience, since I've had plenty of my own traveling mishaps, I can genuinely emphasize...and I can save them. You have to have been through it in order to understand it, and luckily my colleagues are also explorers, travelers, and determined free spirits with a deep concern for others. The great thing about Airbnb is that if something goes wrong, we will do everything within reason to save the day, whereas other companies won't. I feel good about the morals of our company and the choices I get to make, and I would not say the same of every company I've worked for in the past. There's definitely a feeling of being a part of something bigger, and it's so exciting. 

Third, the perks. I know this is what everyone is curious about. Yes, it's all true, and I don't take any of it for granted. Airbnb takes very good care of their employees. We are, after all, Airbnb Family. If you follow my Instagram (missw0ng, #airbnb #airbnbpdx #airfam), you know we have amazing, organic and local catered breakfasts and lunches every day. We have an espresso machine but also a selection of freshly brewed, gourmet coffee available. We get lots of vacation days, reasonably flexible schedules, beers on tap, impressive health care benefits, and travel credit with Airbnb. We get office picnics, team getaways, Bluestar/Voodoo/Wafflewindow deliveries, and the building is even dog-friendly. The pay is not bad either, and with the company growing so quickly there are lots of opportunities for upward mobility or to get involved with the community through Citizenship or designing office space. Oh, this week we finally revealed our office space to the public. Our office space might be the envy of all of downtown offices, with our yurt, tree house, hammocks and beautiful living room nooks. It's really nifty, and coworkers come in even on days off to hang out. We even have 'landing zones', which are like standing desks with cubbies so we have a place to store our stuff, but in an innovative, non-desk like way. We don't have assigned seats, and the views out the window make me fall in love with Portland all over again. We all have MacAirs, and tons of Airbnb swag. I could probably go a whole week just wearing Airbnb clothes. Gotta rep that RAUSCH bélo. 

I love Airbnb as a host, a guest, and an employee. It's been undoubtedly one of the best things that have ever happened to me, and every day I feel like the luckiest girl alive. There's magic where I work, and it's probably even better than Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. 

PS. We are allowed to bring guests in for tours or even for lunch! If you would like to come by let me know in advance. 

Here's a nice little thing about us on OregonLive

One of my favorite rooms

It feels like...a home. 

Doggies are a big part of our family. 

Even when it's raining outside, it looks so pretty from the inside. 

Our treehouse! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Confessions of a Single Girl (oh shoot, that's me.)

The best thing about traveling is that you get to experience the best of all worlds. I love making new friends, trying local food, picking up languages, seeing beautiful scenery..and then coming home and falling into my soft, ever-welcoming bed, enjoying craft beers, and having good times with my beloved, established friends. In fact, traveling makes me love my home even more...if I don't make that obvious enough.

But the holidays have got me feelin' funky. I know you wanna hear it, so I'll confess-lately I've been kinda wanting to fall in love. Like, the type where I end up going steady, in a committed relationship, with a boyfriend, whatever you want to call it. I have no idea how I could ever find one or what to feed it. Wanting to be in a relationship seems to be irrationally unpopular these days, for my age and in my city. I think I may have just committed social suicide, but I don't really care. Flirtations are easy to find (Tinder, duh!), but where do you find the boyfriends? At home, having a beer and watching Netflix? Well how the hell will I ever meet them then if they're all in their own homes?! Everyone seems to have someone that they belong with, and no matter how hard I try to focus on other insatiable hobbies, wanting companionship nags at me with the same force as wanting to travel. Traveling is much easier to gratify though, you just buy a plane ticket and go.

The problem is, my standards for an actual match won't stop rising and it's getting out of control. I think one of the most heart-wrenching moments during my trip in South America was when I was out kayaking with a French dude I met on the bus. We're just friends, and he stops padding to ask me in a heavy accent, "I don't understand. You are so pretty and fun. I just don't understand how you do not have a boyfriend." I just laughed and told him that every time I like someone (and I rarely ever do) he's not right for me. It was the simplest way I could explain it, and it's pretty accurate. I had proved it true just the week before, when I fell for a frustratingly charming man in La Paz. He was traveling through the country as well, and he just had this confident, playful grin and genuine energy to match. But we had to kiss goodbye, cause our buses were leaving in opposite directions and I'm not naive enough hope for anything more. See, never right for me.

How in the world, filled with billions of people, do two people meet and actually like each other? And what are the chances that even if they like each other's personalities, looks, have similar interests, goals, values, live in the same country, are ready to date, and have chemistry...who knows if they will want to commit to each other? And not fuck it up a week later? I guess that's why they say love is magic. 

I am very happy with my life, and I love the time I'm getting to spend with myself. I need the space and freedom to breathe, grow, create and be lazy if I want. I'm not mad about being single, and the bachelorette life has treated me well. I'm pretty awesome and I don't need this validated by a guy. But if I'm to be honest with myself, I'm still feelin' funky.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How I Survived Machu Picchu

First off, I barely made it. Whoever told me that anyone with average fitness levels would have no problems is a liar. Hiking the four day, three night Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was one of the hardest things I've ever done, mentally and physically.

Maybe it was harder because I had expected it to be easy, and I admit I've been in better shape before. It's not my fault Portland is THE beer mecca and beer is my biggest weakness. Anyways! Hiking Machu Picchu now requires you to go with a guided tour group, and I went with Llamapath. I highly recommend them, because they were amazing. If you want to do the classic 4-day trek that I did, you have to reserve your spot months in advance, like I did. In order to go in November, I paid for my spot in August. Otherwise, you can show up to Cusco, walk up to a tour agency, and buy a day package to go straight into the Machu Picchu ruins via bus. Don't be lame.

To prepare for this hike, I bought hiking boots and zippy pants, two things I would have never been caught dead wearing a year ago. But I figured everyone else would be wearing the same stuff there, and functionally is the most important thing (IT WAS). I was also convinced into renting hiking poles, and I forgot my sleeping bag so I had to rent that too. HOW did I forget a sleeping bag?! I brought my big Osprey backpack which was incredibly light whenever I had it on due to how the weight was designed to be distributed. Our group had a prep meeting the night before leaving in Cusco, so that they could tell us we were going to meet at 4am the following morning. I didn't even get a chance to go to the expat Irish bars!

If you go, bring clothing for all four seasons, 'cause the guide said it, and nothing was closer to the truth. Bring sunscreen, bug spray, a poncho, a really warm jacket, sunglasses, everything. Every day was different, but some days it would be scorching hot and then it would hail on us! My tent-mate (I got pitched with the only other single girl traveling alone..she was from Canada and let's just say we did NOT become best friends) (but I loved everyone else) brought duct tape to wrap around her toes to prevent blisters. Also, I carried my own backpack cause I didn't want to be a wussy, but in hindsight I wouldn't recommend it. Hire a porter, a native who works for the company to carry things for you-their calves are bigger than your head! Almost everyone in our group had a porter, and although I'm proud of myself for enduring the massive annoyance, I would have enjoyed the trek more if I had been free to prance around. The path was rocky and steep, with really massive inclines at some points and slippery, narrow descents. It was always changing and some parts were alongside cliff drops, so we had to focus on our footing.

We hiked for hours every day, starting really early in the morning like 5am and then ending around 4-5pm for dinner. I felt like I was in the army or something and we were on a mission, so I rarely complained. Each day we had to cover certain distances in order to reach our next campsite, which the porters would run ahead to set up and prepare for us. We had delicious, elaborate multiple course meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, like ceviches, fried Kondor drumsticks, kababs, pizza, mashed potatoes, steak salads and even cake. It was like a magic show every time they brought out the next dish. Everyone thought we were going to lose weight from hiking all day, but we certainly gained it back during meal times. I guess our excuse was that we needed it for energy, but honestly everything just tasted so good, and it got extremely cold at night so we all almost overdosed on Milo and instant coffee.

And the views really were breathtaking, just like everyone said. It wasn't overrated at all. We took multiple breaks to drink water, reapply sunscreen, and take photos. I cried often whenever we got to a viewpoint (okay, maybe more like silently shed a few tears) because being amongst the clouds up in the mountains just filled me up with awe and appreciation for the beauty of our earth. And also, it felt really, really good to take my backpack off. Our guide would have us sit in a circle sometimes to tell us stories of the Incas as we overlooked ruins. It was hard for me to pay attention to the history of the stuff, even though I knew it was very important. I would just be the first to walk up and touch the rough stone surfaces and trace the cracks and patterns engraved there from so many years ago. Whenever we got to a site that had homes, I would walk through the doorways and try to picture which room I would want. From what our guide said, the Inca Trail was made to be a pilgrimage for the future rulers of their civilization, and the different sites along the way all served different purposes. He also told us tons of random facts, like how potatoes originated in Peru. Then the Spaniards brought them to Europe. And the Europeans brought them back to the States. Haha!

On Day Four, our whole group decided to be the first ones to reach the Sun Gate. Usually our group would camp at different sites, but on the last night all the other trek groups are at the same site, in order to get to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning. We had to get up at 2:50AM to be the first. WHAT THE HELL. I honestly didn't really care to be the first group in, but everyone was so adamant about it I just pretended to be excited too. The Sun Gate is a lookout point that overlooks all of Machu Picchu, the entrance. I was drenched in sweat from racing to the top with my group, so disgusting that I didn't even want to take a photo. OH! Did I mention there were no showers for the duration of the trek? Baby wipes all the way. The view was pretty, but I was so dizzy from it being a weird hour and running with the altitude that I was just happy to enter the site.

You know how they say it's about the journey, not the destination? This was a perfect example. I'm not saying that Machu Picchu wasn't impressive, but it wasn't much different from the other ruins we had passed on our way to get there. It was just a lot bigger, and flooded with tourists. Still, we had to get that money shot. You know, the one on the rock with Machu Picchu in the background. I had spent the entire trek rotating my thoughts between boys and how to post for this photo. There were also a lot of llamas wandering around, just to meet everyone's expectations. But we were so damn triumphant about completing the journey, I bet we could have ended up anywhere and been happy. 

After a few hours, I got on a bus to take us down to Agua Calientes, a little town 30 minutes away to recoup, eat, and prepare to take the train back to Cusco. I had a beer, but I would recommend skipping it and just getting a piso sour instead.

And that's it!

Dead Woman's Pass

Setting up camp after Day 1, a lady with a basket was selling beer haha

Good morning, our base camp of Day 3 and sweaty laundry

Day 3 ruins

Taking a moment to soak in the sun.

We ate well, really well. 

Morning of Day 4, waiting for the Sun Gates to open-almost there! 

Gringo Ladder, how bad do you wanna get there?

Money shot-group photo first. 

It really was all about the journey. 

Look, I found llamas!