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the best trip i have ever been on

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  • Since the Russian invasion, more than 400,000 Airbnb nights have been booked in Ukraine.
  • Reservations are not for actual stays; they are for donations. I joined and connected with a host in Lviv.
  • “I don’t want to leave my homeland,” she told me. “Here are my parents; here my (future) child is to be born.”

Friday night, I lay restless in my bed listening to the muffled sounds of a nearby car alarm going off somewhere in my Brooklyn neighborhood. Halfway around the world, in a different time zone, a stranger named Anna hadn’t slept in days. She could hear the faint sounds of air raid sirens outside her home in Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.

As my sleepless night was the result of the atrocities I had witnessed on the news during the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier that evening, Anna wondered what tomorrow might bring to her now war-torn country. .

Shortly after a February 24 televised speech where Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted that modern Ukraine was a threat to Russia, effectively declaring war on the country, shops in Lviv began closing and closing. Citizens waited patiently for the ATM in single file, hoping there would still be enough cash when it was their turn, and the city instituted a mandatory curfew in effect daily from 10 p.m. 6 a.m.

As I sat at my kitchen table the next morning, sipping a cup of tea and reading the latest news from Ukraine, my phone vibrated with a calendar reminder for the two-bedroom apartment in Lviv that I had impulsively booked on Airbnb earlier in the day. .

My reservation was four hours away. Yet I sat there, without a shower, still in my pajamas and without any packed bags, moving in slow motion.

I had created an Airbnb account in 2013, yet I had never booked a place before this one – a room I never planned on using. When I started looking for accommodation in those quiet morning hours before sunrise, I didn’t bother with the typical things first world travelers often do. I wasn’t interested in the views, how walkable the location was, how close to places of interest, or dare I say the thread count of the sheets. I haven’t asked my network for restaurant recommendations or posted questions in the myriad of online travel groups I belong to.

My only requirement was that the accommodations be available immediately. When I found a spot with availability, I booked it for two nights for a total of $180, knowing the funds would be directed to the host. within 24 hours of check-in.

When my reservation was confirmed, I messaged my host, Anna, to let her know that I would not be coming and to accept my payment as a show of solidarity and support. Although extremely grateful, I’m sure she was not surprised.

Since the concept went viral two weeks ago, people around the world have been booking Airbnb reservations in Ukraine in a bid to get money quickly and securely into the hands of people on the ground. Movement even prompted Airbnb to waive its usual feesand according to a March 11 tweet Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said 434,000 nights had been booked on Airbnb in Ukraine. A total of $15 million had gone directly to the hosts.

(It is important to note, however, that not all Airbnbs in Ukraine are tied to small, local hosts. any major world event like this, it’s important to research where your donations are going. This Skift Story has some great tips on how to do it.)

But beyond financial transactions, reservation requests are now accompanied by notes of sympathy from people around the world who often receive letters of gratitude from their virtual hosts as well as a glimpse of their lives at the moment.

When I sent my own note, I received a response within the hour.

“All my adult life I have hosted guests from different countries around the world,” Anna wrote. “I show them Lviv, I tell them about Ukraine. Now we are fighting for the right to live on our land.

“I don’t want to leave my homeland. Here are my parents, this is where my (future) child should be born.”

Right now, Ukrainians are evacuating their cities en masse. Since Anna and her Airbnb partner Oksana have a number of bookings from people like me who don’t actually use their accommodation, the duo opened up their apartments to displaced Ukrainians in their city. I know this because Anna and I now communicate regularly.

I wish I could do more, and I’m far from the only one. This is reflected in the fact that an overwhelming number of people rent these Airbnbs with the aim of helping innocent people in the midst of such turmoil.

This gesture has allowed me and thousands of others around the world to provide financial and emotional support to people in desperate need. For that reason alone, booking Anna’s Airbnb was the best trip I’ve ever been on.