How to find a good Airbnb by understanding reviews

How to find a great Airbnb listing by reading reviews

How to find the perfect airbnb place to sleep takes a little time and investigating some of the comments

Finding that perfect Airbnb place to sleep

Understanding how Reviews really work

Finding a good Airbnb that’s right for you can sometimes feel daunting. Airbnb listings can range from luxury homes with great perks to crazy ass nightmares. I know, I’ve rented both. But when it comes to figuring out how to actually read ‘between the lines’ of an online review, it can be difficult. It turns out that homeowners can literally loose their shit if you leave even a slightly bad review. Therefore, guest are getting more and more nervous about saying anything that may remotely sound like a bad experience on a review. So how do you figure out if a place is right for you when all the reviews are good and passive? I’m going to do my best to help guide you through on how to read a review on Airbnb before you book your next rental with them.

Reading and understanding the reviews written by previous airbnb guests can help you avoid nightmare situations

That perfect airbnb homestay can sometime be a nightmare

When searching for the perfect airbnb, I find a few listings that I really like and then I head to the reviews to see what people are saying about the property, the home itself, and the owners/hosts.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a listing that has 4.7 or more out of 5 stars it sets off an alarm. That kind of score is almost unheard of for most hotels. The average rating on hotels is 3.9 out of 5 stars – and that’s often with more than 100 reviews! Really? Then what the hell is going on with Airbnb reviews? 

Many people suspect there’s a psychological thing going on with guests and hosts. Some people might feel bad leaving a negative review (I’ve had friends tell me this) because they think that many hosts are using Airbnb to supplement their income so they don’t want to leave any negative feedback. Even when it could help the hosts in the future with more bookings! 

I know some people are hesitant to write a negative review because they are afraid of repercussions. Recently, at a place we were staying in Mexico, the last guest before us wrote a review (we did not see this until we were already staying at the location) that I felt was kind and extremely light on any sort of real negativity. However, the guest did mention some ‘small’ issue with a toilet not working and the noise of construction nearby. Yet, the guest still said she enjoyed her stay and would ‘recommend’ the listing.

Unfortunately, the homeowner lost her shit and responded with a long list of defensiveness that was not only insulting to the guest, but also included all the issues and problems the area has – as if it was not her fault! In other words, she completely shot herself and her listing in the foot since not only would this guest not come back, but she will not be recommending this place to anyone else either. Adding a cherry right on top of this response, the owner is now giving future guests the impression that the area sucks and she’s a crazed person who can’t stand having lodgers. 

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about ’scathing’ reviews here folks. I’m talking about people clearly being helpful to the homeowner for improvements and to help the next poor schmuck that rents the place. A simple heads-up is always a good thing for the next guest.

In any case, since ratings on the website are so high, it’s even more important to have a critical eye when reading these reviews.


Here are a few recommendations on not only how to interpret a review, but how to find out more about the location and the host.

Getting the most out of your airbnb homestay requires a bit of investigating before you book your vacation

Sometimes you need more then just a comfortable bed when staying at an Airbnb homestay



Check out the description the best you can. Hosts will often tell the truth (but not always) about their particular property to avoid bad reviews later. I noticed our last host emailed me back to say she wanted to make sure I knew there was not an actual ocean view – though her listing never said it did- but I have to assume she had trouble in the past with other guests about this misunderstanding. It seems that if she’s had issues before that it is only fair that she actually state in her listing that there is not an ocean view.

Also look for descriptions like, “located in a busy neighborhood,” as this could indicate that it might be a bit noisy.


When I read how a place is “the best ever” or is a “perfect apartment” I have to stand back and think about this. Is that possible? Could this really be the “perfect” apartment? This is when I’ll go deeper and read every review as best as I can. In many cases, you will start hearing small truths come out in very polite ways. “Best stay ever… even with their cute dog who jumps on you all the time”. Or, “I loved this rustic place! It’s close to the city center and we met many other nice guests”. This can also mean that it’s not very modern or maybe clean and of course can refer to being noisy with traffic, barking dogs, and possibly other loud guests.



This is a big flag for me. Because a host can reply to a guest review publicly, sometimes these ‘responses’ can really indicate what kind of person the host might be and how they may behave during your stay. Like I mentioned earlier, a recent host went ballistic on this other guest because of the benign review she left. If I had read the homeowners response before booking, I’m pretty sure I would not have booked our stay there. I too wanted to write some important feedback about our stay (in another apartment nearby) but now we are terrified to do so in fear of being attacked by the host. When a homeowner writes a thank you for feedback and is happy and respectful with a guests suggestions, that’s the host I want to stay with.


Airbnb offers lodging for all types of travelers and not every place if for every body. My husband and I are digital nomads and our needs maybe very different from someone on vacation. We require fast internet speed to get our work done. We’re also home most of the day, so noise can be an issue for us. However, many people using airbnb are on holiday and are out each day exploring and being active. Therefore daytime noise (like construction) may not be a problem. Maybe the host hasn’t mentioned what floor the room is on and you can’t walk up 5 flights of stairs each day. If you can’t figure out from the listing if a place fits your needs, contact the host first and see if they will be honest with you. This can avoid a lot of confusion and issues later.



Some people just want to complain about anything. Stuff that clearly doesn’t matter when it comes to renting a property short term. If someone doesn’t like the paintings on the wall, or the kind of cups that were provided, then you know this is just someone being a little too needy. However, if the toilet stops working or the internet goes down and no one will fix it, then obviously, these issues can be a real concern.

There are also things that happen that are outside the homeowners control. Like when a place might lose power, or the washing machine breaks. I find it’s how the owner handles and takes care of these things that really matters to me. A couple years ago we were in Bali and the airbnb rental we were staying in suddenly lost power. This can be a common occurrence in Bali. It was extremely hot at the time and we had rented this particular place because it had air conditioning. The owner quickly brought us a floor fan and ran an extension cord from another location (with power) to accommodate us as best as they could. Yes, it was a bummer we didn’t have power and A/C for a day, but the owner did the best they could for us at the time.  So, when reading a review, try to decipher if the host is responsive when issues do come up. In the example in Bali, reading a review about the power issue would indicate a good host.


Things change. So the construction nearby written in a review from last year hopefully is finished by now. The barking dog that keep guests awake all night in a review from 2 years ago – may have gone off to live at a farm somewhere far away. Just make sure you are reading the most current reviews and if you’re not sure, again contact the host to find out if that issue has been resolved.

Barking dogs are one of the many "hidden" problems at airbnb rentals

Is that cute dog going to bark all night at your airbnb homestay


Like I mentioned before, some people are just natural complainers and you can never please them. You can click on a person’s profile to see more of these reviews and if they regularly leave bad reviews for their hosts. Also you can see what other hosts have said about them. If they are just a pain in the ass to everyone they stay with, I wouldn’t take much weight into what they have to say about the place I may want to book.

In the same way, I will regularly go to the hosts profile to see their other listings and check their reviews there as well.

In the end, as always, use your gut and your instincts when it comes to all these things. If a place looks too good to be true, it might be. Hopefully, Airbnb will start allowing guests to post their own photos of the home and figure out ways to help people leave constructive feedback for others.

If you haven’t already tried Airbnb for your vacation rental needs, sign up through our link and we get a little credit at no additional cost to you. (Airbnb affiliate link).

Preparing for Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago

Walking Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago

I’m finally going to take another long distant walking trip this fall. This time, I’m going to be walking Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago in southern France. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but just haven’t been able to start. Now, after years of visualizing, I’m going with 2 female friends of mine for a 3 week French adventure. We’ll spend some time before and after the walk eating our hearts out in France and San Sebastian Spain.


Jaime testing out new backpack for Le Puy Route of the Camino de Santiago.

My new backpack for walking Le Puy Route of the Camino de Santiago


Le Puy route

Our plans are to walk a self-guided 10-11 day trip in France starting in Lectoure and ending in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This section of the Camino is referred to as part of the Le Puy Route or the Way of St. James. Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that follows trails through rural south west France and along the Grand Randonnée 65.

My Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago

We will be stoping at the end of each day in a different village or town where we will have basic accommodations and plenty of food and water. Our stops my change, but my plan at the moment is the following:

Schedule for walking Le Puy Route of the Camino de Santiago

DAY 1  Lectoure to La Romieu 19.8 km

DAY 2  La Romieu to Larressingle 19.1 km

DAY 3  Larressingle to Eauze 28.8 km

DAY 4  Eauze to Nogaro 20 km     

DAY 5  Nogaro to Aire-sur-l’Adour 27.5 km

DAY 6  Aire-sur-l’Adour to Maslacq 54km REST DAY /BUS   

DAY 7  Maslacq to Navarrenx 23 km

DAY 8  Navarrenx to Aroue 20.1. km

DAY 9  Aroue to Ostabat 24.9 km

DAY 10  Ostabat to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port 22.7 km



To prepare for this kind of walk, I’ve needed to up my game in exercise and in walking. Getting my body ready for these long distances means walking long distances whenever I can. Fortunately, here in Mexico there are plenty of beautiful long distant rural walks to take. Also, every Saturday a group hike takes place in a different location in the area with anywhere from 5 to 20 hikers. It takes about 2-3 hours and can give me a good 7-8 km walk at a time. The last two Saturdays, I went the extra kilometer and walked back to town from the starting point of the hike adding another 16 km to my day.

Poco a poco (little by little) is what we say here in Mexico.

A little about Money

Those of you who know me, know that I don’t buy much. I don’t spend money often (besides on plane tickets – and even then I get great deals) because, well, after 4 years of full time nomad travel I’ve got no where to put ‘stuff’. Occasionally, I buy some new clothes when things wear out, but not very often. We’ve simplified our lives so much that having more is not always a good thing in our case.

I have spent so much of my life believing that I could not afford the actual real-life that I’ve been living for the last 10 years. Of course, I’ve worked hard to save money and to simplify my lifestyle, but mostly I have adjusted how I feel about money and how it comes to me.

Years ago, I realized it was important to focus on what I wanted FIRST and THEN allow the money to find it’s way to me. I know this sounds silly to a lot of people, but it’s how it has worked for me for the last 25 years of my life. And it’s exactly what happened with this trip. Yes, I did set a budget aside for this adventure and in the end I’m confident that I will not regret my decision and the costs that will occur.

Getting prepared to walk Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago took a hefty investment in new gear and equipment. I hadn’t updated my hiking gear and clothes in almost 20 years. And even back then, I didn’t want to spend much money so I bought lower quality items that have long since worn out. This time around, and since I am now more emotionally and physically invested in long distance walking, I am buying what suits my needs first and not worrying ‘too’ much about the costs. I’m hoping there will be plenty more of these walks in my future.


Purchases so far

Here’s the first of a few things I’ve bought myself after 20 years of basically no backpacking upgrades. I will share more later.

Hiking Boots

My preparations began with buying new hiking boots last summer – giving myself plenty of time to break them in. I choose Keen Targhee II Mid waterproof boots after having another hiking companion recommend them. They are amazing! These boots are everything I was looking for in a hiking shoe. Extremely lightweight, breathable, waterproof, and comfortable. I think they have a great grip for tough terrain and were very easy to break in. I’ve been walking in them regularly for the last 6 months including long 20km days through rural Mexico and they are my favorite hiking boot I’ve ever owned.





I did a TON of research on this one. I read a hundred blogs and watched every video I could on finding the perfect backpack for my specific needs. Finally, I found the perfect pack for me. I picked the Osprey Sirrus 36 liters Backpack. It is just the right size for long distance walks where camping is not part of the plan. I won’t have to carry camping gear, tent, camp stove, water, water filters, pots, food, etc. Instead, we will be staying each night in a dorm, convent, hotel, guest house, or something similar. There is plenty of water and food along the way and no need to carry more than a few light snacks.

I also bought an Osprey 1.5 liter water bladder that conveniently fits inside the pack.

This backpack has a ton of nice features. First of all, it’s VERY lightweight (as you can see, this is an ongoing theme with everything since I’m carrying this stuff on my back for many long days). It has a cooling system so your back does not get too hot. It has 2 hip pockets to carry your phone or snacks. Even though it is top loading, it also has a side zipper pocket for easy access inside the main compartment. It has all the features I was looking for in a pack. And it’s avocado green!!!

Osprey Sirrus 36 liter backpack


Trekking Poles

I also invested in some trekking poles since it’s something I can use anywhere on a long distant walk. Not only do they help prevent you from falling and losing balance, but they keep your hands from fatigue when they are normally at your sides.

I choose Trekology Trek -Z collapsible poles so that I can easy fold them down into my carry-on backpack. Once I did research on the cork handles, I decided that would work best for me because they will help absorb palm sweating. Also, super lightweight and compact.




I’m slowly getting more and more prepared and more and more excited!

Buen Camino!


By Jaime Byrd


Two years ago, we purged most of our belongings, rented our house and started to travel indefinitely.

Since then, we’ve lived in dozens of luxurious homes in some of the world’s most desirable places. Two different large villas in Bali, a modern apartment in Vietnam, a beach house in Thailand, and several luxury homes in Mexico. All these experiences were possible by house sitting.

For some people it’s a great way to vacation, but for us, it’s a way of life. It’s a way in which to help us shed our belongings, live more simply, meet more locals, and concentrate on “experiences” in our lives rather than material things.

I get asked regularly about how we find our housesitting jobs and how we travel the way we do. But I never seem to be asked, “what does it take to be a house sitter?”. Most of the people I talk to seem to think it’s a lot easier then it is, even suggesting their teenage children or anyone can do it. Well, I don’t believe this to be true.

House and pet setting is not for everyone. Some people think it’s just free lodging. Many people I know only have a short time available for a vacation and housesitting may not be the best option in these cases. Plus, there are many different things to consider when becoming a housesitter before you buy that airline ticket or hit the road.

So, is house sitting right for you? Before you actually start your journey it may be important first to take a reality check and answer a few questions. Below, I’ve listed some things to consider before taking the leap. If you’re able to answer “yes” to all of these questions, then pack your bags and get ready for an adventure of a life time!

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1. Are you responsible and reliable?

If you said yes, then good for you!

Remember, housesitting is a job. It’s not a way to only get free lodging while you’re on vacation. Good communication, showing up on time, taking care of the house as if it were your own, feeding and treating the pets with special care, recognizing an unwell animal, and respecting the home and it’s owners are just a few important things to take into consideration when accepting a housesitting position. Homeowners need someone they can trust to look after their pets and home and they want someone responsible, reliable, honest, and caring.


2. Do you love pets?

Yes again? You’re on a roll!

Not all housesits have animals, but many homeowners are looking for a sitter to not only care for their home while they’re away, but also to look after their beloved pets. Many sits involve animals that will not only need to be fed and walked daily, but they also need to be loved and played with. Being present and part of the pack is the best way to make for happy pets!

For many people, pets are family members, so reassuring them that you will show the same level of love and affection you would as if they were your own pets can help you secure your perfect house sit. Pet sitting does have responsibility attached, but if you love pets then it can be more of a pleasure then a job.


What we travel the world with

3. Are you willing to commit to stay in the home every night?

If yes, then you’re still in luck!

One of the biggest commitments with house sitting is being present in the home. Homeowners don’t like to leave their homes empty for many reasons. The owners may want to deter criminals from vandalizing or breaking into their home, or they may want things to be looked after to make sure there are no accidents or water leaks that could do further damage to their home. Leaving all day long and only returning late at night to sleep is not the best option either. Owners want to know someone is there regularly and making sure the home looks as though it’s lived in and lights are being turned on and off regularly.

Driving the dogs on the scooters to the beach. Bali

Driving the dogs on the scooters to the beach. Bali


4. Are you flexible?

Yes again? Great. This is looking good!

Having flexible travel dates and travel locations can help in your search for a perfect sit and experience. Try to look beyond the popular beach spots and go somewhere on a less traveled path. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you will discover! Also, the more flexible you can be with dates, the more house sits you will find.



5. Are you looking for more then just a free place to stay? Are you up for additional challenges?

If you said yes again, you may be a housesitter!

You may be lead to believe that free lodging is the best part of housesitting – and there is no doubt that it IS a very good part – but it is not the only part. Keep in mind that there are responsibilities and some that may put a damper on your daily excursions for sight seeing if you plan to be on vacation.

There are other factors to housesitting that some people might find challenging, such as living in a homeowners space on top of their belongings. We don’t mind it, but some people do. Many housesits include the ongoing duties of a household staff including a housekeeper who might clean weekly, semi-weekly or even daily, a gardener who comes regularly, and/or a pool maintenance worker. It is the responsibility of the housesitter to oversee these workers in order to maintain the household’s continuity. This can be a luxury or a burden depending on your perspective.

Yes, there are some homeowners out there looking for part time employees, but most of the time they just need someone who can take care of the small things that often go wrong around a house. Things that deal with simple plumbing, electric, heating, and appliances. If it’s beyond a simple repair, then you may need to make sure you can get a professional there to help with the problem and communicate well with the homeowners.


6. Are you willing to go the extra mile and show you care?

If yes, then housesitting is in your future!

We think it’s important to do your very best and whenever possible, even go beyond what may be expected. We like to make sure things are put back exactly as we found them, wash and fill the gas tanks on any cars or motorbikes left for our use, make sure all the linens are clean and bedding is replaced, clean up, and even have cold beer, wine, juice, snacks, (or even dinner if you are so inclined), waiting for the homeowner on their return. The smallest of gestures can show your appreciation and could earn you an invite to house sit next time they are away.



So, if you answered yes to all the questions, then you are ready to begin your journey of becoming a housesitter! There are so many opportunities out there and even though competition may feel high at times, there is always enough for everyone!  Good luck and enjoy your travels!

Ready to get started on your housesitting adventure?
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Slow Travel


Imagine living for a few weeks or even months in an Italian village, buying fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market every week, sipping coffee on your terrace, and taking easy going day trips to neighboring villages and chateaus when you feel like it. That’s what slow travel is all about.  Where the emphasis is less on constant sightseeing and more about taking in the surroundings at a relaxed pace.

So many people I know return from a vacation feeling exhausted and in need of another ‘vacation’ just to relax for a few days. It seems like so many of us already live hectic and busy lives, so how is activity-intense vacations suppose to help us unwind? Spending 1-2 weeks of intense tourist attractions and sightseeing does not make for a relaxing holiday. At least not for us. 

Fortunately,  Adam and I have been doing this kind of travel – that’s now part of a larger movement – that has emerged over the last 10 years as a solution to tourist burnout. It’s called “slow travel”.

map with pinsThe two of us started doing slow travel after our very first trip to Europe – where we were doing the typical American vacation thing of trying to pack in as much as we could in a short period of time. It only took us 2 weeks before we were exhausted and couldn’t bare to go on and see one more church.

Then while in Spain, we met an American man on a train who told us he was on a mission to see 8 different countries in only 2 weeks. Hearing his agenda exhausted us both – and we knew then that this would never be the way we would want to travel. Spending more time on a bus, train, or plane, then in the actual places we were trying to “see” was never going to be us. It was at that moment we decided that we need to actually spend more time in less places. 




So, what is SLOW TRAVEL?

Slow travel is like slow food. It’s about taking your time to create something more meaningful and healthy. By traveling slow, you’re able to appreciate and respect local flavors, traditions, art, culture, local farming, and environments – and end up spending a lot less money then moving around so much. It’s about getting to know one small area really well instead of getting to know very little about a whole lot of places.atlas with wine

It’s a mindset.

Slow travel is not always about renting a small house or room for a week or more – though this is a great idea and I highly recommend it. It can also be about taking the less traveled road. Going to places no one else has heard of. Getting on a bus just to see where it may go. It could also be about taking a train across land instead of flying. Or riding a bike from pub to pub. The idea is, no matter what floats your boat, is to slow down, take in your surroundings, smell the roses, and be here now.


Why I love Slow Travel

jaime-trudi-and-oritI feel a much stronger connection to the places I’m visiting – and of course the people too. We’re not trying to check things off a bucket list, or see every site in a guidebook. We prefer getting to know our neighbors, shopping in the local markets where people get to know who we are. I love finding favorite places to eat or have coffee, or a park where I can go sit under a tree and read a book.

I also believe slow travel is cheeper on many levels. Transportation costs will go down significantly when you are not moving around so much. Long term lodging is always less expensive. And now with Airbnb, there are lot’s of options for weekly and monthly rentals just about everywhere in the world.  Also, when you take your time, you will be allowed to cook and learn from the locals how to use local ingredients therefore saving money from so much time eating out.

Another thing that I love about slow travel is overcoming language barriers, differences in customs and other stumbling blocks to make connections with the people I meet along the way. This is the most fulfilling part for us both.

Once you slow down, it’s hard to go back. Few places in the world move as fast as American’s do, so when you get on the same pace as those around you, it’s easier to escape the stress of a fast paced life.

How do you slow travel?

to be continued….

Leaving our “Peaceful Mountain Retreat”

Peaceful Mountain Retreat, Fairview, North Carolina – just outside of Asheville.

Peaceful Mountain Retreat, Fairview, North Carolina – just outside of Asheville.

It felt like sixteen years of repairs and maintenance done in about 3 months. That’s what we had to do before getting our log home in the mountains of western North Carolina ready to become a vacation rental. It is now in such a wonderful state, that it was difficult to consider leaving for so long. At least others will be able to enjoy it for the time we are away – and hopefully the income from the rental will help pay to take care of the house as well as help us along our way on this around-the-world living journey.

The house is now available to rent from property management company, Carolina Mornings. I am not kidding when I say it comes with EVERYTHING except food.

Wood stove room with plenty of space.

Wood stove room with plenty of space.

Our home, located at the end of the road on 25 wooded acres, is equipped with all the essentials, including all bed, bath, and kitchen needs, wifi and cable with flat screen TV, 3 large bedrooms, 2.5 baths, hot tub, outdoor shower, and all the peace and quiet you could ever ask for.

Book it now while it’s still available.

Master bedroom with king bed and plenty of art.

Master bedroom with king bed and plenty of art.

As we get the house rented, we continue to find wonderful homes in other locations to hang our hats for awhile.

Let me know if you’re interested in the house, or check Carolina Mornings or call (844) 371-0735 for availability.

Hot tub that seats 6

Hot tub that seats 6

Outdoor shower with complete privacy

Dining room and huge kitchen