Category Archives: Money & Work

How Airbnb Kicks Off Your Bucket List Travel AND Income Goals

For the past year I’ve met cool people from around the world (one of my lifetime life list goals!) by renting a space through Airbnb (fulfilling another life list goal to have a rental property).

I’ve stayed at Airbnb rentals and have played host to dozens of guests. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned. In short: LOVE.

Airbnb lets people around the world rent anything from a room to a treehouse to an RV to a villa. You get to see reviews of both guests and hosts. So you can feel confident you’re getting what you think you’re getting. And if there’s a problem, Airbnb will step in. Basically the system keeps us all in check.

Vanity Fair wrote about the explosion in luxury treehouse lodging thanks to Airbnb. So, don’t think just because your work studio doesn’t have a bathroom that someone won’t want to crash out there to wake up to your trickling garden fountain.

historic affordable airbnb craftsman bungalow in portland oregon
We rented a room at this historic Craftsman home through Airbnb in Portland, Oregon.

The Airbnb experience for travelers

I’m getting ready to embark on a long-anticipated trip to Morocco. We booked our first night at a “riad” (super cool restored historic villa) listed on Airbnb. The French owner answered all of our questions about how to get there, with that personal touch you usually get staying in an inn. Much as with a hotel, we won’t choose to stay at places with no reviews — too risky to gamble our travel experience on an inexperienced host.

Need I say the lodgings tend to be cheaper than a generic hotel? Plus, you have plenty of opportunity to chat with the owner and know if you’re on the same page: If you’ve ever gone to a bed and breakfast and felt like you were staying at your parents’ house with the level of coziness, well if that isn’t your thing, you can make sure the style of the Airbnb spot matches your style.

you can list any type of home on airbnb including trailers
One of my goals was to buy an Airstream trailer, and I worked on setting it up as an Airbnb rental. This didn’t work out afterall but people are making good livings renting out Airstreams and having fun staying in them.

Renting out on Airbnb vs VRBO

I also use VRBO as do millions of people. It’s a fixed fee as an “advertising service” for people with properties. The thing is you need to craft a rental agreement with guests, and VRBO doesn’t review them — although it reviews the properties. So the burden is on you to really vet the people renting. This takes a lot more effort and entails more risk than Airbnb. Still it’s worth getting your property in front of more people by listing it on VRBO. If you do, here’s a $50 off VRBO coupon for listing a property.

No money to travel and no rental? Check out Couchsurfing

Previously I have enjoyed Couchsurfing as a completely free way to connect with people around the world who want to meet people passionate about travel and life. Early on, I felt Couchsurfing had really nailed their friends / reviews / profile in a way that you could instantly tell if a person was “good” or had ulterior motives…or was simply not pleasant as a guest or host.

Unlike Airbnb where guests usually have different motivations for renting, from family visits to work to needing a sublet while remodeling, Couchsurfing in my experience fits with more nomadic souls or very young or retired folks — on a budget, open to exploring and connecting, often traveling alone. Here I talked about one of my great Couchsurfing experiences as a host in Berkeley.

stay in a treehouse
I’ve always wanted to stay in a tree house. (photo by Susie Wyshak)

Feel free to ask any questions about renting through Airbnb and VRBO, or how the hell that sunflower got so big, and I’ll try to answer.

Earn Real Money for Virtual Goods

This weekend I randomly met a guy from Crowd Flower on the street. Reminded me it’s GREAT to talk to strangers, because you never know what will happen.
From him I learned with Crowd Flower’s “labor on demand” service you can make cash money or virtual money (like for Farmville) doing fun little tasks online. The company has built a great tool for corporations, non-profits and people to get major small tasks done by many people – including organizing large amounts of photos on Facebook for a relatively small amount of money.
A couple of years ago I used Mturk to do a fun experiment for SuperViva asking completely random people what they wanted to do.
To sign up as a “worker” and make money:

1) Sign up on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
2) Do tasks assigned by Dolores Labs (former name of Crowd Flower)

    Have fun seeing the cents add up to $s!

    Remaking Your Life in a Small Town

    When tossing old papers recently, I came across an April 2005 Sunset Magazine article about Bizbee Arizona, an eclectic small down I was always curious to visit.

    Almost more fascinating than the article (viewable in PDF) was the sidebar about “remaking your life.”

    Short and sweet, it touches upon how, if you want to “simplify” your life, you can thrive in a town like Bisbee – where the “economy doesn’t fuel many conventional careers.”

    • Find somewhere with a low cost of living and relaxed pace then use your time to explore and be creative.
    • Count your riches in terms of living a useful life instead of income or prestige.
    • Take something negative like killer bees and put a positive spin on it.”

    Know of other old towns that have newly thrived as former bigger city dwellers move in?

    Living Minimally – A Trend Worth Following

    In But Will It Make You Happy? the New York Times sheds light on the result of living a simple life with very few belongings.

    “While the current round of stinginess may simply be a response to the economic downturn, some analysts say consumers may also be permanently adjusting their spending based on what they’ve discovered about what truly makes them happy or fulfilled.”

    A couple of years ago I chose 5 things a day to give away. Tshirts, knick knacks etc. It was completely fulfilling and I’ve never missed anything I shed. Having moved recently – and facing just how much I own – I’m going to start that up again. 5 a day to happiness!

    While I’ll admit many of my things make me happy, in their beauty, representing the skill of an artist, or allowing me to dress for whatever occasion the mood fits – life is definitely easier with less.

    Given the choice, good experiences vs. possessions is a winner IMHO. How about you?

    –>Next stop: Freecycle


    Travel This Summer or Year Round On the Cheap

    A recent post by Tim Ferriss (of Four Hour Work Week fame) makes a very thorough case with lots of tips on how you can embark on your dream travels – or even spend you life achieving your travel goals as part of your everyday life.

    Indeed, the freedom to go vagabonding has never been determined by income level, but through simplicity — the conscious decision of how to use what income you have.”

    Could reading article Living Well vs. Doing Well change your life?

    Or perhaps the Four Hour Work Week will.

    you here in france

    A Rags to Riches Family Business Success Story

    The Costco Connection magazine often has in-depth interviews with successful businesses and famous consultants, making it a surprisingly informative and interesting “life management” type of publication.

    This month they featured a long story about the Sugarbowl Bakery and how the Ly family went from Vietnam to Very successful. Check it out if you have a life list goal to start a business, have one now, or just like reading about successful family businesses.

    I first saw the Sugarbowl Bakery in Berkeley and thought it was just “any old” bakery. Then over the years I started to notice cookies and other baked goods popping up in various stores, packaged in plastic tubs, with the Sugarbowl Bakery’s name. In addition to fulfilling your cookie and brownie needs, they also supply to Starbucks and other large retail food places.

    Little would I have imagined the story behind this bakery, a nearly 30 year long effort that started with $1 and grew to $45 million and many awards.

    The secrets seem to be:
    1) Hard work
    2) Family cooperation and role sharing
    3) Right place at the right time, including their start in the 80s before there was as much competition as now
    4) Stick-to-it-iveness
    5) Risk taking, willingness to grow
    6) Taking advantage of unforseen opportunities that arise even if it’s a change of course.
    7) Dedication to quality, based on a mission statement

    Now that I’ve made that list, it seems those are the usual suspects for success, eh?

    If you’re starting a food business yourself, look at Foodzie, an artisan food marketplace where I work, and get in touch if your food business is up our alley!

    Got feedback about the Ly’s story or others you’ve read in Costco’s magazine?

    Great Jobs for Women Over 40

    Inspired by a MORE Magazine article on 10 Great Jobs for Midlife Women, here’s a list off the top of my head of some interesting jobs requiring “smarts, savvy, and experience” that I’m guessing either have real potential…or that I find a little amusing:

    1. Assisted living anything. Any role related to assisted living, including becoming a real estate developer of communities targeted to people downsizing who a) need some kind of help but not full-time b) want to be near their friends c) want to feel independent.

    2. Artisan food maker. Now that I checked off my bucket list goal to write a book (Good Food, Great Business) it’s easy to start a food business wherever you are and sell online, with all your effort going into creating great food products.

    3. Expert in whatever you want to be. The evolution of the Internet and social media (online video, social networks, Twitter, books on demand, e-books…phew the list is too long) makes it possible for you to position yourself as an expert in whatever field interests you. Of course you have to deliver or you’ll be called a snake oil saleswoman. I like this personal branding blog which discusses approaches to branding yourself as well as cheese in a can.

    4. Sewing machine consultant. It took me forever to find information online on how to thread my sewing machine. While I would have hired you for some quick advice it may not be quite a moneymaker. However a business where you teach sewing and help parents make costumes for kids definitely has some possibilities.

    5. Pole or belly dancer. It seems like everyone suddenly is taking pole dancing and learning to belly dance was one of the most popular goals on SuperViva. Some of the best belly dancers I’ve seen are in their 40s, so shake on, even as a side job in a restaurant.

    6. Decluttering / downsizing consultant. Oh yes, we all need that. Partner with moving companies and be there for kids who are having a hard time helping their parents separate the wheat from the chaff in an effort to move to a smaller place. It’s a little different from idea #1 but a perfect companion career.

    7. Virtual personal assistant. Get my software updates, iPhone/iPod/iTunes/eyeballs all synced up, advise me on year end tax stuff etc etc etc. I know plenty of people who are not overflowing in money but are more willing to give up money than time to optimize their lives. If you are great at managing your own life, think about how you could help others and make a nice flexible career of it.

    8. Anything you want to be. Don’t limit your career to a list of advised careers. Figure out what you’ve always wanted to do and how you can make it happen. Get some ideas on PivotPlanet (formerly called) Vocation Vacations).

    More Magazine listed “online professor” as one great career. On the flipside I recently that the advent of online classes makes it possible to take classes from any state or community college within your state, from home. Pretty cool eh?

    If you have interesting “midlife” career ideas, please share away! Self-promotion is even encouraged here.

    How to Make Fans and Influence People

    The Open Forum business blog has a detailed and clever analysis about what went right with the Obama election campaign. In Dale Carnegie Meets Barack Obama: Winning Friends And Influencing People In A Web 2.0 World, Brent Leary observes the parallels between how the campaign managers used video, word of mouth marketing, and other tools to connect with, endear, and influence voters using similar techniques to those prescribed by Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

    If you need to wrangle a constituency to your side or win new customers, give it a read!

    I Never Wanted to Watch the World Series

    philly fans watching world seriesThere are many things I’ve always wanted to do—none involving baseball goals.

    But when my friends invited me to a walking distance bar to watch the World Series, how could I refuse? The bar turned out to be THE bar of choice for Philly fans. So it was fun to see my friends on the local news. Now they can check their goal to be on TV off of their life lists!

    On my SuperViva list I’ll add this experience as a “private memory note” – since it wasn’t a goal – and have it there along with all the other cool and fun things I’ve done this year.

    Today will mark another great event to add to my list: Attend a legal gay marriage!