What it’s like to be an AirBnB host

«Congratulations, you are now a Super Host!»

I got this message from AirBnB on an early morning and to be honest, I wasn’t even thrilled about it. I was in fact considering unlisting my apartment on AirBnB and have now blocked our calendar for the rest of the year. Why? Here are the reasons:

1.AirBnB creates a tremendous amount of pressure for hosts to keep that five-star rating

On AirBnB, hosts are required to maintain a minimum 4.2 stars in order to keep their listings. This means it is not desirable for you to get a four-star rating. Five is an absolute must. Guests can rate you on overall experience, location, accuracy, cleanliness, check-in and value. Not that it is hard to achieve, but you will always encounter those annoying guests who expect a 2,000 USD/night 5-star service for a mere price of 20 USD/night.

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2. Many guests are jack@$$

At some point, you would meet those guests who complain about things they would have known if they read your listing description carefully. My apartment is located 10 minutes away from the city center by subway, but there would be people who interpret it as 10 minutes riding the subway = 10 minutes walking on foot to the city center (!?). Some would expect you to be available at anytime for them to check in without a need to inform you about their arrival time, as if you have no life and nothing else to do. And there would be someone who takes your body soap, pen and notebook with them when they leave because they’d assume these items are complimentary (like in a hotel!). Yes guests can be @$$hole and receive low ratings but are still allowed to stay on the platform and book.

3. AirBnB customer services are crap

If you contact AirBnB customer services, you’d put into phone/chat line with someone from a call center and a script in front of them. Not only are they unhelpful, they are also a complete waste of your time.

On the plus side, we have met interesting people from around the world, many of which we’d welcome back anytime. You receive extra income. When you list your property on AirBnB, it is most likely to be booked for sure.

But is it worth it? I am not so sure. Maybe it is if you plan to do this for a living. We are only renting out an extra bedroom in the apartment. If I were to rent out my whole apartment, I’d opt for long-term rent: more steady income, less hassle.

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Exercises with miniband – Part 2

20 reps x 3 sets per exercise

  1. Jumping jack
  2. Alternating lunge
  3. Side, diagonal, back
  4. Bicycles

Enjoy! Contact me if you have any questions.

Watch exercises with miniband part 1 here.

My 2018

Finally I’ve had some time to write down my thoughts.
These are not my top, most-liked photos but they definitely described my year.

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It was a rather tough and emotional year. The year started with our beloved dog getting strange symptoms, as if he was having a stroke. We rushed Nappe to Evidensia emergency service, only to find out nothing from the test results. Nappe recovered 24 hours later. In October he got sick again with neurological symptoms. This time it lasted for over a week. The doctors at Evidensia suspected he had a brain tumor or internal bleeding in his brain and that he would not live very long. It ended up with Nappe staying at Evidensia’s emergency room, thousands of dollars in medical bills, almost no sleep for Marius and me, but no concrete diagnosis and treatment. Evidensia is the worst veterinary clinics you can go to in Oslo. Stay away from this place. I’ll probably write a more detailed review about them later. At one point, they suggested that we should put Nappe to sleep! Fortunately, Nappe has recovered. He still has a tilted head and somewhat bad balance. Otherwise he is his old self, happy, occasionally annoying when it comes to begging for food.

My dog in Vietnam, Jerry Chim, is also getting older and diagnosed with bladder stone. Nappe and Jerry have been an important part of my life and it has been excruciatingly painful to see them getting sick and knowing that they are old (both are over 13) and one day they would leave me.

We lost Willy, beloved grandpa of Marius. I’ve known him for years since I first met Marius and considered him as my own grandfather. I remember hugging Willy for the last time at the end of 2017, wishing him well and seeing the sad look in his eyes, as he could not spend Christmas and New Year with us due to his health. Spending these special occasions in the hospital, he said, was boring. We knew at some point Willy would leave us as his health was deteriorating, but it was still sad for us to say goodbye to him.

On the more positive sides, Marius and I completed a 10k run in Oslo Marathon. It was perhaps one of the hardest challenges for us, both physically and mentally, since we are no avid runners. I competed again in the Norwegian Pole Sport Championship and had a lot of fun dancing on the stage. I’m glad Marius was always there with me and proud of my handy man. He helped fix the pole prior to the competition. I then took up a new challenge as president of NPSF and am looking forward to strengthening the federation further.

Another weird but rather funny and frustrating thing also happened in 2018: I was planning a short vacation to Skopje, Macedonia. The place came up when I was searching for cheap vacations in Europe in January 2018. I chose Skopje because its name sounded unfamiliar and the city looked fascinating. Plus there was no need for a visa if you hold a permanent residence permit in a Schengen country, according to official website. Somehow we decided to book flexible tickets in case our trips were cancelled.

A month later, there was something in me saying that I should double-check the visa requirement just to be sure. Marius called the embassy in Oslo which he got a confirmation that I did not need a visa. However, the ambassador, Mr. Dragan Todorosvski, told me to send him my documents to ensure that, after which he told me I needed a visa! The embassy’s website said opening hours were from 11:00. I went there at 11:00 on a freezing day, -10 degree Celcius. I ringed the door, called the embassy phone and waited almost 30 minutes. No response. I returned, emailed him for an appointment, explained that I waited outside the embassy and no one answered. After finally getting a hold of him to submit my documents and pay the fee, which was in February, I was told I would hear back within 15 working days, some time in mid March. We were supposed to travel in mid April.

One week before the travel day, I still got no answer regarding my visa application. I called Mr. Dragan who ensured me he would get back to me within the next few days. I also made a phone call to Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to double check the information on their website regarding visa requirement, which I got an answer back from a guy on the other line before I could even ask any question: «Please stop calling me. Stop calling me!.» I contacted Dragan again and said I needed my passport back. I would cancel my trip since it was only a few days left and I had not heard from them. When I arrived at the embassy, Dragan informed me my visa application was denied. Unfortunately he could not tell me the reason why.
We ended up rebooking our vacation to Lithuania instead. On the travelling day Monday 16th April, all flights, including the one to Macedonia, were cancelled. The airport was so foggy that no plane could land or take off. Somehow, the pilot on our flight to Lithuania decided to land anyways and succeed. The flight to Lithuania was the first to take off that day and perhaps one of the very few, if not the only flight to depart. There was only two flights to Macedonia that week, one on Monday and the next one was not until Friday. It seemed like we would have never got to travel to Macedonia anyways. Perhaps it is not meant for us. I like to think that there is a higher power preventing us from travelling there for some reasons.

And I turned 30!!!
That’s my 2018 recap. Looking forward to 2019.

My reading list in 2018

  1. Explosive Growth: A Few Things I Learned While Growing My Startup 100 Million Users and Losing $78 Million by Cliff Lerner

I got this book for my birthday and started to read it during Christmas break. The book is compelling, interesting and easy to grasp. Cliff recalls his experience running an online dating startup and summarizes each chapter with key takeaways, explosive growth tips and reading recommendations. I wish I knew many of these tips earlier. The book has inspired me to take actions and make changes for 2019. This is perhaps one of my favorite books so far and I will be looking forward to reading new books in Cliff’s recommendation list for sure.

  1. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Intriguing and fascinating. The book goes from personal habits like smoking and chewing nails to habits of larger organizations and societies. It offers useful insights that you can apply to both your personal life and work. One of my favorite chapters, also somewhat provocative, is “How Target knows what you want before you do – When Companies Predict (and Manipulate) Habits”. In this chapter, Target used shopping data from customers to study their habits, shopping patterns and accurately identify pregnant women who did not want to be identified. By targeting soon-to-be parents and offering them tailor-made coupons for the products they needed, Target gradually turned them into loyal customers who kept coming back for years.

The book also mentioned how one song became a hit and the melody was stuck in your brain while another song did not, which I find very fascinating. A useful tip for those who want to make the next big hit!

I have used the insights from this book to understand more about my own habits. It has helped me overcome my cravings for soda and gain the willpower to do things I do not normally enjoy: I participated in a 10-km run in Oslo Marathon this year. I do not enjoy running at all and believe me, it took a lot of willpower to get me out of the couch to train.

  1. The Strategic Outlier by Victor Cheng

This is a monthly subscription in which you get a letter from Victor Cheng, a former McKinsey consultant who is now running his own consulting firm. The monthly letter is around 20-page long and includes tips and advice from Victor’s personal and professional experience, from stress management, how to deal with difficult people to how to write effectively and deliver a compelling presentation. I personally find the stress management part very useful. Victor’s thesis is that stress is based on fear: fear of the unknown. You are stressed because you are scared, for example scared of not getting a good grade in the exam, not getting a good year-end review at work, not able to pay the next bill and so on. The newsletter then presents a framework for reducing stress and I have been implemented that in my daily life.

The subscription also includes a bi-monthly video conversation with Victor and other subscribers. Unfortunately it happens in the evening in the U.S, which is late night in Norway. You can download the recordings to listen later and I am still catching up on this.

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These are my top three reading materials in 2018. I have also read these two other books:

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The book describes the two systems of our mind: System 1, which is fast, intuitive, emotional, and System 2, which is slower but more deliberative and logical. System 1 is basically the one operating our mind for most of the day. It runs on autopilot and is based on the habits we have built up (you can actually relate this somewhat to Charles Duhigg’s habit book). The book presents provoking brainteaser questions and challenges us to activate our System 2 to seek more logical answers to those questions.

It is an interesting book but may not be the easiest to read. I find it quite dense and felt like I was using my System 2 most of the time when I was reading this book, which was rather exhausting.

 

  • How Toyota Became #1: Leadership Lessons from the World’s Greatest Car Company by David Magee

I got this book for my husband, a loyal Toyota fan. We ended up reading it together during our summer vacation in Vietnam. The book explains how Toyota thrived to become one of the most successful car manufacturers in the world: the lean manufacturing practice, the efficient supply chain, corporate cultures among many other things. The book mentions that Toyota reaches zero landfill waste in North America, an amazing practice that many other corporations can learn from.

What I find annoying about this book is that the author constantly puts Toyota’s rivals down. As we progressed further, it became clear to us that the author was overly biased with Toyota. I am sure GM, Ford, Audi and other car manufacturers have also achieved great things, but the book only portrays negative images on them.

30 years old

This weekend I turned 30. I can’t say if I feel older or wiser. I am still the same me, trying to figure out every step I take in life.

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I can say that I am not the same person 10 years ago. I’ve learned many things during my 20s, some of which I sometimes wished I should have known when I was 20 years old.
I’ve learned that if I want something in life, I have to go for it. Sitting and wishing would not make my dreams come true. The only one who can make it happen is ME. I am the one who shapes my own destiny.
I’ve learned that failure is a part of life. I should not be afraid to try new things. I may succeed or fail. From failure, I could learn from my mistakes, get back up and try again.
I’ve got to travel to new places, experienced new cultures and met new people. I’ve learned that I should not define people by how they dress and look, or where they come from, but by how they act and treat others. Glamorous and fancy materials may bring you joy for the moment, but the true everlasting memory you will have is the experience you’ve had, things you’ve done for you, for others and with others.
I’ve come to appreciate my family more. They are the ones who have been standing by me through triumphs and defeats. I am lucky to have them with me.
I look forward to my next era and can’t wait to see it will bring.

How has running impacted our resting heart rates?

My husband and I have tracked our resting heart rate from before we started running in April. Many researches1 have shown that cardio training contributes to stronger and healthier cardiovascular system, and I can say we are the living proof of these researches.

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Our resting heart rate has improved by 25% from April 2018 to October 2018. We measure it using an app called Heart Rate Monitor just when we are awake in the morning before getting out of bed. We also measure it several times to ensure the accuracy of the heart rate.

According to the book “Best i Løping”, the resting heart rate of a well-trained athlete is somewhere between 30-40 beats per minute. The lowest that has been registered is 26 beats/minute from an extreme cardio athlete.

Women with resting heart rates of more than 76 beats per minute were 26% more likely to have have a heart attack or die from one than those with resting heart rates 62 beats per minute or less, according to a research in 20102.

At least I can proudly say that my resting heart rate is getting closer to those of well-trained athletes.

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1 Your resting heart rate can reflect your current — and future — health

2 What is your heart rate is telling you? 

Black Mirror Nosedive: When Your Entire Life is Measured by Your Social Net Worth

Recently, I have been following a series on Netflix called Black Mirror showing a disturbing future in which humans rely on technology.

One episode I’ve watched is Nosedive where your entire life is measured by ratings you get from others on social media – a 5-stars is the highest you can achieve. The higher in social media ranking you are, the more well off you’ll be, from getting that dream apartment to gaining access to places for social media famous and elite circles. You rank people after every interaction you have with them.

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The protagonist, Lacie, spent her day curating her profile to climb that social media ladder. She put effort into publishing ‘picture-perfect’ photos to make her mundane life much more exciting as if she was living her dream. In this world, you are forced to always put on a smile and appear happy to everyone and at everything, because if you don’t, your social ratings will be degraded. Lacie gave everyone she met five stars, despite not liking the person or service they offered, with hope for a five-star in return.

Despite all her efforts, her rating remained at 4.2 while she needed at least 4.5 to get her dream apartment. She went to a “coach/psychologist” who advised her to seek endorsement from social media celebrities to boost her profile. She eventually got attention from her childhood friend, a social media star, who then asked Lacie to be her bridesmaid and give a speech at her wedding. During her journey to the wedding, Lacie stumbled upon several setbacks that degraded her rating to below 3. She met strangers who then gave her one star for no reason, despite not having talked to her, simply because they saw that she had bad rating.

The episode ended with Lacie in prison, having her social media filter taken off her eyes. She could finally see the world for what it really was for the first time and express things she wasn’t allowed to say before.

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Black Mirror’s Nosedive highlights perfectly how social media has distorted our world. A few weeks ago I was planning to write about Instagram, the worst social media platform for mental health.

There is a tremendous pressure on Instagram to put on perfectly curated content, both photos and texts to get more likes and followers. This is what you need to do if you want to boost your profile and become insta-famous. You will find people who publish their unrealistic glamorous lifestyle, such as yoga teachers wearing cool, chic and trendy yoga clothes that cost more than 200 USD and posing in various exotic locations, while inadvertently quoting inspirational sayings about being happy and true to yourself. When you dig deeper or meet them in real life, you’ll probably find a different story. The clothes they wear are gifts from their sponsors and their social media photos are indirect marketing of the products. The photos they post are in no way spontaneous. They are all planned, with camera setup to capture the perfect lighting and angle as well as hours of editing both photos and texts.

Another aspect of our current world that was reflected in the episode was the five-star rating system and people giving bad rating to one person even though they do not know the person at all. The five-star rating system reminds me of Uber and AirBnB. I guess in a way it forces service providers to offer excellent customer services. I personally find Uber drivers much more polite and friendlier than normal taxi drivers. Uber drivers also drive more carefully as they want to maintain their star ratings. With Uber and AirBnB you can find good services as a customer and as a service provider, you can also rate your customers and keep out those with low ratings.

However, there is a catch. Ratings can be subjective on both sides. Think about if you have had a bad day. While the other person has done nothing wrong to ruin your day further, you give that person low rating anyways as a way to release your anger and frustration. It sounds really unfair but things like this do happen. Hosts on AirBnB are pressured to maintain a 4.7 star rating to achieve a Superhost status. While 5 is considered ‘Excellent’ on AirBnB and 4 is ‘Good’, nothing below 5 is actually acceptable. This is an unwritten rule well known to those who are familiar with this platform. Once you give someone 4 stars or less, it means you do not want to see that person or return to his or her place again. For hotels, I bet you’d be happy to stay in either a 4-star or 5-star hotel at reasonable prices.

What about giving bad rating to a person you have never met? I call this ‘crowd effect’ – monkeys do what monkeys see. Here is an example: Early this year in Vietnam, there was a rumor that went viral on Facebook: mother and baby died immediately after the mother decided to give a ‘natural’ birth at home alone all by herself. An unidentified person originally spread the rumor. Within 24 hours, the news reached millions of people in Vietnam. It became headlines in almost every news agency. TV channels invited health experts and hosted debates and discussions regarding ‘natural birth at home’. The day after, the police issued a statement: there was no such case. People, even major newspapers, reacted without proper investigation of whether this was fake news or not.

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As Daniel Kahneman described in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, most of us act based on intuition, prejudicially presuming our intuition is correct, instead of using rational thinking to proper understand and evaluate the situation. Rational thinking is much more time consuming and exhausting for the brain. Look for comments on Facebook beneath a controversial news headline. The media is really doing a good job in writing catchy, attention-seeking title while their content may indicate something else. Browse through these comments and you will easily find who actually read the article and who have not.

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I am not against social media or new technological invention. I think they are excellent. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram help businesses reach their customers more easily and effectively. AirBnB and Uber provide customers with great experience. I wonder, though, how our world would eventually turn out to be. Would it be like in Black Mirror where our mere existence is completely defined by technology? Would my generation be the last generation that understands what it was like to have a real conversation face-to-face? Only time will tell. I believe we, who are users of technology, have the responsibility to shape and define it for our future generations. What do you think?