Traveling the world is something I’ve always wanted to do. I think I read somewhere that adults who travel in their 20s and 30s live happier lives (I swear I read it somewhere).
Even before then I’ve been on a mission to see the world. To explore. I’ve always been adventurous. This is why I am always looking for ways to make travel easier and more interesting.
Last year, I went to Austin, Texas with my improv troupe, Our Quarter Life Crisis. My bf and I decided to rent out an Airbnb.
It was my first experience with Airbnb, and I immediately understood the attraction. The novelty, the simplicity, the concept… it all made sense.
My second time using Airbnb was during a 10-day trip to Belize. We stayed in two separate Airbnb listings, one a ranch-style home, complete with chickens, on the Mopan River in San Ignacio, and the other a modern condo in San Pedro on the Ambergris Caye.
Both were lovely. Clean. And they offered a unique view of the country we were visiting. We were able to see how the locals lived, because we weren’t staying in some huge culture less fancy resort. We were staying in a Belizean resident’s home.
So when the opportunity to move to Las Vegas presented itself, I immediately thought, “Airbnb!”
I was coming into town with two other reporters and at first, we thought we might like to live together. We tried to find a home that each of us liked, and where we could all live together, but we had no success.
Eventually, we gave up and they found places that suited them and I went back to my original idea.
I scanned the Las Vegas Airbnb listings and found a place that was not too far from the Review-Journal’s newsroom. A week later, I spoke to the host and booked it.
After arriving in Las Vegas and living here for a while, I decided to check Airbnb again to see if any additional listings had popped up.
I was surprised to see that several new listings were available, many of which were better deals than where I was staying. That made me think that maybe more Las Vegans were joining Airbnb, and a story idea was born.
When I pitched the story to the business editor, at first he was reluctant. After a day or so later, he gave me the green light and it was off to the races.
Creating story leads can be quite a task, and sometimes a story won’t naturally flow until I’ve written my lead first.
I’ve written entire stories in minutes and then when I finally write my lead, I decide to change my everything.
With my Airbnb story, I wanted to play with a scenic lead approach. My subject, a 51-year-old cancer survivor named “Zeena,” lived in a colorful home filled with eccentric trinkets and knick knacks she had collected through her travels.
I started describing her home. I was then able to add in that she was an Airbnb host and included her interesting backstory.
“Zeena” or Zen didn’t want to use her real name in my story, because she was worried the city would come down on her for renting out her home on Airbnb.
Last year, Las Vegas passed an ordinance that restricted “party houses” and required any Las Vegan renting out their home for less than 31 days to get a $500 license.
Zen used Airbnb to supplement her income. She rented out two rooms in her home and did other small jobs on the side. She couldn’t pay the annual fee.
Her story was interesting for a number of reasons.
Airbnb is part of the sharing economy like Uber, a car sharing company trying to get grounded in Las Vegas. Uber is a hot topic now.
Las Vegas council members are going to go into their next session after the summer. Lots of things on the agenda.
Ordinances passed restricting “party houses” made people like Zen targets to the city. She is not creating chaos in her home, like some council members have suggested of those running the party houses.
Other cities had recently passed legislation that made it easier for folks to have short-term rentals and included an Airbnb tax as a hotel tax. Problem solved.
Zen’s cancer had jumped to her lymph nodes, so she was in the middle of treatment. Zen herself is a kind middle-aged woman trying to support her son in any way she can.
These are the kinds of stories I like to write.
With Zen’s story, I started out with a scenic lead. That way I could show readers where she lived and the type of person she was. It worked well because Zen’s home was a museum of travels. Every item had a story.
To tell Zen’s story, I wanted to include several voices. I wanted to get the legal side of it, so I spoke to a lawyer. I spoke to someone from the Business Licensing Office and a council member. I also spoke to another Airbnb host.
My Airbnb piece was definitely fun to write and to explore.
Shortly after I wrote the article, council member Lois Tarkanian of Ward 1 met with Zen.
I’ll be working on a follow-up for that.