Superhost spotlight: filling a home with life after loss

A widow recounts how welcoming international guests helped her heal.
By Airbnb on Feb 8, 2019
4 min read
Updated Jan 7, 2022

Superhost Marianne suddenly found herself alone in the Craftsman she and her late husband renovated together. To pick herself up, she launched her own business, opening her California home to guests from across the world. In her own words, she shares how hosting gave her life new meaning and what it means to be a female entrepreneur:

There was something beneficial about having life, having humans coming back into the house.

When I lost Mike, there was such a huge sense of loss, emptiness, a void. He had gone into surgery in May 2017 for what was supposed to be a standard procedure, but there were complications and he didn’t make it. Four days before this, we had just celebrated 26 years together.

My daughter had moved home to stay with me. Almost a year later, she moved away and all of a sudden, I found myself alone in the house.

I don’t remember a specific incident or reason why I started hosting. It just kept showing up in my awareness. And then I took a trip in September 2017 to see friends in Oregon, and I stayed in an Airbnb there. The host was a lovely fellow, and I explained what had happened. It started to dawn on me that being a host could be a possibility for me.

With my husband’s death, his pension ended and that was a big loss of income. I work for myself as a teacher, writer, and landscaper. I just wasn’t in a place where I could focus.

In my imagination, Airbnb was a source of easy-peasy cash flow. But it is work. And definitely being a single woman, I did have concerns about safety. I bought locks for the guest rooms and my room, but I think I’ve only locked my door once when there was a fellow checking in very late at night. A friend of mine who is also a host suggested I write the description of my home to attract the people I want here, and so far it seems to have worked. Maybe it’s naive, but I have a certain trust that for the most part, people are good.

Hosting became a way to be a little less of a hermit. It became a reason why I had to keep the house clean, a reason why I put on a brave face. You have to pick yourself up a little bit. Those were all good things.

I remember Mike with each person who comes in. It’s both saddening and empowering.

He loved working on this house. He was a carpenter. When we bought the house in 1995, it was trashed, a fixer-upper, and he made it such a beautiful place to live. In some ways, I get to experience his spirit, his energy when people come into the house, notice the woodwork, and say, “Oh, wow.”

I feel so proud. I feel it for both of us. How lovely it is that I can share that.

In the beginning, I would tell guests I had just lost my husband. Then bit by bit, it was no longer the first thing I shared.

I’ve been incredibly blessed with the guests I’ve had. Since I live in Santa Monica, they wanted to go to the beach, to the pier, and to Venice, so I didn’t really see them. I still needed lots of space and lots of quiet, so it was perfect.

Occasionally, we would chat over a cup of coffee or sit out on the porch swing with a glass of wine and the ocean breeze. Some of the guests were just lovely people to talk to. It was a reminder that life goes on, as cliche as it sounds.

Hosting became a way to be a little less of a hermit.
Santa Monica, California

One guest was a young woman. I hadn’t mentioned that Mike had died, but maybe she noticed his pictures around the house. She told me that she had lost her boyfriend a few months earlier in an accident. So I found myself in this incredible place of being able to open up not just the house, but a space for her to talk about her loss with someone who understood. And for me, she was someone I could talk about Mike with. There was common ground, an incredible synchronicity. We’ve texted a few times. She may or may not come back, but for a little while we touched each other's lives.

As hosts, we share space, but sometimes it’s a place where we share so much more.

In opening up my home, I was able to give something even when I felt so depleted.

Now I have my own business. And there is so much to be said about being your own boss and having complete say over how your life evolves. There’s a real sense of power a woman feels when she’s running her own business.

It may sound a little woo-woo to people, but there’s something so sacred about welcoming a stranger. As hosts, we serve as guides to weary travelers. And when we are aching, hurt, and lonely, that interaction and connection provides a little bit of healing.

Photos courtesy of Marianne

Feb 8, 2019
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