A long time ago, John and I talked about owning a six-plex. That was back in the days when we struggled to buy bread and eggs. We looked at six-plexes in those paper publications put out in the mountains of Colorado about a decade and a half ago, but we didn’t have the funds to make it happen. In fact, we had no funds at all. And when we moved to Mexico, it was initially our intention to build an apartment complex. As we see it, this is just the first layer of a global business venture, but nevermind that. For now, I’m just going to talk about our AirBnB properties.
We’re offering several one and two-bedroom apartments in an apartment complex that was designed for travelers, particularly long-term travelers, but obviously we’ll also host friends, relatives, and people who are traveling short-term as well. We have several large classrooms/gathering spaces in the building but I won’t get into the gritty details of everything we plan to do next except to say that we’ll be opening a co-working space for digital nomads soon. I mean, anyone can stay in our four apartments, but upstairs, on fifth and sixth floor, we’ll soon have super-fast WiFi, comfortable seating, and a laid-back atmosphere for travelers like us, who work remotely.
Co-working is a relatively new concept that sprouted up in response to the digital nomad community. A lot of people have speculated about how many of us there might be out there in the world. Some say 200,000, others 2,000. It depends on how you define the term “Digital Nomad” I suppose. John and I were digital nomads before such a term existed. We were digital nomads back in the days when Health and Human Services looked down their noses at us for living in an RV with a 2-year old because it was such a weird thing to do.
John and I are veterans and, for all intents and purposes, we’re old, but that’s an advantage for us mostly because we
have Lydian on our team. She’s a young adult digital nomad who grew up as a digital nomad. She has a unique perspective on things and that helps a lot. She works online as a writer as well as a music teacher. Sometimes she teaches English. She knows how to navigate through things like Instagram and SnapChat. She thinks about things in a young way and it helps John and I remember what it’s like to not be 20 yet. Our goal is to combine forces and create a space for world travelers and remote workers to gather and feel connected to something bigger than themselves.
But first, before we enter Phase 2, we’re doing some test-marketing with our apartments through AirBnB to make sure they’re truly comfortable according to Western standards. Last weekend, we booked our 1st level apartments (Apartment 1 and Apartment 2) and the results were excellent. Both apartments were maxed out with people staying for the Cervantino Festival here in Guanajuato, but everything went fine. This weekend, we’ve booked all four apartments including our suite with kitchenette and Apartment 3.
All tallied up, the complex can sleep up to 25 guests and people can rent the entire complex with our blessing. We’re located in a quiet neighborhood that’s within walking distance of the Centro in Guanajuato so events have to be reasonable in terms of loudness/rowdiness. It’s quiet here except for the occasional Mexican dog doing its thing, or the day-time noise of neighbors playing Norteño nearby. We don’t want to piss off our neighbors with big parties, flashing lights, and all that and frankly, we like the quiet too. But we’re open to the idea of having people rent the facility for retreats in Guanajuato. The building is perfect for retreats, workshops, or seminars, after all.
All that being said, I have to admit that AirBnB makes me nervous because it’s an online portal through which people can rate our business poorly on a whim. We opened an AirBnB in Valenciana by subletting a friend’s apartment last year in November/December to try the business model and see how it works and people gave us several raving reviews with four-star ratings. Recently, I interviewed a Mexican fellow for the property management position and when I told him this story he said, “assholes” under his breath. Star-ratings are befuddling to say the least. Yes they are. But John and I have weathered the whims of star-ratings for nearly a decade through Upwork. Reviews and star-ratings are not the same thing. And at the end of the day, we know that there’s no way to create a perfect space or a perfect travel experience. But we’re going to do our best and see what happens. Through AirBnB, this experience is a dialogue, both in-person and online. It’ll be interesting to see how the experiment goes.
In the meantime, as we work on booking our properties for their test-flight, John, Lydian, and I are living
minimalistically on the upper floors above the vacation rentals. Our apartments are barely furnished. There are floors, ceilings, and walls. John and I don’t have doorknobs yet. We just don’t care enough to put them in yet. Today, John put a light in our bathroom, which is nifty. Yesterday, John and I finally got to sleep on real beds rather than a couple of fold-out pieces of foam on the floor. Lydian talked with the wood-guy about a week ago to have him build some shelves so she can put things like towels “away” (they’ve been stacked on her kitchen table for the past month). I’m using Tupperware shelves to house our socks and underwear. We brought them all the way from the states and these particular shelves have been with us since our initial post-RV days. I may never endeavor to get wood shelves ever again because a part of me knows that I probably won’t be here in Guanajuato forever and I certainly don’t plan to live out the entire year here (because we travel). A shelf is a shelf. A drawer is a drawer.
But I’ve never had a view like this in my entire life. On Sunday, I sat in my chair for nearly 15 minutes (a record since last year around this time) and did nothing but stare out at the fluffy, white, autumn clouds drifting quietly behind the mountains. These mountains in Guanajuato have skinny, deciduous trees standing tall and proud on a landscape of green grass. The mountains outside my window are partly barren and wild, partly inhabited by the poorest residents in this country who have built tiny, far-away shacks that cling to the wildness, and a community of wealthy Mexicans with large, colorful houses in an area that’s fully equipped with streets, electricity, and water. It’s a fascinating mix of activity. The Mexican flags blow in the breeze. Trees wave back and forth lightly. The clouds float by. Cars pass along the streets in the distance, their reflection catches my eye. People walk down rough-hewn paths from their shacks to some tiny tienda selling cheap bottles of Coke and potato chips. A part of my mind is so utterly fascinated as I make up stories for the strangers I see, as I contemplate the rhythm of the trees and the flags and the clouds, that I can hardly pull myself away from it. The view on 5th floor is even better than this. The view on 6th floor better still. There are 360 degrees of Amazing in this building.