I’m an adamant believer that the only true way to get to know your destination as a traveler is to spend lots of time with locals. They reveal the soul of the place, after all. So why stay within the confines of a corporate-cold hotel? I don’t care how lavish the amenities are; hotels and resorts stand between you and the local culture. Their worst offense? You pay through the nose for your isolation. How crazy is that?
It’s one of the great ironies of travel today — and a delightful irony it is! — that the most authentic and real accommodations cost far, far less. Case in point: www.airbnb.com. Originally conceived as a website where travelers could find bare-bones accommodations (as in, an air mattress on the floor — hence the name), today this is a varied catalog of private rooms or shared rooms in the homes of its members. In many cases, you might even enjoy an entire home for yourself, so you’ll at the very least see how locals live, shop at their grocer, and have the chance to share a friendly “aloha” with neighbors. On Maui, the hosts of Airbnb offer up their space to travelers for as little as $40 a night. I even recently saw a listing close to the beach for $75 a night.