“I entered through a tunnelled archway, said hello to the chickens in the coop, passed the vegetable garden and walked through a kitchen dug out of the cave walls with a surprisingly bright and shiny new fridge (where was it plugged in?). The kitchen opened up into a courtyard where I sat on a stool at a little wooden table. Off the kitchen was my private room, with saloon-style doors, a stone floor, cave walls, a tiny table, and a wash basin with a thermos of hot water. The bed was carved from rock with a huge mattress and tons of fluffy blankets.”
Jody Lundrigan recounts her unforgettable experience staying in a cave in X’ian, China, which was booked through Airbnb, the increasingly popular leader for listing, discovering, and booking unique accommodations around the world.
Jody says that she uses Airbnb to book her accommodations because when she travels, she wants to live amongst the locals in the places she’s visiting. “I want to know what it’s like to live there. I want to visit the local grocer and make breakfast in my own kitchen. I want to play with my neighbour’s kids in the yard. I want to find that local dumpling shop on the corner where you can eat and drink to your heart’s content for two bucks,” explains Jody. Jody says that when she is planning a trip, she checks Airbnb before she checks for flights. “It suits my personal travel philosophy and allows me to genuinely live somewhere and truly experience the culture and life as it is lived by the people of that place. I find it to be a great community, generally filled with wonderful people with interesting stories of their own.”
The cave Jody and her partner stayed in actually started as a joke when one day, while Jody was at work, her partner emailed a link with Who Wants to Live in a Cave? as the subject line. “I came home so excited about the idea of living in a cave and the awesome stories we would have about such a crazy adventure. He then told me he had sent it as a joke … and I could actually see his anxiety rise as he came to the realization that he would be sleeping in a cave in China!” recounts Jody.
As Jody and her partner began preparing for the trip, they knew it would be risky and completely unconventional, but they kept a positive attitude and viewed it as a chance to see the X’ian countryside and experience a way of living that was centuries old. “These caves are being destroyed to make way for highways, expanding cities and modern development. I felt this was an opportunity to live an element of ancient Chinese culture that is dying. I had to experience it,” explains Jody.
How does one pack when staying in a cave? Since Jody and her partner were doing a lot of travelling around China prior to arriving at the cave in X’ian, they had no idea what to pack, so they added bug spray and a toque (warm hat) on top of the rest of their travelling supplies. “I figured I could layer up and deal with it when the time came. It seems foolish in retrospect, but it worked out beautifully!”
Logistically, Jody felt they could have been more prepared, but they didn’t realize how far into the countryside their cave was actually located. Booking the cave accommodations through Airbnb in the comfort of her Toronto, Canada, apartment, Jody was not fully aware of the language and transportation barriers they would face upon their arrival. Jody jokes that she and her partner would still be wandering around the Chinese countryside had they not (serendipitously) met up with their Airbnb host and gotten a ride in a 4×4 to the cave.
“As we drove for over an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway, turned randomly onto a side street, and bounced in the 4×4 along the non-existent road to the cave, I realized I had no idea what I was getting myself into—and absolutely no clue of how to get out.”
All of that said, Jody says it was completely worth it and believes it was probably the best travel experience in her life. “For better or worse, it’s encouraged me to take even more crazy chances because of the incredible memories made through the adventure.”
Interested in pursuing your own cave adventure? Or perhaps a villa is more your style? Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Check them out online.
Jody Lundrigan is the Director of Communications at Enactus Canada, a charitable organization shaping generations of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about the economic, social, and environmental health of Canada.