Cartagena. Just typing the name takes me back to a hammock and a view. Warm Caribbean air. Beer at morning tea, and ceviche for every meal. I really love Colombia.

But staying in hostel dorm rooms just isn't my thing any more. It's not that I am too good for hostels, but rather I am just too snooty. Even while backpacking - ever since a night in an illegal New York hostel when a complete stranger brought back company and proceeded to get amorous on the top bunk a couple of metres from my face.

It might be the city that never sleeps, but no one in our dormitory did that night, either.

Having spent years on the road and half a lifetime in mid-range Best-Westerns, the average hotel room doesn't excite me a whole lot, any more. Most hotels in my price range serve a utilitarian purpose: they're good for a shower and a continental breakfast, but nothing that will change your life.


But my experiences on Airbnb have often been something else. Something special. After the incident with Romeo and Juliet, I ditched the dodgy New York hostel for a room in the apartment of Iranian twin brothers in a separate part of Manhattan.

They showed me the local spots and I promptly caught the New York bug. A couple of years passed and I moved to their patch.

In Cuba, it was the same. Wales. Spain. Colombia, too. I had a beautiful old colonial room in a sleepy coffee town. And that glorious, sun-drenched, ancient apartment, high ceilings and wooden bench tops, way above the old cobble stone roads in Cartagena's old town. We could never have afforded the luxury if we'd stayed in a normal hotel.

In saying all of that, there are bound to be horror stories. Flea pits, perverts and doors that just don't lock. In the US, Airbnb is still facing the odd tax issue. And finding a room during the Lions Tour still won't be that cheap.

Seven years have passed since I stayed in my first Airbnb. Four days since I stayed in my last.

They're not all perfect and they're not all life-changing, but given the option of the boring same-old and something potentially magical, why wouldn't you take the punt?