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Picking a Place to Call Home

When I'm on vacation, I'll stay almost anywhere - hostels, hotels, home stays, tents - it doesn't matter to me because I'm literally just sleeping there. (And if I'm hiking I especially don't care. You don't sleep harder than when you're doing a long hike!) But for moving around the country working, I'm a little more picky. That's because I do actually have to LIVE in the place I'm staying. There will be bad weather days where I'm just stuck at home. I might get sick and need a nice place to throw up. And most importantly, I need a place I can actually work.

I decided on AirBnBs for my living situation because they tend to be cheaper than hotels, they are more likely to have the stuff I need, and there's a way to narrow your search to only places that allow dogs. Vrbo is also ok for this. There are of course lots of other platforms like these, but looking at all of them can be pretty overwhelming, so I mainly just stick to one.

I've got 8 places lined up so far, and I've already changed my mind about one, canceled, and re-booked because I narrowed down my needs a little. Here are the criteria I'm using when finding places.

Image: Harley on our sofa in Lexington

1) Dog-friendliness. Not only does the place have to formally state that it's dog friendly, the policies have to actually BE dog friendly. I ruled out several places that say dogs are not allowed on furniture. I'm not about to spend a month or three telling my dog she can't get on the sofa, though I will put her blanket down for her first. They also have to have a convenient place for her to do her business without having to walk a mile.

2) Privacy. I always check the "entire place" box. An apartment is fine, as is a duplex or a guesthouse, but I don't want to share space - not a kitchen, not a bathroom. I'm a private person, and I know myself well enough to know that's not going to change. I also have chronic migraine, so sometimes I need silence and darkness, which is hard to impose on others.

3) Strong wifi. Wifi is listed as an amenity, but I also read the reviews carefully. Someone will complain if the wifi sucks. (I never stay anywhere that doesn't have plenty of reviews.)

Image: The kitchen in my Lexington AirBnB

4) A kitchen with a microwave, oven, and at least 2 burners. I like to cook, and I like to make things like steak and roasted veggies, so an oven and a couple burners are necessary, though they can be small. A microwave is a must for restaurant leftovers. It is of course possible to just eat out or do microwavable meals, but it gets a lot more expensive really fast. Besides, a kitchen is what makes a place feel like 'home' to me. (If there's a French press like there is in my current place, I'm going to be edging on giddy.)

5) A proper bed. A fair number of AirBnbs have futons or pull-out sofas functioning as the bed. My hips would not like this, though if I was still in my 20s I probably wouldn't even care.

Image: The larger bed in my Lexington Airbnb

6) Coziness. This is best conveyed through the pictures. I can be happy in just about any size space (though 400-650 square feet is my sweet spot), but even a tiny space can feel empty and sterile. I like places that have some quirk to them - that look like they're actually for living and not just for sleeping. That means art on the walls, rugs on the floor, a houseplant maybe, a little table for meals, and comfy seating (even if it's just a single loveseat.)

Image: My cozy work space with garden view in Lexington

7) Location. It can be on a working farm in a town that's barely on the map in the Catskills (that's the place I'm staying in July), a motel room converted into an apartment on the beach (that's next month), an artist retreat farm in the Appalachians (February), or a place right in the middle of town like I have here in Lexington, but something about the location has to be appealing to me. Generally, for me, that's proximity to nature or great places to walk. I don't want to stay in the suburbs and have to drive 20 minutes to get anywhere. Proximity to a grocery store is also a plus.

8) Price. AirBnBs can of course range from $600 a month to tens of thousands. I don't go over $1300 a month because that's what I would have spent on my mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, wifi, etc. combined. You'd be surprised what you can find for under $1300 a month. For example, my place in Myrtle Beach was $800 ($1000 with all Airbnb's fees.) Tourist towns in the off season are gems. College towns when the students aren't there are great because the students tend to sublet. Certain states have to be avoided for long stays - I'll be in Maine for just a week as a vacation because it's just too expensive to live there.

9) Travling nurse reviews. What??? Yeah. This is the weird one. I'm not a traveling nurse, but I can tell you this - you want to stay where the traveling nurses stay. Why? Because they tend to be staying for several months as well, and they know the best places. In traveling, I've always found it helpful to follow in the footsteps of the nurses. More than any other population, they know what's what. They also tend to leave behind seasonings and cooking materials. In my current place, which was occupied by two nurses before me, they also left behind a bunch of Guinness. So if you see reviews by someone who mentions that they do this job, take their word as gospel.

There are a lot of common things that I've ruled out as important, including a television. If I really feel compelled to watch something, I have my computer. Otherwise I can read. I also (sadly) ruled out a bathtub as a necessity and now think of it as an awesome bonus. I don't worry about a guest room. One of the places I'm staying doesn't have central heating - I'll instead be using a pellet stove. That stuff just ends up being part of the adventure.

Overall, it's trial and error. Everyone has different needs, but for other people moving around living in homes that aren't theirs, I'd say know your non-negotiables, but also keep an open mind! If it's only for a month, why not try something new?


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