An American in Hong Kong, the Airbnb way

Advertising executive stayed on a couch, a boat and in a gallery over 3 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 10:24pm

Kevin Lynch’s Airbnb hosts had carefully drawn a map to guide him to his home for a couple of nights on the edge of Mui Wo on Lantau, yet his sense of direction still failed him as he took different routes each time to the converted cowshed.

Lynch relocated to Hong Kong from Shanghai in September 2013. Instead of renting a flat in the usual expat haunts, he set himself the challenge of discovering different neighbourhoods by staying in Airbnb for a year.

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Chronicled through his Instagram, the American’s Yearbnb project instead lasted almost three years racking up 136 stays in Hong Kong and a total of 328 nights ranging from a couch to a boat in Discovery Bay, an old printing press and a gallery in Sai Kung.

“The cheapest place I stayed in was HK$90 a night,” Lynch told the South China Morning Post. “It was this kid, recent graduate in Sheung Shui who was basically just renting out his couch. As we were riding up the elevator he said, ‘Hey, listen, try to be quiet because my mum might be sleeping.’”

Lynch works in advertising and his employers covered the cost of his stays, which he said averaged HK$800 a night.

At first, Lynch said he was less strict on where he booked and found himself staying at around 40 flats that were commercially operated and were not someone’s home, adding that he found these types of listings were clustered in Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui and North Point.

However, he decided to actively choose more homely apartments as staying in people’s homes was particularly interesting for someone in advertising, since he got to see how people live and explore areas outside the traditional tourist traps.

“I think just being able to walk in other people’s shoes, or in this case, sleep in their beds is a really rewarding way to get to know a place,” he said. “It shows the city without its tourist face on.”

There were some awkward moments during his stays. One night, he realised while being directed to his room past a sleeping child that he had in fact evicted the child from her own bedroom.

Lynch said it would be difficult to recreate his experiment in other cities as Hong Kong’s reliable transport network meant he was always able to get to work within around an hour from wherever he stayed for the night.

Since starting Yearbnb, Lynch has also stayed 93 nights in 17 other countries, including the United States where he said hosts were more businesslike and less flexible than people in Hong Kong.