The sharing economy allows Fayes T Kantawala to manage a life lived between two continents

I am now going into the fourth month of my trip to Pakistan and the realisation took me by surprise. Like for many people, in my head too, it is still only a few weeks after New Year’s Eve. I mean the year has barely gotten started! So it came as rather a shock when I had to turn on my air conditioner the other night and realised, to my horror, that April is around the corner. April is a deceptive month, one that pretends to be early in the year but is actually a spy that lurks just around the corner from when you can no longer wear sweaters to cover your winter flab without appearing like a serial killer.

When I tell people of my shock that my trip is passing so quickly, they often remind me that four months is not a trip. A ‘trip’ is a few weeks, perhaps a month. A trip is a jaunt, a skip, a detour. But four months? That isn’t a trip, that’s a sabbatical. Perhaps they are right. I have designed my life to chase the seasons, so that I am in Pakistan for the winter and abroad for most of the rest of the year. Usually when people find out about this, they express some level of envy, and tell me I’m lucky to be able to live on my own terms, with no commitments that “weigh me down”. I agree with them to a point. I am lucky to have the flexibility to design my life this way, and I count my blessings every day. But it is not because I do not have commitments that I’m able to live this way. I do it alongside my commitments and responsibilities. Indeed, I have them on two continents, and let me tell you: It takes no small amount of effort for me to be able to basically move my life every four months – and even more so to be able to do it in a way that the other part will be waiting, intact and reasonably unblemished, when I return.

When I leave Pakistan, my home here will be closed up, sort of like a computer running on battery power. Since my family lives close by, there is always someone around to check that the place is still standing which, after the Great Wall Collapse of 2016 is not always a given. New York is slightly trickier but whenever I am grilled as to how exactly it is that I can leave for all these months, the answer is very simple: Airbnb.

Airbnb has revolutionised the process of finding a living space for many in their 20s and 30s

Everyone not in a TV studio pays exorbitant prices for closets that are sold as "drawing room vestibules"

God bless Airbnb, and the entire sharing economy. It transformed my life. With it, I can let people stay in my apartment while I am away, and the modest income that I derive from it allows me to offset most of the rent that I pay for the place. TV shows like Friends and Sex and the City lied to a whole generation of people, and the truth is that rent controlled apartments are about as common as unicorns who vomit rainbows. Everyone not in a TV studio pays exorbitant prices for closets that are sold as “drawing room vestibules”.

For some of you who may not know but may have already guessed, Airbnb is a website where you can rent either a couch, or a room or a whole apartment to stay in practically any city in the world. It’s cheaper than living in a hotel for the most part, and it’s sold as being a more authentic experience. I had been using it for years as a guest before I signed up as a host. I was skeptical, obviously. No one likes the ideas of strangers in their home, especially when you yourself are not there. But my former roommate from art school, an intrepid Israeli man called Itamar, successfully rented out no less than five apartments on rotation and found the income grand enough that he ceased any other form of work. Sadly, for reasons involving a headphone company, four counts of federal tax evasion and brief but productive time in a psychiatric facility, he moved back to Israel. Lucky for me, after his committal but before his departure, he had the time to introduce me to Dorota, the woman who actually managed his mini-empire of Airbnb rentals.

Dorota is the reason my life works the way it does. A Polish maid, Dorota is the woman who takes care of my place when I am not there. No, actually she’s much more than that. She is a hospitality ninja, silently but effectively managing not only mine but several others places all around the city – with a vicious Eastern European organisational panache that is as effective as it is seamless. She greets the guests when they come, makes sure they have everything they need while they’re there, and makes the place ready for when they leave. More importantly, she makes sure my life is still waiting for me when I get back. Even if it is after four months.

’Cause even if every man is an island, there should always be a lifeboat.

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