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December 13, 2018

How a regular Joe can Follow their Passion & still Pay their Rent.

I love to swim.

Many people do—it’s a popular activity.

What I like to do is swim straight out into the ocean, far away from the beach. Sometimes, I find myself floating a mile offshore.

I live on an island off of the southern coast of Brazil in front of miles of beach and the deep, powerful southern Atlantic ocean. The swell ranges from medium to huge. It comes from “down under,” brewed somewhere above Antarctica in the southern oceans, which whip around the globe uninterrupted by continents.

The water can range in temperature from mid 50s to mid 70s. Tolerable. It is clean and transparent on sunny days, and forbiddingly dark on cloudy days. Regardless, when I am out there, I am happy.

When it’s calm and sunny, I invite friends along. Anybody who wants to connect with the ocean and learn how to safely swim out far from shore is welcome. I love to share this experience. Even a 15-minute swim close to the beach can be exhilarating for somebody not used to venturing out beyond the breaking waves.

One day, I was looking at renting a place on Airbnb and came across their “Experiences” section.

What was this?

It listed surfing lessons, cooking classes, walking tours, and even participation in matcha tea ceremonies in cities all over the world. Folks who have a skill and a passion—and who want to share that with guests from all over the world—list their experience on Airbnb’s website and can make an income.

I immediately thought that maybe I could share my passion for swimming in the ocean and earn some money doing it. So, I did some more research.

Airbnb launched its Experiences section in late 2016, and now two years on, it offers experiences in close to 1,000 cities and has seen triple digit growth. The idea is to enable locals to write up an experience and to list it on Airbnb. Airbnb has a fairly stringent vetting process to make sure that the listed experiences are well-managed and offer something that a visitor would maybe not be able to do by themselves.

Some popular hosts (offering experiences like home pasta making classes in Italy and wilderness walks with wolves in Washington state) earn well over $150,000 per year.

This is one person doing what they love to do.

So what is it that you love to do? When your out-of-town friends visit, where do you take them? What is it about your neighborhood, your community of friends, your hobbies, and your favourite sports that you love to talk about? Or are you an artist, chef, craftsman, writer, hiker, or tea lover? Do you have a true expertise about your passion? I am not saying you need to be an expert with a degree, but do you have unique knowledge gained by doing what you love to do?

Here is what I have learned both by offering my swim experience and by using my 20-year background running a luxury experiential travel company.

Tips and how to start:

1. Consider what you love to do and what you’re already doing. Is it something your friends are often eager to join in? Is it making vegan cupcakes? Trail running outside your city? Rowing on your favorite lake? Scouring flea markets?

2. Research your competition and your colleagues. This is easy. On the Airbnb Experiences site, see what other experiences are already offered in your city. And check out similar experiences to yours in different cities.

3. Write up your experience like a story your guest can imagine themselves in. How will the experience start? Will you sit with a fresh sugarcane juice and look out over the waves with your instructor before paddling out into the surf? Will your pasta making class start with a discussion about different types of wheat flour? How will you wrap up the experience? What are the moments that give you pleasure?

4. Fill it with surprises—think like a genie fresh out of the bottle. On your flea market walking tour, do you have a favorite coffee shop where the owner will welcome you? On your art deco walk, can you get a hotel manager to let you up on the roof to sip a glass of champagne? I always ask a lot of questions of my guests prior to the experience about what they liked on other trips and glean ideas for my experience. What can you provide that somebody may not be able to do themselves?

5. Be genuine and authentic and do the experience along with your paying guest. This last point I think is the most important. People are looking for an experience with a local, someone who’s passionate about their subject. Ultimately, like any of us, they want to feel a human connection.

The first guest who booked my ocean swimming experience turned out to be a young man from the interior of Brazil who was not much of a swimmer. Our experience turned out to be a gentle approach to swimming. He was thrilled to be in the ocean, if only some 25 yards from the beach. The experience taught me that sharing my passion was more important than sharing my knowledge.

Social media can pose threats to our privacy and it challenges us to not simply bask in like-minded communities. At the same time, look at the opportunities! I am able to connect with people who share my passion. While my choice of an open ocean swimming experience will probably not attract thousands of followers, I can do what I love and begin to earn some income. I am going to add some more basic swimming experiences to my offerings on Airbnb Experiences.

If you are interested in connecting with more people by sharing your passion and making extra income, Airbnb Experiences offers a great platform to do just that.

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Nathaniel Waring

author: Nathaniel Waring

Image: Dannee Hazama (With Permission)

Editor: Catherine Monkman