Debi Hertert of HostingYourHome.com talks with Airbnb superhosts Alan Colley and Dabney Tompkins, self-described “City Slickers” who none the less, live on a very remote 160 acres. In a house, but it’s on a 40-foot high lookout tower.
Alan and Dabney lived in Portland in a condo and rented it out on Airbnb while they went backpacking or touring. But they never met their guests. Now they live in the super-remote, rural Oregon and realize that there were the same number of people on their street in Portland as are in their entire rural area; but they knew few people on their Portland street and know everyone in their current surrounds.
They were on a ferry to Victoria when they saw a book on renting fire towers, bought the book, and hilariously tried to reserve one in Tiller, Oregon for the next weekend. After the lady answering the phone had a friendly laugh about the non-availability, she gave them a consolation prize of a rental tower in Pickett Butte. They loved it.
They loved it so much that they bought property, which only comes in 160-acre lots. Then they had a tower built to closely resemble the original Forest Service fire watch towers. But theirs doesn’t have the fire sighting equipment and they had a great laugh when Debi asked them if they were firefighters.
Initially going to Tiller for weekends, they at one point realized they really would love to live there full time. They leased out their PDX condo for a year, and some months later realized it wouldn’t be long enough and made arrangements to stay longer. That was three years ago.
Alan and Dabney said that they never realized how much they would appreciate the experience of meeting their guests, and that has transformed their lives. Their first season, they posted their “Off the Ground and 40-Feet Up” listing on Airbnb and had their first booking in an hour. The season filled in two weeks.
With so much demand, Dabney relates the “mistake” of trying to accommodate people who couldn’t get in, especially returning guests who they wanted to be able to come back. He started “penciling people in” and found the logistics to be overwhelming. The second season filled in three hours.
He leaves some dates open in 2018 so that people can contact him on the Airbnb platform, otherwise there is no way for them to contact him with all the dates closed. He and Alan have the funny experience of being so popular that they get kicked off of the platform every three weeks or so from having to decline so many reservation requests.
Debi discussed prices with them – why not increase them if demand is so strong. You will hear a very meaningful response that has to do with the people they want to meet.
OK, well everyone has to go to the bathroom, so Debi wanted to know what her options would be. First off, there are 66 steps up, so that would be 66 steps down, which you might not want to do in the middle of the night. Good news – there are other options.
Want to propose? It turns out this is a pretty popular place to do that, with four or five couples making it official during their stay. Including our very own Michael Burke and Caitlin White but that will wait for another episode 🙂
There is more: camping events with catered food for 40 people, with music from local talent. Important outreach to their community to try to include others in the tourism economy. If you listen through to the end you will hear Alan share with Debi that the wind gives voice to the trees. And that every tree has a different voice. Remind you of people?
Alan and Dabney’s listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3405072
Great video made by Zillow: http://www.zillow.com/blog/life-in-a-fire-lookout-182162/
And a beautiful video made by Alan Colley and his son as a fundraiser for Portland’s Open Meadows School: https://youtu.be/SRkQRVd-jkU