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A former Hollywood ad producer who now lives on Airbnb shares her top tips for long-term travel and nomadic living

Denise Netzley embracing nomadic living.

Denise Netzley

  • Airbnb is seeing users book longer stays, with 20% of nights booked for a month or more.
  • One long-term traveller told Insider she has been living on Airbnb for the past six months.
  • Although she’s funding the trip with an inheritance, her monthly costs are comparable to her former rent.

The decision came — as life-changing ones tend to do — in the middle of the night.

It was January of last year and Denise Netzley said she had been thinking for several weeks about moving out of her apartment in Los Angeles and living for the foreseeable future on Airbnb.

“I woke up,” she told Insider, “and I was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m doing this, 100% I’m doing this.'”

The following morning she started getting rid of what belongings she could, moved the rest into storage, and made reservations on Airbnb.

At 59 years old, Netzley had some savings from a career producing ads for Hollywood films, followed by a personal assistant business that was winding down. She also received an inheritance following the death of her father three years ago, which she said made the whole plan possible.

Denise NetzleyDenise Netzley

Denise Netzley

In becoming a full-time Airbnb guest, Netzley was joining a growing set of power users who are booking longer and longer reservations on the platform.

Company data show that roughly a fifth of nights booked were for stays longer than a month, CEO Brian Chesky said in a recent Twitter thread in which he announced that he too is now “living on Airbnb.”

The first reservation Netzley made was the one where she’s currently living — in her father’s birthplace of Kansas City, Missouri. From there she worked backwards, filling in the months with stays in Mexico and South Africa.

In making the reservations, Netzley discovered by accident that some hosts offer discounts ranging from 15% to 50% when a reservation passes a certain length.

In May of last year, Netzley handed over the keys to her LA apartment and departed for a six-week stay in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

“The first few days there I was completely overwhelmed, a fish out of water,” she said. “But after the first week I got the lay of the land and I got comfortable enough to rent a car and start taking these day trips to different places, like Tulum.”

Denise Netzley in South Africa.Denise Netzley in South Africa.

Denise Netzley

Netzley’s advice to similarly out-of-water fish is simple: “Sit at the bar in any restaurant when you go, people are going to be more inclined to be conversational. The bartender is going to help make connections. I just always sit at the bar almost anywhere I go.”

She spent August in a Kansas City neighborhood that she was considering to live post-travel before jetting off to Cape Town where a condo in a ten-unit building became her two-month base-camp for shorter jaunts around Africa.

“I found that I like having a home base,” she said. “I just love the idea that I didn’t have to schlep everything. I could just take a small bag and leave my stuff.”

Netzley added that she was able to get by with bringing about half the amount of stuff to Africa that she had brought with her to Mexico.

And although she wasn’t keeping a close eye on her budget, the purchasing power of the US dollar overseas meant that she was effectively living at a similar or lower monthly cost to what she would have paid in rent and expenses had she simply stayed in LA.

On her way back to the US in December, she passed through Uganda and went on a gorilla trek that she said was the “absolute pinnacle” of the six-month journey.

Now back in Kansas City at the same Airbnb host she stayed with in August, Netzley says she’s “at a crossroads” trying to determine how she can continue to support her future travels, including launching a new business idea.

Before she had set out in the first place, she had decided not to become attached to the inheritance money from her father, and now she’s determined not to let this new business take over too much of her life.

“I’ve discovered in this travel — and in this year — that there’s so much joy out there,” Netzley said.” I would never give up that for money, ever.”

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