I used Kindred, a members-only home-swapping network, to book a New York City staycation.
Unlike Airbnbs, which are often investment properties, Kindred homes are members' actual houses.
I think home-swapping could be the future of travel — but not necessarily for everyone.
It's not often that you get to step foot into another person's life, to slip out of your own world and try on someone else's.
Kindred, an exclusive home-swapping network, says it offers travelers a chance to do just that. The idea is that members can trade places with hosts around the world, staying in each other's actual homes and experiencing a neighborhood or city like a local, a concept reminiscent of the 2006 rom-com "The Holiday."
While other rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo do offer local homes, many of the houses are investment properties, not people's real-life spaces. Kindred is trying to differentiate itself: You stay in someone's home and offer up your own space for the same number of nights. Plus, there's no financial exchange between host and guest — guests pay a service fee and a cleaning fee, which varies by home, but the cost of admission is allowing people to stay in your own space.
I recently booked a two-night staycation using Kindred, briefly becoming a resident of a chic one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan's East Village. The company doesn't currently allow hosts to rent out rooms in shared apartments, so for the purpose of trying out the platform, Kindred let me book my stay without having to offer up my own apartment, which I currently share with two roommates.
The experience felt intimate and personal — you share your stay with the host's own belongings: photos, decorations, the condiments and snacks in their fridge — and for people looking for a more sterile, anonymous vacation, it likely won't be a good fit.
But for those who want to connect with and open their homes up to other travelers, I believe Kindred could permanently alter how they travel. Because hosts don't get paid, listing a home is less about turning a profit, and more about experiencing the world in a less expensive, more communal way.
Kindred operates on a 'give-to-get' model — to use it, you have to open your home to other travelers
Kindred was an idea born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, cofounder Justine Palefsky told Insider. Palefsky and her cofounder, tired of working from home, wanted a different way to travel without breaking the bank.
"We kept staring at the same wall at our work-from-home desk day after day, feeling a little stuck," Palefsky said. "We really wanted to mix it up and travel a little bit more, especially now that we didn't have to be in the office. It felt like there was this newfound flexibility that we wanted to take advantage of."
Since the company launched in 2022, Kindred has approved just over 3,000 members, a slim number compared to the more than 25,000 applications they've fielded over the past year, and a fraction of Airbnb's more than four million hosts.
Most new members discover the app through friends, then use their friend's referral code to start their application, Palefsky told Insider. During the application process, potential members go through the typical questions — who they are, where they'd like to travel — then submit a video walk-through of their home.
Because Kindred is a strict "give-to-get" model, everyone on the platform must have their own home listed, and there's no nightly rate; just a service fee and a cleaning fee. Right now, new members automatically get five "credits," each of which counts towards one night of a stay, which is how I booked my two-night Kindred staycation.
Using Kindred felt like I was spending the weekend at someone's cool older sister's house
As I walked into my Kindred apartment in Manhattan's East Village, I found a well-loved space filled with relics from another New Yorker's life. Because I used the credits loaded onto my account, the visit didn't cost me anything. Without the new-member promo, my two-night stay would have been about $250.
By comparison, Airbnbs in the East Village for the same number of nights cost anywhere between $400 and $700 whereas some hotels in the area start between $200 and $300 a night for smaller rooms.
The photos and trinkets that come with each home are part of the platform's appeal, and Kindred has taken steps to keep it as personal as possible: Palefsky said they no longer accept investment properties and about 95% of homes listed on the app are people's actual homes.
"We wanted to create an environment of mutual trust," Palefsky said. "It's a really vulnerable thing to let somebody into your real space, where your life happens, where all your stuff is."
While staying in my Kindred home, I was acutely aware that I was in someone else's space. Unlike most hotels where I often feel a sense of anonymity (do I really need to take off my shoes? It's just a hotel room!), I felt a heightened sense of having to protect the apartment, to keep it clean and orderly for when my host returned. It's as if you're staying at a friend's house for the weekend, and want to leave it pristine for when they come back.
Palefsky and the team at Kindred say they've found that other guests have this tendency, too, seeing the homes as an act of generosity.
"What we find is that people are actually much more respectful and much more careful and more warm when they have a connection with this other person who is letting them stay in their home as a gift," she told Insider.
While I liked my experience, it's definitely not for everyone
There's something to be said about staying in a hotel and not having to worry about keeping the place sparkly clean. I don't think everyone will be comfortable staying in an environment as intimate as a Kindred home, and surely some will opt for more anonymous accommodations.
I'll admit I briefly longed for the effortlessness of a hotel early on in my Kindred stay, when a neighbor questioned what I was doing at the apartment, demanding to know why I was picking up a key from the outdoor lockbox.
I can see that quirks like these could keep some vacationers away from Kindred. And while I won't be giving up hotel stays anytime soon, either, I do think Kindred has created a new landscape for how we think about travel: as a way to connect with and welcome others into our own corners of the world.
Read the original article on Insider