At the launch of Airbnb’s latest campaign, ‘That’s Why we Airbnb‘, we managed to get a fresh perspective on travel from renowned television and film personality, Mandira Bedi, where she shared stories of her travels over the years. By Tara Choudhary
What makes you choose Airbnbs over hotel stays?
I think it’s very personal and if you want to explore a different culture and city, you can do that better via Airbnb, as opposed to a hotel. Hotels are very standardised, they all look like a kind; it’s like going to the same place always. Whereas, by staying in a home, you get a personalised and luxurious experience; basically whatever you’re looking for. I’ve stayed in enough properties to say you can get a really personalised and beautiful experience in Airbnbs, which you can’t get in hotels.
Which has been your best Airbnb experience so far?
In Sri Lanka. I stayed in Colombo in this gorgeous property, which was a two or three-storey house. The home was luxurious, beautifully done up, and whoever did it or owned the place had a wonderful sensibility. I remember having an amazing Sri Lankan breakfast every morning. The cook would come and ask every day what I’d like to eat. It also had a pool and being an aquaphile, it felt like a complete experience. I think the personal touch that Airbnbs offers with each experience makes them so very special.
What do you always carry with you when you travel? Whether it is for sentimental value or convenience?
I travel keeping the weather in mind, so I always travel with a jacket, an umbrella and a windcheater. Even if am going to a sunny destination in summer, I still carry a jacket to combat air conditioning. I also carry a camera, so even if I don’t shop, I carry a lot of memories and experiences back. I’m one of those travellers who will do whatever possibly fit in the duration of the trip. My husband is all about chilling on vacations and I’m the opposite. I’m off to Maldives in a little while and I’m hoping to do some scuba diving and water sports, and I’m lining all of that up now because I know that those are the things I enjoy. I might keep one day to just chill, but I want to do a lot of stuff, and I try to normally.
What kind of traveller would you say you are, a systematic and planned one or a more impulsive and spontaneous one?
I think I’m a bit of both. Work makes me travel a lot, so I go to beautiful destinations all over the world. If it’s a place I haven’t been to before, I stay on for a couple of days and explore on my own. In those places, I am completely a spontaneous traveller. Once I was staying in this particular hotel for an event and I wanted to go to another city, so I found out from the locals and booked while I was there. I am not one of those people who wants to book way beforehand and all that. With Airbnb you need to practice that though, so sometimes I’m spontaneous and sometimes I’m very systematic — it’s a mix of both.
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Do you remember your first independent trip?
I’ll never forget that; my first solo trip was to Cannes. Of all the places, I headed off to France as I was doing a TV show called Shanti. Since this show was exported all over the world, they wanted me to attend a television conference there. The first part of it was taken care of as I was with the company, and then I decided to do Paris on my own. I’d been to Paris with my parents before and we had stayed in certain kinds of hotels. From my past experiences in Europe and Paris, I knew the rooms you get are quite small. I remember coming to the hotel room, which I booked and found this place really small. The bathroom was such if you stood up, you were in front of the sink, and one step left you’d be literally under the shower. It was like you barely had space to even turn. The walls were very thin, so you could hear talking and all sorts of ‘unsavoury’ things, as well. Mobile phones weren’t as accessible as they are today and I didn’t have one, so I remember calling my husband from a phone booth saying, “If anything happens to me, ‘this’ is the hotel I’m staying at.” I was fearful as this was my first solo travel, but I grew a lot of courage by the end of it and I did a lot of sight-seeing and walking around. I’ll never forget that experience because of the courage it gave me. I do a lot of solo travel now, so its all owed to that.
How many countries do you think you’ve visited so far?
I’ve been to a lot of places, so I don’t actually know how many. But, I’ve been to a couple of cities in Australia, in Europe I’ve been to France, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, among others. I would like to visit Russia, I haven’t been there and Japan, too. But, I have covered most of Southeast Asia. Italy was always on my bucket list for the longest time and I hadn’t been there until recently and now, in the last six months, I’ve done four trips to Italy. So, I was missing out on it and now I’ve done Milan, Naples and Venice.
What does travel mean to you?
I am a wanderlust. You know, when I travel a lot, I complain because I feel like I’m always living out of airports, and then I have 10 days of no travel, and I feel so strange. It’s like a necessity for me, I have that travel keeda now.