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At the beginning of each year, I like to write an email to our company about what I think is important for the year ahead. This year, I shared this story about two of our hosts and their treehouse.

I want to tell you a story about two of our hosts, Doug and Linda.

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Doug and Linda share a popular treehouse in Burlingame, California. They originally built it for two of their kids, Chloe and Brett. They used to play in the treehouse, but then they grew up and moved out of the house, and Doug and Linda were left with an unused treehouse in their yard. What should they do with it? Their eldest daughter Mackenzie recommended they list it on Airbnb. Since they started hosting 5 years ago, Doug and Linda have hosted nearly 1,000 people from all over the world.

They believe so passionately that their treehouse is more than just a place to stay. It’s a gateway into their lives. As much as any hosts on Airbnb, Doug and Linda represent our ideals, and Joe, Nate, and I have become very close to them over the years. We did a photoshoot with them a couple years ago, and they have been featured in interviews and on stage at Airbnb events.

Three weeks ago, as I was going away on holiday, I received a letter from Doug. He informed me that after a difficult battle with breast cancer, Linda passed away. I was devastated to read this news.

I had not quite known what Airbnb meant to Linda until the end of the letter that Doug had sent to me. He said,

“Linda and I have both relished in your success and the rapid growth of the Airbnb authentic travel movement… We were and remain proud to host and sometimes intimately interact with people from different countries and cultures, and feel strongly that the Airbnb framework will continue to accelerate this process on a global level. Linda and I personally felt this may in fact be the lasting legacy of Airbnb and the sharing economy. It is a small world — one world, one people.”

For three weeks, Doug’s email stared at me in my inbox. I didn’t really know what to do with it. As I was coming back from vacation, I reached out to Doug. I told him that I wanted to write about him and Linda. Then I realized I never stayed at their treehouse, but last Friday night it was available, so Elissa and I booked it. The treehouse was even more more enchanting than I remembered. When we walked in, there was this wonderful personality.

We opened the guestbook on the table and this is what we found — dozens of mementos and thank you’s left by travelers before us.

Elissa and I decided to leave a drawing of our own.

Before we left, we spent over an hour talking to Doug. We discussed how he built the treehouse, but how Linda added the spirit and soul. As Doug said, “Linda believed all good design came from nature.”

This year, you may have read predictions for new technologies that will begin changing our lives — commercial drone delivery, virtual reality, cryptocurrency, and self-driving cars are just some examples. It is indeed an exciting time — one of the most exciting for innovation in recent memory.

I do believe many of these technologies will change our lives in ways we can’t imagine, and yet people are as lonely, isolated and disconnected as ever. What the world needs is more than just new technology. It needs people like Doug and Linda. They remind us that people are fundamentally good.

As I reflect on my conversation with Doug, I remember that he kept talking about Linda in the present tense. It was like she wasn’t really gone. And in a sense for me I feel that way as well. Linda will live on through the treehouse she helped create, and the lives she touched.

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Thank you for hosting Doug and Linda.

Written by

Co-founder, CEO of Airbnb

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