The Cost of Hosting Summer Visitors

Bending over backwards to AirBnB your friends

The Visitor

I guess I went overboard because I’ve had some trouble meeting new people.

I’ve just moved across the country and making local friends hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. The last time I moved was a couple of years ago. On paper it looks like that move should have been much more isolating. I was living by myself, moving in November to a new state (Wisconsin) where I knew exactly no one. But last time, I saw it coming. I knew if I didn’t put a serious effort into making new friends, Wisconsin’s winter would … well, I wasn’t sure exactly what would happen, but I kept picturing what I discover at the back of my freezer after months of neglect.

As soon as I moved my furniture into my new apartment, I threw myself a housewarming party. I invited my new coworkers who were in similar life situations (read: unmarried), and I made sure to follow through on that night’s idea that we should start a trivia team. We met at a local bar weekly for Tuesday trivia, and the next fall we gathered at another coworker’s house to watch college football on Saturdays. Every Packers game I watched, I watched with my new friends. I even ran in the Green Bay 5K that finishes around Lambeau Field. My budget had a line item for bar food and beer. I felt busy in my new life, and unexpectedly happy too.

I moved to the Bay Area, where my fiancé had already started graduate school, in March of this year. I figured if I had acclimated so well and so quickly to Wisconsin, sunny California should be a piece of cake. The friends would practically make themselves!

But this time, I have my fiancé living with me for the first extended time in our relationship. After four years of long-distance dating, it’s great to share each other’s company after a long day at work. We’ve all but stopped eating at restaurants, since the food we make at home is delicious, and we get to share it with each other.

As great as our new routine is, I still find myself feeling lonely sometimes. The time difference makes it pretty tough to talk to my good friends back on the east coast. And as great as my Wisconsin friends were, we weren’t really close enough to stay close after I moved.

So when one of my east coast friends said she might be passing through San Francisco in July, I pounced. I told her that my apartment is her apartment, and I meant it. I was excited to connect my old friend with my new life.

At first, my idea was just to get a little welcome basket ($15), like what you’d get at a highly-rated Airbnb. It would have in it a towel and washcloth (free, since I already owned them). And of course it would have soap ($2) and a toothbrush (free, after my most recent trip to the dentist).

But then, since I’m high-strung and a Millennial, I started Googling how to welcome a guest into your home. This was the emotional equivalent of Googling a rash, which I do not recommend. I had to have a granola bar in case she got hungry ($0.80) and bottled water in case she got thirsty ($0.83). Of course I wanted to show off the delicious local produce, so she needed cherries from the local market ($5). She needed a book in case she got bored ($16) and a Clipper card for public transit while I was at work ($3 for the card and $10 starting balance).

The day before she arrived, I panicked because my fiancé and I had NO SUITABLE FOOD for her to eat. (This was, of course, untrue.) I absolutely needed to get ice cream sandwiches ($5) and chocolate covered banana bites ($4) (who eats these??) and cheese ($5) and crackers ($2) and wine ($0, since I had left my ID at home). And then when she and another old friend arrived, I absolutely had to treat us to dinner ($30).

I had a great time with my friends, and they really did appreciate the warm welcome. Their visit reminded me that the lovable “me” who summoned friends out of the frozen tundra just a couple of years ago is still around. But my friends would have felt just as loved if I hadn’t bought so much hospitality gear. I put all that effort — and just shy of $100, the actual price of a night in a nice Airbnb! — into an old friendship, when I really need to put all that energy into making friends in the Bay Area.

Here’s to hoping that my newly-joined running club stays free.

Virginia is an engineer and a cat lady living in Berkeley, CA. She comments on The Billfold as StateLady.