I almost didn’t do it, but I’m sooooo glad I did.
So every now and then, I shoot photos for Airbnb.com, the vacation rental website where people can rent out their unused spaces for extra income. Sometimes it’s a guest house, sometimes it’s a room in a house, sometimes it’s a tent on a roof of a house. Luckily, since I’m in Topanga Canyon, my radius of 30 miles for assignments covers some of the most ridiculous places ever. I live in a 600 square foot shack of a house, but the hills around me are surrounded by Malibu, Pacific Palisades, that sort of thing…so you don’t have to work your imagination too hard to understand what exists in these parts.
Anyhow, this time, my assignment was a yurt on a property in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains. It was described as a ‘yurt on an organic farm.’ Intrigued…so I accepted this gig. It’s our responsibility as photographers to reach out to the property owner to set up and schedule a shoot, so when I reached out to the woman who’s property this was, she invited me to spend the night in the yurt and cook breakfast for me in the morning. Now this is the first time something like this has happened, and at first I thought she was just doing it to be nice and there’s no way I could take her up on the offer, but she kept insisting. I figured I’d never been in a yurt, I may never have an opportunity like this again, so said screw it, let’s do this thing. Drove out to the property late last night, made it around 9pm, and walked into the thing and I was insanely surprised. I could live in this thing. It was like a round studio apartment with bamboo flooring. Read a little, passed out, not knowing what to expect as I hadn’t met the owners yet.
I woke up at 8am to a call telling me breakfast would be ready in 15 minutes, so I hurried down, washed up a bit, and walked up to the main house. This property was incredible. In the middle of a gorgeous canyon with an ocean view and chickens and roosters and plants and trees and that sort of beautiful madness. I ran into her husband on the way up, a nice fella who introduced himself on his way out and told me to head up to the house for breakfast. We chatted for a bit, he was interested in that I was a photographer because he’s a well-accomplished Director of Photography on big films, told me his wife was a photographer, and sent me on my way.
I went up into the house, and there she was…a lovely woman pouring me a cup of coffee with freshly baked scones, and eggs prepared that were just picked this morning from the coop out back. She set up on the deck overlooking the ocean and sat me down and fed me and we chatted and and chatted and chatted. I felt like I was on vacation. She had written two photography books, both based in Africa around eco-resorts and structures and sustainable practices in Africa, long before any of these were even buzz words. Anyhow, after we finished a nice hour long breakfast, I figured it was time to…well…work?
So I headed down, she offered herself as an assistant and told me to boss her around, which I felt weird about, so didn’t, but I went about the next 4 hours or so photographing her two rental units, the yurt being one of them, and another room in the main house that overlooks the canyon and the ocean. I was wrapping up and getting ready to go when she told me to head back upstairs and just relax on the deck…I had worked hard enough she said. I couldn’t do it. But again, she insisted, so I sat on the deck, she brought out a salad for lunch, and fed me yet again. We chatted about similar interests, everything from publishing, to photography and ate.
After lunch, it was finally time to leave. The wonderful part was, and it took me all day to accept this, that I wasn’t imposing…she actually wanted to do this. This was who she was. And I left happy to know that that exists. I hadn’t felt that sort of hospitality…perhaps…ever. And here was a complete stranger letting me into her life in such a beautiful way, without expecting anything in return other than mutual respect.
She vowed to be in touch, offered me the yurt whenever I wanted so long no one was renting it, and off I went.
I do not remember the last time a day like this happened, and I am so grateful for meeting her and taking the chance and heading out there and everything the day brought with it. It was incredible and throughout it all, there were so many moments where I would normally have just left or felt uncomfortable, but that moment never happened today. It just came, and then disappeared, and I was grateful throughout the entire process. And it felt good.
Basically, I had a genuinely good day, and that is something I have needed for a much longer time than I’d like to admit.
Anyhow, if you’re ever in the Los Angeles area, and are looking for a place to stay, use Airbnb, search for yurt in Malibu, and make sure the host is Bibi.
You will not regret it.
. …was a good day…