SPONSORED – Rachel Zatz: traveller & Airbnb host

19 Mar

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Londoner Rachel Zatz has been planning a big trip to Brazil after she last visited 10 years ago with her eight-year-old. But she’s had to wait for her son to grow up, find time to learn basic Portuguese and think of a way to travel without ruinous bills. The answer has been to rent out the spare rooms in her N7 home. Interview with Nicola Baird

***This post is sponsored by Airbnb***

Rachel Zatz and partner Scott tried Airbnb during a birthday treat in Lisbon, Portugal. Rachel: “We loved it! We saved so much money because we could cook.” Once back in London they became Airbnb hosts renting their three spare rooms.

Rachel Zatz and partner Scott tried Airbnb during a birthday treat to Lisbon, Portugal. Rachel: “We loved it! We saved so much money because we could cook.” Once back in London they became Airbnb hosts renting their three spare rooms.

Rachel Zatz and partner Scott live just off the Holloway Road in a quiet, mostly ex-local authority row. They moved to Islington from Camden about a year ago after buying a four-bedroom home here.

20140310_153512We had a friend living with us, but they moved and my son moved out so we had spare rooms,” explains Rachel in the living room that’s lined with shelves of records and set off by a music deck along one wall.

It’s clearly a room ready for the next party, but looks homely with Scott’s two cats, Rizla and Ginger, relaxing in the spring afternoon sunshine while we wait for the kettle to whistle.

Travel pull
The pair were seasoned couch surfers (you register on a website and then find a sofa to kip on at someone’s home for free) and regular hostelers. Scott has trvelled all over Asia; Rachel spent a year in China as part of an Anthropology BA at SOAS and even travelled for months at a time with her son, Spike, when he was little. But it wasn’t until they visited Portugal last year (2013) for Rachel’s birthday that they used Airbnb for the first time. “It saved us so much money,” remembers Rachel – and they enjoyed the experience too. So, as soon as they were back in London they began renting out their three spare rooms, see here.

“People say ‘Isn’t it weird having someone in your house you don’t know,’ but it’s travellers like us. I’m not good at being on my own – I came through squatting and new age travel, and I’ve done 12 years with just me and Spike. Now I want the communal thing, so when you are stuck in London it’s a way to meet new people, pay the bills and get a little bit extra,” says Rachel, 46, sipping from her I-heart-London mug.

To make sure the right sort of visitors book with them, Rachel adds: “We keep it cheap so we’re not getting business people.”

“We get cool people who want to party, go to Camden or the Emirates, into the West End or to the museums and we can tell them which bus,” says Scott. He’s not a fan of ‘suits’, but quotes another Airbnb host who pointed out: “If you don’t like the guy, they’ll be gone in a couple of days.”

Airbnb allows hosts to post rules. Rachel Zatz asks guest to use her pans (for vegetarians) or Scott’s pans (for meat eaters) if they want to cook.

Airbnb allows hosts to post rules. Rachel Zatz asks vegetarian guests to use her pans or Scott’s pans if they are meat eaters.

Rent your spare room
Turns out quite a few families are renting their spare rooms with Airbnb around Islington.  Airbnb have even set up a local office and are looking for more host homes, see how to sign up here.

Hotels are fiendishly expensive and a bit formal for many people. Rachel doesn’t like them at all:  “Hotels are not a luxury for me,” she says. “I like to smoke a bedtime cigarette and I don’t want to get dressed and go outside.”  That’s why she makes it clear to potential visitors that she and Scott smoke and have two cats. “We don’t cater, we keep it clean and tidy, though not to hotel standards, and we have clutter – so we’d rather charge less (£25 a night plus an extra £5 a night if there’s an extra person) so people are not bothered. I think that’s why we haven’t had families.”

Easter Island mementos from Rachel Zatz’s round the world trip when her son, Spike was eight. “I had 12 years of being a single mum and being in England living by school term times. It didn’t feel like a life…”

Easter Island mementos from Rachel Zatz’s round the world trip when her son, Spike was eight. “I had 12 years of being a single mum and being in England living by school term times. It didn’t feel like a life…”

Ready to travel
Those extra sessions vacuuming and sorting out clean sheets and duvets is helping Rachel and Scott fund a three-month trip to Brazil, starting this May.

”I went to Brazil with Spike when he was eight, but a month wasn’t long enough, I said then I had to go again, but I knew it had to be when Spike was 18. Being in Brazil for the football will be fantastic,” says Rachel who has secured tickets for four World Cup games in Salvador, and plans to watch other matches on Brazilian TV.  The pair have booked an Airbnb place – “we got a good deal and we’re near the football,” adds Rachel about their accommodation in Salvador.

They also plan beach stays and a five day trip down the Amazon river from Manaus.

Rachel Zatz’s tips: as good for tourists as Islington locals

  • There are good restaurants on Stroud Green Road – Jai Krishna, the Indian vegetarian,(161 Stroud Green Road), and Pappagone (131 Stroud Green Road) for pizza because it is cheap and cheerful.
  • Pubs: I’m not a big drinker and I like a vegetarian Sunday lunch. The price in Islington pubs is outrageous!
  • 20140312_134738At the Angel “I go to Desperados for Mexican (67 Upper Street). Emporium by Islington Green is good for coffee.” 
  • “We send people to Holloway Road for basics and supermarkets. It’s cheaper, local and has good food. There are brilliant cafes but not great after 6pm. Me and my friends go to a lovely tapas place, El Molino, (379 Holloway Road) all the time for lunchtime meals – four dishes and a drink for around a tenner.”
  • 20140310_154819“People come and stay here because they’ve booked tickets for a match at the Emirates or going to a West End show. I’d recommend Visit London for special offers – theatre needs to be pre-booked. And get an Oyster card the first tube trip you make. Visitors can get their Oyster refunded when they leave.” 

Get to know Islington
Long term the pair hopes to run a campsite in Spain but for now  – and before their big Brazil adventure – there’s plenty to explore in Islington.

“After only a year of being in Islington, Islington is so much better than Camden,” reckons Rachel who has been impressed by council compost collections. Compost know-how is one of her specialities, knowledge honed while she worked on the Camden Green Fair. She even set up hot-composting collections on the last estate where she lived.

“We still advertise as near Camden because that’s where tourists want to go,” she admits. But then Scott and her start talking bus routes from Holloway Road – the 390 that stops by the British Museum, the 29 that goes to the West End or the 17 to St Paul’s where you can get off and walk over the Millennium Bridge, or in the summer join a free beach party

It is clear Rachel and Scott are as much fans of all that London can offer, as their new home borough, Islington – just so long as they get a travel fix regularly too.

  • Book a room at Rachel and Scott’s, see here.
  • To become an Airbnb host, see here.


Airbnb, www.airbnb.co.uk  offers places to stay in 34,000 cities; 192 countries. A study from Airbnb community generates £502 million in economic activity in the UK (Jan 2014) calculated that a typical Airbnb host occasionally rents out the property in which they live, and the typical host earns £2,822 per year by renting 33 nights per year. Also 85 per cent of Airbnb hosts wants to “live like locals”. Full press release here.

Couchsurfers – sofas in 100,000 cities.

Youth hostels  – worldwide.

World Cup Brazil is from 12 June – 13 July 2014.

***This post is sponsored by Airbnb***

Over to you

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z index of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. 

If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


2 Responses to “SPONSORED – Rachel Zatz: traveller & Airbnb host”

  1. Mums do travel March 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    This is really interesting to read. I’ve been thinking about trying out Airbnb with my family when we go away but I’m not sure if it would work with kids in tow.

    • nicola baird blogs March 21, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Gretta, well in a way Airbnb is just like a BandB. The places I’ve used seem to be self-contained flats/homes/boats. However Rachel when I interviewed her was saying how as a single mum with a boy child it was awkward finding cheaper places to stay as youth hostels tended to separate women and young men/older boys. She thought staying at an Airbnb place that made it clear there were kids in the house would have been a really good way to travel. Food for thought given the price of accommodation everywhere… and I suppose as there is a calendar you could only let your home (or rooms) when you weren’t there, if you could think of a way to manage the visitors and the cleaning. I am working on this!! Nicola

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