I have been recovering from a traumatic brain injury since I was hit by a motorcycle 19 years ago. I had to give up my medical practice and reorient my life to improving my brain function.
Hosting through Airbnb became part of my personal healing process. Though my case is an extra-special one, I believe the site helps so many New Yorkers find their way through difficult times.
In 1980, I bought my four-story, two-family brownstone in Prospect Heights. I was a physical rehabilitation and sports medicine doctor looking to start my own practice.
For years I saw patients in the first floor office of my home, but after my accident, those rooms were empty. It was painful to see the parts of my house that I used for my work—work that I was so proud of—lying dormant because of my injuries.
Now, the space is filled most days of the year with Airbnb guests visiting from Kansas, France, and all over the world. The bare bedrooms that were causing me sadness are now filled with the warmth and laughter of visitors enjoying New York City. These parts of my home are once again productive spaces.
What I earn by hosting supplements my disability insurance and that certainly eases the stresses of living in an expensive city. Airbnb makes it easier for me to live on a fixed income.
Most importantly, though, hosting through Airbnb has been priceless to my recovery, helping me rebuild some of the brain function I lost. After the accident, I was in bad shape: I couldn’t understand what I was reading and had difficulty with writing. Even as I healed, my memory and focus were drastically depleted.
To recover, I knew that exercising my mind with tasks that require planning would be beneficial. Doctors call it cognitive remedial activity. So, among other things like learning French and getting a PhD in medicine, I decided to use Airbnb to re-develop my cognitive skills.
The process of booking guests, coordinating their arrival times around my schedule, and welcoming them into my home, turned out to be a perfect way to stretch my brain muscles and improve my memory.
I keep a calendar on my desk and track the information I need to give my guests a smooth check-in process and a comfortable experience. I even get to practice my French with some of them.
I chose the Airbnb community because it is the safest and most secure way to host. Ratings, profiles, and online correspondence give me a sense of who my guests are before they arrive and I get to decide whom to invite into my home. I consider these features to be as important to my hosting as safety measures were in my medical practice.
Over the years since my accident, I have made an 80 percent recovery from my brain injuries. It’s good progress, especially now that I am 69 years old. Each day I move forward a bit more, and my interactions with my Airbnb guests have helped speed that healing process.
Not every host has been helped in such a unique way, but there are so many who use Airbnb to help navigate other difficult circumstances in their lives like losing a job or facing an illness. For us, Airbnb has made it a lot easier to make it in New York City.
Dr. Kathleen R. Watson lives in Prospect Heights.