At the start of this year I had a vision. Don’t worry guys, it wasn’t hallucinogenically induced. I haven’t yet turned into a new-agey peyote-tripping baggy pant wearing traveller (no judgement for those who have…) since I quit my old life, sold my possessions and set off with my wheelie suitcase – as a traveller with Fibromyalgia I can’t wear a backpack anymore – in search of a simpler, healthier way of being. My vision was this: I wanted to create a travel community that shares recommendations, helps each other out and basically wants to pay it forward (defined by the dictionary as responding ‘to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else’). Hence why the Artbird Network was created but I’ll come back to that. First an anecdote.
In March 2018 I treated myself to a ‘cultural week’ in London and Amsterdam, two of my favourite cities. It was my school’s Easter holidays and it was a relief to escape from my stressful life as a teacher in Dubai. I booked concert, theatre and museum tickets to indulge my arty sensibilities and the week away gave me a delicious taster of what my life was going to become once I left Dubai for good, finally plucking up the courage to live my dream of travelling full-time. I watched the amazing theatre show ‘Hamilton’ in London and remember writing on Instagram afterwards, ‘How beautiful voices sound when blended together in harmony, free from discrimination and prejudice’ (cheesy I know – I was full of emotion and had had a glass or two of bubbly ha ha). After a tough couple of years, I felt truly happy, excited about the future and benevolently wanted to share that joy and gratitude with the significant others in my life. I was in this state of mind when I arrived at Mr Jordaan, the boutique hotel I had booked for my time in Amsterdam http://www.mrjordaan.nl
I think the phrase ‘A home away from home’ gets over-used these days to make properties sound enticing and welcoming but in the case of Mr Jordaan, it perfectly described my experience. From the moment I arrived to the moment I left I felt taken care of and able to relax. You very much feel like you’ve been invited into Mr Jordaan’s home when you stay. It is cosy, during my visit all the staff were genuinely lovely, happy to engage in conversation, to make recommendations for things to do, places to see etc without being obtrusive, and this little boutique hotel really connected with my heart. What the staff didn’t know, and it wasn’t their business to know, was that my heart was broken during my stay. Two days into my visit, there was a shocking moment of realisation that the man I loved had done something deliberate that he knew would hurt me – unfortunately not for the first time. It was the final straw. I immediately ended what had been an emotionally damaging toxic relationship. Full of grief, I cried and barely slept or ate or properly functioned for the rest of my stay. Broken hearts mend eventually though and travelling the world has replaced sad memories like this with happier experiences. What I haven’t forgotten is the fact that, at a sh*tty time in my life, the hospitality of the Mr Jordaan hotel family brought me comfort. Smiles from the staff when I returned from exploring the city. Free flow hot drinks to warm me up on a rainy day. It all made me feel better. When I checked out, I was very touched to receive a care bag of treats, things to make my onward travels easier such as mints and a mini can of deodorant, and a promo code to use when I returned. This thoughtful gesture was much appreciated and really made me think about the differences between good and exceptional hotels/hostels. I should make it clear that I have not been paid or rewarded in any way to endorse Mr Jordaan. I promote them as a thank you for providing comfort at a time when I needed it and because they deserve it. I am paying it forward. They also helped inspire the creation of the Artbird Network and I am grateful to them for that.
At the start of this year I found two business cards that I had forgotten I’d been given, one from Mr Jordaan and one from a hostel, Chillout Hostel Warsaw. Both cards had promo codes on giving me 10% discount when I want to return and book direct. This sparked an idea. I started thinking about the amount of money I could have saved since I began my round-the-world adventure in June 2018 if I had been able to book more hostels/boutique hotels that had promo codes. I also know that many hostels/hotels prefer guests to book direct as third party booking sites tend to charge 15% commission. This is when my vision and my idea collided and the Artbird Network was born. All travellers I meet like to share hostel/hotel recommendations. Word of mouth and reviews left on sites are incredibly important. I wanted to provide a list of hostels and boutique hotels around the world that are willing to offer discounts to travellers so they can save money as they travel with the assurance that the properties on the list are quality places to stay. I began reaching out to hostels/boutique hotels, explaining that I wanted to help travellers and to help them, and the response has been so positive. I’m over the moon.
I launched the Artbird Network three weeks ago and the Artbird Network page on this blog https://uncagedartbird.com/artbird-network/ currently has 45 quality hostels/boutique hotels worldwide listed with more properties joining the network daily. As one hostel manager explained in his email to me today, booking hostels/boutique hotels direct using the promo code details given on my blog means that travellers get a bed or room for 25% less than if they booked with a third party site (10% promo code discount plus saving 15% commission). In the true spirit of paying it forward, the Artbird Network does not charge any commission for sharing promo codes on this blog or the Instagram @artbird_network https://www.instagram.com/artbird_network and it feels good to be able to create a community that helps both travellers and hostels/hotels.
The larger the network grows, the more beneficial to all, so I hope to encourage as many people as I can to share the travel love i.e. let friends, family and fellow travellers know about the Artbird Network, ask them to follow the Instagram, and tag posts with the hashtag #TravelLoveShared when they stay at one of the hostels/boutique hotels from the network list, using the promo code given.
Let’s support each other. Stop over-paying for accommodation. Book direct to make savings. Travel cheaper to travel longer.
Have you shared the travel love yet? 😉 Happy travels!
Click here to access the full list of Artbird Network properties and other travel promos https://uncagedartbird.com/artbird-network/