You can get hands-on with some of these experiences.
Thousands of people are earning extra money — Airbnb claims some earn more than $200,000 a year — by hosting Airbnb Experiences: things like classes, events and activities that people pay to take part in. These experiences are so popular that bookings grew 2,500% during 2017 — and in 2018, the company said, so it expanded them from fewer than 60 cities to more than 1,000 cities and more than 25,000 experiences.
Sometimes, the experiences offered are things you’ve probably never thought to do in your life: Like paying a stranger to cuddle you. Indeed, one Los Angeles Airbnb experience — that’s very highly rated, we might add — offers just that. For $29, you can engage in a group cuddle session, called the “Cuddle Sanctuary Social.” (Hour-long one-on-one professional cuddling sessions at The Cuddle Sanctuary cost about $80.)
The Cuddle Sanctuary Social starts with an orientation to “build group trust, safety and compassion” and talk cuddle etiquette. It then progresses to a “cuddle laboratory” where you may find yourself “laughing, talking, holding hands, hugging, sharing stories and yes, cuddling!”
Participants rave about the experience, with one noting: “The cuddle in the park was an amazing experience! Jean has a great way to set the ground rules and stage for a unique experience. Platonic and consensual touch and cuddle outdoors. It’s a real treat for anyone who is open and curious.”
This is far from the only unusual experience you might find on Airbnb. The company even has a page devoted to its “weird and wonderful” Experiences and makes money by taking 20% of the fee charged. Some of the more surprising — though also well-reviewed — experiences includes everything from engaging with animals to dressing up as a fantastical creature:
Extract your own DNA into a necklace, Tacoma, Wash., $35 per person
We can’t verify the safety of this one, so try at your own risk, but we can say that this experience is highly rated (4.88 out of 5 stars) from the few who have taken it. “Using cells from your cheek, we will break open the cells by creating large (relatively speaking, of course) openings in its membrane causing your DNA to spill out of them,” the description reads. “Then we will remove excess proteins from the mixture and force the strands of DNA to stick to each other. Finally, we will take the now easily visible DNA material and transfer it into a clear capsule which will serve as our necklace’s pendant.”
Have an experience with a sloth, San Ramon, Costa Rica, $26 per person
This family wants you to meet their sloth: “Since we were little we have taken care of this sloth and she (BODOQUE) is now part of the family,” they write. “Here we guarantee you a beautiful experience with the Sloth since you can see it very closely and take pictures and see when we feed it.” The experience has nearly 500 mostly 5-star reviews.
Learn to eat fire with a burlesque performer, Los Angeles, $45 per person
You’ll join your host in her private L.A. studio to first learn the theory and safety precautions behind fire eating. Then you’ll head outside to light up the torches and explore this performance art fully. “By the end of the session you’ll be fire eating and body burning like a pro,” the host writes. It’s also a 5-star-rated experience reads. As with all of these listings, it’s not a recommendation, so try it at your own risk.
Crystal Mirror Space Experience, San Francisco, $65 per person
This roughly two-hour experience — hosted by a “musical performer” who greets you in her “Crystal Mirror costume” — has you “walking into an art-installation room in which you’ll be immersed in a cascade of mirrored color and light.” You’ll then “take a seat on the shiny sequined sofa and put on the headphones so we can begin the musical odyssey,” which may include a customized musical performance just for you.
Professional mermaid training, San Diego, $85 per person
The host of this experience claims she’s been “part of the ‘mermaiding’ community for 5 years” and has “performed as a mermaid at events.” The event includes a mini-mermaid makeover, with “seashell top, makeup, accessories, mermaid tail, and a keepsake shell hair clip” as well as working on “developing your mermaid personality” and a sunset photo shoot. On a related note, you can learn to swim like a mermaid for $35 in Montreal.