'I Simply Let Myself in': Man Spends Night in House He Thought Was Airbnb

Paul Drecksler has done his fair share of traveling the past 10 years, though he had a recent experience that was quite out of the ordinary.

The travel connoisseur splits his time between Waynesville, North Carolina, about 30 miles southwest of Asheville, and Ecuador. He told Newsweek that he recently traveled to Miami, Florida, to officiate a friend's wedding but had a mishap along the way: He accidentally stayed at a complete stranger's residence he originally thought was part of his Airbnb.

He said his solo journey began the morning of March 8 in Cuenca, Ecuador, where he took a bus to an airport in Guayaquil. From there he took flight and eventually landed in Miami, Florida, at about 12:30 a.m. He didn't reach his Airbnb until about 2 a.m. on the morning of March 9.

"Somehow in between going from the GPS coordinates offered by the Airbnb app and transferring that to Google Maps and Uber, I somehow ended up with the wrong address," Drecksler said.

A worldwide traveler recently found out that even following the most specific directions can still lead to mistakes, as well as good stories. "I remember my first thought being, 'This place looks a little lived in,' but I rationalized it. This wasn't the most expensive Airbnb," Paul Drecksler said of his experience. Lionel Bonaventure/Getty Images

He said the host of the residence where he was supposed to stay was not present, so he referred to the instructions provided on the Airbnb app. That included going to a gate at the end of the driveway—"there's the gate at the end of the driveway, unlocked," he recalled—as well as a dog that was supposed to be on the property.

Then, he saw a detached guest house with the light on. As he put it, the door and everything inside "was unlocked and ready to go."

"I simply let myself in," he said. "I remember my first thought being, 'This place looks a little lived in,' but I rationalized it. This wasn't the most expensive Airbnb."

Drecksler momentarily thought he may have been at the wrong residence considering there were some items strewn about the abode. He compared the scene of the guest house to the Airbnb listing, noting that the setup looked "exact" and even included the same small living area with a two-seater table.

Maybe the pictures were older, he thought.

"The thing that kind of pushed me over the edge was the bed was ready to go and had two fresh folded towels," he said. "I was exhausted and immediately went to sleep."

Then, he got quite the wake-up call when a man—who he soon discovered was the owner of the residence—knocked on the door, which Drecksler said was "pretty polite in hindsight."

Drecksler asked who the man was, telling him that he was staying in the Airbnb. The man replied that the home was his and not an Airbnb at all. That caused Drecksler to immediately get up and pack his belongings.

"He was super cool about it, super nice and goes 'honest mistake' and said 'let yourself out,'" Drecksler said.

After he packed, Drecksler said he apologized profusely and expressed his embarrassment. Once the traveler made his way to the front of the home, he remained confused regarding his location and where his actual Airbnb was located.

The homeowner, sensing Drecksler's confusion, looked at the Airbnb instructions and directed Drecksler to the correct residence—which was located literally next door to where Drecksler spent the previous night.

He said the home next door had the same-style gate and a dog. Drecksler stayed at the correct Airbnb from Wednesday to Sunday that week and never saw the previous homeowner again.

"I've stayed in hundreds of Airbnb's and hotels and never had anything like this happen before," he admitted. "I'm not an amateur traveler; it can happen to the best of us."

An Airbnb spokesperson told Newsweek they were unaware of any similar incidents with one of their rental properties.

"We've never heard of something like this happening. We're just glad everyone is safe and that the confusion was cleared up," the spokesperson said.

He found that out firsthand. Once he told his story on his personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, he said he received a plethora of comments from other travelers who made similar errors in their own journeys—which he described as "dangerous and terrifying all at once."

"It seemed insane to me and so rare," he said. "But there are a lot of stories just like it. It's interesting to think what you would have done in that same scenario. I'm definitely lucky in that sense."

In 2015 Drecksler started the travel website Travel Is Life, predicated on telling unusual stories about different parts of the world—such as a profile about a man in Argentina who built his home out of plastic bottles to encourage recycling, to an Ecuadorian restaurant located in a pitch-black cave.

Rental property stories are abundant. Some are rather frightening, like in Texas where a vacation rental host allegedly took 2,100 explicit photographs of guests using a hidden bathroom camera. Claims against other rental hosts alleged similar improprieties.

And some stories are simply unusual, like that of a pair of Airbnb owners who alleged earlier this year that a guest changed a residence's lock to a key box without permission.

Updated 03/17/2022, 2:14 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from an Airbnb spokesperson.