“What I love the most about travel is the ability to immerse myself into a local culture and way of life,” Pooja Dhingra, India’s favourite pastry chef and owner of the Le15 Patisserie, says. She’s a frequent traveller and it’s travel that allows her to reconnect with herself and develop newer ideas. It’s no wonder that she coalesces travel and food to experience a place wholly and substantially.
“My favourite memories of living in Airbnb homes,” she says, “is being able to step out each morning to wander the local markets, buy the freshest, seasonal produce, and return to a fully-equipped kitchen to whip up whatever I’m craving that day.” In her own words, it’s the fact that Airbnb brings to her “local” and “authentic” experiences that matter the most to her.
She remember experiencing Paris like a resident, for instance, where she made a dark chocolate cake and garnished it with delicious, fresh berries; and enjoyed it with local friends. It’s these experiences she is most thankful for—the feeling of being home away from home.
“What I love about Airbnb is how it allows you to really feel like you’re a local, and gives you the authentic experience of living in the city you’re in, versus just visiting.”
Dhingra remembers a trip to Boston in October 2016 where she lived in an Airbnb apartment close to a park. “I’d wake up every morning, make myself some coffee, go for a run in the park…all things that one doesn’t typically do when staying in a hotel room.”
It was this flexible living, even while travelling, that helped her take time out for herself and “get in her zone” every morning.
But travel is nothing if not accompanied by the thrill of meeting new people and seeing a place from their eyes. This is where Airbnb hosts step in.
“I go to Paris quite often, and during my last trip this February, I connected really well with my host,” Dhinga says. “She is young and fun and we were messaging each other before I arrived. We had breakfast together the day I landed and became fast friends. We’re still in touch.”
While Pooja is familiar with Paris, it was the host-turned-friend who showed her a few rarely frequented, off-the-beaten-path haunts and local spots that have now become a part of her Paris itinerary.
And since the joy doubles with sharing, Pooja recounts her final travel ritual. Her trip is incomplete unless she can document where she is. “Having my phone with me and being able to take photos of new and incredible experiences helps me prolong the memories.” Dhingra loves being on social media and is conscious of how she uses it: “Travel is one area where I remain very active on my social media platforms”.
Pooja is that rare traveller who has been on the other side of the table as well. As an Airbnb host in Delhi, she held a baking class for enthusiasts in Delhi. “It was a group of 15 people, and what I loved about it was their enthusiasm and love for the craft that I’ve made into my profession.”
It’s one reason why she holds such classes in her central kitchen in Mumbai along with other cities. It’s an opportunity to connect with people who speak the same language as she does—the language of baking.
“I was very glad,” she recalls, “to see that Airbnb was committed to offering these experiences to those interested, and I was very pleased to be a host.”
(As told to Apekshita Varshney)