The Dance Between Intern & Elder


“Musicians don’t retire. They stop when there’s no more music left inside of them.” So says Robert DeNiro to Anne Hathaway in The Intern. I love crying at the movies. And, while this one won’t win any Oscars on Sunday, it did touch my heart. Especially in light of my recent musings about the rise of the Modern Elder. In the film, DeNiro juggles being both a mentor and an intern at Hathaway’s successful online start-up based in a Brooklyn warehouse where he’d worked for 40 years during a very different era. I can relate. Airbnb is headquartered in San Francisco’s former Gift Center, which was owned by the company I went to work for out of business school more than 30 years ago. As I approach my 3rd anniversary doing the mentor/intern dance step at Airbnb, I know I still have lots of music inside of me.


Speaking of dancing, I loved this juxtaposition of what a tech company’s dance moves looked like 20 years ago (Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates) versus what you saw on stage at our Airbnb Open just a few months ago in Paris. FAST COMPANY’s first issue this year was a cover story on the juxtaposition of our Airbnb Open with our “belong anywhere” message and the terrorist attacks that occurred while we were in Paris. With 110 countries represented, no company conference outside the US had ever brought in such an international delegation. You can watch some of the keynote speeches on this playlist. Our 3rd annual Airbnb Open will be in downtown Los Angeles in November. I’m so proud of this legacy event that my team has helped to create.




There’s growing evidence that homes and hotels can co-exist peacefully. Airbnb gave data access to the most prestigious analytical company in the hotel industry, Smith Travel Research, to determine whether the rapid growth in our largest revenue market, New York, was having much of an effect on Manhattan hotels as many hoteliers had claimed. The results suggest that homes and hotels aren’t a zero-sum game. Travelers are looking for a wide variety of homes away from home depending upon the purpose of their trip.

What’s ironic to me is how the hotel industry is doing all it can to reconsider the concept of home. Some of the hottest hotel brands in the business even have “house” in their name: Palihouse, Bunkhouse, and Soho House. I’ve recently joined the Board of NeueHouse, “a home for the ambitious and the curious.” I’ve also been conversing with my friends at RoomMate, a Spanish-based boutique hotelier, who’ve created BeMate, their vacation rental apartments that are in close proximity to their hotels so that guests staying in a home can take advantage of hotel services, too.



Previous generations have been upwardly mobile, but Millennials are “outwardly mobile” and more experience-driven. They don’t want to be weighed down by owning too much stuff. They just want access. Airbnb’s success sprouted from this new unmoored approach to life and, yet, isn’t it interesting how having a sense of home is what these global nomads seek? I’ve been reading two great books on the subject of how we define “home”… Home: How Habitat Made us Human and How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century. More and more, I see home as a place for respite, reflection, and rendezvous, whether you’re in your primary home or on the road.




I’d never imagined having a second home. Isn’t my first good enough? LOL. Truthfully, I have a writing cottage in my backyard that’s served as my “second home” for years and I loved the fact that my second home was, sort of, the whole world. But, recently, feeling a need for a space for respite and reflection (maybe it’s because I’m cooking up my next book), I’ve found a beach home on the Pacific ocean in Baja California where I look forward to dancing with Serendipity. This New York Times article on cultivating the art of serendipity speaks to me on a deep level. Far too many of us live far too much of our lives on the linear paved roads of modern life. Epiphanies happen when there’s a crack in the sidewalk and a brave dandelion pops up.

In January, I opened a crack in my sidewalk. I was fortunate enough to go to an intimate Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness workshop. Amidst the redwoods, I wrote this poem:



The ocean waves at me even when I don’t take notice.

The sun warms me even when I’m frozen in fear.

The moon seduces me even when I’m not in the mood.

The stars shine on me even when I’m feeling in the dark.

The mountain enlivens me even when I’m barely breathing.

The waterfall massages my shoulders even when I’m stuck in my head.

The birds sing me lullabies even when I’m tone-deaf.

My friends love me even when I feel unlovable.

I’m only one breath away from being gone.

It’s time I took notice.



Shuffling between sage and beginner’s mind has helped me take notice without the weight of being a CEO on my shoulders. One’s identity is more mutable than we may think, but when you’re living within that mask of an identity, it’s hard to be a wise witness. That’s what I aspire to be at this stage in my life: “a wise witness.”

Early in The Intern, Anne Hathaway texts her HR team and tells them she wants to transfer DeNiro from being her personal intern because he was just a little “too observant.” And, yet, by the end of the film, she realizes just how valuable an awake, observant elder can be in her life. The intergenerational waterfall of wisdom is just taking a new form in the 21st century.


Enjoy the blooming…