Love often has a funny way of finding us, usually when we least expect it and sometimes in the most unlikely circumstances. This charming tale, reminiscent of a rom-com plotline, is a result of a twist of fate. involving the World Cup and an Airbnb.
In 2013, Ana, who had been battling an illness for six years, resided in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Financially strained from years of medical expenses, she took a gamble, using her last bit of money to purchase bunk beds and transform one of her rooms into a small-group Airbnb.
This move was a last-ditch effort to cover her rent and medical bills. To her surprise, the modest investment blossomed into a success a year later. Ana’s health began to improve, and with the impending arrival of the World Cup, one of the world’s largest sporting events, a new opportunity presented itself.
To accommodate the influx of soccer enthusiasts in the Marvelous City, Ana and her roommate, Fabio, converted a half-room in their apartment into an Airbnb, providing weary fans a place to rest.
“Despite its modest size (almost a pantry!), we added a bunk bed and listed two beds on Airbnb. Within a day of the listing going live, we were flooded with requests for ‘Fabio’s Pantry’,” Ana shared. “It was fully booked for the entire World Cup period except for one week in July.”
Around this juncture, Ana, feeling well enough to embark on her first vacation in years, embarked on a quick trip to Uruguay. Just before her departure, she received a reservation from a man named “Darko B.” for the sole available days in July.
“I’ve always been a fan of the movie ‘Donnie Darko,’ so I found it a curious coincidence, but didn’t think much of it,” Ana mused. “I accepted the request, informing him I wouldn’t be there for check-in, and Fabio would take care of him until my return the following week.”
Upon her return, Ana had no clue that her life was on the verge of a significant transformation. As she swung open the door to her apartment, Darko stood so captivated by her presence that he nearly stumbled. “I was convinced he tripped because of sand on his feet, not bothering to wash it off downstairs as per the building rules, and I caught him, lol (everyone does that!). But it wasn’t sand, it was love at first sight… for him, I was still fixated on the imaginary sand,” she joked.
While Ana worked on her business ventures in her apartment, Darko spent his time lounging around, seldom venturing outside to explore the wonders of Rio. Despite Ana’s recommendations of must-visit spots, he was content to stay in and converse with her during her breaks.
It seemed that everything Darko needed was right there in that Airbnb.
“We discussed everything under the sun during my breaks, and our connection deepened,” Ana recalled. “We maintained a respectful distance, as I saw him as my guest and wanted him to feel at ease.” Darko, too, found himself in an unusual position as the temporary tenant. He was, after all, a “strange man” in Ana’s home and didn’t want to overstep boundaries.
Ana believes maintaining this distance allowed their feelings to develop naturally over time. “That distance was the catalyst for our friendship and connection to grow organically,” she reflected.
As Darko’s week-long stay drew close, the pair decided to catch a sunset at the Arpoador Rocks. It turned out to be a mesmerizing evening, with a breathtaking sunset on one side and the grandest supermoon in three decades on the other. Moved by the magic of Rio and his deepening bond with Ana, Darko extended his stay by three months, putting aside his plans to travel across Brazil to catch soccer matches.
“We had three incredible months together exploring Rio,” Ana recounted. “We didn’t make it to the stadium for live games, but we attended ‘watch events’ with friends, journeyed to small places around Rio, and stayed in an Airbnb in Ilha Grande.”
Regrettably, after three months, Darko had to return to Canada for work, and it seemed their burgeoning relationship had reached a crossroads. “I thought our journey was over, and we would remain friends, but we stayed in touch every day until he returned three months later for another three months in Rio together,” Ana shared.
The couple tied the knot three years after Darko fell (or stumbled) into love at first sight and recently celebrated their sixth anniversary. All thanks to a chance Airbnb booking in “Fabio’s Pantry.”
Airbnb not only brought Ana and Darko together but continues to play a significant role in their lives. “In 2016/2017, we embarked on a big trip together to Southeast Asia, staying in numerous Airbnbs in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia,” Ana mentioned. Her association with Airbnb, which began in Rio and expanded to Asia, has become a global affair.
“By 2017, I had recovered and was traveling the world as a program manager for entrepreneurship programs. I had projects (and Airbnbs!) in Brazil, Guatemala, Panama, the USA, and Eastern Canada (New Brunswick), with my luggage scattered all over the world,” Ana wrote.
In 2018, Darko introduced Ana to his birthplace, the former Yugoslavia, now Bosnia, and they explored Rovinj by the sea, a place Darko held dear as paradise. Naturally, they relied on Airbnb during their journey, extending their stay across various Croatian cities.
Darko and Ana’s story beautifully exemplifies luck’s role in our lives. The right people found each other in the perfect place, with all the time in the world. Well done, Airbnb. If any aspiring screenwriters are reading this, “Fabio’s Pantry” would make an excellent title for the film adaptation.