A contributor reflects on sharing a little slice of Eastern Sierra paradise.
Story and photos by Jamie Della

I opened the cherrywood cabinet to showcase the array of herbs and spices for the three men visiting from China. Two years ago, my boyfriend Joey and I opened Sweet Water Hideaway Airbnb guesthouse in the Eastern Sierra in hopes of sharing and learning from our guests. Since then, we have hosted about 200 people from 20 countries.

Siwei and friends
From left, Siwei, Joey, Jamie, Hao and Donglin

Donglin and Hao nodded enthusiastically and looked to Siwei, an English teacher living in Bejing, to translate. Siwei explained that they loved to cook and hadn’t had a chance to make any food, any comfort food, since their arrival in Los Angeles several days ago.

“May we cook for you?” Siwei asked.

When we arrived at the guesthouse with a bottle of wine to share, the table was covered with small dishes emanating an array of foreign-yet-comforting, layered flavors. We dove in with forks and chopsticks as Siwei explained that they had prepared homemade dishes found throughout China’s many regions, with ingredients bought at our local grocery store. Hao, from Guizhou, close to Hong Kong, was particularly proud of the “three slices salad” from his home town and the many hot peppers he could eat.

Donglin, who lives in Jiangsu near Shanghai, was overjoyed to share green tea he had brought from China, which we drank from ceramic pinch pots with both hands. When we asked if they were friends, Siwei told us they had found each other through a backpackers’ website called Qiangyou, although they were on a road trip with minimal hiking. I felt as if we had traveled across the world, yet we slept in our own bed that night.

Sofie and her father Peter, from Denmark, hiked up McGee Canyon (between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop) and brought back beautiful Sierra wildflowers for a shared dinner at sunset. They had traveled the Golden Triangle, a loosely followed road trip made by many Europeans, Asians, and East Coasters eager to explore the vastness of California through San Diego, Los Angeles, Death Valley, Yosemite, Tahoe, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Big Sur. Jeremy and his family from Northern Ireland spent the night in South Lake Tahoe before coming to our guesthouse, where their strapping sons jumped off pylons in unison, like a bloke’s version of Ethel Merman.

The picnic table is set for summertime dinner with Sofie and Peter from Denmark

Bonnie, Raven, Susan, and Billie — nurses from Reno — joined us around the campfire in our backyard then invited us to the guesthouse for Bonnie’s exquisite, butter-rich dessert.

I couldn’t agree more when Bonnie said, “One of the great joys of traveling to an Airbnb is the opportunity to cook with and for each other. The kitchen is a magical crucible for delicious food and strengthened friendships.”

Virginia Valdez Sandfer, a repeat guest, always brings a bottle of Matchbook Wine

Dave and his family arrived during fishing season in the Sierra and treated us to a barbecue of freshly caught rainbow trout. We shared Great Basin’s Icky IPA with Fiona and Graham from England, who told a knee-slapping yarn about reckless bidding on a pig at an auction during a beer festival. Gino’s soups from Great Full Gardens were a hit with Stuart, who rang in the New Year with us. Virginia and Shawn have made it a biannual trip to visit our guesthouse and bring Matchbook Wine from the Sacramento area so we can toast to our friendship.

Hosting an Airbnb gives me the gift of expanding my horizons, meeting new friends, and showcasing our slice of heaven here in the Eastern Sierra.

Jamie Della is an artist, whether throwing pottery in her home studio, crafting words into stories and books, creating a meal to share with friends, or cultivating the art of hospitality. She forever remains inspired by the wild beauty of Mother Earth and her global community.

Sweet Water Hideaway Guest House






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