Here’s the story! We booked an Airbnb for 10 days for an important family gathering. Actually, I picked the Airbnb and booked it myself. I’m taking responsibility for this wacky situation! The plan was to gather Alison’s entire family in one place to celebrate the 80th birthday of Alison’s mom, Libby, over the Christmas holiday in 2018. At the time we were spread across four states since Alison and I had not left Seattle yet. After reviewing tons of ideas for fun destinations both inside and outside the U.S., Libby settled on Sedona for the big gathering since four out of our gang of 11 live in Arizona.
Since my big job (and passion) is to be our travel coordinator I gladly volunteered to find and book the perfect house. Sadly for me, it wasn’t that complicated. The City of Sedona is not that big! It has a population of around 10,000 residents. So how many vacation houses are there in Sedona that can accommodate 11 adults comfortably? Based on our requirements, there are only 5 options on Airbnb. And yes I also checked VRBO and considered hotels. But we all wanted to spend a huge amount of our time during this visit cooking and eating together around one big table so hotels really didn’t fit with what we were looking for. We also wanted the kind of elbow room this tall family needs. To clarify, Alison is 6’2”, her mother Libby is 6’, one of our nephews is 6.5”, and at 5’2” I am by far the shortest person in the family!
We also wanted to have different spaces in the house that people could gravitate to for naps, reading, playing games, and chatting. And we had a rather large Christmas tree to accommodate. After my brief research project I realized there was really only one Airbnb house that was centered in Sedona, met everyone’s hopes and had enough bedrooms and living space for all 11 people for 10 days. So my fun research project was over before I could really dig in!
That one house I found is called “Moondance Sedona Sanctuary.” After showing off the photos to Libby and getting her usual high level of enthusiasm about the idea, I booked the house. I used our Chase Sapphire Reserve card of course. POINTS!
Alison and I made our plans for getting ourselves to Sedona in December. Coincidentally, at the same time we were also working hard on preparations for leaving our home in Seattle to start a new life of full-time travel. Making the logistics for everything all jive was a bit complicated, but all-in-all it was still relatively easy for us to figure things out.
Alison and I arrived in Arizona a week before the big gathering, and we drove to Sedona with her mom a few days earlier than the rest of the clan to get the party started. We had a fabulous time walking the property, checking out every room in the house, picking our bedrooms, and imagining which bedrooms the rest of the family would choose for themselves.
And truly – we all had an amazing time together in Sedona! Having everyone together for that long was such a treat! Every night we enjoyed our favorite family dinners. Every day we took walks and enjoyed the outdoors. We all played games and talked and laughed. And personally I think that was probably my all-time favorite Christmas experience as an adult.
After about a week at the house, with the big birthday party and Christmas behind us, we had a visit from a Sedona resident (the sister of one of Alison’s brothers-in-law. This lady drove up to our Airbnb and immediately announced that we were staying in a house owned by a rather infamous cult led by someone called “Gabriel of Sedona.” Huh??? And then she took us out for a fabulous hike at Red Rock State Park.
Yep. So this guy Gabriel (not his real name) was eventually “encouraged to leave Sedona” so they are all in another part of Arizona now. She told us about a close friend who became heavily involved in the cult and of course that was a sore subject for her. So even though Gabriel is gone from Sedona their businesses are still thriving in Sedona, putting money in their accounts, and also serving as active recruiting tools for the cult. That was the moment that we realized our Airbnb dollars were basically all donated to the cult. Hellfire!
That night we decided to watch the 1998 Dateline story about Gabriel and his cult. Here’s a link to the show on YouTube in case anyone is curious.
Midway through the Dateline show Alison’s mom shook her head and said, “The things you see when you haven’t got your gun.” Which prompted a round of hysterics from me and Alison. This is an old saying in Alison’s family. We hear that and we immediately start laughing. Alison’s mom is quoting her grandmother with this saying, who she called Mother Packer. I can imagine Alison’s great-grandmother who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1800’s and can only imagine what sights she saw back then! The stories of Mother Packer are all of a funny and sarcastic woman with a very sharp tongue who wasn’t very domestic at a time when that was a wild trait for a woman.
[Note – if the mention of guns strikes a nerve in you like it does in me, keep in mind that for me this old family saying is a snapshot from a distant time and I keep it separate from America’s current gun culture crisis.]
So wow, we just gave a rather large pile of cash to this Gabriel of Sedona character who now goes by Gabriel of Urantia since he left Sedona. Hellfire!!! After watching the Dateline show we toured the house again with new eyes. The only books in the house were written by Gabriel, and all of the tourism brochures are for their own tour company (recruiting tool). All of the groovy spiritual touches around the house started to seem pretty creepy. Oy vey!
Well. Now what? We are all very conscientious about how we spend our money. We would never have intentionally handed over a giant stack of cash to this cult. But what’s done is done. From now on, when I’m researching Airbnb options if the “Host” is a company instead of a person, you can bet I will be sure to research company names from now on. Lesson learned! And we carry on with some amazing memories from our family adventure together in Sedona in 2018, and a funny story to tell!