Sophia Herzog is a 23-year-old Para swimmer for Team USA who won a silver medal at the Paralympic Games in 2016.

After the disappointment and lost revenue stemming from the postponement of Tokyo 2020, she has been earning some extra money by delivering Airbnb Online Experiences.

Sophia has been inspiring people from all over the world in the same session – and you can too, with our support.

I really struggled right at the beginning of the pandemic. After the announcement of the postponement of the Paralympics, I took two weeks off just to have a mental and emotional break.

Going into a Games year, your emotions are heightened, your stresses are heightened, and it was quite draining just hearing about the postponement. So I needed two weeks to debrief and relax a little bit, and figure out if I was going to go for another year, and how I was going to do it.

The background 

In terms of the revenue aspect, during lockdown I couldn’t go and buy an at-home gym or swimming-related machines, as I just don’t have that kind of money to spend. The limelight was on Olympic athletes, and a lot of sponsors were sending at-home gym equipment to them; but for Paralympic athletes, we were trying to figure out what to do with what we had.

To read more about the specific challenges Para athletes have faced during the pandemic, check out this piece from IPC AC Chair Chelsey Gotell

I’m now definitely planning on retiring after the Paralympic Games in 2021 and I’m trying to figure out what to do, because I haven’t really had the opportunities to dabble in different jobs and careers to see what I like. I guess I’ve never really lived a normal life; I’ve been on the US swimming team for 12 years, and I’m 23 years old.

So the Airbnb Experience has been a good opportunity, firstly to have a job; and secondly to talk to guests and see what they’re doing in their careers. I’ve met some really cool, interesting people through the Experience.



My Paralympian Experience

I do a virtual HIIT [high-intensity interval training] workout on Airbnb Online Experiences. It’s about an hour long and can be any kind of intensity that you want; I give options for how to make it more challenging, or have a basic, easier option depending on the skill level the individual is at. I do a lot of swimming-related exercises – ones that I do prior to getting in the pool, and some of my dry–land exercises, especially the core aspect – where I explain why I do them and which muscles they’re working.

A lot of people are really interested in the Olympics and Paralympics, and it’s rare to have an hour in a one-on-one or a small group setting to talk about those experiences. Paralympians are dealing with some sort of physical disability – whether we were born with it, like myself with dwarfism, or we came about it later in life. We’ve had a huge obstacle to overcome, and we’ve adapted to it to compete in sports at the most elite level in the world.

So I think, especially on the Paralympic side, getting our stories out, giving hope to people and maybe inspiring the next generation is huge, especially right now. You never know who is going to log on and do a workout class.

Why you should get involved

What I really like about Airbnb Experiences is that you are essentially your own boss, and you can set your own schedule. It’s only an hour out of your day, you don’t have to do it every single day, and you can pick the hour of the day you want to do it.

Being a professional athlete training at this elite level, it’s really hard to get a job – and I’ve decided not to get a job through this Paralympic cycle so that I can solely focus on my training. So being able to do this and supplement a little bit of cash flow, and do it in my own time, is incredibly helpful.

It’s also incredibly rewarding. You get to take an hour out of your day and share what you like to do with somebody who is trying to learn it, or who has a similar passion to you.

Find out how you can set up an Online Experience like Sophia, and receive support and mentoring from Airbnb and Athlete365.

What other hosts have to say
There’s really no limit to what you can do with your Experience, because you can reach people all over the world from the comfort of your home.
If you’re away competing or working – which I’ve just done for two weeks while away on a shoot in Canada – you can block that out and pick it up when you come back.
The increased exposure through Airbnb Experiences can only help me grow my business