Like it or not, the sharing economy is here to stay. And it’s changing the way people travel.
If you haven’t heard of this concept, don’t fret. It’s still a relatively new idea.
According to Wikipedia, the sharing economy is “peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services (coordinated through community-based online services).”
In other words, ordinary people share their assets with other ordinary people, which leads to some pretty extraordinary experiences. The most obvious player isAirbnb – a company that allows anyone to rent out their space to travelers.
Even Time magazine has said that the sharing economy is a concept that willchange the world.
So the next question is: How does the sharing economy really change the way we travel?
More Opportunities For ‘Authentic’ Experiences
I don’t like using the word “authentic” because it tends to discredit the hard-working folks who tend to the usual tourist attractions.
What I mean is that many travelers are no longer attracted to packaged vacations that take them to the same destinations a billion other people have trekked before. Travelers want to have more unique experiences.
That’s precisely what Steph Lawrence had in mind when she created Traveling Spoon, with the tag line “Travel Off the Eaten Path.” Basically, you get to enjoy home cooked meals wherever you are in the world, for a small price.
“I started Traveling Spoon because I believe that the best way to experience culture when traveling is by interacting with locals, and that there is no better way to do this than over food. Cooking and sharing a meal together allows people to open up, share stories about themselves and learn from others. Not only learning from our differences but also realizing how similar we all are despite cultural and political differences makes the world a smaller and happier place.”
Food has become a huge motivator for travel. Finding authentic, local food places is practically an obsession. Sharing an extravagant meal with locals in their home? That’s as real as it gets, and an obvious success.
Grabr, being a crowd shipping company and part of the sharing economy, offers travelers a similar experience with the opportunity to get-off-the-beaten path to deliver special goods to people overseas. For many, the appeal of doing something no one else has done is part of the thrill. It’s not just about earning bragging rights.
It Becomes Easier To Meet Locals
When I think back on all my favorite travel experiences, they usually have one big thing in common: they’ve occurred when a local has taken me under his or her wing.
There was my Greek “mother,” for example, whom I rented an Airbnb room from and who took the time to show me around her island of Chios.
Traveling Spoon has a similar sharing economy concept, allowing locals to open up their doors (literally) to travelers with a love for good food. And the hosts also get a reward beyond monetary payment – they get an opportunity to share a piece of their culture.
“Each of our hosts offers a unique experience and meal that is distinctive of the region,” says Lawrence. “Just in India, for example, you can go on a market tour with our Bengali host in Calcutta to buy the freshest fish and return to her kitchen to make bhetki paturi (fish coated with a mustard paste and steamed in banana leaves) as part of a traditional Bengali tasting menu on a thali.”
There’s also Withlocals, a site where locals get to flaunt their expertise for potential visitors. Although primarily focused on food, Withlocals also caters to other experiences. I’ve got a local in Florence, Italy showing me some alternative places in the city during my upcoming trip. I enjoy hitting up the underground nightclub scene in new cities – and no organized pub crawl or travel guide book is going to tell me how to do it.
Grabr offers also offers a way for travelers to connect with locals. When you deliver someone an item that’s tough to find in their country, they naturally want to chat with and offer tips for exploring their community.
More Options For Accommodations
I have been roughing it around Spain for the past two weeks now with a ragtag bunch of friends, while completing various parts of the Camino de Santiago. The hostels we’ve stayed in have been less than luxurious.
However, driven by a mad desire to cook an epic meal of lasagne and tiramisu (I’m traveling with Italians), for one evening we opted for an Airbnb with a good kitchen. Such luxuries aren’t easy to come by on the road, even if you’re splurging on hotels.
When you’re looking for that home away from home feel, that’s really no better option.
NightSwapping is another new sharing economy service offering alternative accommodations abroad. It’s in the same vein as Couchsurfing (where community members can crash on couches around the world for free – – generally abiding by an unwritten code that the surfer will also give up his/her couch in the future), but with some key differences: you host members in your guest room or entire apartment, you earn nights by hosting others, and then you also get to stay for free elsewhere in the world. It even comes with insurance, for both travelers and hosts.
It Makes Traveling Waaaay More Budget-Friendly
The sharing economy makes travel a whole lot easier for those of us on a budget.
Take my Lasagne Party with the Italians, for example. A fully loaded apartment and dining in-house cost us all less than 20 euros each. In most places you can’t get a hostel dorm for that price.
Then there’s BlaBla Car, a smartphone app that matches travelers with drivers headed to certain destinations for a price that’s often a good deal cheaper than a train ticket or even a bus ticket.
Grabr also allows travelers to earn cash while traveling. It’s all about being thrifty and using that cash to further your travels.
The Sharing Economy Makes Travel Easier
One of the most important benefits of the sharing economy is the ease in which people can search, book, and plan their travels.
All it takes is an Internet connection, or a smartphone app. In minutes, you’re all set up.
Plus, the direct access to insider knowledge means you don’t have to scour guidebooks or the Internet looking for recommendations off the tourist path. When it comes to NightSwapping, for example, Quentin Mittelette says users can turn to their hosts to discuss neighborhoods, shopping options, or best places to eat. Cut out all that extra research and dive right in.
It’s All Driven By Younger Travelers
You might think that the sharing economy came about because of a few lucky entrepreneurs who had some good ideas.
That’s just one side of the coin.
An in-depth Forbes article explains how Millennials have much different traveling habits compared to older generations. For example, many baby boomers believe travel to be a luxury. Millennials, on the other hand, think of travel as a vital component to happiness and personal growth.
So yes, the sharing economy is going to stick around.
Have you tried it out yet?