Sharing Economy Offers Not-So Lonely Options for Solo Travelers

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Use the Sharing Economy to Find a Local to Share the Best Sunset Location when Traveling.

Use the Sharing Economy to Find a Local to Share the Best Sunset Location when Traveling.

One of the biggest challenges of solo travel is meeting and interacting with others during a journey. Alas, thanks to technology making the world smaller, the sharing economy, through peer-to-peer websites, offers not-so lonely options to mingle with locals and other travelers.

Making Friends in Hamamatsu, Japan

Making Friends in Hamamatsu, Japan

I was thrilled to attend a session by Ce’ dric Giorgi during the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference in Dublin last June to learn more about the sharing economy and peer-to-peer websites. I realized these are perfect for solo travelers. I think some people envision solo travelers as bitter adventurers traveling in a bubble avoiding as much human contact as possible.

In fact, most independent travelers are the opposite and travel because they enjoy experiencing other cultures and just don’t have a travel companion. Of course, some solo travelers venture out alone because they enjoy the independence of planning their itinerary and doing what they want when they want. The sharing economy permits solo travelers to mingle with people at their own pace.

Locals Can Introduce You to a World You Didn't Know Existed. Niagara Falls Painting, Japan

Locals Can Introduce You to a World You Didn’t Know Existed. Niagara Falls Painting, Japan

What Exactly is the Sharing Economy?
What is the sharing economy? It’s a way for peers to connect with peers and exchange goods and services through the Internet locally, across the nation or around the world. Examples include eBay, Craigslist and a several relatively new websites appropriate for travelers.

Giorgi stated the “biggest impact of the sharing economy is bringing us back to our habits when we were in a village.” It was a time when we trusted more and talked to our neighbors. The sharing economy breaks down traditional social class barriers and connects people of different ages, cultures and origins.

No matter how different a person’s background is to yours, when speaking with them one-on-one, you realize everyone wants similar things out of life. I like to call these connections as creating pockets of peace through developing individual friendships. For example, when I met a woman when visiting Afghanistan we found a way to communicate through laughter.

A Local Can Show You Where the Best Eats are in their City.

A Local Can Show You Where the Best Eats are in their City.

The Sharing Economy is Easier on the Solo Traveler’s Budget
Traveling solo sometimes means I’m paying more. This is because I don’t have anyone to share the expenses or the deals I find involve discounts like buy one admission, get one free. Using a peer-to-peer website, solo travelers can rent a guest bedroom or sleep on a couch for less than booking a hotel.

And when not traveling, you can open up your home and share your time to host travelers visiting your city. It’s a way to meet people and maybe make an extra buck or two. Several years ago I played host to two young Russian school teachers for a week and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

A Friend in New York Introduced Me to Columbus Park Near Chinatown. I Never Would Have Known About it if My Friend Didn't Take Me.

A Friend in New York Introduced Me to Columbus Park Near Chinatown. I Never Would Have Known About it if My Friend Didn’t Take Me.

Examples of Peer-to-Peer Websites for Solo Travelers
Following is a short list of sites designed to connect travelers with hosts. In most cases, there’s a fee which covers expenses for the host yet is usually less expensive than if the traveler booked a traditional hotel, meal or activity. Remember to always put safety first when booking and meeting up with someone you’ve met online.

  • Cookening
    The best way to connect and understand a culture is through food. Sure, eating at a locally-owned restaurant is a way to taste the culture but dive in by having a home-cooked meal in the country you’re visiting. Cookening, founded by TBEX speaker Giorgi, connects travelers with hosts for one-of-a-kind meals and experiences.
  • Withlocals
    Traveling to Southeast Asia? Withlocals offers peer-to-peer experiences of dining in local homes, and tours and activities allowing the opportunity to see the destination through a local’s eyes. It’s an opportunity for locals in countries such as the Philippines, which is recovering from the tragic typhoon in 2013, an opportunity to earn a sustainable income.
  • Rent a Local Friend
    The best way to explore a new destination is with a friend. If you don’t have one where you’re traveling, Rent a Local Friend may have someone to show you the hidden gems of their city.
  • Good Spot
    Meet up with a local guide and join others to discover a destination through Good Spot. Activities vary and can include trying Mexican hamburgers in Mexico City, Mexico, walking on lava in Barcelona, Spain, or a tour by boat in Marseilles, France.
  • SweatGuru
    Sticking to a workout routine is something I’m aiming to do and joining a group class is always motivating, especially if it’s a new workout routine. SweatGuru is a tool making it easy for travelers to find and book fitness classes.
  • FlightCar
    Make a little money from your vehicle while traveling. Rent your vehicle out to other travelers through FlightCar. Renters are pre-screened and rentals are insured up to $1 million.
  • PiggyBee
    Have something that needs to be hand-delivered overseas? Love a specific food that can only be found out of the country? PiggyBee connects people who have something to ship or want something with travelers. The service is free, however if there’s a cost to the traveler to make a purchase, etc., the price must be agreed upon in advance.
  • Lodging Options
    Stay on a host’s couch, guestroom, or cottage on a lake and live like a local when traveling. Sites such as Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and Homestay connect travelers with hosts. Of course, you could try house sitting.
  • Skillstay
    Everyone’s got skills and rather than paying cash for your lodging accommodations put those skills to work. Whether it’s cooking, teaching a painting class or pet sitting, a host may be looking for your skills and Skillstay connects skilled travelers with hosts.

Have you booked lodging or an activity through a peer-to-peer website? How was the experience?

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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1 Comment

  1. Only used Airbnb, and I usually book private apartment for that (though I did rent a room in Halifax and got to the know the couple that lived there). I’ll definitely try out Withlocals now. Definitely would be easier than going out and trying to find a decent bar after work.

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