From RV rentals to unique camping locations to hiring a friend to show you hidden gems, utilize the sharing economy to plan your Florida adventures.
A tent may seem like unusual items on a checklist of things to bring for a summer job, but they were on the list for employment with a park management company in Yellowstone National Park. My workdays were spent in the kitchen making desserts and prepping salads for hungry visitors to the world’s first national park. During my days off, I made the most of my free time camping and hiking within the park and nearby Grand Teton National Park.
What is the Sharing Economy?
That first summer was 1990 and saying I got my money’s worth from that tent is an understatement. I hiked miles and miles with it strapped to my backpack through the 1990s exploring some of the most beautiful scenery in the Western United States. Then, life happened. Somewhere, that tent got packed up and I don’t think it has been used since the early 2000s.
During the recent Florida Outdoor Writers Association annual conference, I won a new camping set during a raffle which includes a new tent. Camping adventures are planned for my dog and me, but I am also looking for places off the proverbial beaten path. This is where the peer-to-peer website Hipcamp.com comes into play.
A peer-to-peer website keeps the sharing economy strong. It is a way for peers to connect with peers and exchange goods and services through the internet locally, across the nation, and around the world. Examples include eBay, Craigslist, and Airbnb. I look as the sharing economy as a way of breaking down traditional social class barriers and connecting people of different ages, cultures, and origins. Peer-to-peer websites are ideal for traveling abroad, within the United States, and within Florida. Several sites are several for planning outdoor adventures, such as Hipcamp.
Resources for Campers and RVers
Think of Hipcamp as the outdoors version of Airbnb, where people like you and me open their private land, cabins, boats, and farms to campers. The site also lists camping available in public lands such as state and national parks and national forests. Users can search for campsites based on activities offered, amenities, location, natural landscape, and an important one for me, pet-friendliness.
Sample camping areas include Home Field Advantage Farmstead near Madison Blue Springs and Suwanee River State Park. Tent and RVs are welcome for primitive camping near heritage breed livestock such as chickens, goats, and pigs. In the eco-retreat Rasayana Cove in Ona, there’s the off-the-grid, furnished, two-bedroom Hermitage Cabin set in a hammock of ancient oak trees.
If pitching a tent is not your thing or maybe you are considering purchasing a recreational vehicle and wanting to try one out, there are peer-to-peer websites for RVs. Owners list their vehicles with specified availability dates and travelers rent them. These sites include Outdoorsy.com and RVShare.com. Included with the rentals are insurance coverage offering peace of mind for the owner and renter.
Ways to Experience Florida Like a Local
The best way to explore a new destination is with a friend. If you are heading to Miami or Orlando, the website Rent a Local Friend (rentalocalfriend.com) can connect you with a local host familiar with the area. Several specialize in nature excursions and can accompany and guide you through a unique outdoor experience.
Airbnb has expanded its services beyond accommodations into what they call Experiences. They are building their Florida experiences but some examples include an evening motorized trike tour of downtown Naples to explore the city’s beautiful streets, lavish real estate, and evening waterfront views. Join a whimsical adventurer on an urban bicycle tour of Miami Beach followed an hour of yoga. In Orlando, join a lifelong resident for a 90-minute sunset paddle either by kayak or standup paddleboard over Lake Jennie Jewel. The excursion begins and ends at the Waterfront Restaurant.
Technology Brings Us Closer Together
Technology is making our world smaller and while these peer-to-peer websites can bring people together, I caution users to always communicate with your host through the website’s messaging system and not through outside communication such as texting or emailing. This protects you from potential scams.
The sharing economy puts extra money in a host’s pocket and adds value to a traveler’s experience. Everyday people are offering unique services to everyday travelers. Ironically, it is through this use of technology that one-on-one personal connections are made and our knowledge of the outdoors is expanded.