The sharing economy has become quite a boon. We have utilized various aspects of this practice during our travels, and it has richly enhanced our experiences and given us opportunities we might not have had otherwise.
What is the Sharing Economy?
To break it down, this is a situation where someone can borrow, rent, or hire services from someone else. For example, if I have a guest room in my home that is rarely used, I can rent it out as temporary lodging through a service. Or perhaps I’m in a new area and am looking to enjoy a local home-cooked meal rather than a restaurant experience.
It’s more of a peer-to-peer experience than say a corporate-to-consumer situation.
Probably the best-known example in this category is Airbnb. This is a service that helps both owners and guests. When traveling, we prefer to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel. We not only get a kitchen so we can prepare our own meals, which saves us a lot of money, but we have more privacy, more space, and we can stay in an area that is outside the tourist zone if we wish.
You can also find some more unusual accommodations. We recently used it to stay in a houseboat in Amsterdam. Others have rented an Airstream, tree house, even a castle.
For corporate travel, there are services like MetroResidences which are designed for business travelers who will be staying in an area for a longer period of time. These services usually offer more amenities such as professional housekeepers, concierges, etc.
House and Pet Sitting
There are many reasons to utilize this service. If you have pets, two of the biggest bonuses of house sitting, though, are an enormous cost saving and far less stress for your animals. Kennels can be quite expensive, especially if you are planning on an extended stay. It’s hard enough on your furry family members to have you be gone for a long period of time but even tougher to put them in a strange environment.
With house sitting, you can have someone in your home taking care of it while your pets get to enjoy their familiar surroundings and their usual routine.
Even if you don’t have pets, a house sitter can save you a lot of problems. A vacant home is a huge target for theft, and if something happens, like pipes breaking, the damage can be far worse if no one is around to notice the problem and deal with it.
Also keep in mind that many insurance policies won’t cover damages that occur if the home has been vacant beyond a certain period of time.
While there are professional pet sitting services, sites such as Trusted Housesitters and Nomador enable people to have an exchange of services—I stay in your home and take care of it and your pets, if applicable, and in exchange I don’t have to pay rent.
We’ve not only been able to have amazing experiences, such as living on an oasis in Morocco for 2 months, but it’s also enabled us to stay longer in expensive countries like the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
As we travel full time, we don’t have pets and miss having them. Sitting also gives us time to enjoy temporary pets.
Turo.com has taken the sharing economy to an interesting level and offers the opportunity to rent cars directly from their owners. Going through agencies can be a really trying experience. Recently, a friend waited in line for about 80 minutes to go through the rental process and had an additional lengthy wait to have the car brought around. When we were in the US, our plans had to be drastically altered after discovering the branch of a nationwide chain didn’t accept debit cards without a cash deposit and required documentation no one carries when they travel.
Right now their service is only available in the US and Canada, but it’s been quite successful so far.
Of course, most people are familiar with services like Uber and Lyft that offer taxi-like services. I had an incredible experience with an Uber driver in the US that has stayed with me years later.
You just never know who you will meet or where an interaction may lead.
Connecting with Locals
Services such as With Locals allow visitors to connect with locals for a variety of experiences. If you like discovering less-visited spots when you travel, you can do things like get a tour of cafes, go on a street art tour, take a cooking class, etc.
There are also dining opportunities where you can have a meal prepared in someone’s home. Often these are the best situations for being able to sample local and traditional cuisine. In my experience, these types of meals are often better than the ones you might find in a restaurant. Plus you make connections that could turn into longtime friendships.
The sharing economy has been fabulous for travel, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve.
Have you used any of these types of services? What has been your experience?