Its 5:00 on a Saturday night, I’m in Chicago, and I need a place to stay in Louisville, KY, tomorrow. Oh yeah…I have my dog with me as well. I guess I could pay way too much to stay in a hotel and have a completely unmemorable experience. But seriously, its 2015 we have options right? Right.
Prior to this, I had heard all about the greatness of Airbnb, so I decided to download the app for myself. I proceeded to type in Louisville, KY, and was immediately faced with hundreds of cheap and beautiful places to stay. Within a few minutes I found a fully renovated camper in the back of someone’s backyard.
The idea of staying in a camper decked out like a home seemed pretty awesome, so I messaged the owner and asked if she had room for my wife, my dog, and me. As you can see from the picture, the camper wasn’t huge so I needed to find a place for Emma (my pup) to stay. Guess what I did next?
I used an app called Rover. This app is similar to Airbnb, but you can find people that are willing to take care of your dog for a determined period of time. For $20 bucks I found a girl within two miles of my Airbnb reservation. This entire process probably took me around twenty minutes, and cost about $80. It was great, because I could have spent an exorbitant amount of money trying to find a hotel that would accommodate my dog for the night.
But ease and cost are not the best thing you gain from using apps like these. Airbnb allows for a more meaningful, community oriented travel experience. When you boil it down, your basically just texting someone to see if you can hang out and crash at his or her place for the night. Why is an idea like this gaining so much popularity today?
I have noticed that a lot of people in my generation don’t want to spend their travels at an all-inclusive resort completely separate from the community in which they are visiting. I’ve also noticed that many millennials don’t want to pay $15 bucks to eat at chain restaurants like O’Charley’s. And it seems that these same people place more value on engaging in meaningful experiences and relationships over accumulating material objects.
So with that said, heres why Airbnb is for you. When you use it, you get to meet people in the community, live in their homes, experience a slice of their lives, and possibly make a life-long friend. On the other hand, a hotel is just another business transaction. You deal with someone who is paid to be there, you sleep, eat, and leave. Don’t get me wrong, hotels are great. But if your looking for a way to really experience the place you are visiting, there is no better way than living with a local.
So what are these social connection apps actually doing? They are capitalizing and empowering the so called “sharing economy.” This isn’t a new concept, but the idea is on the rise again. The all so reputable Wikipedia defines the sharing economy as: “a sustainable economic system built around the sharing of human and physical assets.” In the past you saw this in classified ads in the paper. These were great and all, but they weren’t mainstream enough to act as a decentralizing force in the economy. However, smart phones and internet have changed everything, and the hotel industry is feeling it.
Again, I have nothing at all against the hotel industry; it definitely has its place. I’m just using it as an example to demonstrate how technology and generational values have empowered the sharing economy to make a dent in the current economic structure.
When you travel with Airbnb, Couchsurfing.com, etc., you experience local neighborhoods firsthand, meet new friends, eat real food, and save money. So whether you are travelling locally or across the world, try staying with a host. You never know, you may meet a new best friend.