Obviously, the biggest change for me on this trip is travelling with Lindsay. I’ve always travelled alone so going away with the person you care about most in the world is bound to make it all much better. It has been eight years or so, however, since I last went away with only a backpack for more than a week or two, and I’ve already noticed a few different things that are having a profound effect on the travelling experience. Not surprisingly they’re tech related. More specifically, the biggest changes I’ve noticed for me travelling now to travelling in the past are thanks to Airbnb, Uber, and the impressive capabilities of my smartphone.
I’ll have to break these all up into their own posts though, so for now I’m going to concentrate on Airbnb.
How Airbnb effects the backpacking experience
So, we rocked up to Buenos Aires with an awful booking waiting for us to check in. Once we realised we couldn’t stay in the place we’d booked there was only one place we were turning to and that was Airbnb. We already had some Airbnb bookings made for Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento so we knew the types of things that were available and how much we’d have to pay.
If you’re prepared to book a dorm bed in a hostel, you’re prepared to book a private room in somebody’s house and if there is two of you they’ll probably cost the same anyway. You’ll have to exercise your own levels of precaution to ensure that you feel safe doing so, but once you open yourself up to this realisation you open yourself up a new world of possibilities.
As well as rooms in people’s houses you also might stumble on to full apartments within your price range, or hotels and hostels offering up spaces they’ve got going to. Like any good accommodation site, you can filter your searches based on price, location, number of guests, and dates. Another excellent feature for the traveller looking for somewhere to get their head down is the ability to look for accommodation by location on map.
The best thing about Airbnb though is the hosts, the places they make available to you, and how easy Airbnb makes it for you to talk to them. As well as relying on other people’s revies, you can weigh everybody up to make sure you feel comfortable with them, and if you’re really lucky you might even make a friend for life. In particular, there is just something about making a room in the house that you actually live in available to people who want to see where you’re from that is also found in the best friends you’ve ever met while you’ve been out on the road.
Obviously, there is a faceless global corporation behind it all, but on the human level it is all built on trust, and the reputation all parties involved can build up on the platform. Airbnb will always take their service charge cut once you’ve made the booking, but hosts can choose their level of flexibility. This means that, depending on who you’ve booked with, if your plans chencge you won’t lose all the money you’ve put down somewhere you’re supposed to be staying further down the line.
For us, when we needed something at ultra-short notice and now with a few continents to explore, Airbnb offers us something that simply wasn’t available the last time I did anything like this. It is quick and easy to use, puts affordable accommodation in our reach, and offers us a great way to meet people who know a lot about the places we want to see. Plus, like as was the case in Buenos Aires it offers hard up people with a spare bedroom a chance to ease the burden their bills put on them. We will be using Airbnb a lot on this trip.
Now we’ve both lived in Barcelona for years now, so we’re both well aware of the negative effects that Airbnb can have on cities as a whole. This is a complex issue though so, rather than give it lip service now, when I find time I’ll make sure I look at the negative effects of Airbnb properly in another post.