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Travelling at the time of the sharing economy

“The stuff that matters in life is no longer stuff. It's other people. It's relationships. It's experience”, said Brian Chesky, CEO and founder of Airbnb, the world's most popular online marketplace to rent a holiday home.

The sharing economy has deeply changed the way people imagine holidays, responding to the needs of the contemporary traveler, who is quicker and more flexible than the traditional tourist. Planning the holidays well in advance seemed to be the only way to save money. That is no longer the case. The great advantage of the sharing economy is that you can access to great discounts at any time, making fantastic deals, which often remain active just for few hours. The imperative is: superlastminute.

Bed sharing, car sharing or making dinner a special time for sharing, all mean saving costs and even earning money in certain cases. In addition, it is also a great opportunity to discover a new dimension of human relationships, considering that technology is just the starting interface that introduces a real contact between strangers. A contact that, despite the security measures that the platforms put in place, always involves a good deal of human trust.

So, a warmly welcome to all those ride sharing initiatives, from Bla Bla Car, the most well known in Italy, to its Spanish counterpart Socialcar. As in the United States we can find private car rental sites such as Getaround and Relayrides. Thinking about housing, one of the most popular solutions is Airbnb, that offers the opportunity to exchange homes for the holidays as depicted in a film with Jude Law and Cameron Diaz. Hospitality in exchange of work is offered instead by woofing: overnight and meals offered in a farm are paid with agricultural work. This is a principle similar to Workaway, an international bidding platform used for a huge variety of activities, from gardening to dogsitting.

Couchsurfing is even free. It provides a couch, a single bed or an entire room in a private house according to the gift economy philosophy. There is also the rental-sharing of bikes and sports equipment, offered among others by Sharewood, and the Italian Loc Loc, that give the opportunity to earn from your ski-boards and surf-boards rather than leaving them in a dusty attic and use them just once per year. But what about food? Surely the sharing economy would not leave foodies out. Is there a better way to taste the local cuisine than to dine with local people? Social eating is catching on thanks to “home restaurants” and “on demand chefs”. Moreover, it is universally agreed that a shared dinner is one of the best ways to meet new people.

The relationship between the tourist and the city is deeply changing. Staying in a house and not at the hotel, using the car or the bike as you usually do at home, dining in homely and quiet atmosphere are all experiences that allow you to feel part of the city, at least for the break of a holiday. And there are those who, in addition to the positive aspects related to convenience and flexibility, see in this new way of travelling also a more supportive and less competitive form of sharing between people.

“We learned that the American dream consisted in growing up, buying a car and owning a house” Brian Chesky explains. “I think that this dream has completely changed. We were taught to keep up with our Neighbours. Today we're sharing our home with them”.