9 Reasons Traveling Is a Whole Lot Cooler Now Than It Used to Be

9 Reasons Traveling Is a Whole Lot Cooler Now Than It Used to Be
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Written by: Cheryl Slayton | June 25

Forget what your mama told you about talking to strangers. If you want to call yourself a traveler, (rather than a tourist glued to their Lonely Planet and American Express hotel points) you have to embrace the local culture of your final destination. And there’s no better way to do that then to let the “locals” be your guide, even if their oddly-placed generosity and open-doors philosophy seems a bit sketch.

Here are 9 reasons the sharing culture has made traveling way, way cooler NOW than it was in the “Good ‘Ol” days:

1. You Don’t Have to Pay for a Hotel

If you believe in the genuine kindness of strangers, (which you should if you want to enjoy your travels at all and have incredible stories to tell) then Couchsurfing is for you. Locals offer free rooms (or couches of course) to anyone who needs one and they often give you some savvy travel advice to boot!

Believe it or not, there really are a lot of interesting and adventurous people out there who will share their couch with you for free, minus the desire to lock you in their closet for days on end (probably). Just do your research. Find someone you’re interested in getting to know. Enjoy the free bed, connections and experiences it creates. And don’t forget to pass it on.

2.You Don’t Have to Pay (Much) For a Hotel

If you like the idea of saving on hotel costs but aren’t too keen on sharing your personal space, time or possibly a shower with complete strangers, Airbnb is your best Couchsurfing alternative. It’s a way for locals to make a little extra cash on the site by providing a hotel-like experience for sometimes less than 1/3 of the price.

Again, you’ll want to do your research first. But sites like Airbnb, or its less popular cousin alternatives Roomorama and Housetrip, are making it that much easier to keep your daily rooming budget down.

3. You Can Eat Like a Local

If you don’t mind dining with randos for a night (or if your traveling companion is a total bore) Cookening is your chance to shake things up a bit and meet some locals in the comfort of their home.

Cookening is Airbnb for eating and is largely a European fad. But, it is catching on fast in the U.S. with “strangers” in New York opening up their homes and kitchens. From lemon-chicken risotto in Manhattan or beef barbacoa in Spain, Cookening is a delicious and cheap way to eat like and with the locals without blowing your weekly budge on one fancy meal.

4. You Can Rent a Car on the Cheap

Ever wondered what it’s like to drive a Tesla down the Highway 101 on the California Coast (without committing felony in grand theft auto, link to article)? Or maybe driving a hybrid sedan is more your speed.

Either way, Getaround is for you. This peer-to-peer car rental app lets you skip right past those heavy fees and annoying lines at the local Enterprise and maybe even snag a better ride. It’s Zipcar without the membership fees and a wider range of options and prices.

5. You Can Channel Your Inner Farmer

If you like the idea of staying somewhere for free but would rather avoid waking up in your underwear in someone else’s living room, you might want to consider WWOOF, or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s a long name for the very simple, time-old practice of exchanging hard work for a good night’s sleep.

There are WWOOF farms across the U.S. and the world that offer free room and board in exchange for a little work on the farm. But don’t worry. You don’t have to milk the cows or clean manure unless you want to. Regular, old, cleaning duty is a perfectly fine trade as well.

6. You Can Sightsee Like a Local

There are 2 ways to get the inside-scoop on where to go and what to do in a new city; one is to find a kind, caring stranger who is A. not a serial killer and B. wants to spend time with a tourist.

But, when people like Toshi from Tokyo are hard to find, sites like Vayable and SideTour are the perfect alternative to the cheesy tour guide. From creating light graffiti in San Francisco to experiencing food history on the streets of New York, peer-guided city tours are one way to do something really memorable.

7. You Can Find Your Travel Soul Mate

Wehostels.com is an app that lets solo travelers plan their hotel stays based on personality instead of locale. So, instead of hoping to meet someone in your hostel who you click with, you can connect with others beforehand that share your travel interests, like rock climbing, partying your face off until 3a.m., or board games and hot chocolate. Whatever your ‘thing’ is, Wehostels will hook you up.

 8. You Don’t Have to Pay for Gear

Who needs an extra pair of boogie boards or snow skis cluttering their closet? Nobody – that’s who. But why should you let a lack of gear slow down your travels or burn a hole in your wallet? Sites like Spinlister are the perfect solution for travelers who don’t want to miss out on the adventure or pay overpriced rental fees on equipment like bikes, surfboards or skis. Or, if you’re in San Francisco or Seattle, Timbuk2 will let you borrow a bike for free during certain days and hours.

9. You Can Finish Someone Else’s Plate

Seriously. Ever seen a half-eaten filet mignon or sushi roll left on the table of a restaurant and wished it didn’t have to go to waste? Now you can do something about it.

A new app called Leftover Swap is the perfect solution for those hungry enough, broke enough and brave enough to locate available leftovers around you, pick them up and eat them. Despite the obvious “ick” factor involved, this is a great way to clear up your guilty conscious from that meal you never finished in the 3rd Grade.

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Cheryl Slayton

Cheryl has been challenging the status quo since she ditched her training wheels in 2nd Grade and hopped a fence after losing her ticket to the local fair. Eventually, she started pushing geographical boundaries (instead of legal ones) and made travel her best friend. While two-stepping her way through Texas, climbing a volcano in Antigua, Guatemala and teaching Arabian princesses in the Middle East, she made some amazingly adventurous and ragamuffin friends along the way, like a bossy Haitian, savvy South African, wild Canadian and an Indian-French-Canadian connoisseur of bags and wine. Now, she's happy to call Orlando home again (and try her best to stay on the right side of the law) as she puts pen to paper to share her stories with the Ambitious Crew. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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