What is the “Sharing Economy”?
The “sharing economy” in its most direct definition, refers to the exchange of goods and services directly, instead of for money. You give someone else an item or do something for them and they respond with an equal value (perhaps personal and not financial value) item or favor for you.
The sharing economy has exploded in recent years due mostly to the internet and social media. People all over the world are so much better and more directly connected. There are millions of websites and apps that help people connect with each other, either generally or for a specific purpose. Thus, it only takes a few minutes and a few clicks or swipes to find someone willing to exchange with you wherever you are traveling to.
As an introvert, the necessity of a more personal and social interaction with a peer, a stranger just like you, instead of a more removed and superficial interaction with a company employee or even just a website, can make me want to run for home, lock the door, and hide under the duvet.
But I love traveling, and not only traveling but traveling cheaply, on a budget. And one thing the sharing economy is is budget-friendly. And while there are certainly some instances where taking advantage of a share opportunity means you have to interact and be more social, I’ve found that for the kind of long-term, solo, budget travel that I do, there are actually a lot of benefits to the sharing economy, even as an introvert.
Ride sharing was around long before the internet and social media facilitated the rise of the sharing economy. Hitchhiking has been a thing as long as there were cars, and probably in the horse and buggy days, too! It can be a great way to get around for free when traveling, or get in on the sharing spirit and offer to contribute toward gas. Check out my post on hitchhiking for more on its safety and legality around the world
For a more organized ride share option, with a bit more accountability in the form of reviews or interacting online first, there are several very popular rideshare sites. I’m not talking about Uber here, but sites that connect people going in the same direction to share a vehicle, gas, and sometimes a turn at the wheel. People may offer a ride for free as a way to pay it forward for when they need a lift and someone will offer them one.
This is definitely one of those sharing options that might be more difficult for introverts. It certainly lends itself to conversations on the road, so save it for when you are feeling like being a bit more social and pay for the social isolation of regular public transport or a private vehicle when you don’t.
Flight sharing is very similar to ride sharing, except with – you guessed it! – flights. Pilots can offer seats (usually on smaller planes and shorter flights) in exchange for sharing the cost of fuel, airport fees, and possibly the plane rental itself with those passengers. The pilot doesn’t make a profit off of you, but they cut down on the cost of a flight there were going to take anyway for themselves. Also, like ride sharing, flight sharing has a bit of a social aspect that introverts may want to steer clear of!
Couchsurfing is a great organization where people offer to host travelers (whether on their couch, air mattress, spare bed, etc.) for free. Whether the hosts stay with other couchsurfers when they themselves travel or just take pleasure in talking with their guests about their home city or the traveler’s home, Couchsurfing is definitely a more social sharing option that introverts may prefer to use less frequently. Get all the details in my Couchsurfing Beginner’s Guide.
House sitting is the sharing accommodation option that is probably better suited to introverts. I love it! Travelers stay for free in the house or apartment of a local in their destination while the homeowner themselves travel. The house sitter gets a free place to stay (often their own private house!) while the homeowner gets free pet care and someone to keep their home secure while they are away. Most, but not all, house sitting options out there are actually pet sitting, so if you’re an animal-loving introvert, it’s a great choice!
Sightseeing & Entertainment:
Free City Tours
In most popular travel destination cities around the world, you can now find free city tours of some sort. These are usually a one or two hour introductory walking tour around the main area of town. Some are led by guides who work for an organization or attraction, but many are just locals looking to share their knowledge, meet some travelers, and make a little side money.
While the tours are free, it’s definitely common practice to tip your guide. I still call this a “sharing” or “exchange” because you don’t pay a set price, but tip what your budget allows based on how well the guide performed their service. It’s a nice way to directly support entrepreneurial locals and if you get a truly terrible guide, don’t tip them and at least the tour was free! Again, this is a slightly more social option for introverts, but you can just listen and not interact too much.
Podcast Guided Tours
Similarly to city tours with an actual in-person guide, there are lots of podcast or downloadable audio guided tours that you can listen to as you take yourself around your destination. These really are free for you, since they are usually either sponsored by a tourism board, museum, or make their money through advertisements or patrons online. A perfect option for introverts who want the get great info about what they are seeing without having to talk to anyone.
These book exchanges are great for travelers who like reading a physical book, rather than an e-reader, but don’t want to carry several big, heavy texts on a long trip. When you finish one book, seek out a take-one-leave-one library and do exactly what the name implies: take an interesting new title and leave the one you’ve read in its place!
Hostels are a great place to find book exchanges. I’m also increasingly seeing cute little stands on the side of the road that are convenient for locals as well as travelers. Great for introverts who might prefer to curl up with a book after a long day exploring a new place, or pull it out on a long bus or plane ride instead of chatting with fellow travelers.
A Broader Definition:
For all the suggestions above, I was working off the more strict definition of the sharing economy as being strictly an exchange of good or services, but not money. Many people also open up the idea of a sharing economy to include paid goods and services that, through the magic of websites and apps, can now be offered directly peer to peer instead of through a company. If you use this definition, there are a lot more resources to include, many of which are more introvert-friendly.
One of the more widely known examples of the more broadly defined sharing economy is Airbnb. Hosts can rent out rooms in their homes, entire houses or apartments, guests houses, parked RVs, even spots to pitch a tent on their land. Often hostels and B&Bs are on there too, but the majority are regular homeowners. I regularly find private apartments, or at least rooms, for cheaper or comparable to a hostel – fantastic for an introvert! If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get $40 off your first stay by clicking my link 🙂
Probably the most popular organization to come out of the sharing economy is Uber. With Uber, people use their personal vehicles as taxis and drive others around their local area. Popular for local use and travelers alike. A nice, private transportation option for introverts, through you might get a chatty driver.
Carsharing is great for people who don’t drive too much and live in a populated area. It’s basically short-term car rental. There are shared cars around a city that you can purchase the use of for a specific amount of time, usually an hour or two It’s a great way to get a car you can drive yourself without having to pay to rent it for the whole day.
Here is the transportation share option for introverts: bicycles! Many cities are getting in on the action with communal bikes for rent. While they are called many different things, they all basically allow you to rent a bike from one of many racks throughout the city, ride it wherever you want to go for however long, then return it to the nearest rack to your final destination. You pay by the length of time you use it, whether the by the hour or the day. In some places, you can even get a limited time (usually 30 minutes) for free! You could also rent a bike from a peer to peer website. More on that next…
Peer to Peer Renting
There are tons of general and specific sites and apps for peer to peer renting. So you want to fly to New Zealand and go camping, but you don’t want to lug all the gear and equipment you’ll need on the plane. Search a peer to peer sites for a local who owns the gear you need, won’t be using it that week, and would be willing to rent it to you for less than it would cost to buy it or rent from an outdoor gear company.
Anything you might need but don’t want to carry with you on your travels can probably be rented from a friendly stranger along the way, from a bike to a baking pan, a kayak to ski pants, even a parking space! There is minimal social interaction here for introverts.
Freelancing & Anywhere Work
Besides exchanging and providing goods and services to peers, with the looser definition of the sharing economy, it’s a great way to make some cash yourself without having to be anywhere in particular. You could look on freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr for online work or odd jobs that are within your skill set. Search local job boards for one-off gigs in your destination if you’re sticking around long enough.
You can also provide something for one of the paid sharing options I’ve already mentioned – rent your house or apartment on Airbnb or HomeAway while you’re gone (get a friend to clean in between guests and help in emergencies for a commission), offer rides on car sharing sites if you rent or buy your own vehicle abroad, if you’re very familiar with your destination run your own city tour, offer yourself as a short-term English tutor (or any other skill you have), the options are plentiful!
While the definition may be a bit fluid, the sharing economy can be really helpful to budget travelers. While some manifestations of it may be too social for introverts to want to take advantage of often, a lot of sharing options are actually very introvert-friendly. Figure out what works for you and get out there and exchange!
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- How Travel Helps Me as an Introvert
- How to Get Local Advice as an Introverted Traveler
- Top 5 Travel Tips for Introverts
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