It’s been 1 month since my Europe backpacking trip and the more I settle back into my everyday life, the less I remember what it feels like to be continuously moving onto a new city. I look at my big closet and all my stuff and my beautiful bed and I wonder how I used to travel with just one backpack or fall asleep in someone else’s bed.
Athens was one of the cities that we didn’t stay very long in – only 1 full day. Our Airbnb host, Willian, was kind and very helpful during our stay. His roommate’s mom even came to drop off homemade pie for Fatima and me. We stayed past our checkout time at his apartment because our flight was at night and we didn’t want to lug our backpacks around for the whole day. We spent quite a bit of time talking to Willian about travel and his past Airbnb guests.
I believe in sharing economies and Airbnb is just one example of it. For those who don’t know, Airbnb is a website that allows homeowners to rent out their place or a guest room for short periods. It’s a great way for travelers to connect with locals and for the most part, it can be as cheap or cheaper than staying at a hostel (safer too!).
The best thing about sharing economies is that it sprouts from an innocent childhood belief that people are essentially, good. We can share many things – equipment (i.e. sports, home renovation, etc.), transportation (car or bike sharing), food, and more. One of the biggest concerns, of course, is security.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to play outside on the street because my parents deemed it unsafe. I wasn’t allowed to talk to strangers – they’re dangerous too. And I understand why all those rules are necessary, but somewhere along the way, you can easily be stuck into a mindset where you become closed off from the rest of the world and from people you could connect with.
I like to think that everyone is a little bit (or a lot) like me. Everybody is a mixture of good and bad, but mostly good, and I believe that everybody is just trying to go through life the best they can given the limitations they have. Fundamentally, I believe that people are good and that they want to be good. Some people tell me this kind of thinking is naive – that I’m going to be taken advantage of, stepped on, chewed out, and that I should know better.
Sure, there is a possibility that my Airbnb host is a psychopath, but I can also easily flip it around if I was the host – am I allowing a potential psychopath to stay at my place? A sharing economy can only function properly if it has all the building blocks, and the people are at the heart of it all. Although I’m not saying we have to all trust each other 100% (otherwise couch-surfing would be lit), it may be best if we look at strangers as potential new friends.
Willian told us horror stories of past guests who were plain rude or crazy. This minority group, however, is greatly overpowered by all the cool people he’s met in comparison. By participating in a sharing economy, he explains that he now has friends all over the world, and as an avid traveler himself, it makes everything more exciting and welcoming. The most memorable thing he said was that we are one world, one people, and after getting a little taste if it ourselves, Fatima and I can truly understand what he means.
For anybody who is stuck on the belief that everybody you meet will hurt you, that the world is full of assholes and all the like, go travel. Go meet new people, see new places, and find out for yourself how similar you are to people you thought were nothing like you.
Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.
― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men