Growing up, my mom would always talk about road trips she took with her family full of laughter, fun, fighting sisters, and air-conditioner-free cars. Needless to say, my recent adventure was quite a bit different. From frolicking across Jessie Honeyman State Park to eating my way through San Fransisco, this road trip would not have been the same without technology. I’ve spent my blogging career talking about how businesses can help customers, and recently I found myself on the other end thinking about what worked and what didn’t. Reflection time!
To start off, I had air-conditioning and no annoying sisters, thank goodness. Besides the obvious Google Maps, Yelp, and Pandora, technology really enhanced my travel experience.
Long distances on the road called for entertainment and travel required a roof (or tent) over my head.
NPR Podcasts saved my life.
I get bored easily and need entertainment on a long drive. I think most people can relate to this and the struggles in the pursuit of entertainment. I’m a particularly picky individual when looking for entertainment. The catch? It has to be free and easy. I guess that’s the millennial college student in me. Usually I turn to books on tape or just reading the old fashion way, but this trip I tried something slightly different. I always thought podcasts were dry and meant for old people. Maybe I’m just old now, but I’m convinced these would be interesting to most everyone. Podcasts are great because they are shorter and have a range of topics making it nearly impossible to get bored. Did I mention yet that they’re free?
Invisiblia was my favorite find. Two women, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, explore the invisible things that govern who we are and attempt to answer questions by asking more questions. Above everything else, I loved how much this podcast got me thinking and talking about my experience of the world. This place we call home is complex and gets messy when we throw emotion into the equation. Invisibilia, Latin for “all the invisible things”, attempts to delve into the human brain with the goal of asking ourselves “why?”. Topics are sometimes dark and academic, but the ability these ladies have to tell stories keeps you hooked for 40 minutes. Podcasts being dry is totally a myth too, the production value was amazing!
Take a few minutes to download the series onto your phone, you won’t regret it! You can even do so using the cloud so that you can listen to Invisibilia and other podcasts on the go without wasting your data. Okay, so you might be thinking, “well, I’m not going on a road trip”, which doesn’t matter! They are also great for spicing up everyday mundane tasks. Next time you find yourself cleaning or washing dishes, take a listen!
Airbnb was another delight.
I’ve traveled a few times now using Airbnb and have had great experiences each and every time. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it is a service that allows hosts to rent their space and travelers to find unique places to stay. As a host, you have the ability to rent out a vacation house or a spare room that was previously unused in order to make a couple bucks on the side. For travelers, Airbnb provides options for travel accommodations that can be tailored to your wants and needs. With over one million listings worldwide, you are sure to find the perfect fit. For example, when I stayed in San Fransisco, I wanted to save money and have a safe place to park; two issues that San Fran is notorious for lacking. Thankfully I was able to rent a space in the Richmond district with a parking space for less than $100/night (seriously). Hosts can accommodate users needs and often advertise based on the experience along with amenities. Half of the fun of staying in an Airbnb is feeling like you are at home when you are traveling; I always look for fun hosts who can give recommendations along with providing a place to crash at the end of the day.
From a business standpoint, Airbnb is really smart. The problem they were trying to solve was clear: dozens of houses and rooms are empty and travelers are often unsatisfied with accommodations. Sure, the connection of these ideas had been done before, but not with the the same success. The first smart move was starting small, and by doing so, Airbnb was able to saturate their beachhead to show the system worked. When it started in San Fransisco in 2008, the differentiation factor lied in the host and traveler review system. The ability to have an online community based on showing up and being a good human kept people accountable. Their motto is #OneLessStranger and they live by it. Hosts are able to market not only their space, but their personality too! Going above and beyond allows hosts to set their space apart and charge more. Really, being awesome = more money!
Some of the skeptics might be thinking “how does this work?” and “what about liabilities?”. No, Airbnb isn’t just for hippie college students, we all know you were thinking that. The variety in the listings reach past one particular target market or budget range. Beyond the rating and review accountability you have to submit personal information assuring Airbnb that you aren’t a crazy person. If you aren’t the making friends with strangers type, the experience doesn’t have to be that. This disruptive innovation disintegrated barriers to interaction and simplified the entire process when they created a completely digital platform. As far as liabilities go, that’s something that can be difficult to avoid in any travel situation, and Airbnb takes a proactive stance in responsible hosting. As far as I’m concerned, Airbnb is superior from a business and consumer standpoint.
As my first self-planned road trip, I went into it with expectations. Most of which were formed based off of things my mom had told me about her family road trips when she was a girl. My rough to-do list included:
√ Climb on some awesome sand dunes. Thanks to Jessie Honeyman State Park!
√ Dip my toes in the ocean. The Oregon coast was… cold.
√ See an elk and the Redwoods. Visit Gold Bluffs Beach in California, you won’t regret it.
√ Meet a CEO. Well, just go to San Fran and throw a rock.
√ Explore Golden Gate Park. I highly recommend the California Academy of Sciences, worth the money.
When people ask “how was your road trip?”, of course I mention my checklist points, but time and time again I find myself touching on places and weaving my experiences with technology along the way through my “review”. I guess that’s just my idea of a road trip, just reinvented!