I’m a reasonably outgoing person when I’m traveling, so I often meet new people. But it’s rare that these meetings result in much more than a casual conversation. Every once in a while I’ll end up with a new facebook connection who fades into the distance so I barely remember who they were a year later. At least that was the case until I started using sharing economy lodging services like home exchanges. This month I’ll be spending time with several new friends I made this way and that got me thinking about the social benefits of using peer-to-peer services for traveling.

(from Harry Potter)

(from Harry Potter)

Back in 2014 my wife and I spend a month traveling around Spain using home exchanges for almost all of our lodging. Through that experience we met some lovely folks in Sevilla and Cádiz. I am back Spain in April and have been making plans to get together with at least one of my Spanish friends. I anticipate leaving Spain with more friends as this trip will be a GoCambio exchange, where I’m helping my host practice English in exchange for lodging. After three weeks of scheduled social time every evening I think we’re likely to end up friends.

As a part of that trip to Spain I’m taking a side trip to visit some friends in Poland. Which reminded me to reach out to the Polish family I met in Iceland to see if we can get together. It’s a long shot since they don’t live in Warsaw, but I’ve exchanged a few emails with them, and had such a nice time traveling together for 2 days after I convinced them to let me hitchhike along the roads of southern Iceland.

handshakeWhile visiting Colombia with a friend last year we stayed in an Airbnb in Cartagena where we met a fellow traveler from France, a law professor who we joined for a few fun nights out on the town. We recently learned that he is taking a sabbatical in Mexico city to do some writing, and we all agreed it would be super fun to meet up again there. While I don’t usually think of Airbnb as a place to make friends, this is a potential benefit of shared rental lodging. Though it’s also a potential annoyance since you are sharing with a completely random person.

And finally, we recently hosted a home exchange guest who needed last minute lodging for a conference. We got along well and ended up spending a few evenings socializing and chatting about common interests. We’ve made plans to get together again when we pass through London this summer.

Overall, a good couple of years of making friends through free/shared travel services.