I made it back from Australia last night. Traveling there is no fun, but once you’re there, it’s really lovely. I was gone for a total of 11 days or so. The conference that invited me to speak put me up in a hotel room for two of the nights. But the rest of the time I used Airbnb. I rented a car and drove from Brisbane to Sydney, about 600 miles. I had no itinerary. If I liked an area, I’d stay there. If I felt the urge to move on, I’d move on. Every morning I’d fire up Airbnb and find a place to stay for that evening. For those who don’t know Airbnb, this is how they describe themselves:

We connect people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay. Guests can build real connections with their hosts, gain access to distinctive spaces, and immerse themselves in the culture of their destinations. 

I love how the internet enables me to have almost zero plans and, in real time, meet amazing people and find unique, unforgettable experiences. I stayed at three different places and met some really lovely people. In fact, the people I met made my entire vacation. I’d arrive at their homes, they’d cook me dinner and offer me a drink, we’d go out to dinner and drinks, or I’d simply ask them “What’s the best restaurant around?” We’d get to know each other and then I’d ask them what they thought I should do or see. After they got to know me a bit, they surmised what they thought I’d like. And they were right.

I’m a unique person. And I’m attracted to people who are just as unique, who think a bit differently, and have an insatiable curiosity. This seems to be the exact kind of person who puts their place on Airbnb. I met a 50-something year old couple who’ve retired in the Gold Coast who no longer have children living at home but want to connect with interesting travelers. I met a 20-something year old couple who were both doctors about halfway between Byron Bay and Sydney. They took me out for a truly unforgettable night. And then I met a lovely 31 year old woman who moved to Sydney from NYC. Once we got talking, we realized we knew no less than 10 people in common. We spent three days together with her and her friends. She even let me know about a big festival happening in Sydney last Sunday where I got to see The National (my current favorite band), TV on the Radio, Phosphorescent, The Flaming Lips, and Mercury Rev. A good friend of mine is the guitarist in Phosphorescent. As they were setting up, I moved close to the stage and made eye contact with Jesse and he looked shocked and said “Dr. Jay what the hell are you doing here!??” He obviously didn’t expect to see me in Sydney.

All of this happened because I made new friends and had a built in real life social network everywhere I traveled. From now on, it’s the only way to travel. Traveling is all about seeing new places, but even more importantly, meeting new people in those new places. They’re the insiders and they’re in the know. And they’re just as curious about you as you are about them and the area in which they live. Airbnb is different than the vast majority of things on the internet:

  • It connects you in person in real life with interesting people
  • It’s very personal, considering you’re being invited into their home

Thank you internet.

Photo of the Blue Mountains in Australia. I had no idea there were massive jungles in Australia.