Following the recent Florida Outdoor Writers Association annual conference, I came home with a new camping set I won from a raffle. Camping adventures are planned for my dog and me, but I am also looking for places off the proverbial beaten path. This is where the peer-to-peer website HipCamp.com is useful.
A peer-to-peer website keeps the sharing economy strong. It is a way for people to connect and exchange goods and services through the internet locally, across the nation, and around the world. Examples include eBay.com, Craigslist.com, and Airbnb.com.
I look as the sharing economy as a way of breaking down traditional social class barriers and connecting people of different ages, cultures and origins. Peer-to-peer websites are ideal for traveling abroad, within the United States, and within Florida. Several sites are for planning outdoor adventures, such as HipCamp.
Think of HipCamp as the outdoors version of Airbnb, where people like you and me open their private land, cabins, boats and farms to campers. The site also lists camping available in public lands such as state and national parks and national forests. Users can search for campsites based on activities offered, amenities, location, natural landscape, and — an important one for me — pet-friendliness.
Sample camping areas include Home Field Advantage Farmstead near Madison Blue Springs and Suwanee River State Park. Tent and RVs are welcome for primitive camping near heritage-breed chickens, goats, and pigs. In the eco-retreat Rasayana Cove in Ona, there’s the off-the-grid, furnished, two-bedroom Hermitage Cabin set in a hammock of ancient oak trees.
If pitching a tent is not your thing or maybe you are considering purchasing an RV and wanting to try one out, there are peer-to-peer websites for RVs. Owners list their vehicles with specified availability dates and travelers rent them. These sites include Outdoorsy.com and RVShare.com. Included with the rentals are insurance coverage offering peace of mind for the owner and renter.
The best way to explore a new destination is with a friend. If you are heading to Miami or Orlando, the website Rent a Local Friend (RentALocalFriend.com) can connect you with a local host familiar with the area. Several specialize in nature excursions and can accompany and guide you through a unique outdoor experience.
Airbnb has expanded its services beyond accommodations into what they call Experiences. They are building their Florida experiences, but some currently available examples include an evening motorized trike tour of downtown Naples to explore the city’s beautiful streets, lavish real estate, and evening waterfront views. Join a whimsical adventurer on an urban bicycle tour of Miami Beach followed an hour of yoga. In Orlando, join a lifelong resident for a 90-minute sunset paddle either by kayak or standup paddleboard over Lake Jennie Jewel. The excursion begins and ends at the Waterfront Restaurant.
Technology is making our world smaller. While these peer-to-peer websites can bring people together, I caution users to always communicate with your host through the website’s messaging system and not through outside communication such as texting or emailing. This protects you from potential scams.
The sharing economy puts extra money in a host’s pocket and adds value to a traveler’s experience. Everyday people are offering unique services to everyday travelers. Ironically, it is through this use of technology that one-on-one personal connections are made and our knowledge of the outdoors is expanded.