How Social Travel Lets You See the World

BreakingModern — I love to travel. You probably do too — that’s why you clicked on this article. And, if you’re like me, traveling cheap is the way to go. I’ve found through numerous far-flung adventures that the social media phenomenon has allowed and encouraged a more bare-bones, connect-as-you-go travel style. It’s social travel, and it’s here to stay.

Social Travel Dyers Bay

Websites and forums, new apps or time-tested institutions of exploration have all converged and become fluid, moveable and connected so that we, the young (or old!) terrestrial wanderers can traipse without barriers.

Lodging and Life on the Road

Social travel has always (and should always) start with your friends. Family, long-lost buddies and acquaintances that live in foreign lands can be your first tier of connected travel. Facebook, of course, helps with this.

In lieu of connecting with those you know, the best part about social travel is meeting a happy slew of individuals that you don’t. Couchsurfing was where I started — and it’s really where you should start too.

Couchsurfing is a website (and app, available for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS) that is rooted in this idea: “I need a place to crash, but don’t know anyone! I wish I could just sleep on a couch for a night…”

Couchsurfing is born. You create a profile, input interests, activities and travel destinations, and peruse everyone else on the website. Then, when it’s time to travel, you send requests to people who live in the area where you want to sleep. They respond, sometimes yes, sometimes no, and eventually you find a place to crash.

That was the simple CS, but it has evolved over time. Sleeping quarters are still the primary focus, but these days there are formal requests for just about any activity in any place. Want to see the catacombs in Paris, but you’re alone and scared? Post on CS and you’ll get a travel buddy real quick. Take a drive up the West Coast of North America? Why? Because someone on CS said they were going and wanted help with gas.

Social Travel Couchsurfing

The site is a full-blown community of perpetual life travelers, and welcomes new members with open arms. (Note: If you decide to use CS, and enjoy it, pay it forward. Open your home! You’ll be amazed at what the world brings.)

I’ve slept on many-a-couch in my travels (though most turned out to be beds!), but Couchsurfing isn’t your only option.

Social sites like WWOOF and HelpX are great if you want a longer stay and have some time to kill. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and typically consists of a week-to-month stay at an organic farm. You exchange daily labor for a bed and meals. Each country has its own version of the broader site, and there are thousands (upon thousands) of farms to choose from. You can read about my experience here. If you’re into the rustic life, WWOOF is wonderful and (and cheap!)

HelpX is similar, but doesn’t limit itself to organic farms. It’s basically a site where anyone can post about help they need — nannying, housework, weed-clearing, construction etc. — in exchange for a bed and food. The parameters are much looser than WWOOF, and you’ll want to chat with your host about specifics before you arrive. But, it’s another relatively free way to see a new place, and you’ll usually meet some interesting folk along the way.

Two more lodging options: Airbnb, for those who want a real bed and some legit niceties, is great. Community oriented and full of surprises — see our full review here.

The last is BeWelcome, a social site that was spawned in the post-Couchsurfing era. Couchsurfing has, for some, become too hyped. There is a lack of small-town, super-awesome chillness these days, and that’s where BeWelcome steps in. They are a relaxed community devoted to truly sharing culture — not just a couch. If you want to meet wonderful people and get to know locals, BeWelcome is a sure bet.


“Dude, just buy a Euro-rail pass. I hit like 10 countries in four days. So sweet.”

Yes, very sweet. But, for those who haven’t done the math, Euro-rail passes are expensive. If you’re on any kind of budget, there are much cheaper ways to get around the European lands.

Social Travel Train

I found Carpooling, a site operated in a variety of countries, to be incredibly useful in Europe — specifically in Germany, Austria and anything east of England. Create a quick profile and you’re off! Community members post rides they plan to make, say how many seats are available and how much they expect for gas. The website works, or, if you’re into mobile, there’s a free app for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS.

I was picked up at 4 am at my CS host’s doorstep in Austria, driven through the Swiss Alps, and dropped at my Airbnb doorstep (eight hours later in Milan) because of this site. And I met a whole car-full of great people too.

Likewise, be sure to check out BlaBla Car. I used the site in France to get everywhere — literally. No trains, not once. The site is roughly the same as Carpooling, but a bit more user-friendly. Available in a multitude of languages, and there’s a free app for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS, too.

The world is big, and for those not in Europe, transportation is certainly important. Each new place varies, but I’ve found on principle that buses are cheaper than trains, though they take a good deal longer. Do some research if you’re worried about budgeting in transportation — most of the time, there’s a cheaper way.

Sites and Scenes of the Land

The best part about social travel networks like those mentioned above? They connect you to people, usually locals, who have a wealth of information on what to do in their homeland.

But, if you’re still wondering where to get the best boot of beer or yellow fish curry, do not fret! While not entirely social, travel company Lonely Planet has always steered me in the right direction. From paid lodging in less easily communicative places (like Cambodia or Chile) to scuba-spots, must-see hiking and delicious grub, Lonely Planet always has something to say. They have a ton of location specific apps, but I’d suggest going old school and buying a book (gasp!). If you’re in a pickle (i.e., without Wi-Fi), it’s worth it.

And, lastly (but hardly least) Trippy is a great newcomer in the social travel game. Sign up, click through your interests, and you’ll see a comprehensive board of questions and advice from travelers all over. This is a great place if you want some authentic help. Unfortunately, it’s only web-based at the time of this writing.

Well, now I’m itching to go somewhere! It’s a new world for us travelers — one in which authentic connection and budget-friendly accommodations are just a click away. Good luck, and happy travels!

For BMod, I’m .

First/Featured Image: Brucetraildyersbay” by Pyzote - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Third/Header Image: DR1A-2463” by Richlv - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel Zweier

Author: Daniel Zweier

Based in Oakland, Daniel Zweier covers culture, travel and tech here at BreakingModern. Follow him on Twitter @dbzweier and on G+ at +DanielZweier

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