I was catching up with one of my best friends from college this past summer when she told me a story about an Uber driver she'd recently met. He'd started something called the Human Hug Project [find it here if you're interested] and she thought to tell me about it because he's from Portland too. Because my friend lives in Nashville, I asked why he was driving there when he lives in Portland and she said he was just passing through town and driving to make extra money.
I had just been to a creative brainstorm session for work on the topic of how we're evolving to a sharing economy, something that I'm pretty much fascinated by. Because 5 years ago, if someone would have told you to hop in the car of a stranger who would take you wherever you wanted to go, or that you could stay in the house of someone you've never met, the answer would be no, thanks. But now that we're all so connected via our smartphones, we're granted the security of knowing that a stranger isn't really a complete stranger and it's fine to get in the car with them. Since we've gotten over that barrier, we can do other cool stuff, like forgo a hotel for someone's house instead, or have kittens delivered to your office for an hour. Feels like the possibilities are endless.
Anyway, I got really excited at this point in the conversation because I realized that a person could take a road trip anywhere and pay for the gas by driving other people around. We both love road trips and we started bouncing ideas back and forth on what a yearlong road trip around the US would look like. Most of the ideas died off [like driving together and documenting the people we drove in the style of Humans of New York], but some stuck [I actually did renovate a trailer to live in].
One of the most interesting parts about Uber and Lyft is the drivers aren't like the grumpy, silent taxi drivers we're used to. One of the first times I rode with Uber was in San Francisco, which happens to be the city I'm currently stopped at on my road trip. My driver was very animated and he talked my head off throughout the entire drive to the airport. He told me that he had a full-time job in the city and since his commute home was a nightmare anyway, he drove with Uber until the traffic died down. A picture of his wife and two kids on vacation in Hawaii popped up on his phone when his wife called to check in on him and after he hung up, he explained that they'd worked out a system where he used a code word to let her know when he had a passenger. This guy was hilarious and I got the impression the real reason he drove was to blow off steam before going home to his family.
I started driving with Lyft before I quit my job because I wanted to be sure I felt comfortable with it before making the jump. I've found that it's the perfect way to explore a city, not only because I drive all over but because the people I meet are just being themselves. Normally when you travel, you meet people in hotels and restaurants and they're buttoned up in a customer service role. It's fun to pick someone up, chat with them for a bit, and know that you'll probably never see them again.
Yesterday was the first day I've driven with Lyft in SF and it's been interesting to see how different it is from Portland. For one thing, a lot of high schoolers use it to get around. The first kid I picked up was 16 years old and had gotten back from a professional video gaming tournament in Atlanta at 4 AM that morning. He was telling me how his parents made him go to school that day since he'd already missed 11 days for the trip. I asked him how they felt about him gaming professionally and he said they were a little uncomfortable with it at first, since he was traveling by himself and meeting people who he'd previously only met online. They came around once he started winning a lot of money, as long as he saved most of it for college. After that, I met a girl from Argentina who has traveled all over the place and landed in San Francisco because she's convinced that it's the best city in the world. I have to agree that it's pretty amazing.
I'll share my SF adventures soon!
Here's $50 to try Lyft if you haven't yet: https://www.lyft.com/invited/KELSEY049956