About a year and a half ago I made a trip to Lisbon and back using mainly ride sharing as my mode of transport and I was then asked by Bla Bla Car to write about it for their blog that never came to be so today on the international #ridesharingday I’ll post the piece here instead! Enjoy!
Hello! My name’s Robin Olsson and I run Llama Lloyd, a tiny culture cafe where I encourage people to bike, to eat less meat and most importantly to share more. I’ve been a long time user of Couchsurfing where people can stay on my couch and when I travel I can stay on theirs. Couchsurfing was my first step into what is now called the collaborative economy. In March this year I went on a one month long collaborative trip through Europe using mainly Couchsurfing for accommodation and mainly Bla Bla Car for transport. I’ve waited for this for ages, for when there’s enough people using these services so that it’s possible to use it as your main transport. Until trains are reasonably priced again I feel this is the best way to get around Europe.
I started here in Gothenburg, Sweden and got a ride from Marielle to Malmö in the very south of Sweden through Skjutsgruppen, which is a similar service to Bla bla car but with not nearly as many drivers, I even started the trip a little earlier just so I could ride share to Malmö. Bla bla hasn’t come to Sweden nor Denmark yet so it’s only for people like me that are super curious, so called early adaptors, that use it. So from Malmö I tried to get one of the few rides that were offered on Bla bla from Copenhagen (it’s just across the bridge from Malmö) but that car was full so I ended up taking a train down to Hamburg. Cheating in a way! The idea was to make this trip as collaborative as possible and already I was cheating. To be honest I just wanted out of Sweden asap! Then all the way from Hamburg I rode with Bla bla car drivers Rostand, Denise, Marcos, Philippe, Benjamin, Estibaliz and Marta to Cologne, Freiburg, Lyon, Toulouse, Bilbao, Madrid and Porto. Then I was out of luck. I couldn’t find a suitable car going to my final destination, Lisbon, so I caught another train. So why didn’t I just use trains all the way you might ask yourself? Because it’s pretty boring. Especially when you’re traveling on your own. I ride share and couch surf because I’m interested in people and have a strong belief that most people are good people and I love to get an insight into the real lives of people. I think that mindset really helps when you travel this way, you need to think the best of people. This is so much about trust. Do you trust your neighbor? Why not? I’m fairly sure he or she is a decent person. I think we need to start speaking to our neighbors again. And why not save some petrol money while doing it? So who are these people, the people who share? It’s people like you and me that think more efficiently, because what’s the point of having a bunch of empty seats when you can have a full car with interesting conversations?
I ran a crowdfunding campaign while doing this trip to Lisbon. Within the crowdfunding campaign people could choose the date when I should re-open my cafe Llama Lloyd. They did this by buying either a tote bag for me to open March 29th or the same bag to vote for April 5th. The people liked what I was doing on my trip and thought I should continue to do so so April 5th won and that’s when I re-opened. That extra week meant that I was gonna travel back the same way, using Bla bla and Couchsurfing. But before that I had five days ”vacation from the vacation”, there was a wonderful little music festival in the Azores, Tremor, that I attended as one of very few Swedes. I normally go to Primavera Sound but this year I’m skipping it, ten years is enough already. So Tremor was my international festival this year. So far… Anyways, traveling back I didn’t wanna go to the same cities again, what’s the fun in that? Besides from Madrid I managed to see my beloved Barcelona, my new found love of Turin, a short stop in Ljubljana and an even shorter stop in Vienna before I biked around Berlin for a few days. After that I miraculously found Torsten, who was going all the way home to Gothenburg!
You see, I was traveling with a foldable bicycle, a Brompton. I did this to emphasize how smart it is to combine this kind of bike with other means of transport. Doing this together with Bla bla was a little bit tricky. See, the bike is about 60x60x30 cm when folded. I normally enquired before making a bla bla trip with either of these two question: ”I’m traveling with my foldable bike (60x60x30 cm), can we ride with you?” or ”I’m traveling with a 60x60x30 package, can we fit?” I think a lot of people hadn’t seen this kind of bike and just the idea of trying to fit a bike into their Renault Clio would never work so they just said no. I don’t think anybody said no if I rephrased my question. It always worked out with the bike, and it’s such a joy to always have a bike! Whenever I got dropped off I just biked the last part! Google Maps normally give you a good route but in Toulouse it wanted me to bike on the side of the canal that didn’t have asphalt and lights so that was a bit bumpy and dark before I found a bridge over! ^^ And you save so much time with a bike, I only rode with public transport once, I met up with a friend’s sister and we took the metro back. But it’s easy-peasy just folding it up and bringing it along if it would be raining cats and dogs.
If you’re ever in Gothenburg be sure to stop by my cafe Llama Lloyd and have a delicious cup of specialty coffee. Maybe you wanna rent the bike? It’s on Spinlister. If you need a place to stay you can always request my couch. I love social media, so go ahead and say hello: