Underground global domination.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic- It was with no small amount of relief that I saw that the SIM card stand in terminal 1 was still open. It was 11:30 pm, and we just stepped back into the Czech Republic — our forth stint here in the course of a year.
I’m not picky about SIM cards — I just go to whatever stall I come to first in the airport or go for the cheapest option when there is a cluster of competitors. The last time I entered into the country via this terminal I got an O2 SIM. I thought that I was doing the same tonight.
“Wait, you’re not O2?”
“No, it’s T-Mobile.”
“But last time you were O2.”
“We changed last month. We’re actually AirBnb.”
I had misinterpreted the main purpose of this airport kiosk. I initially thought it was a telecom stall, but really it was a place for AirBnB users to pick up their keys. The SIM cards were just a complementary service.
What was interesting was that it was done in typical AirBnB style. There was nothing anywhere that said AirBnB. This is a company that has mastered business “in the gray” — dominant enough to re-face the global tourism industry while not being official enough to operate completely above ground. AirBnB, Uber, and their ilk cut the fat off of commerce, subvert regulations, and generally provide the end customer a better service at a better price.
The old guard needed to be wiped out anyway. For decades hotels and taxi drivers have been ripping travelers off. I cannot spare any empathy for their cries and whines.
I somehow ended up on a mailing list for a (hoteliers-funded) “public action group” pushing politicians to better regulate AirBnB. They report that AirBnB is stirring a race-to-the-bottom in the accommodation industry, hiking apartment rentals, watering down communities, putting local neighborhood shops out of business.
Maybe so. But the market will adjust, local businesses will evolve to meet new demands, and this too will normalize. Meanwhile, profiteering hotels that make travel more expensive than it needs to be will be wiped out. Good.
This is an age where everybody is scrambled. Local is going extinct. It’s not like anyone knows their neighbors anymore anyway.
We booked an Uber from the airport to make two stops. One at the lady’s house who runs the AirBnB that we booked to get the key and the next at the apartment itself. It all worked out smoothly as it does 95% of the time. There was nothing to have anxiety over — nothing to even think about. I looked out the window of the Uber and thought about how, in another era, I would have been in a taxi steadfastly watching the meter, checking our route on my compass in fear of being ripped off. Now I just relax. I can talk to the driver and get a story or I can blog on my BlackBerry. The travel part of travel has become a non-event — something so easy that it approaches boring.
I wonder when I’m going to start feeling nostalgic for the hassles of the old days?
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
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