NeighborGoods Allows Travelers To Borrow From Locals

Gone are the days when travelers have to pack bulky items. Now they can just borrow instead.

NeighborGoods is changing the face of consumption, facilitating a borrowing and lending culture within neighborhoods. This is great for people who want to meet their neighbors and spend less, but it’s also great for travelers who want to meet locals and borrow items they didn’t want to bring along for the trip. I spoke with the founder/CEO of the site, Micki Krimmel, via email about the potential the site holds for travelers.

“One of my favorite personal experiences using NeighborGoods was when I was traveling. I was in Austin, TX for the South by Southwest festival and I borrowed a bike from a local. I searched the Austin area and set it up before I arrived. It saved me hundreds of dollars in transportation costs and helped me experience the city like a local. Another great example of this is a new mother who was traveling alone to LA to visit family for a week. She didn’t want to haul her baby stroller on the plane by herself so she found someone in LA willing to lend her one for the duration of her stay.”

Krimmel went on to discuss another benefit travelers might find in using NeighborGoods:

“Travelers who prefer to pack lightly will find that NeighborGoods is a great resource to borrow bulky items that don’t travel well like baby strollers or sporting equipment. Borrowing a bike or a surfboard from a local also helps travelers avoid tourist traps and experience their destination more like a local.”

How to Meet Locals While Traveling

Urban Camping: Pitch A Tent In Central Park

urban camping in Manhattan
Flickr, Sarah Ackerman

High Manhattan hotel prices ruining your summer travel plans? If you’d like to try urban camping — sleeping under the skyscrapers of New York City — you can try your luck for a spot at one of the city’s summer Family Camping sessions. The Urban Park Rangers lead programs in more than a dozen city parks in all five boroughs, including Manhattan’s Central Park (August 24) and Prospect Park (September 21) in Brooklyn. The campouts are all free, starting with an early evening hike, cookout with food provided (don’t expect anything fancy, but you might be surprised with s’mores) and even a tent — you need only bring sleeping bags. The catch? There’s a lot of competition to join, with only 30 tents available for each night. Each event is open to online registration for 24 hours, with the “winners” chosen by lottery and notified about two weeks in advance. Find all the details and get lucky here.

Where else can you pitch a tent without leaving the city? Here are a few other urban areas with camping options.Austin: Emma Long Park offers campsites for $10-25 per night, depending on utilities, in addition to the $5-10 park entrance fee charged to all visitors. Set beside Lake Austin, the Texas city park is less than a half-hour from downtown. Check out the our adventure guide to Austin for more ideas.

Berlin: An innovative use of “fallow” urban space, the Tentstation project is unfortunately not open this season, but you’ll find other options in and around Berlin to pitch a tent or park an RV, even with a group. In typical German efficiency, some are within a few minutes’ walk to public transportation.

Honolulu: The Hawaiian capital has over a dozen campsites, many on the beach with fishing and surfing opportunities and views to rival expensive Waikiki resorts. Camping permits are issued for 3 or 5 days, and cost $32 and $52, respectively. Interesting note: several of the campsites warn that “houseless encounters are likely,” so look out for beach bums.

Japan: One of the most notoriously pricey countries also has a strong tradition of urban camping. While not officially sanctioned, it’s tolerated and generally quite safe in public parks. It might be hard to actually pitch a tent in downtown Tokyo, but you’ll find many guides online to finding a place to sleep al fresco.

Would you want to camp in a city? Have you done any urban camping?

Grumpy Cat Steals Show At SXSW

Music, film, expos, tech. Yadda, yadda. The real star of this year’s SXSW is Grumpy Cat (actual name: Tardar Sauce), says CNN.

For the uninitiated – all 10 of you – Grumpy Cat became a viral obsession last fall, after her owner’s brother posted her photo to Reddit. The 11-month-old, Arizona-based feline is of curious ancestry (she’s believed to be part Ragdoll breed, and her permanently frowny face and small size are genetic quirks). In reality, says her owner, Tabatha Bundesen (who also runs the Grumpy Cat™ website), “Tard” is sweet and playful … when she’s not sleeping. There are Grumpy Cat memes, merch and thousands of fans, of which I’m unapologetically one.

I follow Grumpy Cat on Twitter and live for The Daily Grump on her site, which posts new photos of Tard and her brother Pokey doing their thing. What can I say? Grumpy Cat just makes me happy. If you happen to be at SXSW, come visit her at the Mashable tech tent, where she’s holding court from her cat bed, and posing for photos (in between naps, of course). Celebrity apparently hasn’t changed her a bit.


Adventure Guide 2013: Austin

Because Austin is growing so quickly, 2013 is the year to explore all that Austin offers – before the trails are as crowded as the flagship Whole Foods downtown. For nearly a decade, the city itself has been attracting more people than it can seem to keep up with. Austin ranked first on Forbes’ list of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities for the second year in a row in 2012. But while the city is struggling to keep up with the tremendous boom, and indoor space still seems relatively limited (demonstrated by the many packed coffee houses, music venues, bars and office and apartment buildings), there’s plenty of outdoor space to go around in Austin.

Austin’s adventurous reputation owes much to its weather. With the exception of the smoldering mid-summer afternoons, Austin’s climate is perfect for outdoor adventure year-round. The community of Austin also prides itself on the myriad adventure activities available, and the locals relish in the ability to quickly drop what they’re doing and find a nearby adventure.

And there’s plenty of adventure to go around. Whether you’re interested in caving, climbing, hiking, swimming, paddling or tubing, Austin has a unique geography that’s perfect for the multitalented outdoors enthusiast. Use this guide to help discover it.

Hotels

Heywood Hotel: The Heywood Hotel is one of Austin’s newest boutique hotels. Located in the center of the growing and creative East Austin, the Heywood is within walking distance of great bars, music venues, restaurants, shopping and downtown. While you’re in the neighborhood, try my favorite Bloody Mary from Rio Rita. The Heywood also includes free bike rentals, so grab a bike and head on out to your day of adventure. From $169.
heywoodhotel.com1609 East Cesar Chavez Street

Hotel San Jose: Hotel San Jose isn’t new in town – it was built in 1939. But the hotel is still a staple in Austin. Open-aired rooms are further enriched by cool amenities at Hotel San Jose, like a music and video library, a community typewriter and Polaroid cameras, and the open policy on animals. So if you’re planning to take your canine best friend on a hiking tour of Hill Country or need a bike to round out your adventure in Austin, you might want to stay here. This area of Austin is a perfect launching pad for everything from nightlife and food trucks to Lady Bird Lake and its many adventurous activities. While in the SoCo area, take a journey back in time with a stop into the eclectic vintage store Uncommon Objects. From $185.
sanjosehotel.com 1316 South Congress Avenue

McKinney Falls State Park: The McKinney Falls State Park camping grounds certainly aren’t a hotel, but they’re worth mentioning in this adventure guide. The park is beautifully equipped for all kinds of adventures. Hiking and bike trails loop through the grounds. Expansive rock formations dot the area, providing a decent basis for rock climbing. Or you can cliff dive right off one of those formations and into one of the surrounding natural pools. Campsites have water, electric, restrooms and picnic tables. From $15.
tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/mckinney-falls 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway


Eat and Drink

24 Diner: Great cocktails, wine and beer are just afterthoughts at a place like 24 Diner, where you can get delicious and upscale diner food at any time of the day or night – which isn’t exactly common in the city of Austin. Hit up 24 Diner for a big breakfast before you begin your day of adventure or after you’ve worn yourself out and just need a strong drink and some comfort food. Make a steep trek through a semi-hidden graffiti display by checking out the Castle Hill graffiti while you’re in the neighborhood.
24diner.com
600 North Lamar Boulevard

East Side Show Room: East Side Show Room is kind of an adventure in and of itself. The cuisine showcases local ingredients in a gourmet, heavily French style and the bar brings traditional cocktails together with fresh, innovative concoctions.
eastsideshowroom.com
1100 East 6th Street

Hillside Farmacy: Hillside Farmacy isn’t even a year old yet and the place is usually crowded. With actual pharmacy relics in tow, this trendy little restaurant is open 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. and is equally great for brunch or dinner. The drinks are great and the food is part southern comfort, part New American. There’s even an old, upright piano in the back room. While you’re in the area, learn a thing or two about wine from the guys at East End Wines.
hillsidefarmacy.com 1209 East 11th Street

Adventure Activities

Barton Springs: Barton Springs, a chilly spring-fed, man-made pool across the way from Zilker Park, is a famous Austin landmark for a reason. It’s refreshing, big, and well worth the $3 entrance fee. Go ahead, try to swim laps here. For no money at all, fewer people, less oversight and a bit more of an adventure, you can also swim in the creek just beyond the Barton Springs fence – if you’re facing the entrance to the official springs, the unofficial springs are to the left of the fence.
http://austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool 2201 Barton Springs Road

Secret Beach: For a laid-back adventure filled with river-swimming and surrounding woods for hiking, check out Secret Beach, just beyond Roy G. Guerrero Park and before the Colorado River Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a sandy beach and perfect for sunbathing after your swim. The water rises late afternoon when the dam is opened, so go a little later in the day if you want more water in your adventure. Note that this beach, as well as nearly all other natural water sources in Texas, is subject to drought-induced low levels.
http://www.gadling.com/2012/04/03/journey-to-secret-beach/

Barton Creek Greenbelt: Austin is landlocked, so you have to rely on the dammed up Colorado River (Lady Bird Lake, which offers stand-up padding), Barton Creek and other creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes for water adventures in the area. The BCG is shorthand for an incredible stretch of preserved land that winds its way through the city of Austin. While the creek flows through the BCG, the steep slopes that surround it are go-to spots in Austin for rock climbing, hiking and biking. And since the creek is always nearby, there’s always a swimming hole.
http://www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=206 3755-B Capital of Texas Highway

Get Around

Getting around Austin isn’t always easy if you don’t have a car. As an aid, look into Car2Go, a shared car service that allows you to rent cars by the minute, hour or day and leave them wherever you choose within the city for 38 cents a minute.

Biking is a popular method of transportation in Austin, with a strong bike culture and special lanes on many roads. Several companies, including Barton Springs Bike Rentals and Austin Bike Tours and Rentals will rent bikes to visitors from $22.50 per day. Pedicabs and taxis are also quite common in the downtown area for localized transportation. In addition, Capital Metro provides the MetroRail, an expanding train service that connects outer and east Austin to downtown, while Capital Metro buses go all over town. A single ride on the bus is $1, but you can get a day pass for $2.

From Austin-Bergstrom Airport, take the Austin SuperShuttle or a taxi into town for the quickest commute. You can also take the Capital Metro bus from the airport into town.

Adventure Tip

Although this might seem obvious to you now, make sure to wear protective shoes when exploring Austin’s outdoors. Thorns, burrs, rattlesnakes, fire ants and plenty of other harsh conditions and risks exist outside in Texas. You can wear sandals to Secret Beach and Barton Creek, but wear sturdier shoes when exploring the Greenbelt and McKinney State Falls. While it doesn’t hurt to take extra precaution, it can definitely hurt to not. One thing I learned while living in Texas is that people down there wear cowboy boots for a reason.


[Photo credit: Flickr users austinevan (top) and Steve Snodgrass]

New York City: Getting Back To Where You Once Belonged

The city of New York City exists strongly. Within New York, the smallest sounds are amplified as they break through the barriers of thin drywall. The coastal weather can be bitter, biting and unforgiving and still, the easiest way to get around New York is by foot and, in effect, immersed in the unchangeable climate. Even the most basic interactions occur more frequently in New York and tailing behind them are the trivial and yet infuriating conflicts that complicate daily life. The minutiae of life is a swift dagger, taking whole days hostage at the hand of an unfriendly DMV employee – I once broke down sobbing at the DMV on 34th street in Manhattan after an employee had repeatedly accused me of forging a signature for my vehicle registration all afternoon. She pointed out an apparent discrepancy in the loop of the letter ‘D’ and called me a liar, and then eventually said something mean about my mother. I didn’t move away from New York because of her, of course. I moved away because of all of it. I was tired of fighting for my own oxygen; I was tired of fighting battles I felt never should have been started to begin with – even if the battle was as trite as My Long Skirt vs. The Torrential Downpour.

The idea that other people in other cities, albeit smaller cities, were enjoying more fulfilling lives had been haunting me. A fantasy had been unraveling in my head for years of the yard and hammock and dog I could have in another city and I couldn’t shake it. Other people were paying less in rent. Other people had sunshine most days of the year while my core was being whittled away by “The Best City In The World.” Learning about H.A.A.M. in Austin, Texas, a healthcare program that provides medical services to area musicians, was the last straw for me. On top of all other New York stresses, I was playing the freelancer-without-healthcare lottery. I packed up my 1996 Honda Accord and drove south for four days, finally landing in Austin, Texas.

%Gallery-169276%I promptly moved into a charming three-bedroom house with an expansive, private back yard. I signed up for H.A.A.M. and began going to the doctor, dentist, chiropractor and therapist. I made a lot of friends and got married. I became the proud mother of two dogs and I took them hiking and swimming regularly. I overdosed on Vitamin D during the day and saw a lot of live music at night. I paid less for just about everything and saved my money. But despite having tackled and conquered so many goals that I felt would guide me toward truer happiness, I’d been battling an internal war since the moment I arrived.

Optimism blanketed my experience in Austin at first. I was living the life I had told myself I wanted and, even if I had to lie through my grinding teeth, I was determined to enjoy it. Despite my greatest efforts, something was missing. I could say that the “something” was this or that, that it was the electricity, anonymity, intensity, creativity or autonomy, but these are all subjective qualifiers, containing as much falsehood as truth. What I was really missing while living in Austin was much more basic and primal than any intellectual or abstract rendering of what a city like New York does or doesn’t offer. What I missed most was what I’d left behind – the chaos, the conversation, the cold chill of winter and the relationships forged under such conditions. What I was missing was my home.

Although I didn’t grow up in New York, it was the only home I had ever known. I was naive and young when I first arrived at age 18 and the city had powerfully shaped me. I hated it and loved it, like most New Yorkers, but I identified with its insanity and pulse – I felt as though the city and I were moving at the same pace, quickly and manically approaching each day. With each new street corner that staged a lifelong memory, my psyche had become more entangled with New York, and thus, less separable than I’d ever realized before living someplace else. But this seemed incongruous to me with my insatiable longing for new scenery, with my work as a travel writer. If I couldn’t easily pull down a new backdrop with a new landscape and a new context and carry on without missing a beat, then what business did I have feigning an adventurous spirit? But now that I’m living in New York again, with a yard and hammock and dogs no less, I recall the words of a friend’s father when he learned that I wanted to leave the city a year before I actually did.

“Everyone needs a home. You leave, you travel, you learn, but home is the place you come back to.”

At the time, I dismissed his words because home is supposed to be where the heart is and I believed my heart was everywhere. What I didn’t account for were the tiers of the heart; the difference between the comforting core and the fleeting nature of curiosity. The stakes and circumstances are different for everyone, but one thing is certain: nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the warm inner swell of, for better or for worse, getting back to where you once belonged.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]