• Shelley Oto

Not Just a Driver

Updated: Aug 12, 2018

UBER, recognized as the transportation app that conveniently gets you to where you need to go, has been an imperative resource for me while traveling the past 12 months. For many, it’s the unfailing answer to your problems when you’ve had too much to drink and/or just need to find a way home to conclude an evening of good times. UBER offers to pick up your friends and family when you’re unavailable or let’s be real, when you don’t want to. UBER delivers food from some of your favorite restaurants and allows one to affordably move around while you email and take phone calls.

To me, UBER is not just a service that provides transportation. I’ve found my UBER drivers to be a wealth of information when I travel. I sit in the passenger seat as my drivers tell me about their families, culture, political opinions, history, perspectives, where to go and, most importantly, where not to go. The topics of conversation have ranged from Kenya's political standing, life in Zimbabwe, corruption within the South African government, Oprah, Kanye West, Cardi B analysis, Bali's regulation on alcohol, black magic, cultural norms, crime, laws, food recommendations, yoga, class systems, the Cape Town water crisis, race/gender rules, current events, opinions on American culture, Donald Trump and even a few car pool karaoke moments,

To my surprise, UBER has been available in almost every country I’ve visited around the world. Contrary to my UBER/Lyft routine in Los Angeles, where I don’t think twice before jumping into the backseat of the car and getting on my phone to make calls or check my emails while traveling. I prefer to sit in the front seat, ask questions and listen. Most of my drivers have been exceptionally open and social and provided me information that has helped me from making poor travel decisions. Some of my best UBER drivers have insisted on waiting with me for over 30 minutes because it was dark (without pay) until I connect with a friend to ensure my safety.

I’ve found many of my drivers to be extremely endearing, considerate and thoughtful. There are perfect strangers that exist all over the world, who are simply principled beings that believe in taking care of one another. Regardless of the reason, I’ve appreciated each and every one of them.

Ratings do matter in many of these countries by the way. If a driver’s overall rating shifts below a 4.7 out of 5 stars (at least in Africa) they may lose their credentials to drive, and for many, this is their full time job. Take the time to give a rating and comment when you can, this can go a long way.

Without doubt, historically UBER has had their challenges from the top down. I don't align or support many of Uber's treatment of people and practices that have become visible to the public in the last couple of years. However, I can’t discredit the resource they’ve been to me as a solo traveler. Having a safe and recognizable method to move around is always appreciated. The next time you hop in an UBER, consider having a conversation. It’s likely there’s an interesting or inspiring untold story sitting in the front seat that may be more interesting than scrolling through your social media feed or checking your email. Just maybe.

Thanks UBER.

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