"Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." ~ Benjamin Franklin
After some thought, I decided to jump into this topic. Being a host and/or a guest has responsibilities. As a member of Warmshowers.org, primarily as a host, so far, I'm more familiar with the responsibilities of being a host. Next year, I'll be doing some touring, so I hope to gain experience being a guest, as well as some understanding of what it's like to be a guest in a stranger's home.
Over the past year, I've read several articles on being a host or guest. Some have clicked with my experiences. Some haven't. The Warmshowers guests we've met over several years now have not disappointed us. Granted, not all have been great, one was pretty weird, but, overall, we were happy to host them and happy to have met them. We've kept in contact with a few and hope to see them in our travels down the road.
As a host, I believe the minimum to be offered to a guest should include:
- A place to camp
- Access to the bathroom/shower
- Access to the kitchen
- Feedback on Warmshowers.org about the guest
- A room
- A comfortable bed
- A bathroom/shower
- Laundry room use
- Help with the bike or take the rider to a local bike shop
- Some refreshments, whatever the guest/s prefer including spirits
- Good conversation/fun
- Feedback on Warmshowers.org about the guest/s
I realize that not everyone can provide all of these items nor should they be expected to, but a room, bed or couch, use of the kitchen, bathroom, shower, in my opinion, makes a big difference, particularly to those who've been camping most nights. Some can't provide this but can provide a yard to camp in and use of the kitchen, bathroom, shower, etc. All works. What I do is what I do.
I enjoy cooking, so I make dinner and breakfast for guests. Conversation, cooking, beer/wine/spirits...how can you lose? Growing up in a large Irish family, this was a fairly common, and basic, ingredient in our home. Lots of people. Lots of talking. Lots of food. Plenty of whatever someone wanted to drink.
Now, where does the guest stay? Putting a guest in a space that is normally occupied by your pet/s is not cool. These are people not animals. Treat them right even if you realize that you'll never be best buds, ok? And don't put them in a dirty room either or a bed that you wouldn't sleep in. Well, I'd better be careful with that one. People have very different standards, so that could be bad. Let's put it this way...make sure wherever they stay is clean, at the very least. Doesn't have to be the Waldorf, but clean is important, eh? So, if there's cat or dog hair all over the couch or bed where the guest is going to stay...don't put them up there.
The expectation of a host is that the guest will stay one night and be on her/his way first thing in the morning. It's important for guests to remember that. For the host, even having someone camping in the yard is imposing on the host's life. Their regular schedule will often be disrupted, by choice, no doubt, but disrupted none the less. Which leads me to an important point: Check the Warmshowers.org website and be sure to contact the host no later than the time frame they've requested. To be on the safe side, contact a host at least a few days or more ahead of when you think you'd be arriving. Having been asked by several riders at the last moment, I'm amazed that people do this. I would not. Plus, it means I have to say no because I don't have time to plan for this visit within our schedules.
Another important piece for the host to remember is to give a guest some privacy, some down time, and time to prepare for the next day's ride. They probably have family or some other significant people they want to be in touch with to let them know they're ok and that their host isn't a serial vegan who's stuffing veggies down their throat. Often, after a long ride, the guest may want to go to bed early...because they'll be heading out early. The host should let a guest know that they won't be offended if they head to bed early.
A good thing for the host to bring up and discuss/coordinate is what time will the guest be leaving in the morning. Nothing to be embarrassed about with asking. The host has a schedule. So does the guest. Get it worked out. That would also be the time for the host to offer another night's stay should the vibes be good. A guest may be on a schedule so don't feel rejected should they have to head out the next morning. It's also possible they're not comfortable with you as a host either. No matter. Life goes on.
One last comment on being a host. Not everyone is religious nor is everyone a member of the particular religion a host may belong to. Please...don't invite the guest to go to church with you. Yes, you may have a "mission" to serve, but the guest doesn't need to be put on the spot about her/his religious preference or lack thereof. Be kind. Isn't that part of every religion? If there's a church dinner/party that a host wants to extend an invitation to, no problem. A guest can say yeah or nay. But, please, not to a church service unless the guest asks if they can come along.
Now, the guest. Some things guests should consider, at a minimum:
- Call/contact the host as early as possible. Certainly, as a courtesy, no less than a few days ahead of time, preferably even earlier. Courtesy counts. And it pays off, too.
- When contacting a potential host, inquire about cellphone/wifi coverage where they live. It's important to be able to stay in touch as you get near the host's location.
- Bring something. An extra bit of food/dessert/drink can add to the enjoyment of the evening.
- If you're a vegan, vegetarian or gluten intolerant or whatever, tell the host upfront.
- Be prepared to bring what you need to cook a meal for yourself. Hosts aren't required to have what you need. Nor should a host be expected to feed a guest.
- If a guest is hoping to spend a couple of nights with the host, ask during the initial contact with the host. Don't put them on the spot after arrival.
- Be ready to head out, early, the very next morning.
- Tell the host what time you expect to leave by in the morning, too.
- If you need to leave really early, find out how you can best do that without disturbing the host.
- Don't make a mess...you know what I mean here. If you don't know, stay in a motel or camp.
- Say thanks when you leave.
- Feedback on Warmshowers.org about the host.
On arrival, bring something with you. A snack. A bottle of wine. Some dessert. Bread. Veggies that you'll cook and add to the meal. All is appreciated. I also realize that, sometimes, this is not possible. Don't croak over this. Sometimes, it just doesn't happen. It's okay. But, once you're at the host's house/apartment, is there anything you can do to help with dinner? Set the table? After dinner or breakfast, take on the chore of clearing the table, washing or drying dishes...wherever you can help, dive in. If the host wants to do it, they'll intercede.
In the morning, if you've used their bedding, ask the host what they'd like done with it. If they ask you to remove the bedding, make sure to fold it up and pile it neatly on the bed. If it goes in the laundry room, be sure to ask where it goes in the room. In the basket? On the floor? Wherever...but do ask. It's the courteous thing to do.
At our house, growing up, despite having comfortable living room furniture, we lived, talked, ate, drank in the kitchen. An ethnic thing, no doubt. So, do as the Romans do. After you're on the road again, please, send a note of thanks. Either via email or via Warmshowers.org.
For both host and guest, please leave a comment on Warmshowers.org so others can see what your experience was. You don't have to post a review, but it's helpful. Sometimes, either the guest or host is not good and that needs to be put in the review. Don't be a negative nabob just because you didn't like someone, but, if the person was rude, a slob, or the place was a nasty mess, please let others know about this.
Despite having a few folks stay with us that we weren't crazy about, there's only one guest who I wouldn't invite back. Not a bad record for almost four years of hosting. Here in Silver City, NM, we're at the cross roads of the Adventure Cycling Association's Southern Tier Route and their Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, so we meet people from all over the world. So far, we've enjoyed hosting and our guests. Check it out. You just might like it.
Ok, a tune to get out of this with....Bobby McFerrin doing one of my favs, "Don't Worry, Be Happy". I whistle this tune to all the cattle I see while touring or just out riding. Enjoy.