May 30, 2013
This entry is the second in a series on Bicycle Travel Etiquette. To read the first entry, see An Introduction to Bicycle Travel Etiquette.
When you are planning your trip, where to sleep is a big part of the equation. In fact, unless you are able to swing free camping nightly, it can be the most expensive part of your tour. The average bicycle traveler cobbles together a variety of options. Depending on the destination, it will probably include a combination of camping, hotels, and homes of friends and family. Warm Showers, the free worldwide hospitality exchange network for touring cyclists, and our Cyclists Only Camping/Lodging category on our maps, are growing options as well.
As a potential guest of a stranger, there are some things to keep in mind to help create a positive experience for both sides especially bearing in mind that your host is extending their trust by inviting you to stay in their home or on their property. Some of the suggestions below were compiled from people who host cyclists regularly.
Give as much notice as you can about your request by making contact ahead of time, most of the people you are encountering still have their everyday responsibilities to attend to.
Respect your hosts' property/belongings, don’t use anything you haven’t been given permission to use, including phone, computer, and internet connection. If you are in a country you are not native to, make adjustments for cultural differences. Adhere to requests for alcohol prohibitions, and religious observances. As much as this is about your journey, show some interest in the life of your host as well.
Discuss expectations with your host about meals and/or kitchen privileges, bathroom usage, and sleeping arrangements. Are you allergic to pets? Inquire if pets are part of the household.
This is not a hotel, you are in someone’s home, always pick up after yourself and offer assistance as appropriate.
Treat your host the way you’d like to be treated if you were offering your home to them. Keep agreements made about time and place, if your schedule changes for any reason, let your host know.
If you feel uncomfortable about the situation for any reason, don’t agree to stay. If something does not feel right in your first conversations, it likely isn’t a good fit for you, listen to that and pass on the opportunity.
Even if they insist, remember what Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Limit your time with any one host, do not overstay your welcome.
Show your appreciation by contributing to shared meals with food stuffs, a special beverage, cleaning up, and the like. Before leaving, get their mailing address and send them a postcard of thanks from the road. Or email a favorite picture of your time with them/in their area. For many hosts, having bicycle travelers as guests is a vicarious travel thrill. When asked, share stories or pictures of your adventure. Reciprocate by asking about their travels or bicycling experiences.
Whether you like it or not, your behavior is a reflection of the bicycle travel community as a whole. Be a kind, courteous and respectful guest so that others may enjoy this same hospitality in the future. If your host is part of the Warm Showers network, leave feedback on their profile for the benefit of other bicycle travelers.
If all of this sounds like too much to think about as part of your trip, being a guest in someone’s home may not be your best option for accommodation. If you’re craving a break or time alone, it might not be the right time to say yes to the offer of a bed indoors. Be aware of your limits and needs and honor them for everyone’s sake.
The next entry in this series will focus on How To Be A Good Host for those considering opening their homes to bicycle travelers.
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.