June 13, 2013
This entry is the third in a series on Bicycle Travel Etiquette. To read the first and second entries, see An Introduction to Bicycle Travel Etiquette and Bicycle Travel Etiquette: How To Be A Good Guest.
If you happen to live in or near one of the thousands of communities along the Adventure Cycling Route Network, you have probably seen them — traveling cyclists riding bicycles, gear strapped onto their trusty steed. These are travelers of a special sort, they are often intent on seeing the countryside up close and personal and enjoy the slower pace that travel by bicycle affords them. Most nights on this trip away from home, they sleep under the stars or in a nondescript motel room.
Many of these travelers are far away from home — whether from another country or another part of the U.S. — and they all have a story. Wouldn't it be great to get to know some of them? Many people in this position sieze the opportunity by striking up a conversation with a bicycle traveler randomly and inviting them to stay a night and share a meal with them or in a more organized fashion, by participating in Warm Showers, the free worldwide hospitality exchange network for touring cyclists.
No matter how you find yourself encouraging a stranger to join you at your home for an overnight stay, the opportunity for a great experience exists. Increase these odds by considering the following guidelines before extending that invitation. Many have been contributed by regular hosts of traveling cyclists.
Discuss expectations with your potential guest about meals and/or kitchen privileges, bathroom usage, and sleeping arrangements. Do you have pets? Children in the house? Allergies they should be aware of? Do you work unusual hours? Is a certain amount of notice before arrival necessary? Your Warmshowers profile is a great place to share all of this information in advance. Keep things as straightforward as possible.
Shower facilities can be few and far between when camping regularly, probably the first thing your guest is going to want to do is get cleaned up. Give them a little space to do so before peppering them with questions about their trip (but ask those questions later!). Show them a secure place they can leave their bikes and gear, and an appropriate area to clean their bike if possible or needed.
If your budget doesn't allow you to feed your guest, let them know in advance so they can make other arrangements. Food is fuel for traveling cyclists, making their appetite likely to be measurably more than yours. Recommendations for nearby restaurants is a plus.
Treat your guest the way you’d expect to be treated if you were invited into their home. Keep agreements made about time and place, if your schedule changes for any reason, let your guest know.
If you plan to host regularly, it's nice to have a stash of resources collected in advance so you don't have to repeat yourself every time. A map of your local area is invaluable for locating services cyclists might be interested in, everything from your favorite bike shop to grocery stores and restaurants. Offer directions for the best way out of town that just happens to pass a great bakery or unbelievable scenic view.
If you feel uncomfortable about the situation for any reason, don’t agree to host. If something does not feel right in your first conversations, it likely isn’t a good fit for you, listen to that. Thank them for the inquiry and pass on the opportunity.
Even if it doesn't seem like a big deal, limit the amount of time any one guest stays with you. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” This goes for serial hosting as well.
If you are on or near a popular bike route, you may receive many requests for hosting, be aware when you are reaching your hosting threshold, no matter what that limit may be. If you’ve had a run of guests, it might be time to take a break before welcoming any more. It’s ok to say no.
If all of this sounds like a lot to consider or manage, or if a little spontaneity is not a good fit for your life right now, being a host may not be in your best interest for the time being. Be aware of your limits and needs and honor them for everyone's sake.
The next entry in this series will wrap things up and include some quotes from guests and hosts. If you'd like to contribute to that post, please comment here, tweet something to @acaroutes or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Warmshowers host Louis Melini. Left is Louis with Lorenzo from the Basque region of Spain and right is Salva from Spain.
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.