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How To Be A Good Host

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How To Be A Good Host

Manage Expectations

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.

Golden Rule

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.

Be a Resource

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.

Trust Your Gut

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.

A Little Goes A Long Way

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.

Thanks to Adventure Cycling for this article originally published as How to be a good host in the series Bicycle Travel Etiquette

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Very well said!

Very well said!

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Very well summed up thanks.

Very well summed up thanks.

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I have always found it very meaningful when hosts greet me with a glass of ice water after showing me where to put my bike. It feels almost spiritual in acknowledging that I've been sweating all day but now I am in a welcoming place.

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feeding your guests

i find it difficult to NOT be a gracious hostess and offer full meals but it also makes the experience tiring and packed with anxiety. how do you have the conversation about meals expected? we are not touring cyclists ourselves but offer our home as a respite from long touring days. u fortunately we also don't live extremely close to food sources (stores) so feel a bit obliged to feed our guests. does anyone else encounter this dilemma?
we've loved everyone of our guests but want to get off the B&B circuit.

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Hello Neighbor! I live in

Hello Neighbor!
I live in Fortuna and although I've been helping out cyclists for many years, this is my first year with Warm Showers.

Perhaps you should mention in your bio that cyclists should consider stoking up on food somewhere like Eureka Natural Foods!
Suggesting they make that preparation before they stop for the night helps you and them!
In the morning they are getting back on the road, so having their shopping done could be a good thing.

Here in Fortuna, we see the vast majority of cyclists stopping at Safeway to resupply before pushing on south to the Avenue of the Giants.

Here's how I feel about hosting…
These folks are traveling… have been for a good number of days, be it 10 or 200.
They are accustomed to sleeping outside, eating what they cook over their stove, and spending time in their own company.
Certainly with Warm Showers, they can find places to take warm showers, use a house kitchen, flushing toilet, running water…
They will also have socialization whether it is with other cyclists or with their host(s).
I'll be here if I can. But I have a setup where I can direct them to my home (in Fortuna), they can set up their tent, use the outside water spigots, and the flushing toilet in the little outhouse building by my shop.
No indoor kitchen, no shower, no furniture unless I am home.
I started agonizing about my guest's situation until I finally admitted that providing the space, water, and toilet for free was a pretty damn good deal! :)

I had to quit thinking I owed anyone more than that. Actually I had to realize I didn't owe any of the cyclists anything! I was doing what I could because I enjoy it, and that was good enough.

So I'd recommend you take it easy on yourselves. IF you feel relaxed and able to offer more than a safe, dry, free place for them to stay with some water and toilet facilities, then by all means do so… as long as it's within the limits you feel most comfortable with. Anything you offer these travelers that can help them on their journey is a benefit to them. You don't need to pull out all the stops… but they'll appreciate that also if you do.

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Totally agree with everything Mark said above.

My advice is to spell out your expectations as clearly as possible. Let your cyclists know whether you will or won't be preparing food for them. If so, let them know what time you eat, and if not, where they can buy food on the way (and whether they can use your kitchen to cook). There is a LOT of variation among warmshowers hosts -- some like to go all out and want to chat until dawn, some want to point you toward your camping site and mostly be done with you. Our guests tell us that it is very helpful when the expectations are laid out clearly -- they are not mind readers! And if they don't like your conditions, of course, they are free to stay elsewhere.

In our case, I always tell guests that we like to share a meal with them on their arrival, that we are vegetarians, and that they should tell us if they have any food allergies or whatever (again, that's 100 percent a host's call). I tell our guests what time we eat, and what time is ideal for them to arrive. But I always include the proviso that we understand about flat tyres, rain, etc. etc. and there will be a plate waiting for them if they are late. I find it MUCH less stressful to stick to our family routine and proceed 100 percent as normal -- 9.9 out of ten, we have punctual guests who are willing and grateful to slot into our routine, and I hardly ever feel like the whole house has been put out to accommodate strangers.

As Mark said above, the act of providing a safe haven and a warm shower is enough. But if you want to go all out, just let your guests know what to expect. They will be grateful.

Good luck!

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Thanks Tim&M! After making

Thanks Tim&M!
After making that post… I was hoping people would understand what I knew I was trying to say! hahaha
I enjoy hosting people and providing what I can. I can also offer bike stands and tools for maintenance and repairs… along with advice if they need it… but only if I can make myself available.

Keeping my life as 'normal' as possible helps me to help them better. In this way, I am not directing their schedule. I understand issues on the road and delays they may face, as well as no cell reception or wifi access with which to contact me should they be running late or not coming after all.

I think it's neat that there are some folks who are able and willing to cook up a nice dinner for their guests… I find I can do better offering them a nice breakfast. Unless my schedule has me out of the house before they are up… I am more than happy to cook extra breakfast for them, make extra coffee, and so on.

This way, I am not sitting around wondering whether I wasted food if the guests don't show up, or show up late and tired and just want to pitch camp and crash for the night. This way, if they just want to take a shower, then hunker down in private while they cook their dinner on their own stove as they've been doing, and write in their journal or make a private call… I'm not pressing them… directly or indirectly... to interact with ME!
Although I love hearing about their experiences, I realize I should let them set the timetable for that sort of stuff… they've been on the road most or all of the day.

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My life is simpler.

My life is simpler. We see ourselves as an alternative to a camping. So what I offer is clear; lawn for tent, warmshower, a place away from the rain to have a meal, just like in a nice camping, with the difference that's it's free, and you might get an extra. You always bring your food with you when you're camping! I don't see how someone would think he's coming to a B and B when he reads the services I offer!

That extra will depend on the time I have and my interest in the guest (directly dependent on the time I have!). Si if I'm busy with work and going to all sorts of activities of mine or for my kids, they get the minimum. I'f I have plenty of time, I might offer a beer, a coffee, and maybe we'll eat together, but I'm nobody's cook, I don't have time or interest in that. Some guests I'll talk to 15 minutes, others I'll share a lot more time (and drinks) with!
By the way, it's what I would expect if I was guest, which never happened yet, even though I must have hosted over 50 people!

Unregistered anon_user's picture
I have this issue also. I

I have this issue also. I don't list meals provided in my profile, and when the guests arrive and we are having the "get acquainted" talk, I make sure to let them know that I don't provide meals, but they are welcome to use the kitchen to prepare their own food. That way noone is waiting for breakfast or dinner, and there is no pressure to provide one.

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feeding your guests

I just put in my profile they were on their own as far as food goes. I'm retired on a very limited budget and can't afford to feed anyone else !

I've also had several with very limited diets, so if I HAD cooked, they wouldn't have wanted to eat it. So it takes the pressure off of both of us.

I tell them where the store is, offer to take them there, offer to take them to the close restaurants, and let them use my kitchen.

They have all seemed to be fine with the lack of food provided in my house.

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When given a place to stay

When given a place to stay from a helpful host, I can only be thankful as a guest, even if I'm given the bare minimum. Just be clear from the get-go about what you can do, so that you're guests can take care of themselves in advance. Another solution could be to offer use of your kitchen, so that you're guest can make a food meal for themself. Or you can provide something minimal, like oatmeal or grilled cheese for dinner. Personally, I'd be psyched for any accommodations you could give me, so don't worry if it's not as much as you'd like to give!

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re: feeding your guests

If you feel like getting off the B&B circut... change your profile.  List exactly what you are able to provide.  If breakfast is out, mention it.  Also, mention where the nearest option is, if at all possible.

I have cereal available.  If that doesn't work, they have to make other arrangements.  Moni

Unregistered anon_user's picture

I was interested in your comment, "If your budget doesn't allow you to feed your guest, let them know in advance so they can make other arrangements." The rules for this site provide the threshold expectation guests should enjoy- a shower and place to pitch a tent. Although my personal offering involves a private guest house and bath dinner, access to my toys and a variety of other benefits I feel no need to warn anyone in advance that for whatever reason hospitality will be less than normal on a given night. My perception of the organization's goal is to soften the edges for people who are basically fending for themselves.

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Whatever you tend to offer

Whatever you tend to offer your guests, it is a good idea to mention it if you do not intend to feed your guests and if there is nowhere close for them to buy food because many cyclists would find that they are given meals and might come to expect it of anyone. And they might arrive unprepared to feed themselves and then you have a problem on your hands - or they do at least, and its a way of preventing this problem from occurring at all.

Its not big deal to say that you are unable to cook meals for someone, or describe any other restrictions in advance by email or on your profile page. It helps the guest know exactly where they stand. Just like when we book into a hotel, we know exactly what to expect in terms of check in and check out times, and other basics.

It is not particularly helpful to expect that a guest will think like you do because many travellers, particularly younger ones will not necessarily be so well prepared for any situation and they will often live in hope, rather than be prepared for any eventuality.

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Being a good host

These are great thoughts. Reflecting on my limited touring experience, I was very thankful just to be able to enjoy things we normally take for granted; cool, clean water, a refreshing shower and a dry place to sleep. Anything beyond that was a bonus. Balance that with your own family dynamics as a host and that should indicate what you are able to offer and how frequently :-)

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Very well said!

Very well said!

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Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your was really helpful.hope I take them

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Expectations of host

My perspective as the guest -- when I arrive, if the host has not laid out expectations, there is an anxious period while trying to figure out what they are. Do they expect me to eat with them or not? I'm ok either way, but maybe they'll be offended if I proceed to get my own. Maybe this and maybe that -- I'm not a mindreader and I don't want to either presume or offend. It is MUCH better for a host to write in your profile what your preferences are, or state them simply when you meet, simply because it's an unpleasant waste of time for both parties to be anxious about such things. I think that these days everybody is OK reading a simple Yes or No for smoking, pets, and other common irritants; it should -- and can -- be just as simple for your other preferences to be made clear.

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Enjoyment of being a host

It is such a pleasure to me to host. It works for me for a number of reasons. When I have plans, I do not cancel them. I tell my Warm Showers guests I will be gone and make sure I see them in the morning. I leave a meal for them in the bunkhouse and food for breakfast in the refrigerator. Another reason it works is I have a separate building to host my guests. I live in a small community where we have many fundraisers that are built around food. Knowing I host cyclists, the leftover food is given to me and I freeze it. I always have something I can take out and thaw for dinner. In the ten years of hosting almost 800 cyclists, I have given two negative responses. The majority of my guests are considerate, grateful, polite, willing to help, and appreciative of what I have to offer. They give me more than I give them in our interactions. Fifty percent of my guests are from foreign countries and therefore bring the world to me. I have evolved into the host I am today. There was a time I didn't make my expectations known, but that is now on my profile page. There should be no surprises. All hosts must be flexible to a point. There is no way to predict bad weather, flat tires, exhaustion, etc. I have never turned anyone away. At times I have left the food in the bunkhouse because the guests arrived too late to have an enjoyable dinner together. I don't want to be cleaning the kitchen at 10 in the evening. When you make your expectations clear, then it is up to the guests to decide if they want to stay with you. Being a Warm Showers host has been a wonderful experience for me.

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Yep! I agree. Thom and I

Yep! I agree. Thom and I love hosting and pampering our cyclists a little bit, knowing that they've been on the road feels right. We are truly blessed and love to share those blessings with all those we meet. I love the idea of offering a tall glass of water on arrival-nice touch!

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Thanks a lot for your suggestions and tips. I just moved to a new apartment and now it's kind of difficult to host 'cause this is not my house.
However, Guayaquil is a beautiful city and I offer cycling tours, please follow my ecological entrepreneurship IGUANA BIKE TOURS in Instagram and Facebook and look how you can enjoy the city by cycling it.

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offering to use the washing machine

As a good host I also offer the use of my washing machine.

Having done a lot of long distance journeys with camping and wild camping it was always a welcome pleasure if I could use someones washing machine. These machines work much better than washing your cycle clothes under the shower while having a shower.

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To any Host

It will be respectful to answer a request from a guest in any case!!!

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I agree 100% !! Fortunately,

I agree 100% !! Fortunately, I am able to host even if I am not at home. I have responded to every request with a yes for almost 11 years.

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Many thanks to you for this

Many thanks to you for this important and good comment.

We stayed @your side and it was a pleasure for us. Thank you!!!

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