Bicycle touring, especially extended-length touring, can put quite a strain on the pocketbook. Many tourists alleviate this problem by camping as much as possible, but pitching a tent is not always possible or desirable. Sometimes, finding a place to pitch a tent can be the problem. Warm Showers is a global network of generous individuals willing to provide some level of hospitality to cycling tourists.
With thousands of members around the world, Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org) is uniquely designed to fill an important niche. Individuals who register to be a member of Warm Showers must be willing to host guests as well as be hosted. The level of hospitality offered is entirely up to the guest. Some are able to offer only a flat space to pitch a tent. Others may allow guests to use a kitchen or bathroom. Some even have extra bedrooms for their guests. Hosts are not allowed to charge for their hospitality, although guests are certainly allowed to help out by fixing a meal, doing chores, buying beer, etc.
I only recently joined Warm Showers, and haven’t yet had the pleasure of hosting anyone. My friend Mandy, however, has been a member for several years and has met a wide variety of people from all over. She’s been a host in two small towns in Alaska, places where you wouldn’t expect to meet tourists on bicycles. She’s had guests, however, from South Africa, Montreal, Canada, Massachusetts, Switzerland, France, Sicily, and Denmark. They’ve all spoken at least a little English, and, except for the couple from Massachusetts, they’ve all been on continent-to-continent or around-the-world rides. Mandy’s enjoyed all of these visits, and still follows several of her guests’ blogs.
The idea of inviting strangers into your home can be a little daunting. I put off joining for a few years until I realized that every comment I’d heard about Warm Showers was overwhelmingly positive. Nonetheless, personal security can be a concern. Warm Showers is specifically designed to put individuals or very small groups in touch with potential hosts. Only registered members can access information about other members. Guests contact potential hosts by e-mail first so that the host gets a chance to say yes or no to the request. All guests and hosts have Warm Showers accounts; you’ll have the opportunity to read what they have to say about themselves and see what kinds of remarks prior hosts have written. No matter what, you can always say no to a request. Information on the website reports that, after nearly 30 years in operation, there have been no significant problems reported.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to host, I hope, my first guests next summer. My daughter is excited to get to talk to people from places she’s never been, and I hope she’s inspired to take up bicycle travel herself. I hope that you, too, will take advantage of this unique opportunity and sign up to be a member of Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org). If you do, be sure to share your experiences as a host or a guest with the rest of us.
Ride safe and have fun!
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