Sunday, April 10, 2011

You Let a Stranger Stay with You?

Over the past month, we have started hosting travelers in our guest cottage. These are people who have contacted us through one of two ways; through Warmshowers or Couchsurfing.  These are people who we have never met "in real life", but have met through one of the travel-related webpages I just mentioned. So ... what is this all about?


Warmshowers is a network of touring bicyclist who either provide lodging, need lodging for a current tour, or both. We are certainly not touring bicyclists ourselves (heck, two miles on my beach cruiser is FAR for me); however, our location right next to Highway 1 makes it a bit of a no-brainer to be involved. Come summer time, Highway 1 is heavy with long-distance bicyclists. Also, Bob received kindness and hospitality on his long-distance PCT hikes over the years, so this keeps the goodwill going.

So, how does it work? First, you need to be registered to use the Warmshowers web page. You set up a basic profile and note what kind of things you can provide for touring bicyclists. Options range from: lodging, food, laundry, a shower, or a place to pitch a tent or any combination of these. We've hosted twice so far, and have another pair of cyclers set up for next week. Both of the experiences were great. The first couple we hosted were on a West Coast tandem tour. The second was a recent college grad from Canada on a huge ride around Canada and the US. I think he had been on the road for more than 200 days by the time he got to us.

Warmshowers has a "feedback" system, so you can leave comments about your experience with a given host or guest. Reading these reviews gives you a sense of the kind of person you may be hosting or visiting.


 As noted on the CS web page, CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Since 2004, members have been using our system to come together for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experiences. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to share hospitality and cultural understanding. CouchSurfing's mission as an organization is to create inspiring experiences: cross-cultural encounters that are fun, engaging and illuminating. CouchSurfing is really more about just providing a place for someone to crash, but rather, you are really sharing a bit of your local area with the visitor.

There are different ways to be involved with this organization. You can open your home to a traveler, or you can offer to meet them somewhere for coffee and show them your city, etc. CouchSurfing users can set up pretty extensive profiles, so, again, you can have a sense of how this person is that you may be hosting or staying with. There is also a feedback system where you can leave comments about your experience with the person. CouchSurfing also has local community groups (usually by city or county) that may get together for potlucks or events. This is a good way to meet people that are into CouchSurfing before you decide to host.

So far we have hosted two sets of CouchSurfers, and we have a few more lined up in the futures. The first were from Southern California and were taking a little road trip through the state. The second couple were talented photographers from North Carolina who were on a big US road trip. Both have been very respectful, no issue at all.

Tips if you want to host

Here are some things we have gleaned from our experiences so far.
  • Make sure everyone in your household is on board. Discuss how often you might want to host, where they will stay, etc.
  • Write a clear and informative profile so your guest gets a sense of who you are. I like to inform we have pets, in case people are allergic and that we keep a vegetarian household.
  • Take the time to thoroughly review the profile of the person you are hosting and their past feedback. Is the feedback lukewarm, is their profile scant on information? If someone contacts you, pop their name into Google and see what come back. You are, after all, may be inviting these people into your home.
  • Email a few times or call and speak with the person before you accept their request. This gives a chance to get to know them a bit.
  • Review the general tips and safety tips on both of the web pages from these organizations. They have good guidelines for hosts and guests.
  • Think of your guests as friends, instead of someone coming to steal your TV. As Bob likes to remind me, people are probably not coming over just to steal our TV.
That is the brief rundown of the two organizations. We are still fairly new to all of this, but I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. Overall, what I am enjoying most is meeting new people, learning about other people and places and sharing our lovely little part of the coast.

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