Warm Showers


My experience of using hospitality websites, both hosting and visiting, has been great. I love the randomness of turning up in a stranger's home (and in their life), and it was remarkably good fun to have people stay (and very little effort). Following on from the previous post I wrote about this kind of thing, I got in touch with Randy Fay - the webmaster for the warmshowers.org website. Randy and Nancy have just returned to the USA from a bike tour from the top of Canada to the bottom of South America. Read about their trip on their website http://www.hobobiker.com/. A map of where potential hosts live can be found here. I asked Randy a few questions about Warmshowers.

I am a big fan of sites like your own, globalfreeloaders, couchsurfing and hospitality club. Can you briefly explain how your site works for people who have never used it?
It's really much like all the other hospitality networks. You sign up and then you can search for hospitality or other support using several different search facilities, including a map that locates hosts. Warmshowers.org is a *reciprocal* hospitality network, so you're saying at least "I will host someday" when you sign up. Many members on extended trips or at different points in their lives can't offer hospitality, but in the long term they will.

There is the obvious financial benefit of not having to pay for accommodation but could you describe some of the other benefits to cyclists?
In my experience, it's not really the financial benefits that are as important as the social benefits. You get to meet fantastic and interesting people from all over the world, and share an evening or two with them. Sometimes and some places it's cheaper to camp or get a hotel than it is to stay with a host (and bring some beer, and fix dinner, etc.). But the benefits of meeting somebody local and getting their perspective is amazing.

Are there any drawbacks, problems or dangers? What are you doing to counter these?
It can be a bit of work to spend the whole evening socializing :-) Sometimes it's exhausting, although so valuable.We haven't had any reports of security issues, although we've had a couple of annoying or odd members. There's a writeup on personal security at http://www.warmshowers.org/content/member-security

What are your top 5 countries for cycle touring?
Probably Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Canada. Ask most Europeans and they'll tell you the US is a fabulous place to cycle-tour, with enormously friendly and interested people.

What tips would you give cyclists new to touring?
Start out slowly and build up slowly. You can go a long ways a little at a time. Remember that cycle touring is not an athletic event, it's a way to travel and really know the country you're traveling through.

What, would you say, are the best aspects of hosting?
Getting to know all those wonderful and interesting people.

Check out some of my other CHEAP SLEEP posts.
Bothy ~ Scottish shelters that welcome weary walkers.
Tent ~ The ultimate tool for sleeping free.
Car ~ For those too lazy to put their tent up.
Bivvy ~ Soggy misery keeps you lightweight.
Couch ~ Make friends with the Internet.
Airport ~ The largest en-suite bedroom you'll ever stay in (complete with coffee shop).
Van ~ Dirtbagger Russ tells us how its done.

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