Contributor: Kevin Kimpel
For our second Host’s Corner installment, I want to pass along some tips for creating a winning Warmshowers profile.
Over the years, I have read quite a few profiles of those actively riding and those who open their doors to host. Some folks spell things out pretty well; others simply do not share much at all.
When I first got into hosting in 2011, many of my local friend’s initial reaction was, “Do you trust complete strangers to stay in your home?” To which I always answer, “Newsflash, criminals are lazy and not too bright; they do not ride 80 miles on a bike to come rob me. So yes, I trust them.” And I’ve never had a reason to stop saying that. But I have learned to set expectations.
I have read the forums and often see gripes from both riders and hosts about various issues. Most all of which boil down to lack of communication and unrealistic expectations on both sides. I have seen profiles with not much more than “welcome to my home town.” Then the person wonders why their guest felt they were in an uncomfortable position.
As a host, we can help alleviate many potential problems and disappointments by taking a few minutes to fill in a complete profile.
Are you single? A couple? A family? Riders are often young and out on their own for the first time. A 20-year-old solo female may not be comfortable riding up to an old bachelor’s home. It helps them know a bit more about the stranger’s home where they will spend the night.
Be sure to have a good headshot photo too. If you are a couple, the pic should be of both of you. As a personal preference, use a pic where you are not wearing sunglasses.
How flexible are you with expected notice and arrival time? Keep in mind that bikers are far more at the mercy of the weather than someone in a car. I have seen profiles that request four days’ notice and strict arrival times. Those are fine, but keep in mind you might be limiting who pedals up. If there is any way to allow for more flexibility on your end, it will help your potential guests out very much. But whatever you decide, be sure to spell it out.
Do you plan to feed them? If so, are you willing to accommodate any special dietary restrictions or preferences? If you follow strict dietary guidelines yourself, be sure to let them know. Can they use your kitchen on their own? If no food or kitchen access is allowed, are there viable options nearby (in biking terms) for restaurants or groceries?
What about alcohol? Are you going to hand them a beer and break open the liquor cabinet? Or is your home a place that would make Carrie Nation proud? Again, no wrong answer; just let everyone know upfront what to expect.
Do they have access to your entire place? Or are you simply providing them a camping place in your backyard? Or somewhere in between. What are the basic sleeping arrangements? A private room or grand central station with a place to spread a sleeping bag? Or a unique experience like a three-story treehouse with a two-state view option? Again the riders will be grateful for anything, but it does help them to know in advance.
What are your basic house rules? I have chosen to keep those to a bare minimum. I have one rule; “make yourself at home.” I am now into my 11th season of hosting and have never regretted that being my only rule. I have never felt taken advantage of by my hospitality. I think the worst abuse I have experienced is finding a wadded-up wet towel. But if you have rules like no shoes inside, etc., simply spell them out so that they will know them before riders show up.
It is true that sometimes on the road, the rider will make a stay request without thoroughly reading a profile. My profile states at the beginning to please read the entire thing before requesting a stay. Partway through, I mention something that I expect them to acknowledge that they have read when they send their first request. That simple line has worked very well for me.
Another area is departure time the next morning. Do you expect them to leave when you do? Or can they linger until they are ready to go? Does your work schedule require you to leave home before it is light enough to ride a bike safely? Again, no wrong answers, just something to clarify expectations. Breakfast included? Or simply coffee to go.
Some riders are on rigid schedules for various reasons. Others are open to flexibility. Does your area offer something unique they might want to experience? A quirky museum? A good hiking park? Some special nightlife? Are you open to guests staying a second night if they need a day of rest or to take advantage of a fun local thing to do? Offer suggestions in your profile and let them know about a rest day stay.
Warmshowers provides a platform for many wonderful experiences for both peddlers and hosts. Something simple like filling out a complete and winning profile will help make smooth and lifelong connections.