One of the best things about being a young adult without major commitments (marriage, career, mortgage, school, etc.) is your ability to travel. Take advantage while you can! Travel is without a doubt much more expensive than it was in the time of the beat poets or the era of Parisian bohemians, but staying with friends or local hosts is a great way to lighten the financial load of your journey. Be it a long sojourn through Europe or a weekend urban excursion, staying with friends adds a fun element to the trip. However, being a guest comes with its own responsibilities and obligations; small but important standards and protocols that can make the difference between your host’s perception of you as an eternally-welcome friend or a tiresome house guest. Follow these steps when staying over and you may just get invited back!
1) Keep things tidy. You are a guest that is most likely taking up space in what is otherwise considered common apartment territory (living room, couch, etc.), so simply folding your blankets and stashing them out of the way with your pillows and clothing each morning will keep the common space accessible to all. Essentially, keep your presence as low-impact as possible. Also, if your plans aren’t concrete, find out how long you will be welcome. The easiest way is just to ask!
2) Be sociable. Even though you may only know one of the five people you are staying with, saying “good morning” and chatting about your day/the city/whatever can make the other house members feel more comfortable with the stranger sleeping on their couch. If you can, spend time with your hosts, as in many cases, staying with local people is a great way to experience the place you are visiting from the most authentic of viewpoints.
3) Cook them dinner. If you know how to cook, just a simple meal will be greatly appreciated by your hosts. It won’t cost you that much money, but it will be an invaluable way to show your gratitude. Are your hosts from another part of the world? Even better, cook them your hometown specialty! I cooked dinner for some people in southern Spain and they instantly invited me to extend my three-day stay to a full week! (If you don’t know what to cook, check out some of my previous posts)!
4) Say thank you. Your guests were very generous to let you stay with them, so make sure you give them your sincerely thanks upon leaving. Are they still asleep? Leave a handwritten note! It’s so simple but will leave a long-lasting impression! A simple bottle of wine left behind is an easy, appropriate thank you gift as well! $10 isn’t that much to spend on a bottle considering you stayed in their house FOR FREE!
5) Send them a postcard. Post cards can be cute, beautiful, funny, or just plain ridiculous. They cost practically nothing, but if you’re traveling, dropping a post card in the mail to your hosts is a fun, easy way to stay in touch. My friends who I stayed with when I first arrived here in Barcelona have an entire wall of their living room dedicated to post cards sent from around the world by friends, flatmates, and former couch guests.
Follow these steps and reap the benefits of seeing a new place through a seasoned set of eyes!