18 Jul How to Be a Good Guest
Sad about the departure of our Vanamos friends after their month-long stay in San Miguel, we were reminded what it takes to be a good guest. It was such a delight to have them here and, until next time, we will majorly miss them.
Of course, we’ve been on both sides of the equation. Living somewhere as amazing as San Miguel de Allende, you can guess we get oodles of visitors – friends, family, acquaintances, whatever – and we love to host. We love where we live (obviously!) and we love to share the love. The Vanamos team is a perfect example of the kind of guests we love to have. During their stay, they became part of the family …or we became part of theirs. They were helpful, respectful, pulled their weight and pitched in, and were just generally awesome! They literally cooked dinner for us 27 nights out of 30, bought most of the groceries (and bundles of beers) and wouldn’t hear of it being otherwise. As they reminded us, they saved a boatload by staying with us and went above and beyond to show us their appreciation.
But …naturally …not all guests are this good. We can definitely tell the good eggs from the bad, because we’ve hosted at least a dozen of each.
Here’s what a bad egg might look like … arriving from the states, they talk about how inexpensive everything is here, but then eat our food and use our things without contributing. They don’t pick up the check or buy the groceries. We find ourselves dividing everything down to the centavo, like a high-school prom date, when they are saving big bucks by staying at our house for free. Ugh. The worst. I’d love not to host another one of those ever, to tell you the truth. It’s not that these are bad people, though. They are just not conscious. They don’t realize that while it seems inexpensive to them, this is our economy. They end up being an economic drain on us after we’ve compromised our privacy and space to do something nice for them.
That being said, we also spend a great deal of time on the other side – staying with friends, family and acquaintances along our travel routes. We’ve been hosted by some incredibly loving and kind, permissive hosts along the way. Most of all, my gracious and incredibly giving mom and step-dad! On one of our recent visits, a planned 2 weeks turned into 6 as we waited for our residency paperwork to come in. Since the US is far more expensive then what we are used to, we seriously appreciated all of the shared food and fun during our time there.
Travelbloggers (myself included) spend all sorts of time talking about how to travel, but rarely discuss how to be a guest – even though budget-overland folk spend many a night being hosted. I’ve crashed in countless guestrooms, on sofas, in backyards, and on many a floor (although, hopefully I don’t have many more floor sleeps in my future). Whether you’re more of a camper, looking for a spot to pitch a tent, a backpacking couchsurfer, or something in between, a place to crash along the way can be a proverbial lifesaver, giving a weary traveler a chance to rest and recoup. That’s why it’s important to respect the space a host shares with you, be a good, grateful guest, and leave a lasting positive impression.
So, think back to kindergarten. Think about lessons on sharing and respecting personal space and inside voice. Then think about college and all the times you failed at those things. With perspectives of then and now, be on your best guest behavior and leave them wanting to recommend you as a guest.
Plus, you know, good karma.
Here are my tips for being a good guest:
Clean up after yourself
Nobody likes a mess, especially if it’s not their own. Coming into someone’s space, even if they’re messy, should be an opportunity to be your cleanest, most-organized self. Or just keep the door to your room closed. Communal spaces are the most important – clean those dirty dishes and don’t leave your things strewn about like you live there. Inside the confines of your room you can make a mess (if it’s your style) and just keep it out of the host’s sight.
Respect the Host’s Space
It’s important to remember that the host has a life that normally doesn’t include you. Just because you are visiting doesn’t mean they will be your tour guide or spend every waking moment with you. It’s like a healthy relationship – no smothering! Take time to explore things by yourself and get out of the house at times, giving them space to do whatever it is they normally do – whether it’s working from home and needing to focus or walking around naked. Space is good.
How much money are you saving by staying with the host? Reflect this in your behavior. If you have the means to pay for things like food, gas, water, then do it. If you you’re on a shoe-string budget, contribute through service. Offer to do chores around the house, like dishes, cooking or laundry. Offer to run errands or help out the host with any skill set that you have. For example, Paul of Vanamos offered to look at some tax questions I had while he was visiting since he works in that field.
Different people are used to different noise levels. Err on the side of quietness just because. Even if you host is generally raucous, they may want downtime too. Don’t let your noise-making interrupt that. As a freelancer working from home I sometimes struggle to convey to my guests that though I’m in my pjs staring at a computer all day, I’m actually working and need to focus. It’s so nice when I don’t have to explain and my guests are respectful of whatever it is I might be up to.
Spoil Your Host
Do nice things for your host, whatever that means for you. Help them with whatever they need done. Surprise them with kind gestures. Let them know that what they are doing for you in noticed and appreciated through your actions. For example, when we were in Viñales, Cuba, we learned that they have an annual pig roast to celebrate the New Year. Upon inquiring, we learned that the price was quite accessible and offered to put one on for our hosts and their families. It was a grand affair and we had so much fun thanking our hosts in this way.
Say Thank You
Thank you: two simple words that immediately convey your appreciation. Don’t forget that they are making a sacrifice for you and saying thank you is an easy way to tell them you recognize it. It’s not just a place to lay your head – the host shares space, resources, time and energy with you. Appreciation is key.
Channel your Awesomeness
Be your greatest self (which, by the way, can be a great opportunity for personal growth). Avoid bitching and moaning about things. Be positive, helpful, kind, friendly – all the things that someone would want to be around. If you’re unpleasant, certainly your host will feel it. If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, get out of the house and give yourself some space to process your bad mood and come back refreshed.