The Departure Lounge: How to be a Guest
The minute someone announces that they’ll be moving abroad or taking an extended trip, people who want to "visit you" appear out of the woodwork! Friends and family and even nearly-perfect strangers all want to share in the excitement, intrigue, romance of travel and exploration! I’ve heard cries of “I’m soooooooo coming!” from my sister, mother, countless friends and even my hair dresser!
While I’m excited to go and explore solo on my trip, I’m also excited to have visitors! I’ve hosted numerous people, at sea, on land, et cetera; I’ve had enough experience with playing the host to have formed solid, reasonable expectations for a guest. Here are my tips for being a guest:
Do your own research before you arrive. There is nothing more frustrating for a host than a guest who doesn’t know what they want to do, and sloughs off every expectation for “having a good time” on their host. Keep in mind: Your host lives in the place you’re visiting. He/She will know of some great things to do there, but he/she will not know what it is you are truly interested in. You may think that saying “I’ll do whatever” means you’re being flexible and trying to work with your hosts schedule, but it’s actually quite stressful for the host. Spend a few minutes on tripadvisor.com researching things to do in the place you’re visiting and let your host know ahead of time so the proper arrangements can be made.
Keep in mind that your host lives where you’re visiting: While you may be on vacation and are feeling care free and out for non-stop fun, your host is probably not on vacation (That’s why he/she is still at home), sure the host may be able to get a day or two off from work to tour you around the region, but at the end of that time the host will have to return to work – be respectful of your host’s time.
I once hosted a guyfriend’s girlfriend for the weekend. It.Was.Awful. I asked only that they text me to let me know when she would be dropped off each night, so I could let her into the house (I wasn’t comfortable giving her a key). They would text me at half ten pm and not show up for four more hours. Really, really frustrating.
I’m not going to be working while I’m in Rome, but I will have personal projects going on – reading, writing, learning the language, so don’t expect that I can or will want to devote every waking hour to doting on you. I’m not a babysitter. I like my independence. You should, too.
You may have just scored a free place to stay, but you’re not staying in a hotel and there is no maid!! Clean up after yourself. Make your bed. If you’re sleeping on a couch in a public room, fold up your blankets and sheets and pack away your suitcase during the day. You’re in someone else’s home.
Most hosts will provide breakfast for you, and sometimes feed you every single meal. (Personally, my lifestyle is not such that I can offer that to a guest.)
If your host offers to feed you, please let him/her know, in advance, if you have any food allergies or special dietary needs.
A couple of friends came to stay in my house for a few nights – I asked if there were any allergies or preferences for food before they arrived, and the answer came back, ‘no’ – however, on arrival, (at 11:00 at night) I found out that one of the guests had a milk allergy and was just expecting a piece of toast in the morning. I don’t usually keep bread in my house and had nothing to feed her in the morning, despite my efforts.
I am not independently wealthy. Sure, I have a good job, but I live relatively modestly. Don’t expect me to spend my hard-earned resources on your vacation. Yes, I want to go and play with you and I can pay for my own tickets and meals, but I’m not going to pay for yours. This is especially true for the time I’ll be abroad. My resources will be limited. You’ll be expected to pay for your share of what you do.
I live in a duplex house and know the girls who live next door to me fairly well. They somehow ended up hosting a guest for several weeks. Every few days I’d hear horror stories about how awfully this guest was behaving. The guest, an RN (that’s a nurse, if you didn’t know) with a great job in the area, had her lease run out on her without the option to renew (the house was being sold). She knew it was happening but failed to actually go out and find a new place to live. Instead, she invited herself to stay with my neighbors because it was free. My poor, unsuspecting neighbors!! While the nurse was there, she also (without permission) ate their food. She ran up their utilities. She used their laundry soap. She used their shampoo and toiletries. She monopolized their living room, leaving her clothing and belongings strewn everywhere. She invited her boyfriend over to make out in the living room until the wee hours of the morning, and played movies very loudly. Then she took all the money she saved on rent, utilities, food and toiletries and went to Thailand for several months. To this day, she doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong.
I’m not sure why there is such a sense of entitlement among so many people these days, and so little willingness to work for what one does have. Mooches are not welcome.
If you're my guest*:
-Expect to pay for your own meals if we eat out.
-Expect that my apartment in Rome will be tiny and there may only be one bed. You may have to share, or sleep on a futon.
-Expect to pay for your own airplane, train, bus, subway and ferry tickets. Also, your own taxis or any other type of transfer from one place to another.
-Expect to pay for your own tickets to tourist attractions. (I’ve already been, if I go again, it’s to go with you, not because I want to pay to see the same place again).
-Unless I have access to internet and an unlimited international calling plan, expect to pay for your own internet and phone use.
-If we have to rent a car or a vehicle, expect to pay for half the rental and gas.
If you can't afford any of the above, then you can't afford to travel.
Now that’s all out of the way, we’ll get along grandly, so let the good times roll!!
* Sorry, readers, this is not an invitation to perfect strangers or quasi-acquaintances to come and stay with me.
For more Departure Lounge articles about preparing to become an expatriot, visit www.departurediaries.com