Travelling for extended periods places you in situations where you are not only out of your own comfort zone but also often in someone else’s comfort zone. People all over the world are inherently inviting and friendly. We were swamped with invitations to meals and stay overs and these experiences often became some of our most treasured memories. We also forged life-long friendships.
We also learned that what we thought to be normal manners, etiquette and conduct for us was not the same for others.
As a traveller there are basically three ways that you can fund your travels:
In all these cases sticking to a budget is the key to the length of travel you can afford. So invitations from very giving individuals are most welcomed, they help save on accommodation and sometimes meals. But, fair warning, if not done correctly can also turn out to be an expensive outing.
We found it very difficult in the beginning to just trust invitations, blame it on too many American movies and tourist abductions, but ultimately found these invitations to be one of the most rewarding sides of travel. To meet new people, be exposed to the local cultures and food, gain new friendships, it is all so good!
Keeping the above in consideration it is so disappointing to hear how some travellers abuse and misuse the generosity of these inviting folks. It is tempting to save money, BUT do not ruin the experience for yourself and others.
We have heard horror stories of travellers, ‘moving’ in for weeks at a time, contributing nothing and in some cases not even doing their own dishes.
Now, hoping not to sound like parents, we have put together some points highlighting some of the things we learned on our trips, as well as tips, advice and views from fellow overlanders. And believe me, we still learn every day.
Accepting and Declining Invites:
Social media makes it very easy these days to ‘gauge’ or get a background on other people, use it, but be aware that your website or Facebook does the same. It can make or break a potential friendship or invite.
In addition be careful about publishing your intended visit on social media, find out first if your hosts are inclined and comfortable with such exposure. If not, keep it to a personal thank you.
If you cannot or feel uncomfortable in accepting an offer, be good-mannered and friendly about it. The world is small and the travelling-community even smaller.
Do your Homework (noun)[həʊmwəːk] – the stuff we hated as kids:
Cultural and political differences can ruin a good experience. Do some quick research on the country, area and religions. This will help you to know what is acceptable and what will be offensive.
For instance a contentious issue everywhere is tipping. Both over- and under-tipping can quickly make you the least popular person at the table. But then in Japan and South Korea tipping is seen as an insult. In those countries, workers feel they are getting paid to do their job, and take pride in doing it well, they don’t need an added incentive.
Then in a lot of countries, especially in the Middle East, Latin America, Western Africa, Russia and Greece, a thumbs up basically has the same meaning as holding up a middle finger does for Americans.
Safety (noun)[seyf-tee] – the state of being safe; freedom from the occurrence or risk of injury, danger, or loss:
We were once invited by a leather cladded, GS-riding warrior to spend the night at his ranch. He then proceeded to take us over a mountain, round a bend and off into the sunset. We arrived at a very strange house setup but enjoyed, luckily, a good meal and a good man.
Another time, in Sudan we were invited by very upstanding citizens to a not-so-legal drinking session. We ended up following a taxi through a maze of streets, parking behind a wall and escorted down stairs into a very dark basement. Not the cleverest move from our side, but by taking care we made good friends. Bearing in mind drinking alcohol in Sudan is illegal.
Needless to say, you must be careful and not just accept any invitation. Always use good common sense and rather be safe than sorry.
Leave some ‘breadcrumbs’ – make sure your loved ones or buddies know where you are heading next. Do not forget the friendships back home while you are out making new ones. As a further safety measure we are considering investing in a satellite tracker system for our next leg of travels. Just for use by family and friends to know about our where-abouts and safety.
Some advice to soften the budget yet strengthen the friendships while staying with people:
If you are invited to a restaurant make sure the hosts understand your budget limitations. Be gracious but firm and suggest a more family friendly restaurant if possible. If they insist on paying, treat them to a drink or ice-cream afterwards or return the favour by cooking for them if you stay-over.
If you do go to a restaurant do not be a douchebag, tip! Ask the hosts or locals what the acceptable tip is and pay your waiter, it is part of your dues, not your savings.
Instead of accepting an expensive restaurant invite, offer to cook something traditional from your homeland or area. If you are not a good cook have a barbeque! Make some pasta or good old fashion toasties. Be creative.
If you stay longer than a few days – buy groceries!! If you feel that your hosts might be offended, buy them good wine or flowers. Do not freeload at any time.
Do not overdo it unless your hosts are on the same ‘wave’. Respect the hosts – all of them – all the time, be careful not to cause any trouble between the hosts.
Replace any drinks you might drink out of the fridge or bar or go shopping before you start drinking.
Sleepover (verb phrase) – to spend one or more nights in a place other than one’s own home:
Be gracious. Clean up after yourself and make your bed! Always!!
If you are at all like us, it can look like a bomb exploded in a room five minutes after we’ve entered. If you pack compact, you unpack all over the place. Be aware this might not look so good in the eye of the hosts.
Make it clear how long you will stay. When a host say you can stay as long as one wants, they are being nice not literal, it’s not an open invitation to crash for weeks.
Parking (noun) [Pahr-king]:
The host is ‘king’ of the allotted parking, not you, as the guest. Do not suggest where you would like to park, wait for the host to offer.
Be sensitive to your oily dripping wheels – place a piece of paper/carton under your problem area, leave no trace that you were ever there!
If you are a smoker, be sensitive to non-smokers.
(But maybe share your weed ;D)
Being on the road can make you smelly – be aware of this and leave your stinky’ stuff outside. (Ps … Anti-bacterial spray can be a life saver and changer!!)
Use the bathroom, please, but do clean up. Especially check the toilet once you are done, nothing kills a smile like finding a dirty toilet.
Replace the toilet paper if it is finished (buy some if you stay for an extended time).
Hang out your towels.
Do your own laundry. DO NOT let your hosts do it, UNLESS they offer.
- Do not use the dryer if it is sunny enough outside
- Do not hang your washing all over the rooms or balconies – check with your hosts where you can dry your clothes
- Hide the ugly or naughty ones or wash them later ;)If at any stage you feel uncomfortable or see your hosts being hesitant, use the closest laundromat.
Garage use or abuse:
If your hosts offer the use of their garage or tools to repair your misbehaving mechanicals, DO clean up, DO be aware of oil spills and DO be careful with the tools. Also do not let your problems become those of your host.
Be Observant and careful not to Insult:
I made the mistake once of buying our host some dishtowels as hers were a bit ‘used’. A well-intended gesture left our host feeling like I insulted her. She did not have to say it in so many words, but taking out her ‘best’ for me afterwards showed me that I might have been insensitive. Be observant but careful.
After (preposition)[af-ter, ahf-]:
Send your hosts a gift! It does not have to be big or expensive. It can be something small and meaningful. An old fashion ‘thank you’ note or letter, a postcard from your next destination or from home. There are numerous websites all over the world that delivers to homes at reasonable cost.
If you have some space, travel with small, unique gifts from home. Locally made cards, bracelets, pins or any inexpensive tokens to express your thanks, this is always a well-received gesture.
Do not lose contact, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship! Reciprocate and repeat.
HAVE FUN AND SMILE!
Be aware of your hosts’ normal life – try not to disrupt their normal flow of living. Be aware and be sensitive, but above all allow yourself the wonderful experience of meeting new people. It’s all just basic stuff really.