microphone with an out of focus background containing the Streets.mn logo

A Warm Welcome to Warmshowers

There are people who travel long distances by bike, and there are people who are willing to open their homes to those traveling by bike. Together, they make up the Warmshowers community!

Episode summary

00:00 | Intro
01:08 | History of Warmshowers
04:55 | Stina and Ian’s experiences
09:29 | Getting started on Warmshowers
13:44 | Tips for hosting
19:06 | Tips for guesting
25:24 | Twin Cities WS community
31:21 | The Parklet
32:36 | Convo with WS host Jim Young
54:34 | Outro

Connect with us

Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was produced and co-hosted by Christina Neel, edited by Parker Seamon aka Strongnathy, and transcribed by Ian R Buck. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.

Transcript

Ian: [00:00:00] Get familiar with the public transit in your area, because a lot of times like that is a really important tool for a touring cyclist to be able to take advantage of.

Christina: [00:00:09] Right. Kind of put yourself into their shoes; into their clip on bike shoes. [laughter] Sorry.

Ian: [00:00:18] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward, Minneapolis, Minnesota, I am your host, Ian R Buck. We’ve all heard stories about individuals traveling long distances by bicycle, touring across countries and continents. But did you know that there is a worldwide community of hosts ready to offer space in their home to bike tourists? It’s called Warmshowers, and it comes complete with a website to help connect guests with hosts.

Christina Neel has been on Warmshowers for a couple of seasons, and she wanted to do an episode talking about the experience; so today she’s sitting in the host seat, and I get to sit back and relax in the guest chair.

Christina: [00:01:08] Hello. Ian R Buck.

Ian: [00:01:09] Hello, Stina Neel.

Christina: [00:01:11] Do you know what we’re going to be talking about today?

Ian: [00:01:13] We’re going to be talking about Warmshowers!

Christina: [00:01:15] Yes, I know. It sounds a little cheeky, doesn’t it? Warmshowers. Yeah.

Ian: [00:01:20] Honestly, I think that’s probably the most unfortunate thing about this online platform. Yeah.

Christina: [00:01:25] So I kind of want to start out with a little history of Warmshowers and what they are, and then we can talk about our experience, our relationship with it as both guests and hosts. But let’s start out with what exactly is Warmshowers. So I want to talk about their mission and vision. So the mission they listed as to facilitate and promote safe, free, reciprocal hospitality in the worldwide touring bicycle community. So Warmshowers is essentially a like a free stay in accommodations for bike tourers. Yeah.

Ian: [00:02:02] But it’s not like the platform isn’t providing that. The platform is a place to connect touring bicyclists with people who are willing to host them.

Christina: [00:02:12] Yeah, Yeah. So it’s kind of like couch surfing a little bit. Yeah, because I’m familiar with couch surfing. That’s kind of how I became really pro trying Warmshowers is because I had that experience with couch surfing as a traveler. But then it also has a little bit of like forum-y-ness.

Ian: [00:02:29] Yeah, I haven’t dove into the online forum, but I know that there’s a lot of like, I mean this is the biking world so people are always excited to talk about like gear and, you know, give each other tips and tricks and yeah, whatever.

Christina: [00:02:43] But I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit. So I want to talk about Warmshowers.org and the foundation and where it all came from. So are you ready for a little history lesson?

Ian: [00:02:52] Let’s do it.

Christina: [00:02:53] So in 1976, John Moseley put out an ad in the magazine Bike World. It’s a US magazine and he wanted to create a touring cyclist hospitality directory.

Ian: [00:03:05] Really rolls off the tongue.

Christina: [00:03:08] It really does. And this started in Colorado, as it should. And he ended up getting 800 names and he kept them in a Rolodex. And dear listener, if you don’t know what a Rolodex is, please Google image it because it is quite a way to organize 800 names and locations and it pretty much stayed that way for nearly 30 years.

Ian: [00:03:31] So if I was a touring cyclist and I wanted the information that was in the Rolodex, did I have to like call John Moseley and tell him like, here’s the part of the country that I’m going through? Who you got on the list?

Christina: [00:03:44] Yeah, pretty much. Oh, wow. And he would give you the contact name and number and all that information, all in the landline phones. Wow. So then in 1993, it shifted (that is a pun intended) to Warmshowers. I know. So they switched from the Rolodex to a database and map. So essentially Excel spreadsheet.

Ian: [00:04:10] Proto Excel probably. Like what  database software was around back then?

Christina: [00:04:15] Yeah, some sort of tabling situation. And then in 2005 they got the website so Warmshowers.org and fast forward 30 more years to today there are over 187,000 users. There are 127,000 of those are hosts and Warmshowers operates in 161 countries. And you can find hosts that speak 17 different languages.

Ian: [00:04:42] And those are just the official stats.

Christina: [00:04:43] Those are just the official stuff.

Ian: [00:04:44] I’m pretty sure that that’s like undercounting a little bit, right? Because a lot of, like couples who live together, they share an account. And I’m sure that people don’t like list every single, like, language that they know. Yeah, Yeah.

Christina: [00:04:55] So, Ian, you’ve been using Warmshowers for longer than me, and you are the one who introduced me. Can you talk about your first experience with Warmshowers?

Ian: [00:05:04] Yeah, I discovered Warmshowers while I was on the road, so my first, like, solo multi-day tour was in June of 2020 of all times. Wow. Right. I had to go from the Twin Cities down to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a deposition, and I was like, Well, I don’t want to drive. Like, this was kind of the beginning of my era of trying to figure out how to do literally everything without being in a car. And Covid just started. I don’t want to be in a bus with a bunch of other people, you know? So I was like, okay, I am going to bike all the way down there. And I budgeted five whole days for that. And on the last day when I was approaching Cedar Rapids, there’s this lovely like state trail that goes from Waterloo down to Cedar Rapids. And I’m like, I’m biking along. I come up behind another guy who has like he’s got. 3 or 4 panniers on his bike. And I’m like, Oh, a fellow, you know, another soul who’s out here going on a long trip. So I come up behind him and we start chatting and and I ask him, you know, if he’s on on a long tour and everything. He was actually practicing for an upcoming trip. And he asked me like, “Have you ever heard of Warmshowers?” And I was like, “Yeah, I, I like to take warm showers. What do you mean, sir?” And so that’s how I found out about this website. And I and I actually, I created an account soon afterwards, and I used Warmshowers later on during that trip on my way back home because I went up towards the Eau Claire area before coming back over to the Twin Cities. And and so I stayed with a Warmshowers host like halfway between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities. It was pretty cool.

Christina: [00:07:04] Because I so I signed up to be a host first. After hearing about your experiences and how it was a really positive impact on your trip, I was like, I want in on this. Yeah. And I moved into a new apartment that had a little bit more space and I was like, Yeah, I think it is feasible for me to host 1 or 2 people at a time. And so I did. And it was like it was fast. I don’t remember when I started, but it was within a few months I got my first guest.

Ian: [00:07:36] I was impressed.

Christina: [00:07:37] And it was the Aussie. So I hosted an Australian who was biking from Portland to New York City, and he was about halfway through and he wanted to have a few rest days, so he stayed with me for three days. That was wonderful because I had understood it to be kind of like an overnight situation only for most guests and hosts. So to be able to have my first my first guest stay for three days, I was like, It’s kind of special. When did you start hosting?

Ian: [00:08:05] I started hosting this summer, actually. And hosting is something that I wanted to do much, much earlier. But um, until April of 2023, I was living in a house with, you know, 4 to 5 other people at any given time. And it just like wasn’t feasible. Not everybody in the house was comfortable having like a random stranger on a bike come over and stay. And so, like living on my own in my own apartment was my first opportunity to to be able to like mark myself as available for hosting on Warmshowers. And that was very exciting.

Christina: [00:08:39] And then so I probably out a month after having my first guest, I became a guest myself and kind of an unexpected way I was out on a bike tour. The weather was a little bit challenging, the distance was a little challenging, so I changed my route and there wasn’t camping availability. It was like a holiday weekend or something. Oh, it was MEA weekend!

Ian: [00:08:59] Ah, this is your Driftless tour.

Christina: [00:09:00] Yes. Yeah. And I was like, I don’t really have a place to stay. I don’t really feel like doing some wild camping or like trying to camp in a public park or something on the sneaky. So I reached out to a few people and I was like, Hey, I need a place to stay in like eight hours. And this wonderful family took me in and it was like everything I could have hoped for as a first, a first time guest experience and so much more.

Ian: [00:09:25] I’m sure we’ll get into that story a little bit more in a bit.

Christina: [00:09:28] I think so. So, Ian, since you are more of a pro than me, how do you use the system? What are the ways that you can interact and become part of the Warmshowers community?

Ian: [00:09:40] Yeah. So I mean, step one obviously is creating your profile, right? And just like any other online platform, like you want to put a little bit of thought into it. I think that some of the really important information to put in there is like like managing expectations is the name of the game, right, both as a host and as a guest. Right. I think by and large, most cyclists who are out there on tour who are looking to guest expect very, very little. You know.

Christina: [00:10:16] Like. Right. You’re just like, do I want some sort of roof? And perhaps a warm shower would be good.

Ian: [00:10:21] Don’t even want a roof. They’re just like, Oh, I just want to know that like the property that I am camping on, I’m not going to get kicked off of.

Christina: [00:10:29] Right. No one’s going to call the cops, right?

Ian: [00:10:31] Yeah. Um, and, and so, yeah, like, like there’s, there’s that end of it. But then like, as the host as well, like telling people exactly what they can expect when they arrive at your place, you know, and the profile creation process kind of guides you through some of these things of like, Oh, how many guests can you accommodate? What kind of like shared space versus private space do you have? Are you going to be able to provide any meals as the host or, you know, is the guest going to be on their own for like seeking out food and stuff? Um, and then. While you are out there on the road figuring out how far in advance are you going to be? Like contacting people I think is a really like it’s definitely a balancing act, right? Last summer when I was touring from Southern Indiana back here to the Twin Cities, one of my goals for that trip was to minimize every operating expense that I possibly could. And so, like, lodging was a big one of those. And and so because of that, like Warmshowers was my plan A, which is honestly, like the people who run Warmshowers, they tell you like this shouldn’t be your plan A, this should be like your your backup plan.

Ian: [00:11:49] You know, the “it’s nice to have a Warmshowers host,” you know, But I was like, oh yeah, I’m going to try to stay with Warmshowers host as often as I possibly can. And so I was like looking on the map 2 to 3 days ahead of where I was and figuring out like, Oh, I’m going to modify my route a little bit in order to like hit these particular hosts. And I was contacting people about two days in advance of when I was going to be arriving. And that was that felt like the sweet spot to me because my plans didn’t change too much. You know, I didn’t end up with like a, “Oh, I didn’t make it quite as far as I thought I was going to” and then have that ripple effect. Like I didn’t have like five different people who thought I was going to be arriving on day, you know, one, two, three, four. And then it changed to two, three, four, five, six. Right. Um.

Christina: [00:12:45] And I have, I have my profile pulled up because I just wanted to peek at a couple of things. So being able to say like your maximum guess number, right? Like there’s a lot of, like, touring couples. So I wanted to make sure that I could accommodate those. I don’t know if I can accommodate a whole tandem bike in my apartment, but, um, but having like a preferred notice. But I think the best part of the entire profile system is they ask why I tour, how I tour, why I host, and how I host. Because hearing why your the person who’s staying with you, why they tour, that’s important to me. And then hearing like, why do they host? Like part of the reason I host is because people have hosted me and I’m like, that was so valuable of an experience that I want to I want to give that back.

Ian: [00:13:29] And I think that’s a pretty common experience, a pretty common story in the Warmshowers community. But there are there are a lot of people who are hosting on there who have never been out on a tour on their own.

Christina: [00:13:39] Right. Oh, that’s. Oh, that’s so sweet. So, okay, let’s pretend that our listeners, they’ve decided I want to do this on either end. Can we go through some tips of how to be a really good guest and how to be a superstar host?

Ian: [00:13:57] Yeah, okay. Which one do you want to start with?

Christina: [00:13:59] Um, let’s start with hosting because that’s something that you can do. You can start hosting tomorrow if you want.

Ian: [00:14:05] That’s true.

Christina: [00:14:06] So you talked about like talking about expectations, what you want out of your guest, um, and being able to, to be realistic about what you can offer and what you can’t, right? For example, I work at an office four days a week, so I can’t be home all the time. And since you often work from home, you can’t always promise endless privacy, right?

Ian: [00:14:29] That’s very true. Um, and you can offer you can promise people you will be able to get into the apartment building and get into the apartment. Right. Even when Stina’s not home, I can promise that. Only if I know that they are coming beforehand because I have to, like, hide the key in a specific place. But yeah, like, even so, um, just earlier this week, I had a guy, Matt, who contacted me like it was already 10 a.m. I was at work and he messaged me and I was like, Oh yeah, I can usually leave by like 1 p.m. and I’ll and I can meet you anywhere and, you know, let you into the apartment. Um, so that, like, me, having that flexibility definitely helps. Whenever, whenever I have a guest arrive, I’m always trying to be, like, sensitive to what they need and what they’re looking for. Because I know that, like, when you are touring on a bike, uh, different people have different things that they want right away when they arrive somewhere. And sometimes that isn’t even consistent for like, like, you know, sometimes I’ll finish a day and I’m like, Oh, I need to eat immediately. Other days it’s like, Oh, I feel disgusting and I need to shower immediately. So I almost always ask a guest like, What do you need right now? What is priority number one? Should I should I start making food while you take a shower or, you know, like what? Yeah, what’s their pressing thing?

Christina: [00:16:00] Because you had a guest earlier in the summer who was like a singing with joy. That you had conditioner to offer.

Ian: [00:16:07] Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughter]

Christina: [00:16:08] Because sometimes, yeah, you are on the road and a luxury like conditioner isn’t necessarily high on your to do list. And then your guests the other day he was excited to have food that was cooked with a stove. Right. Because he didn’t bring it to stove when he was touring. So kind of like figuring out like, what do you need? And then for me, I want to ask, what are your social needs? Do you want privacy and quiet time or have you been on the road for two weeks and you haven’t really hung out with another human and you would love to go hammocking with my friends and I or you would love to come to a board game night at the brewery.

Ian: [00:16:42] Yes, that was so fun!

Christina: [00:16:45] Those are things that I can offer really easily. It’s more of a struggle when I get someone who’s like, Oh, I think I would like some alone time. I’m like, Uh, okay. So kind of knowing that, I mean, being able to offer some local knowledge of here’s your closest grocery store, you arrived on a Sunday. Not every bike shop is going to be open. Here are the closest ones. Or letting them know, like I have a bike chain, lube and rags and things and we can try to do a little bit of fixing here at the house.

Ian: [00:17:17] Yeah. My latest guest, this was the end of his tour, right? Which is that was a first for me. I haven’t had anybody ending a tour in Minneapolis before. We’re almost always the halfway point on people’s cross-continental trips, right?

Christina: [00:17:31] We’re always going across the country.

Ian: [00:17:34] Um, but, but yeah, Matt was like, you know, feeling pretty done with his with his tour. And so he wanted to fly out the next day. And we sat here, you know, in the evening trying to figure out what were the logistics going to be of boxing up his bike and getting it shipped and where could he go? Like what? Which bike shops in the area were going to be able to accommodate that and also being able to take public transit to the airport? Yeah, that’s something I would definitely recommend to people if you want to host is even if you don’t use public transit on a regular basis yourself, get familiar with the public transit in your area because a lot of times like that is a really important tool for a touring cyclist to be able to take advantage of.

Christina: [00:18:21] Right, like kind of put yourself into their shoes, into their clip on bike shoes. [laughter] Sorry. Of “I’m new to this this city. I’ve never been here before. I do not have a car, but I do need to get some things done while I’m here.” And how to get that accessibly.

Ian: [00:18:39] I’m really glad that you and I have adopted the Metro Transit stops near near each of our homes because we always have like a Go-to card that we can just give to the guest when they get here and be like, Hey, this thing has like five trips left on it. Go wherever you need to.

Christina: [00:18:57] Yeah, or being able to show them how to use the transit app and buy like a weekend pass if they’re going to be here for a little bit. Can I shift gears again? So, Ian, what are your tips for being an all star guest?

Ian: [00:19:10] Yeah, I would say getting in touch with somebody as early as you can. You know, as soon as, you know, like, oh, I’m probably going to want to stay in that area, start that conversation so that you can figure out, you know, sometimes you’re going to be going into a city where there’s several different people who are all available and like figuring out which one of them is going to be available is great. When you’re out in a rural area, a lot of times there’s just the one.

Christina: [00:19:38] So when you were using the website, there’s also an app, the app is paid, website is free.

Ian: [00:19:42] I have not used the app.

Christina: [00:19:44] Okay, I have used the app. I paid, I did the free trial for a month. I thought that using the website was a little bit easier. So you reach out, you find someone in the area you’re going to, you click on their profile. You love it so much, you read it, you send them a message. What happens next?

Ian: [00:20:00] Well, usually people so because the website is structured such that any messages that you send get forwarded to your email address. Right. A lot of people in their profiles will say like, I’m not checking my emails 100% of the time. So like text me at this number if you if you need to get in touch right away. That’s a good thing to pay attention to.

Christina: [00:20:28] Yeah. What are the communication desires of your potential host?

Ian: [00:20:30] Yeah. And you know, reading their profile and being familiar with like, what is it that they are going to be able to provide, you know, so that you aren’t trying to eat all of the food in their, in their kitchen when they, you know, clearly said like, oh yeah, you’re on your own for food. But yeah, just like, like, yeah, like communicating. What is it that you are going to need when you arrive, you know, are you somebody who’s just looking for a patch of grass to tent on, you know, in the lawn? Or are you like, do you are you packing super minimal And you’re. Yeah. No, I actually do need a private room where I’m going to be sleeping and yada, yada.

Christina: [00:21:10] And I need to do my laundry because it’s been a long time, right? I’m biking in the same dirty chamois for three days.

Ian: [00:21:17] Disgusting. Yeah.

Christina: [00:21:19] Yeah. I think, like, as a guest realizing that it’s a two way bike lane, like, yes, you are getting free accommodation, but these people are opening up their home to you. So knowing what you can do, I always like to leave like a handwritten note, especially if I’m leaving very early in the morning. You and I were on a trip where we had to leave at like 5 a.m. So being able to, like, leave a note, switch out the bedding, or I’ve even bought my my host dinner. They’re like, Oh, let’s take you out. And I was like, okay. So I bought them dinner. It was like pizza, but it was like it just felt like the right thing to do. And then I think my last thing about about guesting is like the review process. So there’s the opportunity for you as a guest to leave a review. But there’s also the opportunity for the host to leave you, the guest, a review. And that’s kind of something that a lot of people depend on, especially if you’re an early user, is I want to read other people’s reviews. If it’s someone who stayed with like 60 hosts, I’m not as concerned about that. Right? But if it’s someone like this is their second time out on the road, I want to read those positive reviews.

Ian: [00:22:25] It’s not so much a red flag. If you see somebody who’s like their account is brand new and they don’t have any feedback yet. I did have a recent guest who, like their account, was six years old and they didn’t have any feedback. And I was a little bit like, is this legit? Do I actually want to let this person into my home? And I did and it was fine, but it was something that gave me pause, right?

Christina: [00:22:50] I guess in like, the most relaxed sense of being a host and being a guest is you are either offering someone a safe place to stay or they’re giving you a safe place to stay, and that’s it. On the other side, you might get to make a new friend. Yeah. And get to do some very ridiculous stuff. So do you mind? Can I show you a little story?

Ian: [00:23:11] Absolutely.

Christina: [00:23:12] So when I was staying with my first ever host family.

Ian: [00:23:15] You never forget your first!

Christina: [00:23:16] I know. They. They were absolutely, like, happy to share their social life with me. They just so happened to be going to a friend’s retirement slash birthday party. And I was like, okay, cool. It’s like up in this ski chalet. So I go with them and I don’t find out until we get there that their best friend is retiring as a urologist. So everything is urology themed. And a lot of, like I would say, props and candy molds that were designed for bachelorette parties to put it lightly. And then there was like a live band and the the guy ended up singing with the band and it was this multi-hour thing. And they introduced me as like, This is Stina. She’s staying with us only for tonight. She’s a bicycle tourist. And I was like, Oh, that’s so special and so beautiful. And it makes me want to, like, send them a Christmas card or something. They were so cool.

Ian: [00:24:18] And that was that was in the La Crosse area, right?

Christina: [00:24:21] Yes. In La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Ian: [00:24:22] That’s so funny because the the host who I stayed at with in La Crosse were also like, you know, I had to stay there for like two extra nights or something because it was like really stormy. And I didn’t want to be out in that. And they were like, “Oh, yeah, Like, we’re going to go out on the boat today on the river with some friends. Like, You want to come with us?” Yeah, it’s and we’ve also made other friends up by Saint Cloud, you know, like the, the host who I stayed with this summer. I realized that they are big nerds into a lot of the same things that you and I are into. And so, like, I took that opportunity to really connect with them around a lot of that stuff and just like hang out and, you know, talk over dinner and everything and like, we have a pact now that’s like, okay, anytime that that we have cyclists who are staying with us here in the cities who are going up that way, or vice versa, like we’re like, Oh yeah, we’ll just send them to each other.

Christina: [00:25:22] Oh, they were so wonderful. So kind of getting into that is the local like when you look up the map of Minneapolis, there are a lot of dots. Well, they’re not dots. They’re little wheels with spokes. They’re so cute.

Christina: [00:25:36] You zoom out on Minneapolis-Saint Paul area and it is gigantic and covered with little dots for hosts. And the thing is, like, there’s so many of us like, you have one that is what, a block away if that.

Ian: [00:25:49] Yes.

Christina: [00:25:50] And we’ve never met them.

Ian: [00:25:53] Not yet.

Christina: [00:25:54] Not yet. So kind of like there’s all these hosts within your community, within our town or city or neighborhoods, and we don’t know them yet. So that’s something that we want to do as hosts is get together with other Twin Cities folks who also host and kind of like swap stories and hang out and me being able to know the folks in your neighborhood, if you’re like, Hey, I am unable to host, I got a request, I’m unable to host, but the guy who lives a block and a half away from me reach out to him. I think he fits the vibe of what you’re looking for in a host.

Ian: [00:26:28] Right, yeah.

Christina: [00:26:29] So, yeah, I mean, trying to build community because we have been able to build these individual connections between us as cycling tourists and our hosts or us and our guests. And now we have like, I feel like we should have like a pin board of where our guests are either coming from or going to.

Ian: [00:26:47] A Rolodex, maybe?

Christina: [00:26:47] No, absolutely not. But like, now, like like I have a connection in Australia, right? And we have connections in Philadelphia and Canada and all kinds of things. And that’s something that I want to see more of in the Warmshowers community is connections within your own area, right?

Ian: [00:27:05] Yeah, I think that that would be a really good thing. A good activity for us to do during the winter season is like host a meetup for local hosts. Uh, and you know, and it’ll give us something to do, like a connection to Warmshowers during a time of year when none of us are thinking about Warmshowers.

Christina: [00:27:25] Right? I mean, we are pretty lucky in that, like, we do have a hosting season and a non hosting season. I would be very shocked if someone was traveling across Minnesota in, say, January. It could happen. That would be that would be strange. But I would have a lot of respect for that person.

Ian: [00:27:42] On related to the topic of that, there’s a lot of hosts here in the Twin Cities. I was very surprised when I marked myself as available to host and very soon had somebody requesting and like, you know, over this summer season, I’ve had like three guests here. You’ve had, I think about the same number 3 or 4 that you.

Christina: [00:28:02] Yeah, yeah, four.

Ian: [00:28:03] And I’m like, I’m just kind of surprised at how many people have picked out our dots from among the crowd of of everybody. And I wonder I wonder if it’s kind of partially because a lot of the folks who are touring around are young, they’re in their 20s and most of the hosts that you encounter are like retired age and are trying to give back to the community. And that’s great. You’ve stayed with a lot of people who are that age, and then you come to a city like Minneapolis and you’re like, Oh, there’s somebody who’s 30 years old. I want to hang out with them for a couple of days. Right?

Christina: [00:28:38] I want to I think I want to stay with one of my peers. Just once.

Christina: [00:28:43] Um, do you think it’s like the proximity factor to you are very close to the Midtown Greenway?

Ian: [00:28:48] That’s true.

Christina: [00:28:49] And then I’m very close to the Cedar Lake Trail. I think you can see it from. From my windows.

Ian: [00:28:55] You can definitely hear the train going by.

Christina: [00:28:57] Yes, you can. And I’m also very close to the Luce line. So we do have these major thoroughfares through the cities really close to us. So I wonder if that makes us ideal hosts.

Ian: [00:29:08] Yeah, that’s a good point.

Christina: [00:29:09] Along with like our ages and the fact that I have a cat, I think that’s a good a lot of people that stay with me are huge cat fans. And they are thrilled to be staying with a super friendly pet.

Christina: [00:29:23] Did you know that Warmshowers has their own podcast?

Ian: [00:29:26] I do. I listen to it frequently, yeah.

Christina: [00:29:29] So if you want to hear more stories of Warmshowers, guests and hosts from all over the world, I would say they’re primarily from folks outside the US. I would check out the Bike Life podcast. It’s in the show notes. They’ve been going for a few years, so there’s lots of backlog of of deliciousness to enjoy.

Ian: [00:29:48] They’ve they’ve had a couple of guests from Minnesota and we might end up hosting some of those episodes here on our feed. Oh yeah. We’ll see if we, you know.

Christina: [00:30:00] And we might vice versa. We might send in a tidbit to them and see if they want to talk to us. That’s true about especially if we have that community meetup that we were talking about. It’d be great to talk to them on their podcast.

Ian: [00:30:13] That would be fantastic.

Christina: [00:30:15] And then so if someone wants to become a host and we highly recommend becoming a host, if you are able to, how do you do that?

Ian: [00:30:24] You just go to the warmshowers.org website and create an account and you can mark yourself as available. You can you can mark yourself as not available at any time. For most of us that is like, Oh, when I’m going off on a tour and I know that I’m not going to be able to host for a while, but literally, like, you know, any time that you’re on vacation or you’re on like, you know, yeah, unfortunately the website doesn’t let you automatically go back to being available. You get to mark on your profile like when you expect to be available again, but it doesn’t automatically switch you back.

Christina: [00:31:00] Yeah. Thanks for talking today, Ian.

Ian: [00:31:04] Thanks for having me!

Christina: [00:31:05] Well, this is your podcast.

Ian: [00:31:07] It is so weird to be sitting on this side of the table, honestly. Kind of refreshing that somebody else had to make all the notes and keep track of what we were talking about and everything.

Christina: [00:31:18] All right. Well, I’ll talk to you next time.

Ian: [00:31:21] Remember the Warm Showers host we mentioned who lives just a block from me? Well, we reached out to him, and he was down to come on the show! Before we get into that conversation though, let’s take a break in the parklet.

Today we have a listener Quick Question: for the Gold Line BRT line currently under construction, will we be allowed to bike on it, similar to the U of M Transitway? The answer is unfortunately no, but as part of the construction project they are putting in bike trails in many places along the route. These trails are particularly important for making connections with existing trails, like the Etna St station connecting south to the Robert Piram Trail via Burns Ave.

If you have a question that probably has a quick answer, write in to [podcast@streets.mn] and we’ll research it for you!

The Streets.mn Podcast is looking for sponsors! If you would like to support the show and connect with our very engaged audience, you could have a message right here in the parklet. Email us at [podcast@streets.mn]

All right. Now on to the conversation with Jim Young, fellow Warmshowers, host from the Seward neighborhood.

Jim: [00:32:36] Most of our guests don’t know about Milwaukee Avenue. And when they get there, they’re pleasantly surprised. But it’s not the sort of place that they seek out necessarily, right, when they come. A lot of times we’ll invite them to have dinner with us and we’ll sit on the porch and eat dinner and there’ll be people walking by and some of them that we know will stop and say hello and we’ll introduce our guests and so forth. And of course, that happens whether they’re Warmshowers guests or anybody. And so it is, you’re right, a community in itself. And it’s a very friendly and and quiet place to come to. If you want to sit down and read a book or just people watch or something like that. Yeah.

Ian: [00:33:30] Yeah. And because when I when I think about like the Warmshowers is like hosts that I’ve stayed with, the ones that really stick with me, that have made an impact are the ones where, like I was not only meeting and getting to know my hosts, but like they also kind of integrated me into their social life as well, just for the day that I was there. Yeah. And that that’s the kind of thing that, that feels really special. Mhm. Um, so I guess let’s, let’s, Yeah. Take a step back again. How long have you been hosting on Warmshowers?

Jim: [00:34:07] Probably about six years. Um, it started when I was planning a trip with my two sons. We were going to tour from Minneapolis to Madison, Wisconsin. Nice. And that was kind of a retirement present for me. I had recently retired and my two sons came back from where they were at the time, Illinois and California. And the three of us then did the the bike ride, the 300 mile bike ride to Madison over five days. Nice. And one of the days I was looking for a place to stay, we were planning on mostly staying in motels or hotels and and eating out at restaurants. But it also happened to be right when they were holding Oktoberfest in La Crosse, Wisconsin. And there wasn’t a hotel within 30 or 40 miles of of La Crosse that I could find that was open and had had space for us. So I looked around and somebody had told me about Warmshowers a couple of times. A couple of people that I knew had told me about that and said, Oh, you ought to look at that. So I went on the Warmshowers website, signed up and found a place to stay. A fellow in La Crosse, right in town, offered to let us stay there. And he had a you know, it was typical older home. He had a nice space for us in the downstairs in the basement. And it was it was just wonderful.

Jim: [00:35:47] We took him out to dinner and the four of us sat around. His favorite restaurant was a Chinese buffet. So it was like a $10 dinner that we paid for for him. There you go. And he said that was his favorite place. You know, we would have taken him to, you know, some fancy restaurant if he’d wanted to. But it was just it was really nice to get to know him a little. And in the morning, he went off to church because that was a Saturday night that we stayed with him. And he said, Oh, yeah, just, you know, help yourself to breakfast. There’s cereal and eggs and stuff upstairs. And and he said, You don’t need to lock the door when you leave. Just close it and it’ll be fine. Yeah. And so that’s exactly what we did. And, and then I thought, well, you know, that’s pretty cool. I guess I wouldn’t leave my door unlocked in Minneapolis. Right, Right. La Crosse, you know, that might be just fine. And so afterwards I thought, well, I should offer to host some people, just kind of pay back the community a little bit. And so I signed on. And we’ve hosted not a lot of people, but a few every summer except during Covid. People were coming through and looking for a place. And my wife has really enjoyed hosting people. We’ve had some absolutely crazy people come stay with us and.

Ian: [00:37:24] Crazy in a good way?

Jim: [00:37:26] Yeah, one woman from New Zealand just wanted to try everything, so she came here and there was going to be a big political meeting here. Some senator or somebody was coming in to speak. So she went to that. She signed up for it, found out about it, signed up and went. And just to see what it was like in America to do something like that. Another family had a couple and then two, I would say, pre-teen sons that were with them and they were biking from the West Coast to Maine and doing it. That was all summer. And the pre-teen kids, they hadn’t ever done much biking before they started this trip. And so-

Ian: [00:38:13] What an introduction.

Jim: [00:38:14] Yeah, no kidding. They had lived in Hawaii before they came to the West Coast and they were moving to Maine. So that was where they were going to end up. And, you know, this was just totally foreign to them. And here they are, a thousand miles into the or a couple thousand miles, I suppose, into the into the journey. And so, you know, we asked them, how was it, you know, what did they think? And, well, they weren’t totally sold on the whole program. Um, but they did say that, you know, it’s getting better.

Jim: [00:38:57] And coming into Minneapolis was really cool, they thought because they could see the big buildings in downtown. And if you think about it, there really isn’t much between the West Coast and Minneapolis in terms of big downtowns that you would be biking into. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, you know, you’re going through North Dakota and Montana and, you know, you might see some taller buildings maybe if that’s where the, the path that you selected went. But with where we are in Minneapolis and the bike trails that we have, they come right not through downtown, but pretty close. Yeah. And you can see the see the downtown, see the big buildings, see the the freeways and whatnot. And yet you’re still on the the lovely separated bike trails. So, yeah, it’s, you know, it’s been a real mix of people and and interests and whatnot. And it’s been fun to do. And I think we’ll continue offering to let people stay with us, especially now that we have some extra bedrooms that they can use. There you go. That that is that does help. If if our two sons were still living with us, it would be hard to hard to host people. You know that many people in a small house. Right. Our house is small.

Ian: [00:40:26] Well, you’re talking to a guy in a one bedroom apartment here, you know. Yeah. Whenever I have a guest coming over, I always message my partner. I’m like, All right, can I sleep over at your place? Because otherwise I’m going to be on the floor on a sleeping bag. On the floor? Yep, yep, yep.

Ian: [00:40:43] What makes the Warmshowers community special to you?

Jim: [00:40:47] Um, it’s. It’s really a lot of trust, I guess. You know, here you are. You’re inviting strangers into your home.

Ian: [00:40:55] And on the flip side, you know, here you are, somebody on a bicycle just like. Putting your trust in the person that you’re staying with. Yeah, right.

Jim: [00:41:03] Yeah. I have had occasion where somebody would message me and say, you know, I’m looking for a place to stay. And you look at the review from the last person that they stayed with and they said, Well, this person didn’t come on a bike. He flew in. And so, you know, do you trust that person? You know, where why is he coming to Minneapolis and how does he or she intend to use this this offer where you don’t really ask for any renumeration or anything like that? It’s and we’re not a hotel. We’re we’re just somebody with a house that we let people stay in. We’re not like an Airbnb or anything like that either. So, um, you know, the person that wasn’t biking, I just declined to host them. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with him, but, you know, it didn’t seem like he really fit what I imagined. A somebody looking for a Warmshowers stay over would would be doing. Yeah. So yeah, I think that’s probably the biggest single thing that I see is we’re kind of. Working with people that have similar worldviews that we do in terms of, you know, finding a bicycle as a both practical and a fun way to get around. And we’re just facilitating that a little bit for the ones that are touring over a long, longer distance. So I think that’s something that’s a little bit unique with Warmshowers as opposed to an Airbnb or something like that.

Ian: [00:42:56] Or even like like couch surfing is probably the closest comparison. But even like, because that doesn’t have a, like a theme to it, you know, it’s, it’s less of an affinity group. Yeah. Yeah. Would you be interested in, like, meeting other Warmshowers hosts who live in the Twin Cities?

Jim: [00:43:16] Yeah, I think that would be a fun thing to do. Just compare notes with other people that have done it and talk to them about, you know, how do they vet people and and you know, what what kind of experiences they’ve had.

Ian: [00:43:32] Yeah, we’re thinking about organizing a little meetup along those lines probably sometime over the winter when, you know, when the when the touring season is is in a lull. Yeah. Yeah. I have no other details beyond that. We have not done very much planning. It’s just an idea so far. Yeah.

Ian: [00:43:50] What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start hosting and, you know, is kind of looking for the place to start?

Jim: [00:43:59] I would say sign up to Warmshowers and look at what some other people write on their profiles and look at the services that they offer. People that have come to us have found having a good, secure place to park their bikes to be important and having access to laundry facilities and showers to be real important. Our house is a one bedroom house, so like when we hosted the couple with two children, that was six of us and in the one bedroom house with one bathroom and you know, we had to take turns showering and and then they had to wait a little bit for the water heater to catch up when they were like the I think the fourth person got kind of a cool shower. You know, you just make it work and you don’t have to have a big fancy place like you have a one bedroom apartment and and you are able to host people. And that’s, you know, that’s really cool that you don’t have to have a fancy place. You just offer them a little bit what you have and and go from there.

Ian: [00:45:25] Yeah. And I was kind of surprised because, you know, you look around on the map and you’re like, wow, there’s so many people hosting in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. So I listed myself as available just because, like, you know, I wanted to make myself available, but I didn’t expect to get any hits because I was like, There’s so many people available and I’m offering a one bedroom apartment and who’s going to go for that over, you know, a house where they’re going to have like a private room and, you know, like more space and everything. And, you know, I can’t offer anybody, like, space to pitch their tent if that’s what if they want to go that route. Yeah. But like I’ve, I’ve hosted three people this summer and it’s like, you know, you like having a variety of different venues and different kinds of offerings I think is really valuable. Yeah. For hopefully it’s not a little too overwhelming for somebody coming into the Twin Cities and being like, Wow, I have to pick one person out of all of these. But yeah, it’s, it’s, you know, and not just like the variety of, of what kinds of homes you can stay in, but also like the variety of different people with different experiences and different kinds of like, you know, things that you’re going to be able to chat about. Yeah.

Jim: [00:46:44] Yeah, yeah. I think, you know, just the things that you don’t expect or you don’t know about, it’s kind of serendipity. You just, well, we’ll try it and see how it works out. I think one thing for both your place and mine is we’re located close to bike trails.

Ian: [00:47:06] Yes. Bike trails and the light rail and light rail, the public transit is, I think, a huge, huge part.

Jim: [00:47:13] Yeah. You know, that’s something that is kind of a selling point when you’re talking to people about, you know, how do I get there? How do I get my bike that has 80 pounds of gear on it? And those are, again, things that you just kind of work out. But it’s attractive to be close to the bike trails and to the public transit and to have access to those things close by.

Ian: [00:47:39] Absolutely. And I mean, it turns out those are the things that I was looking for when I was trying to figure out where I was going to move to as well, because like I get around by bike on a daily basis. So yeah, the things that a bike tourists are going to be looking for are also the things that I’m looking for.

Jim: [00:47:55] Yeah. And the things that you have.

Ian: [00:47:58] Do you do a lot of touring these days?

Jim: [00:48:00] Um, we haven’t done much in the United States. Okay. Um, we’ve taken several tours in Europe, what they call a self-guided tour where they provide a maps and directions on where to bike from point A to point B and arrange for hotels and luggage transfers. And so that’s just a wonderful way to see parts of Europe. Our last tour was in Germany from Dresden to the outskirts of Berlin, and it was just a very interesting trip for us. We’ve lived we lived for two years in Germany back in the 1980s. And to go back and go to go to parts of Germany that we couldn’t really see at that time because that was in the East.

Ian: [00:48:57] Because it was in East Germany. Yeah.

Jim: [00:48:59] And just to kind of note the differences of what it was like now here, 30 years after the two Germanies were combined back together. But there’s still very distinct differences. And to see see what’s changed over the last 30 years from when the two Germanies were back reunited. And it’s it’s also just a wonderful way to to see any any place totally you know, you’re traveling along at a at a very modest pace. They typically don’t give you racing bikes. You get, you know, sturdy kind of city bikes. Yeah. So you’re you’re not going along at 20 miles an hour. You’re going along at 12, 10. Yeah. And you’re going through like forest roads and, and the where the farmers drive their tractors and kind of that, that level of-

Ian: [00:50:04] Probably good to have the sturdy bikes then. Yeah.

Jim: [00:50:06] Yeah yeah. Or along a river you know there’s oftentimes towpaths or canals that you can bike along and you’ve had somebody who’s arranged to show you where to go and to arrange for luggage transfer so you don’t have much that you’re carrying on your bike and hotels. Yeah.

Ian: [00:50:30] So not a whole lot of Warmshowers hosts in that in that scenario.

Jim: [00:50:35] Not in that scenario. And it’s obviously very easy to plan. Right, Because somebody else has done all that for you. There are people who bike all over Europe and do all that themselves. They look for hotels that where they can stay or Warmshowers hosts that they can stay at and, you know, have enough detail on the maps and things so they can figure out how far to go each day and things like that. And we met some people that were doing that, but it was oftentimes a little bit precarious to do all that planning yourself because you might not know exactly how far you’re going to get right, and you might sign up for, you know, going way farther than you really wanted to go and the hotels might all be booked at that particular date in time. So yeah, it’s a very easy way for a foreigner to just show up and pedal around and and have a great time. And we’ve done that several times. We’ve done several trips in Europe like that.

Ian: [00:51:44] Like you said, with you never know quite how far you’re going to make it, you know, any given day. Like that’s one of the reasons that when I’m touring I try not to plan farther ahead than like a day or two. Yeah, exactly. Because you don’t want those ripple effects to just, like, Cascade. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Which stresses my partner the heck out because she is like a planner and she, like-

Jim: [00:52:07] Wants everything lined up, and- Yeah, that’s more like my wife, too. She’s not comfortable with these kind of. “Oh, we’ll, we’ll take care of that tomorrow” sort of scenarios. If it isn’t all laid out. She’s not, not happy.

Ian: [00:52:25] Yeah. Yeah. We’ve had to, like, strike a balance between, like, Okay. We have plan A all laid out and we have a few backup options for like where we can stay in between those places. Yeah.

Jim: [00:52:40] One thing that is really nice about being a host and being hosted through Warmshowers is you can help your guests find their way through the really pretty parts of the city and the really nice bike trails and things like that. I have a Warmshowers person who we didn’t think we could host, but she’s going to be here on Saturday and I’m going to just show her around. We’re going to go biking together.

Ian: [00:53:12] Nice, there you go! And that’s yeah, that’s that’s a wonderful because it’s not just about, yeah, hosting people and providing a place to stay, but providing that, you know, friendship and.

Jim: [00:53:25] And just a local guide, you know, somebody that can take you along the river road and show you some interesting places or along Minnehaha Creek to the chain of lakes or something like that.

Ian: [00:53:39] Yeah, I think most of my guests, once they arrive here and they realize that, like, I can talk for forever about, you know, transportation stuff and about like local history, you know, like all these little, little tidbits that I have floating up in my brain that’s, you know, yeah, we take we we take them, you know, walking along Milwaukee Avenue for sure like any chance that we get. Yeah.

Jim: [00:54:08] Since it’s so close it’s only a block away.

Ian: [00:54:10] Exactly. Yeah. Well Jim, thanks for coming on the show. You’ll definitely have to send this to your son, because I’m sure he’ll be impressed that you’re. That you’re on Streets.mn.

Jim: [00:54:23] My son has written a few articles for Streets.mn and, yeah, this will be my first.

Ian: [00:54:32] There we go.

Ian: [00:54:34] Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn podcast!

This show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivative license. So feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it, and you are not profiting from it.

The music in this episode is by Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet.

This episode was hosted by Christina Neel, edited by Parker Seamon aka Strongnathy, and transcribed by me, Ian R Buck. Parker is new to the podcast team, so everyone say, “hi Parker!”

We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at [podcast@streets.mn].

Find other listeners and discuss this episode on your favorite social media platform using #StreetsMNPodcast

Until next time, take care!

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Podcaster and teacher. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation. "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

About Christina Neel

Pronouns: she/her

Christina moved to the Twin Cities from the Florida Keys in 2021 and fell completely in love with the area. She works as a City and Regional Planner and spends her days biking, singing, and hanging out with her cat named California. Events Committee volunteer