A global community of dirty travelers on a tight budget

Posted by Megan Wycklendt on October 19, 2015

If we were looking for something to restore faith in humanity, warmshowers.org is it! A concept that is almost too good to be true where people welcome strangers into their home, give them a place to stay, most often a warm meal and laundry, and of course the promise of a warm shower. This hospitality website, similar to couchserfing.com in that it offers free accommodation, is specifically for bicycle travelers. It. is. awesome.

(Cyclists Welcome)

This global community of travelers is based on the pay-it-forward concept. People sign up and host people when they are available or ask to be a guest when they are adventuring themselves. It’s a great way to travel on a budget, meet local people, and find out about the hidden gems of a town. If you are worried about safety, you can read up on the reviews that past guests/hosts have written about them. The thousands of people who sign up to host on WS know that the first thing you’ll want is a shower, probably laundry, and a warm meal. They are expecting you’ll have all your bike gear with you, and will know where the nearest bike shop is. As much as we love camping, we will be using Warm Showers whenever possible.

(Welcome sign)

Unfortunately, since most of Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia is wilderness, we haven’t had many options for Warm Showers or couchsurfing for that matter, mainly because there aren’t many people living where we are biking. The first opportunity to use Warm Showers was in Whitehorse and with our lack of phone service and limited wifi, we contacted a warm showers host 2 days before we arrived. We were thrilled and relieved to see a reply from Phillipe, who told us that he might not be home but to go on in and make ourselves at home with showers and laundry. We tested the theory that people in Canada don’t lock their doors, and we had the best showers of our lives.

Although it was incredible to feel clean again and have a warm place to rest for a day, the best part of our Warm Showers experience was meeting Phillipe. From the moment we rolled up to his house, I couldn’t wait to meet him. He told us we would know which house was his and he sure was right. The massive dome made out of hundreds of bicycle wheels was a site to see. As a bike-enthusiast, handy-man, and artist, his house was a peak inside of a creative mind and the backyard was a collection of hundreds of old bikes, tools and parts. He cooked a delicious caribou shepard’s pie and we talked until 2am about everything from relationships to politics.

In the weeks that followed Whitehorse, we met many amazing people who welcomed us into their home and took care of us but it wasn’t for another 800 miles that we had our second Warm Showers stay.

When we made it to Kitwanga, the bottom of the Cassiar highway, we were thrilled to have made it past the winter weather of the north and enjoy rides surrounded by beautiful Fall colors again. We also found ourselves pedaling faster knowing there was at the promise of laundry and a warm shower in Smithers, British Colombia. We were welcomed by travel and outdoors enthusiasts, Kirsteen and Andy, who right away showed us where to find the shower, a bed, and the washing machine. We guessed it wasn’t their first time hosting touring cyclists. After getting washed up we could smell something delicious brewing from the kitchen and enjoyed hours of good conversation over a home-cooked meal. They told us about the many outdoors activities Smithers has to offer and we jumped on the opportunity to go on a day hike to see a panorama view of the valley. It felt refreshing (and weird) to use some non-cycling specific muscles for a change.

Our next Warm Showers host was not far outside of Smithers but we couldn’t miss a stay with this bike legend. We had heard about John from a few people who had stayed with him while on their own bike tours. As the owner of a RV camp, and a bike adventurer himself, he built a cabin to house cycling tourists and had a sign at the road expressing, “Cyclists Welcome.” John was outside waiting for us when we rolled in, showed us to the cabin and invited us into his home for dinner once we were cleaned up. We had a blast listening to his motorcycle journeys around North and South America and his many cycle tours around Cuba. His girlfriend, Cheryl, was the sweetest lady who had incredible stories of living in a teepee in the wilderness in her 20s (I nearly begged her to write a book). Cheryl had also started a guitar camp in town and played some of of her many catchy and clever songs that she had written. We left the camp deeply inspired by their coolness.

We will never be able to sufficiently express our gratitude to our 4th warm showers hosts, Dee Jay and Kerry. The feedback I wrote on their Warm Showers profile sums up pretty well how I feel about them.

Dee Jay and Kerry are the ideal Warm Shower hosts and they deserve an award. Here are my reasons:

  1. They are incredibly welcoming. Kerry even biked out of town to meet us and guide us back to their home.

  2. They are extremely knowledgeable about bicycle touring. They have been on countless bicycle tours and long distance hiking trips. They helped us go through our stuff and leave the non-essentials, fixed our front racks so that our weight is more balanced on the bike, and told us many stories of their inspiring adventures.

  3. They are genuinely kind and want to help you. I was battling a tight IT band and leg cramps. They gave me tips, taught me semantics, and insisted that I stay until my legs were healthy again. If I would have rushed back on the bike, my leg (and possibly the rest of my journey) would have suffered. They are heroes.

  4. They are amazing cooks. They know exactly how hungry you get while bicycle touring. They fed us huge, delicious meals and Dee Jay is a five star baker.

  5. They are the best conversationalists. The best part of staying with Dee Jay and Kerry was getting to know them. They have had very interesting lives and can talk in depth about practically any topic you can think of. I learned so much from them and thoroughly enjoyed our many talks.

  6. Dee Jay makes the best cookies I have ever tasted. I seriously can’t stop thinking about them.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

If you need your faith restored in humanity, jump on a bike and stop for a Warm Shower. It’s heart-warming to know that thousands of people sign up to open up their home and help out strangers from the road. This is a global community to be proud of and you can bet I’ll be working to pay-it-forward for the rest of my life.