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Category: Travel

Be a Good House Guest

We have lived in Munich for nearly 3 years and over this time we have had a lot of guests stay with us. We hoped that our friends and family would come to visit, which is why we rented a 2 bedroom flat to make it easy to stay with us. We have been so fortunate to have dozens of visitors over the years, but we have noticed some things that good house guests do and some things that other house guests do. If you follow these pieces of advice, I guarantee you will be a good house guest.

Good house guests come with a plan. We send all of our guests a long list of our favorite things to do in and around Munich. Good guests have read it or have done their own research and have a few ideas when they arrive. They don’t plan every minute of every day (unless that is their thing), but they do a have a few ideas in mind.

Good house guests will do things on their own. We want to visit with our guests – it’s the best part of having house guests – but they’re on vacation, and unfortunately we’re not. We don’t want to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp with every person who visits us, but they should visit it. Being in a new place means making a wrong turn or getting on the wrong train and good house guests don’t expect us to be their daily tour guide.

Good house guests contribute. We love to cook and host, but expecting every breakfast and dinner to be cooked is a lot. Good house guests offer to cook and offer to buy groceries. In fact, they don’t just offer, they go for a walk, buy groceries and tell us they’re making dinner. It’s very thoughtful.

Good house guests pick up the tab. They don’t pay for everything, but again, they’re on vacation and we are not. They want to experience the local culture which often comes in the form of going out for food or attending events. This gets very expensive for hosts who are expected to do it for every visitor. Good house guests buy a few meals or pay for an event admission every once in a while. Sometimes it just faster and easier for us to buy a transit pass for our guests. Good house guests recognized that and make sure to pay us back.

Good house guests carry a lot of local currency. Cash is king in Munich, particularly for small purchases. We tell that to all of our guests. Good house guests get cash immediately so they can confidently pay food or transportation as they need. This isn’t just in Munich either, a lot of Europe will only take cash for small purchases.

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Connected and Disconnected

It’s been more than 20 years since I took my first trip to Europe. I traveled by myself and it was scary and exciting. As someone who grew up in a small town in Canada during the 70s and 80s my only knowledge of the world came from school, television, libraries and the family encyclopedia set (Funk & Wagnalls). I spent hours, definitely days, possibly months laying on the family room floor reading our atlas. I studied cities and countries all over the world. Honestly I have no idea why – I’m sure there is a post about a small town kid dreaming about seeing the world.

My trip had very little plan to it. I had  a too large backpack, a plane ticket from Winnipeg to London (and back), a Eurorail ticket, and a Lonely Planet guidebook. In 1998, I did have an email address and dialup access to the internet, but I didn’t even think to use, what we called, the World Wide Web to plan my trip.

My trip was amazing. I spent 2 months meeting and traveling with new people the entire time. I stayed in cities as long as I wanted and left when I felt like it was time. No itinerary and no reservations. The thing that made the trip so special for me wasn’t the cities or countries (they were fantastic), but it was that I got out of my comfort-zone, talked to strangers, became friends, ate dinner together, traveled together, said goodbye, moved on to new destinations and did it all over again.

Currently I find myself living in Europe and still traveling a lot with my wife. What strikes me when we travel is how connected and disconnected travelers seem. It happens to me too. Sometimes I find myself traveling alone, either for work or for pleasure, and I am connected and disconnected. I’m connected, reading the news while I eat eggs in the morning. I’m messaging friends and family all over the world while I drink a glass of red wine, but I’m disconnected from the place I’m in. I rarely talk to or get to know strangers. I wonder if this happens with younger travelers today? Those experiences of getting out of my comfort-zone to meet people had a huge influence on who I am today. I hope that travelers today still get those same experiences.

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