It's kind of like couch-surfing, but only for people on bicycles.
Nothing beats a home-cooked meal and a warm shower at the end of a long day in a bike saddle. For most bike travellers, these are rare luxuries, hard to find in a roadside campground. That is why an organization called Warmshowers was created. The online community connects weary cyclists with friendly hosts who know what it's like to feel worn out and in need of a little comfort. The hosts are able to travel vicariously through their visitors' experiences, bringing the world to their own doorstep.
Warmshowers has been around since 1993, so it's not surprising it was covered on TreeHugger more than 10 years ago. At the time, Christine called it "couch-surfing for bicyclists," and that remains an apt description. The organization has grown immensely since then, although some rules remain the same. Hosts cannot be paid for their hospitality, although it is understood that guests provide a thank you gift of some kind in return or, at the very least, pay the favor forward.
Long-time bike tourer Joshua Cunningham wrote glowingly about Warmshowers in a recent article for the Guardian. On a year-long bike trip from London to Hong Kong in 2015, Cunningham stayed with many Warmshowers hosts along the way and it made the trip easier to manage, not to mention more interesting. He wrote:
"In Dushanbe, Tajikistan, I was one of 10 cyclists camping in the garden of a somewhat famous host, a French expat living in the city. Located between the western end of one of the world’s most hallowed touring roads, the Pamir Highway, and the deserts of Uzbekistan, Dushanbe is a bottleneck for pan-Eurasian bike travellers. The place was bustling with other tourers, and the garden in which we all camped provided an oasis of comfort and tranquility between the testing environments either side of the city. It was an opportunity to trade stories and tips with tourers travelling in the other direction, and provided space to recalibrate before continuing with the journey ahead."
With around 100,000 members (50 percent in Europe, 30 percent in North America), there's a good chance you'll be able to find someone to stay with along your route, or if you're a host, bring some welcome respite to a weary traveler.
You can learn more and sign up, whether you're a traveller or host, on the Warmshowers website.