I got this! Figuring out affordable accommodations is what I do. It’s part of my skill set. These days there are a number of options for shelter. Here is the pecking order…
Couchsurfing – I’ve been couch surfing for about five years. I have a profile up on the official couch surfing website. I couch surfed numerous times in the San Juan Islands, I couch surfed every time I went back and forth to Los Angeles (four times) and I couch surfed on my three-week road trip to Wyoming last summer. It is completely free and you meet all kinds of interesting people outside of your normal orbit of interaction which is why I love it so much. I stayed with the founder of Earth First and a famous world-class climber in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; a blood marrow transplant patient in Portland, Oregon; the director of the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon; a family who rode their bikes from Prudhoe, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina in Boise, Idaho and countless artists, doctors, PhD professors, and blue-collar workers. All storytellers in their own right and adventurers at heart.
Warmshowers – This is a couchsurfingesqu opportunity for bike riders. This organization exists to accommodate bike tourers who need a place to lay their weary heads and, of course, take a shower. Although I am registered for this organization, I haven’t yet used it. In the U.S. it is quit popular. In South America, it is just catching on. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Hostels – Huge fan of the low-budget hostel. Usually a dorm room (sometimes co-ed, sometimes gender specific) where you can use the kitchen, sit in a public area and swap stories with other travelers, and usually find a buddy or two from some exotic country in the world to have a beer with, or even hang-out with for the day or more. Used to be “Youth” hostels now people of all ages participate. Can be crazy fun or just loud and annoying.
Cheap Hotels – I’ve had more than my fair share of these flea-bag hell-holes. I think my 75 cent accommodation in Goa, India takes the prize. My room was a cement block with around six-by-ten square feet of space. My bed was a metal hospital gurney complete with overhead bar and wheels in which to push the bed around. This gurney, about three feet off the ground, turned out to be a god-send because it was high enough and the metal was slippery enough that the rats couldn’t climb up. Yep, I decided to up my game after that horrid night!
Airbnb – You all know this! Again, register at the official website then hunt for a place that fits your needs. I rarely use this because I prefer the exchange or barter systems whenever possible but this is a good alternative when you don’t want to engage on a social level when you just want space to zone out. I’ll be in La Paz for about 3 weeks before I begin my trip. I rented a room in an apartment in a “safe” and trendy part of town for this first leg of the journey. Since I will have my bike and all my equipment, I want to be as safe as possible opposed to the rest of the trip where it’s a total crapshoot. So, I’m paying the big bucks ($15 a night) to share an apartment with Margarita. I’m excited to have a home to cook meals in and a built-in Bolivian friend to get advice from and maybe even go out to dance the Cha cha cha…oh wait a minute, I mean a Bolivian Huayno (traditional dance).
Camping – Pretty straight forward…you find a campsite, pay the site host for the spot, pitch your tent, use their bathroom and, if you’re lucky, have a little campfire. Life is good!
Stealth camping – Not so straight forward…you look around for a hidden spot just off the road but hopefully near a water source, you try to stay hidden, no campfire, no singing kumbaya, you eat, enjoy the solitude, then get in your tent right before it’s dark, pull your sleeping bag over your head and pray the Sasquatches, Yetis, Apus, or whatever local legend lurks around the corner, doesn’t come and suck your bone marrow dry through a portal in your big toe just as your foot slips out of your bag during the night while you are sleeping. It could happen!
(Top image: Public gazebo in Kaslo, British Columbia.)