How to be a good host (in a tiny apartment)

A small apartment feels significantly smaller when there’s an extra person taking up space.

And yet, when you finally have a place all your own—a place that’s yours to decorate, and I’m talking grown-up, the-art-on-the-walls-is-actually-framed place—you want to invite the people you love into that home, no matter how small it might be. Still, it can be a challenge.

Last week, my randomly-paired-college-roommate-turned-best-friend Justine came to visit all the way from New York. My and John’s apartment is just big enough for two people (and a dog, ideally) to live comfortably, but with three people, it becomes a little tight. Luckily I had months to impatiently await and meticulously prepare for Justine’s arrival, and I learned a few key things.

how to be a good host in a tiny apartment

To be a good host in a tiny apartment…

Start with the bed. Whether your guest is staying a night or a week, they’re likely going to be exhausted, yet sleeping in an unfamiliar place can lend itself to crappy rest. If your parents or any older relatives or friends are coming to stay and you don’t have a spare private bedroom, offer them your bed with fresh sheets and take the couch. For other guests, make sure you have all the bedding essentials (don’t forget a pillow) and try to create some privacy. We have a $50 air mattress that we use while camping that Justine slept on, and every morning after she got up, she folded up her blankets and put them off to the side, and we leaned the mattress up against the back wall where it would be out of the way. That way, our living room didn’t feel like a bedroom the rest of the day.

Designate spaces for the basics. Outlets and closet space can be hard to come by in a small apartment, but make the effort to free up an outlet near where your guest will be sleeping so they don’t accidentally unplug your only light source or TV to charge their phone. If they’re staying for several nights, go the extra mile and make a few closet hangers available for them to use. When Justine was here, I also let her borrow my (clean) robe so she could go back and forth between the tiny bathroom and her suitcase comfortably. I let her change in the bedroom, too, so she didn’t have to get dressed in the small, steamy bathroom post-shower.

Show them how they can help (and how to help themselves). Dishwashers don’t come standard in most apartments in L.A., so we wash everything by hand here. After showing your guest where all the food, utensils and coffee are, encourage them to wash up afterward and show where clean dishes can dry. If they’re good houseguests, they’ll be happy to help out, and your apartment won’t suffer from piled-up clutter.

Help them spend as much time out of the apartment as possible. Even though they might be here to see you, it doesn’t mean your guest wants to spend their whole visit at your place. (We’re talking tiny apartments, not hillside villas.) Get a sense of the kinds of things they’d like to do before they arrive, and whether they’re exploring off on their own or you’re playing tour guide, have a loose itinerary planned. Think of your apartment as their crash pad to cater to their basic needs, not the main attraction.

And just some good hosting etiquette in general:

Stock up on snacks and toilet paper. Show your guest where they are and they won’t have to ask your permission to eat (or, y’know, wipe themselves).

Give them your Wifi password. Why make them use up their data plan unnecessarily? Their phone will likely feel like even more of a lifeline when they’re traveling away from home, so help them use it for free.

Recommend local publications/guides/resources beforehand. Whether they want to scope out the nightlife or learn something about your town, your favorite go-to sites will probably be helpful to them, too. For the best Los Angeles-centric lists (of rooftop bars, places to eat brunch, hikes to check out), I recommend LAist.

Give them options. While I had a loose itinerary planned when Justine came to visit, I also made it flexible enough to accommodate different moods. Mexican or Italian food? Fancy drinks out or a casual happy hour around the block? If they’re relying on you for getting around and seeing the sights, giving them the power to decide in the moment what they’d rather do makes them feel like they’re not completely at your mercy.

Finally, cook for them or treat them to a meal out. No one knows exactly what to expect the first night they’re staying in someone else’s home. Treating them to dinner is your way of welcoming them and showing that you value their company. Even if you have a tiny apartment, it’s a nice gesture to give them a home-cooked meal. (John made pizza one night and Justine politely offered to help. I told her, “It’s too tiny for you to be any help” and refilled her wine glass.) A night out—your treat—is also a perfect way to welcome them and show them your town. They’ll remember your generosity when they’re cleaning up after themselves at home.

Have you ever played host in a tiny apartment? How did you make your guests feel comfortable? Or, if you’ve been a guest in someone else’s home, what gestures have you most appreciated from your hosts?

 

Summer Road Trip Series: a trip around Iceland

Do ponies, waterfalls and a glacial lagoon sound good to you? Then you’ll love Inness’ trip to Iceland.

Last year, Inness and her partner Tyler traveled clockwise around Iceland starting in Reykjavik, visiting thermal pools, wearing Icelandic sweaters and eating local fare along the way. She sums it up well here: “One of the best adventures of my life.” Read on!

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THE INSPIRATION

“We took our trip last July (2013) and it lasted 8 days. We traveled clockwise around the entire country in that time, although we didn’t reach all of the periphery (or the islands off the mainland). The main places we hit were Reykjavik, Snaefellsness, Akureyri, Myvatn, Northeast and East Iceland, Vik, and the Blue Lagoon. Every stop was a fun stop!

I had just turned 25 and I wanted to commemorate that milestone birthday with an epic trip to an I-named country (“I” for “Inness”). I told Tyler, my partner, to choose from Ireland, Israel, Iceland, or Italy, and he chose Iceland.”

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THE HIGHLIGHTS

“The most amazing thing, no, ONE of the most amazing things about Iceland is that the terrain is ever-changing. There is so much to see packed into one tiny little country, and that’s even excluding the entire middle! One minute you’ll be trundling through a lava field; then you’re barreling down a gravel path toward a humongous waterfall; then you’re rounding the bend and your breath is taken away by a sudden glacial lagoon that appears through the parting mist. You can see a lot in eight days, since it’s a small country, but you could also spend a month or more and never exhaust all of Iceland’s wonders. I highly recommend renting a car and getting out of Reykjavik, as cool and charming a city as it is – road trip is definitely the way to enjoy Iceland! (At least in the summer.)

Memories that really stick out to me: drinking Brennivin at midnight (with the sun still up!) in a thermal river; eating a giant bowl of perfectly buttery, garlicky Icelandic lobsters in Hofn (which is pronounced like a hiccup, kind of); trying to pronounce Icelandic words in general and failing completely; filling my water bottle from a waterfall; Akureyri’s perfect ice cream and weird parking rules; sticking my feet in Dettifoss, the world’s most powerful waterfall; picking out the perfect handmade Icelandic sweater; all the amazing pools. Also, the Icelandic people – they won’t always return your smile (they just smile less than Americans do, which is true of most other countries apparently), but they are outrageously kind and generous and will go out of their way for a stranger. They are also very well-dressed, and men and women alike appear to be very fond of tailored red trousers.”

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I either want to drive around all of Ireland or Scotland, or drive through all of the lower 48 states in the U.S.”

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Inness’ Blog // Twitter // Instagram

Thanks for sharing your trip, Inness! Iceland is officially on my list of places I need to visit.

And just like that, the Summer Road Trip Series has come to an end.

We’ve met eight fascinating explorers with eight incredible adventures to share, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have. (If you haven’t seen them all, you can check out the rest of the series posts here.) But just because the series is over doesn’t mean summer is yet. Do you have any trips planned before the end of the season? And what’s your favorite road trip you’ve ever taken? 

It’s been a busy summer around these parts (especially this month), but I’m looking forward to getting back in the blogging groove with a few minor changes to make balancing grad school, work and life a little easier. Thanks for following along!

Summer Road Trip Series: biking from NYC to San Francisco

A lot of people have driven across the country, but how many can say they’ve biked cross-country?

Our next Summer Road Trip Series guest can. Meet Anne Wave, a member of the Illini 4000. This nonprofit dedicated to fighting cancer just wrapped up its annual cross-country bike ride, and Anne was one of the 20 riders who braved the elements and elevation to ride exactly 4489.6 miles across 16 states. Badass? I think yes.

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THE INSPIRATION

“I decided last September that I wanted to join this group of crazed people so full of life, and we were going to bike from New York City to San Francisco. I just graduated from college this May so I wanted to take charge of my last possible summer, and biking coast-to-coast was my answer. Also! This group of folks happens to be a 501(c)3 non-profit that raises money for cancer research and support services. We’re at right about $90K for the 2014 team so far. The trip takes 72 days—I’m writing on the road!—so we left on May 24 and we arrive August 3. For a rough description, our route took us from New York through the Appalachian mountains through the plains (with a stop in my hometown, Chicago!) to the Rockies up to Oregon and down through the Cascade mountains, south through California so that we end in San Fran.”

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THE HIGHLIGHTS

“We’ve had really interesting days. The day we rode into Alliance, Nebraska was one of the more challenging ones for me; we had strong headwinds that whipped up across the plains plus intense heat. But! The end of that day took us to Carhenge, which is America’s Stonehenge made of old cars spray painted brownish tan. It’s like, a big thing. Car art. It was bizarre and awesome. Mostly bizarre.

Another day in Nebraska, we were stopping for a quick water break in Atkinson when a man came up to me and asked about all the bikes outside; when I told him what we do, he asked if I knew Jack, the kid that ran the touchdown in the Nebraska Huskers game last year. I said “yes! The little boy with cancer?” And he told me that’s his son. He and his wife started the Team Jack Foundation two years ago, have raised nearly $2 million for pediatric cancer research, and he happened to be at the gas station filling up before going in to work when my team and I stopped for a rest. He was such an inspiration for us; we dedicated the next day’s ride to his son, Jack.

The day we rode into Lancaster, Pennsylvania was also a riot. First off, Lancaster is the Amish capital of the country. We were about 15 miles outside of our destination for the night when winds whipped up and a storm came speeding towards us with such intensity that we had to get off the road. We were wandering the streets looking for shelter when an Amish man hollered at us asking if we wanted to seek refuge in his barn. We parked it there for two hours rationing out what snacks we could find in our pockets while rain and hail came down on the roof. Then we booked it in.”

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“As for my next adventure, I’m trying to get my post-grad life together to move to New Orleans when my trip is over. On the traveling side, I would love to see the Andes and spend some time in Ecuador and Peru. I’ve loved the time I spent in Central America—it’s time to go South. Maybe I’ll even bring my bike!”

Anne’s Twitter // Instagram // Team Website

Since Anne wrote this from the road, the group completed its ride and reached San Francisco. Read more about it here!

Any cyclists out there who would love to do what Anne has done? I’m pretty inspired myself to go on a long bike ride… up the street.

Check back this time next week for the final installment of the Summer Road Trip Series for some incredible photos from one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

Summer Road Trip Series: from Melbourne down the Great Ocean Road

It’s time for an international road trip, yes?

Olivia of Halfway Somewhere took an amazing trip along the southern coast of Australia, and she shares her journey with us here today.

In her own words:

“The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s iconic destinations, and in December of last year (I’m in the southern hemisphere, so it was a summer trip!), I finally took the time to drive most of the way along it with my sister. We grew up just a few hours away but, like is often the case with places in your own state, it took me over 20 years to get there.”

Great Ocean Road

THE INSPIRATION

“I’d been wanting to do the trip for a while, but since I live far away for uni, whenever I went back home, I was too busy seeing friends and family to take the time. There really wasn’t any particular reason for going other than it was just time to get our act together and finally visit this area of the country.

We drove from Melbourne down to Geelong and from there it’s straight down to Torquay and onto the Great Ocean Road. There’s a lot of awesome little beach towns to stop in on along the way – Anglesea, Airey’s Inlet, and Lorne, to name a few.”

Great Ocean Road

THE HIGHLIGHTS

“One of the most fun stops along the way was the Split Point lighthouse. There’s nothing extraordinary about the lighthouse itself, except for the fact that it was the setting for a popular kids show in Australia in the ’90s, Round the Twist. We were singing the theme song for hours that day.

The other obvious one is the Twelve Apostles, the main attraction of the Great Ocean Road. We stopped by a few times since the first time they were mostly shrouded in fog and we stayed overnight close by. In the evening the view was amazing. Then as the sun went down, there were hundreds of baby penguins making their way in from the water, which was awesome to watch.

We stopped in Port Campbell, which is a really fun small town. The official Great Ocean Road goes all the way down to Warnambool, although you could actually keep going all the way to South Australia if you wanted to and had the time.”

Great Ocean Road

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I just ticked off two road trip I’d been wanting to do (around the south of the USA and around the redwoods in California). My ultimate dream road trip is to buy an old Winnebago and spend a year or more slowly driving around. I’ve been a bit obsessed with this idea for a while now and my short recent trips and have only made it worse. Hopefully I can save up enough to do that in 2016, but we’ll have to see.”

Great Ocean Road

Olivia’s Blog // Twitter // Instagram

Have you ever been to Australia? Olivia’s trip makes me want to visit.

There’s another featured road trip scheduled for this time next week—but it’s not a car. Stay tuned!

Summer Road Trip Series: from San Diego to San Francisco

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Have you ever traveled solo?

Like, get in the car/on a plane and spend a night or week or month (!) discovering, eating and sleeping by yourself?

I’ve realized… that I haven’t. Long day trips, yes, but I’ve yet to experience the peaceful silence of solitude that descends at night on my own. I’d like to change that one of these days, but for now, I’ll live vicariously through my next Summer Road Trip Series featured guest. Meet Corey of But We Will Stay, and follow along on her adventure traveling from San Diego to San Francisco!

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THE INSPIRATION

“To get out of town. To think in quiet. To take pictures. It was to see a friend that had just gotten back from Afghanistan and then explore some places on the California coast that I had seen Kevin Russ take amazing pictures of and that I never knew existed.”

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THE HIGHLIGHTS

“I almost didn’t go in the beginning AND when I first go to Fairfield my car smelled like sulfur… turns out the battery in my car was all but bursting into flames by the time I got to a Pep Boys the next morning. My clothes, being that they were in the trunk (where my battery is in my car, weird I know) smelled of sulfur so I had to air them out a bit.

I went Zuma Beach in Malibu to take a picture of a FOOD sign and went on to Santa Monica Pier to ride the ferris wheel. Turns out you are not allowed to do so by yourself there, so by myself so an employee had to ride with me.

I also went to Photobooth SF to get my tintype taken. That was an awesome experience and I highly recommend it. They have all different sorts of toy cameras and refurbished polaroid cameras. After getting my tin type I headed down the coast to stay in Morro Bay. The next morning I went to Montaña de Oro beach and Pirate’s Cove/Shell Beach. It ended up being a nude beach, but as it was very overcast when I was there, there were only a few sunbathing.”

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“In the fall I am moving out to Nashville, TN. I am so, so excited not just to live in a new city but to road trip it through the states to get there. I have my current plan on Roadtrippers. I am moving and making the most out of the trip, stopping and going a little out of my way here and there to see gorgeous things. I am so excited. I love road trips so much.”

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Corey’s Blog // Instagram // Twitter 

Good luck on your big move, Corey!

The series continues this time next week—with an international road trip!