Friends and Family and Gigs: Is a Homestay the Way to Go (or No)?

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When you have an out of town gig that happens to be near a friend or family member, you may have mixed emotions, many of which are positive: a free place to stay and visits with someone you love! And of course some that are perhaps not so positive: family dynamics can be stressful, friends can be passive aggressive, and you are in someone else’s space. But unless you’ve stayed there before and know better, there are many things that most people just don’t consider before accepting an invitation to stay (or they asked if they could stay) with someone. If you’ve been offered a place and you are considering whether you should take your friends/family up on their generosity or spring for your own accommodations, here are some things to consider, and what to do about them:

1. The length of the stay
Is it just for a few days? Or a few weeks? Being in someone else’s space and adjusting to their living patterns might not be a big deal if it’s for a short period of time, but there will certainly be a lot more to consider if it is to be an extended stay.

ACTION ITEM: Determine the total length of time necessary and then answer the action items below, keeping that in mind.

2. Location
Is the place in a busy part of town? Off the beaten path? How long will it take you to get where you must go each day? Sometimes convenient locations can also be horribly noisy. Sometimes nice and quiet can be a really inconvenient commute. I once stayed in a fantastic flat in a super convenient location in the heart of Rome…and the traffic and noise didn’t stop until 4am and started back up at 6am…

ACTION ITEM: If you’re not familiar with the exact location, look at the location on Google maps, and look at the possible/necessary mode(s) of transportation. Ask you potential host if the area is typically noisy or quiet, including whether they have noisy neighbors.

3. The space itself
Will you be in a common area on a couch or an inflatable mattress, or in a room of your own? Will you have access to a separate bathroom, or will you share? Again, these things might be less of an issue for a short visit, but that also depends on what’s at stake. Sometimes flying in the night before for an audition or gig the next day means decompressing and sleep time is at a premium, and a not-so-comfy sofa and your friend’s morning coffee grinder ritual may not be the best things for you.

ACTION ITEM: Ask your potential host about space logistics.

4. Timing
Does your potential host tend to stay up until 2am or get up at 5am, and if so does it affect the space in which you will be sleeping (would you hear them)? Would you be coming in from rehearsals/performances at very late hours, and if so would that affect your host? Does your host have a weekly meeting in the space or teach lessons from home? Does your host have a similar schedule to you but a partner who doesn’t? Timing can make a big difference in your comfort while staying at someone else’s place.

ACTION ITEM: Ask your potential host about daily living schedules for everyone living there and determine if any of your schedules might cause a problem for another.

5. Noise making
Can you practice in the space, or would you need to find somewhere else to do that? This also goes back to the location, and whether practicing elsewhere would be possible given your schedule and proximity to the practice space. It may not be a good match if it’s an hour commute to rehearsals and there’s a 3 hour gap between when you can have a space to practice and that rehearsal. The importance of this is based on individual needs.

ACTION ITEM: Ask the potential host if it is acceptable (or not) for you to practice in the space. Weigh the answer against location/schedule logistics if necessary.

6. Personalities
Are you quiet and your host has really big energy? Do you and your host have the tendency to stay up all night screaming with laughter even when you know you need to sleep? Have you known your host to be passive aggressive, or talk incessantly with no clue that you are trying to have some quiet time? Does your host have the potential to become frantic/stressed out/anxious over things frequently? Does your host have a partner/roommates, and if so are the current relationships amiable? Personalities can be a huge factor in homestay success. Remember, just because you know someone doesn’t mean you know what it’s like to live with them.

ACTION ITEM: You know your potential host, and you may or may not know all of the possible personality traits. Consider what you do know and be prepared to have an honest talk about the unknowns that might affect you. (“Will you promise me that I can let you know when I need to go to bed and you will make me do it?”) (“Will you promise to tell me if I’m doing something that bothers you so I can correct it?”)

7. Family dynamics
Do you get nagged every time you go home about your job, your income, or when you’re going to have kids? Are you badgered by a well-intended worrier? Does some kind of conflict always seem to happen? It’s definitely worth considering whether staying with family is more stressful than finding somewhere else to stay. Sometimes family is highly supportive and can really help you with things, other times they can mean well and get in the way, and still for others it can be a source of continuous high stress.

ACTION ITEM: Think honestly about whether staying with family works for you. If not, be prepared to explain why you need to stay somewhere else and to hold your ground if they insist you’re being ridiculous. Especially if it is a high-profile gig, you want to ensure that you are not sacrificing your own well-being.

8. Space organization
Are you messy? Are you a neat freak? What about your host? I recall being invited to step in to a space where a dear friend was staying while she was finishing getting ready, and I was speechless – it looked like a tornado had been through there. Living in that kind of an environment would have been very stressful to me, and yet for my friend, living in a space where everything was neat and in a designated place would be stressful for her! A space that is the opposite of your organizational comfort can be stressful, and there are many factors that can determine whether this is an issue, such as whether you have your own room/bathroom, or whether you are generally messy but can keep your space organized and clean during your stay, etc.

ACTION ITEM: Ask your potential host about being messy vs. neat, and determine whether your two styles are compatible based on the living dynamics.

9. Eating
Would you get meals cooked for you for free? Would you have access to the kitchen? Would you be able to cook for yourself? Does your host have a kitchen, or is the kitchen a hot plate sitting on the counter? This can be very important, particularly if you have dietary restrictions.

ACTION ITEM: Ask your potential host if you would be able to use the kitchen and cook. If your host cooks for you, offer to pitch in during mealtime and to help pay for the groceries. And if you intend to do a lot of cooking, offer to cook for your host!

10. Communication, Boundaries, and Consideration
Can you ask for things when you need them? Can you kindly establish boundaries for staying up or talking too much? Can you communicate your needs effectively and initiate communication in order to resolve any unspoken tension if necessary? Can you be sensitive to the needs of others while ensuring that you don’t sacrifice your own? Of all things to consider, these may be the most important. Effective communication habits, establishing boundaries, and being considerate of others are essential to any relationship. Staying with friends/family can either strengthen relationships or push them apart, and you have a much better chance of the relationship growing if you can do these things well.

ACTION ITEM: Do a self-evaluation to determine your strengths and weaknesses in these areas and see if you need to work on anything before you would stay with someone.

Taking these factors into consideration can only increase your chances of having a successful stay while you’re away from home. And while money is usually the driving factor in whether you stay with someone, talking about these things with a host can clear the way for less potential obstacles when you’re there. And if you have more than one potential host in a given location, talk to each one about these things! Your ability to regulate self-care while traveling could make or break your experience, so taking this extra step can make a world of difference. Happy traveling!

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