Who Said No Camping Equals Expensive Accommodations on Cycling Tours?

In an earlier post, I shared how I don’t camp during my cycling adventures and outlined a series of reasons all highly personal and likely not relevant to many. There are those who relish the opportunity to spend the night beneath the stars viewing it as a significant component of their bike touring experience.

Several readers joined in the conversation, sharing their similar insights or explaining why camping holds its unique appeal for them. 

A couple voiced their wish to follow suit, noting that traversing a country or continent by bicycle and choosing to stay in hotels each night must come at quite a steep cost.

This brings us to the topic of today’s blog post. 

I never stated that I opt for hotels or other forms of paid accommodation such as Airbnb, motels, hostels or B&Bs EVERY single night! 

In truth, this would be an incredibly costly manner in which to explore the world on two wheels and my budget is not so lavish that I could afford it, even in my wildest fantasies. 

Let’s set the record straight. Choosing to camp doesn’t automatically equate to a cost-free endeavour. There are numerous parts of the globe where cyclotourists can’t simply pitch a tent and declare the day done but must check into assigned areas that require a fee. 

Some adventurous souls will test their luck and attempt to “wild camp” outside of designated campsites, an act that may be free or charged and that comes with its own array of logistical complications. 

In my case, choosing to sleep indoors doesn’t necessarily mean footing the bill every time. 

If I were to estimate, I’d say that only about 20% of my nights are spent in establishments where payment is necessary. 

In these instances, my first choice is Airbnb due to its affordability and flexible hosts (not to mention the often essential laundry facilities) and I resort to hotels, motels and B&Bs when there are no available Airbnbs. This is particularly the case in less populated regions or in areas where Airbnb is prohibited, like in the Northern part of my impending trip across Europe.

Many readers have noticed that I have a GoFundMe page set up to help me cover this inevitable part of the expedition. If you support my music, adventures, writings and/or charitable mission, a contribution will be more than appreciated.

So how do I manage to secure free accommodation?

1) Family & Friends

I have connections with people from various parts of the globe and fortunately, we’ve remained good friends. Therefore, when an adventure beckons, I reach out to them personally or announce my project on social media quickly filling up my accommodation slots. 

For example, during my upcoming European tour, I’ll be spending my nights in the homes of personal friends and extended family members in countries such as the Netherlands, the UK, France and Switzerland. I estimate this will account for about 50% of my stays.

The cool thing with this is that I also get to spend time with loved ones whom I have missed quite a lot!

2) Supporters

I don’t much care for the terms ‘fan’ or ‘follower’ as they imply a certain level of self-importance but they are perhaps the best terms to categorise this group of people. They don’t know me personally, but they enjoy and support what I bring to the table – in my case, my music (I’m a professional DJ with a YouTube channel with over 400 million streams of DJ mixes), my adventure stories shared via social media and this blog and my charity endeavours.

3) Warm Showers

There is a site called Warm Showers which consists of cyclists or friends of cyclists hosting travelling cyclists. It’s free, with the expectation that the favour will be returned by hosting cyclists once they finish their own journeys and return home.

This works similarly to CouchSurfing, if you’re familiar with that platform. They offer a map where people are listed, and you simply send a message introducing yourself. If they’re available, able and willing, you work out the details together. 

Some offer camping space, some offer a room, sofa or floor. Some provide food and laundry facilities while others offer accommodation only. But the most important part for me is to be indoors.

While most nights find me comfortably nestled in conventional bedrooms, there have been times where the accommodation was different. I’ve shared rooms with fellow travellers headed to the same destination. On one memorable occasion in California, I ended up on an inflatable mattress inside a volunteer firefighter’s garage – a night where I had to take care not to lean my bike against the emergency vehicle or block its path! There have been nights where I was cradled in a hammock in a solarium in Québec, bobbing gently on a boat on Lake Ontario, or cosily tucked in an RV or caravan in New Mexico. The variety is truly endless when it comes to finding a place to rest after a long day of cycling.

The real highlight, however, is getting to know my hosts. This is what I anticipate most as the majority of them have also been on remarkable bicycle adventures in various parts of the world. You can imagine how evenings are spent exchanging stories and comparing experiences! 

Warm Showers will account for roughly 30% of my forthcoming journey across Europe. 

If you subscribe to the principle of “what goes around comes around” then perhaps this is life returning the favour…

Since relocating to Montréal, Canada, I’ve played host to over 200 people. Many of them were personal friends however a significant number were complete strangers, connected to me in some way – friends of friends, relatives or associates. These guests ranged from newcomers to the city especially university students and tourists, to artists on tour and even entire families. In certain instances, I have even surrendered my entire flat to my guests, opting to temporarily bunk with my parents instead.

So, I’ve just outlined three ways I manage to avoid camping during my bicycle adventures while also evading the expense of paid accommodation. 

I must acknowledge that this system works for me thanks to my extensive personal and professional network and an adaptable personality. I understand that it might not be suitable for everyone. 

Moreover, my network often introduces me to their families and friends who live in cities or towns along my route. This leads to unexpected and wonderful connections and experiences. 

To end this post that’s becoming too long, the friendships, camaraderie and unforgettable memories created through these unique encounters represent the true spirit of MY cycling adventures. Each journey becomes more than just traversing geographical landscapes but a deeper exploration of human connections, shared stories and collective kindness. 

As I ride on, the balance between solitude on the saddle and the warmth of companionship at the end of the day contributes greatly to my mental wellbeing. It’s a symbiotic relationship of giving and receiving which makes the whole experience not just about the ride, but the journey and the people who become a part of it.

This is a post by JaBig, a Canadian DJ who is (as of this writing) about to cycle across Europe from North Cape, Norway to Tarifa to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, in addition to embarking on a dream adventure of a lifetime. 

You can donate directly to World Bicycle Relief by clicking here or you can contribute towards his trip expenses by clicking here.