Around 24 years ago, a small group of cycle tourists published a list in the internet of people willing to host cycle tourists in the US of A. As of February of 2017 there are 82,578 members of which 44,669 are hosting cyclists all over the globe.
Since then Warm Showers has grown to be, arguably, one of the most important communities in the cycle touring world. Connecting people that share the same passion for the bicycle and most important of all helping cyclists to fulfil their dream of seeing the world from the top of their bicycle saddles. They have accomplished this by promoting a simple idea: free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists.
For the past five years we have experienced the indescribable power Warm Showers has to enable friendships, even beyond language barriers. Because of this, we are fascinated with Warm Showers, what is stands for and what it has done for us.
This is why as part of Tasting Travels – promoting cycle touring as a model to cultivate empathy – we have decided to start a section called Cycle Touring Stories from Warm Showers. In these pieces we will share stories of hosts that have now become our friends through our 5 year cycle tour around the world. The idea comes as a way to honor our hosts and the hosts that we have yet to meet.
So without further delay and with no particular order we start off this series with the legendary Warm Shower Member from La Paz, Baja California: Tuly Arce.
It was through two friends that we stumbled upon Tuly: Semi and Sandra (her story will be next!), both had recommended her to us in our stay at La Paz.
Tuly began as a host in 2013, motivated only by her goodwill and trust in people. She had already hosted 45 cyclists before she even knew about Warm Showers when she joined in 2015. Since then she has hosted around 241 cyclists from 32 different countries. So, you get the idea: she is an experienced host!
When we arrived with Tuly, she received us like a pro. She knew exactly what we needed. She pointed out a safe place where we could park our bicycles, led us to the room we were allowed to stay, gave us the internet password and offered us fresh clean towels to take a cold shower (in this case).
It has not been the first time we had received a hostel quality reception in a home, but it never ceases me to amaze me how people like Tuly can be so giving and caring. Very quickly we established good conversations, most of the stories revolved around her previous cycle touring guests, of whom which she often refers to as friends.
She recalls with awe her first significant experience with cycle tourists. It was a young family: Nuria, Jordi and his baby Hugo. Several times she referred to Hugo as ” the adorable baby”. Tuly, a mother herself, could definitely empathise with them. Especially now that her daughters live abroad. Her friendship with Jordi, Nuria and Hugo was such that when they finished their trip and settled in Spain, one of Tuly’s daughters was hosted by them. Such a classic Warm Shower success story.
We stayed with Tuly a couple of days. She cooked for us several times, and sharing a meal with her was always characterised by long talks, deep conversations about the value of family and travel. Even though Tuly has not done a long cycle tour yet, she says that the experience of hosting has taught her a lot about filtering what is truly essential in life. She says that cycle tourists have taught her over and over again about how consumerism is not the way to go.
We could not agree more with her. She said that the first time she saw cyclists touring in the scourging sun of Baja (it can get really hot, like frying an egg on the pavement hot) she called them crazy. However now she understands why people do it, and even more how an activity which requires having very few things can make you very, very happy. She hopes to do a cycle tour soon, but as of the time I was writing this post, she had just finished a 162 km journey on foot! A great adventure nonetheless.
Tuly did not only offer us a place to stay, but she also took the time to show us around. She took us to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life: Playa Balandra. We spent the whole afternoon there with his friends as well. Just before sunset we ended up at her favourite beach bar and watched this tireless spectacle while drinking a Michelada. It could not have been a better plan, and it was thanks to her that we were able to do it.
One of the things that make Tuly very special is her genuine disposition to be friends with every cyclists she hosts. One of the cyclists she made a strong connection was with Cristina Spínola ( a well known cycle tourist in Mexico). She says she stayed there for 18 days and when she left she was very sad. She still keeps in touch and she wishes she could be reunited again with her in the near future. She did mention that every time a cyclist leaves she does feel that a part of her leaves with them.
She told us, “The only wish I have when cyclists leave, is that they come back safe to their homes.” Desire she not only longs but does her part in making it possible. Such as the time she took care of two Korean cyclists that fell ill in her home.
At one point one of the cyclists started to cry and was calling out for his mom. She hugged him and from then on the cyclist started calling her their Mexican mom.
On the last day we cooked for her and her friends. Annika and I made a type of Chicken Schwarma with Couscous Salad, tons of Tzatziki and a delicious Bratkartoffeln (a German Specialty) . It was a small thing compared with everything she had done for us. We were very happy that the food was a success, specially the Tzatziki. Tuly loved it and I gave her the recipe.
Tuly loves being a cycle tourist host. She is always looking forward to hear from cyclists coming through La Paz. Her daughters feel happy to know that their mom can make new friends. That is why they always encourage their mom to host cyclists. Months later I found out from Tuly that one of her daughters was happy to have the recipe for Tzatziki from her, that she actually got from me. It felt like a small victory for me. Being able to do something for them!
When we left, it never felt like a goodbye. We knew we would see each other again. We do come from the same peninsula and she travels a lot to Ensenada. So I guess it was different from other cyclists and hosts that are separated by many kilometers. However we could not help feeling a bit sad.
Till this day we keep in touch with her. She says she wants to come to Europe this year. I am pretty sure she will have tons of places to stay here (with us for sure), even if she does not come with a bicycle. To many of us this is what Warm Showers is about, turning total strangers that we come in contact for the first time through the site so that later we become friends!
If you were hosted by Tuly or know of people who were hosted by Tuly, we invite you to comment down below. She will definitively read this article and she will be very happy to hear from you.