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Visiting Relatives Oct 08

Guests and fish stink after three days              -Proverb

So goes the saying. Staying with relatives can be the cheapest way to travel. Accommodations are free, and meals at home are typically “on the house,” too.

Even if you love your relatives, and you all get along well, and you long to see them, you need to follow a few guidelines to have the best experience for everyone, both you and them. After all, you want to be able to come back, right? And you don’t want them to be thinking about revenge when they come to visit you, either.

  • A gift is in order. When you arrive, have a bouquet in hand. About any gift you can hold in one hand will do. Hosting dinner out one night is good, too.
  • Don’t overstay. Refer to the proverb at the beginning of this post. Guests impose a significant break in the routine, and you don’t want to impose.
  • Stay out of their arguments. Especially between a husband and wife. On this issue, don’t help out even if they ask unless you are a professional and you can help without taking sides.
  • Don’t criticize. Everyone has their imperfections (including you, by the way). A psychiatrist once told me that you can’t help someone unless they ask. That’s good advice.
  • Clean up after yourself. Be spotless. Do everything you can not to increase your hosts’ workload.
  • Help with dishes. Perform some kind of low-skill work to help lighten their load. When my brother comes to visit, we typically work at some kind of project, and usually he thinks of it. We have cut firewood, pulled Multiflora rose (a nasty thorn bush) from the woods, built shelves. But I make sure it’s no more than half a day’s worth of work. No sense wearing out the guest, either!
  • Don’t expect them to entertain you. Go to the museums yourself. Fit into their routine as much as you can. Let them pick the TV shows. Go to bed when they do. I stayed with a friend on a motorcycle trip once. He paid me high praise; he said I was unobtrusive.
  • Be thankful. Tell them often how much you appreciate their hospitality. Don’t wait until the visit is over, but be profuse in your thanks when you leave, too. Then send a thank-you note when you get home.

Staying with relatives might be cheap, but it’s work! There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch—but it can be a rewarding lunch.