Ah, travel. Be it extended, short, for vacation, or a few weeks or a couple months, it’s always an adjustment.
What to expect? You never really know how a place is going to be until you get there / have been there before, but there’s a lot of things you can think about proactively that’ll make the experience less surprising, and less stressful. And, likely, marginally more enjoyable, if you’re adverse to unpleasant surprises, like I am. Though, if you’re less anal and particular than I am, you’ll probably find the experience easier anyways.
Here’s some questions Ms. Raggedly Rich always asks when subletting / renting / being billeted:
What’s the Internet password? Where’s the modem? Is the Internet fast? – this is helpful if only to keep the frustration levels low when you’re trying to watch Netflix and it’s lagging like hell.
Where’s it located? Is toilet paper in rotation, or is it just a split cost? ( I ALWAYS offer to buy the next package of toilet paper – most people I’ve stayed with have the cheapest single ply they can get, and getting a nice bulk load of half-decent paper also alleviates misc. supplies concerns; aka, garbage bags, compost bags, maybe some paper towel here or there).
I always prefer brining a tea towel or two, a small blanket, and my gigantic towel. But it’s worth asking if you need to worry about bedding, or sheets, and if there will be a towel or two available for you, if need be. Or a wash cloth / face cloth if you use those things.
Is there any? Is it paid? How much does it cost? How big of a load can it take? Does it work well, or should you not even bother wasting your money with the dryer?
Is there street parking? Garage parking? No parking at all? Does parking cost extra? Is there visitor parking? Do you need a security measure, or is the street super safe? Do you need a permit to park on the street?
Some places have by-laws that state you can’t keep a bike on the balcony. Some people might not want bikes coming through their home and lovely hardwood so you can keep it in your room – storage units can be a pain in the ass to get in and out of if you have a bike, and bike lockers in apartment buildings are usually highly sought-after and have waiting lists. My raggedly rich bike, funnily enough, didn’t get stolen at the apartment, but in broad daylight across from a busy street. You can do your best, but sometimes you just can’t prevent it.
Bus and Train Routes
Where’s the closest bus stop? Train stop? You can also plug the address into Google Maps – I do this to figure out how long it’ll take me to get from the place to work, and whether biking or walking are feasible options.
What supplies are there? I always ask about:
- Pots and Pans
- Cheese grater
- Knives (though they’re usually dull regardless, so I like bringing my own)
- Cutting Board
- Tea Towels
- ( you can’t really ask if they have cups, but if you like a certain size, it might be worth it to bring a cup you like – I stayed somewhere that only had tiny-tiny mugs and ended up having to buy a $ store mug! )
Is there a dishwasher? Do pots and pans and one-off items go in the dishwasher? I hate it when someone puts the only pot (literally, the single pot in the entire place) in a freshly emptied dishwasher that takes at least a week to fill up. If there’s only one of an item, do the courteous thing and wash it, so people don’t have to wash it to use it. Unless the dishwasher will be running soon – or I usually ask if someone’s planning on cooking with it in the next day or two, and if not, THEN I’ll put it in the dishwasher.
Stairs / Elevator
What floor is it on? If it’s high up, is there an elevator? These never make or break a place for me, but it’s nice to know what you’re getting into. I ended up carting my bike up and down three flights of stairs after not feeling safe enough to leave it outside. Having the option to leave it outside and knowing there were so many stairs made having to take it up and down a lot less frustrating.
Garbage / Recycling
What’s the routine? Alternating? Or does someone just take out the recycling cause it’s on their way out? Even just establishing a general rule ( “Oh, we just alternate” ) might be able to save the inevitable toppling-garbage-pile standoff. I get into awful standoffs, I’m terrible for it, it’s a flaw. Once I a roommate put the bathroom garbage by the door ( it was nearly full when I’d gotten there, and I only put used Q-Tips into them ) – it was there for two days, I left for three days, and it was STILL THERE when I got back. But I can now say from experience that the ethos of raggedly rich does not extend to garbage. She’d also drunk half the bottle of wine I was planning to take into work for after-work drinks, which takes me to:
Food and Drink
Is food communal? Are condiments communal? Is there a shelf dedicated to things that are communal? Are you someone who wants to share groceries? Or staples like bread, milk, and eggs? I’m staunchly in the no-sharing fort, but I’m very particular about my food, and go to great lengths to avoid the lack of bananas in the house.
Emergency Food and Drink
– but I do understand that sometimes people run out of milk. Or just need to have some wine RIGHT THEN. I make it very clear that I don’t mind if someone uses a splash of milk, or takes a couple eggs, or whatever – but that they should 100% let me know ahead of time. I guess I’m a little possessive about my things, and I get really offended when people assume they’re entitled to my things. A simple text saying, “Ran out of milk, grabbed some of yours, hope that’s okay” is the difference between flames coming from my eyes and nose, and me giving exactly zero fucks. I know, I know, it’s sort of a problem – I’m working on it!!
There’s NOTHING worse than deciding you can sleep that extra 5 minutes and then hearing your roommate get into the shower as you’re getting out of bed. ESPECIALLY when you know they can hear your alarm, and are well aware that the first thing you do is use the washroom when you wake up. Brushing your teeth over a four-day-old casserole dish that has an empty can of tuna floating in it isn’t fun. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I find that asking about when people usually wake up / go to sleep helps with some awareness over when you should try to be courteous… to at least try and start off on the right foot.
Likewise, if you’re a night owl and you’re routinely up until 5am (as I was, and hopefully have gotten out of my system), I always find it good practise to say something along the lines of: “And if I’m ever too loud or bothering you, please let me know!”
This is a hard one. The hardest, I think. Some people think everyone should be able to read their minds. Or, alternatively, are just fed up with having a stranger invade their space, and get a little ornery. The last two weeks at my last sublet were some of the most passive-aggressive weeks I’ve experienced with anyone ( I stepped out of the bathroom to put the kettle on the stove, she came out of her bedroom, LOOKED straight at me brushing my teeth, and went into the bathroom with all my stuff still in it, and locked the door. And sounded confused / affronted when I knocked four minutes later (after spitting into the sink), to ask if she was coming out soon, to which of course: “UM. YEAH ?!” ). Sometimes open communication doesn’t work. At that point, asking her what the hell I did to offend her wasn’t worth it (in my opinion). But sometimes it can help, and I always like starting off with that intention – and making it clear that I’m open to adjusting how I do things, if only I’m made aware of the preference.
Holy jeepers! This post is super long, so I might do a part two sometime later.
There’s a lot of ways you can prepare yourself for living away from home for a couple days / weeks / months, and it can really help ease the transition just picking a few of these that you care about, and inquiring about them.