São Tomé

My most unique travel memories can often be linked to the homestays I have experienced. Whether it was in Laos or in Cuba, homestays gave my trip an authenticity I could not have gained otherwise. 

Since homestays are also a component of sustainable travel, this blog will take a deeper look into them. Hopefully, by the end, you will want to give this wonderful lodging type a try.

And so, without further ado, here are five reasons why you should definitely do a homestay… and soon!

Kenya Ayacucho trip

You will experience day-to-day intricacies of life

Nothing opens your eyes and your mind like a real look into a typical day of locals. For instance, by 6 am, I was already helping El padre of the family milk a cow in Kenya. Then, a little later, I was allowed to assist the grandmother make pancakes for breakfast. How was the experience? Honestly, no breakfast buffet in the world will stay with me more than that meal shared with my temporary African family. 

These small day-to-day things are what get you into the true rhythm of your destination. Needless to say, I feel most at ease when staying with local families and following their lives, as I am 100% immersed in their daily routines.

You will understand history & culture much better

It’s no secret that the locals like to talk about their country, habits, language, and so much more. During my homestay opportunities, I have always learned some basic sentences in each language. I got to know so much about the different Mayan dialects in Guatemala, picked up some basic Vietnamese and Thai, and came back with such an intense appreciation for the local history… something textbooks wouldn’t have been able to instil. 

You will gorge on the best (and most unusual) food

Host families like to pamper their guests. They will spend hours at the market to find the best crab for you, travel to the nearby village for that special fruit that you really must taste, and take you to their backyard for the most organic meal ever.

Streetfood Sao Tome City - Places to eat in Sao Tome

Cooking brings people together in so many ways. Even though you may not understand each other at all linguistically, you will be able to connect over cooking together. And, of course, hand gestures and facial expressions remain the most universal language in the world.

Even though some of the food will look a bit bizarre at times, do taste it. Do not insult your host family please (besides, it might be super delicious!). Or, if you REALLY cannot stomach it, say you are a vegetarian 😉

You will make a positive impact

By now, you’re probably well aware that I attach great importance to traveling with a positive impact… and the best part is that everyone can do it. Eat in locally operated restaurants, buy handmade souvenirs, and sleep in hotels, guesthouses, or hostels that only employ locals. All these measures seem small but go a long way.

Startling fact: the United Nations Environment Program reports that in a typical mass tourism package of every USD 100 spent by a tourist, only USD 5 actually remains in the local economy.

With homestays, you directly give something back to the locals. The impact is immediate and intimate. Your money goes to your host family in a straight-foward manner. This can help them put their children in school, get medical care, or make provisions for basic necessities.


You will get off the beaten track

Homestays often ensure that you explore fewer touristy spots as many are in the countryside or in the mountains, places that you might not otherwise visit.

In Laos, we slept in a very remote village along the Mekong river. While making our way to it, we did not see a trace of life for hours, until we spotted the village on the mountainside. Treading on beautiful greenery, we walked up between stilt houses, pigs, chickens… and finally to the center of the village where there was a tiny school. Young, friendly girls giggled at the sight of some white tourists.

There were almost no basic provisions such as electricity or water, so when the sun went down, it was completely dark. We had no choice but to immerse ourselves in the rhythm of the locals: in bed at 7 pm and up around 5 am. 

Homestay Laos

Sometimes, homestays also give you a sharp taste of ground realities (which is important, in my opinion). In Kenya, there was just a little bit of collected rainwater when I was there. You see, the drought had lasted longer than anticipated, so people and animals craved for water.

TIP: If you notice that there is no access to running water, then like the locals, use clean water scarcely. Understand that it is very expensive for them. You will survive a day without a shower (long live dry shampoo!).

So what do you think? Is sleeping in a homestay something you will try during your next trip? Or do you want to forego authenticity for luxury? Let me know your thoughts!

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  • September 14, 2019

    Since the host families have very fewer language skills or indeed limited access to the outside world so there is always a middleman involved which will help you in communication and will help you to book a homestay.


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