Earlier this week I wrote about facing your fears around homestays. Feel free to head over there first!
“Quieres comer algo?” [Do you want something to eat?] rang through the halls of our quaint two bedroom apartment in the Jewish and Peruvian wholesale district of Once, three to four times a day. A true Jewish grandmother, Adela would never let me go hungry. Our schedules clashed – when she woke to the sun at 5:00a, I was just returning from a long night out with friends. At 2:00p when I finally awoke to start my day, she was napping after a thoroughly productive morning. But, without fail, she would leave me a meal and ensured I had a steaming pot of water for my afternoon mate prepared for my afternoon of studying. It wasn’t until 7:00p, the hour at which I would return from my afternoon classes at the University of Buenos Aires, when we would finally sit down together to share a meal, my first dinner before I headed out for my 10:00p second dinner with friends.
As we ching ching’d our mini glasses of red wine, a staple that Adela believed should accompany all lunches and dinners because of it’s “digestive” properties, I stamped the moment in my mind, solidifying it to memory.
Travelers and expats have a myriad of ways to immerse in local culture. A homestay experience is just one option. While challenges can certainly arise in any homestay experience, in my opinion, the benefits outway it all. Adela welcomed me into her home and family with open arms. Her grandson became a great friend of mine (I won’t fail to mention that he looked like he stepped out of South American GQ). I was invited to endless family outings and she even threw me a birthday celebration! Upon my departure, Adela hosted a going away party where she invited all of her children and grandchildren. When I was up all night crying over my Argentine boyfriend, Adela sat with me and held my hand. When I left for Patagonia for two weeks, she insisted I borrow some of her warmer hats and mittens. And, my all time favorite Argentine meal was the home cooked gnocchi dinner on the 29th of each month.
Adela was one of the biggest reasons I felt so connected to Buenos Aires. She made me feel like that glorious city was my home, too. If that’s not a reason to do a homestay, I don’t know what is!
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, here are a few reasons why you should do a homestay on your next trip abroad:
Connect personally with natives
When you’re living in someone’s home, it’s much easier to connect on a personal level. Share a meal, ask questions and be curious and you’ll be on your way to having local friends in no time.
Explore a non-touristy neighborhood
Most homestays are not going to be in the heart of the tourist area. Homestays truly give you the chance to get off-the-beaten-path as you explore a new neighborhood that most tourists probably don’t get the chance to go to. Homestay experiences can make even the most traveled to city – seem unexplored.
Taste authentic local cooking
A home cooked meal will take your culinary understanding of a place that much further. Restaurants and street food are great – but they don’t compare.
Practice the language
I myself have gotten caught up in English-only travel in the sense that most people can understand and speak a little bit of English. My host grandmother did not and I credit my time with her fully to my fluency in Spanish. Even if you just walk away knowing a few more words – you’re that much closer to the heart of the place you’re visiting, making it even easier to connect on a more meaningful level.
Learn about current issues
When you’re living with locals, it’s hard to ignore the social, political and economic issues that affect their daily lives. History becomes real and you become a much more educated traveler.
Over the next couple of months as I plan my trip, I’m hoping to find a few homestays. There’s just one little problem. Every time I’ve done a homestay, the program I’m on has booked it for me! I don’t know how to find a good one myself. I want more than just a room in someone’s home. I’m looking for hosts that want to connect with the travelers living in their house.
Below are a few of the resources to book homestays that I’m using. After I book, I’ll do reviews of what I liked and didn’t. But, I’d love to know your thoughts!
I’m a little intimidated by couchsurfing, but I think I’m going to try it out. While the fact that it’s free helps, I am interested in meeting locals this way and they’re known for connecting travelers! I would also be open to staying with expats who can show me around their city “like a local”.
I’ve only used Airbnb to book entire homes with groups of friends, but I would imagine there are probably some hosts on here who would be open to connecting with the travelers renting rooms in their homes. I also trust Airbnb the most brand and safety-wise.
This site seems like a great resource if you’re willing to work for room and board for a longer period of time. It seems like there are volunteer opportunities in a wide variety of fields. I might use this site if I have enough time to say in one spot for more than a couple of days.
I just found this website as I was google searching for how to book homestays. I don’t know much about it, so if you know anything, please leave me a note in the comments.
Have you had a homestay experience? What did you think of it? Share in the comments!
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