Emily, of Two Dusty Travelers (formerly Backpacks & Bandaids), shares why she believes that homestays are much better than hotels when it comes to budget, culture and responsible travel:
The first time I traveled to Kenya, I was nervous about signing up for a homestay. What would my hosts be like? Would we have anything in common? But by the end of my first day, I was sold. Homestays are a great way to travel ethically and sustainably, plus you’re guaranteed to have an experience completely unlike anyone else’s.
If you’ve never lived with a local while traveling, here are five great reasons to go for it:
1. Support the local economy. Why not invest in a local family rather than giving your money to a faceless hotel chain? Not only will it be easier on your wallet, it will shift resources to a community that might otherwise never see tourism dollars. Just be sure to do your research to be certain your host family is being appropriately compensated!
2. Home-cooked food. No restaurant dish will ever live up to the authentic Kenyan meals my host mother cooked in her basic kitchen. Knowing how much I loved the flatbread called chapati, she even made extra the night before I left so I would have a snack for the long flight home.
3. Completely unique experiences. Walking the streets of Nairobi with my host brothers as built-in tour guides was exponentially better than exploring on my own. I always felt safe, and I had them to answer questions and point out things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. At another homestay in Tanzania, our host took us to stunningly beautiful hot springs in the middle of nowhere - which we would never have found without her. While other tourists are stuck on buses and fighting crowds, you’ll be having adventures that can’t be found in a brochure.
4. Cultural exchange. As an American, I see plenty of negative news about other countries. A homestay will break down those preconceived notions literally overnight. You’ll get to experience real life at your destination, rather than glimpsing it from a passing tour bus. My host brothers and I passed many hours comparing and contrasting life in our two countries – it was fascinating, eye-opening, and often hilarious. They’d been worried that I would break their bunk beds after hearing rumors of America's obesity problem, and I’d been afraid they wouldn’t speak a word of English. Turns out, we were both way off. I ended up having more in common with them than I do with plenty of people from my hometown!
5. You'll make friends for life. More than a decade later, my first Kenyan host family are still my good friends. Any time I’m passing through, I know I’ll be welcomed with open arms. We’ll sit squished together around the dining table, sharing favorite dishes and laughing at old memories. No hotel can beat that!
- Emily and Aaron blog about ethical and off the beaten path adventures at Two Dusty Travellers
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