When choosing accommodation for your travels it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There are now a hundred comparison sites, comparing thousands of hostels, hotels, B&Bs, apartment rentals, and everything else. You can easily spend hours trawling through them all, looking at pictures, and clicking through reviews. And more than likely, what you’ll end up with is a room with a bed and a shower. A completely forgettable room, with matching lampshades and white bed linen. A receptionist, whose demeanor you’ll comment on in your trip-advisor review, but whose face you will have forgotten the moment you wheel your case out the door. You’ll look back on your trip and think about all the amazing things you saw and places you went, but won’t remember a single room you stayed in.
I never considered this to be an issue before I tried doing something different. I was in Nicaragua in Central America and had stayed in a string of awful hostels. We were planning our next stop, at an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, named Ometepe. I found a company that we’re working with local families to provide authentic accommodation to travelers in the form of a homestay. Not only does this hugely benefit the underprivileged communities on the island, but it also allows us, the travelers, to get a unique sense of what life on the island is actually like.
We arrived on the island by ‘chicken ferry’ and got a bus to the Puesta del Sol community. Here we were welcomed by our hosts and shown to our room. The rooms are extremely basic, essentially just a bed with a mosquito net. There’s also a shower room next door- but don’t expect hot water! You’ll live as the locals do, so that means no air-con, mini-fridge, or omelet station at breakfast. But it also means you’ll get to meet a native family, get a sense of the community, and try real authentic food from the region.
You can practice your language skills as most likely the people you’re staying with won’t speak English. They’ll also have true insider knowledge of the best things to see and do in the area. You’ll probably have to find ways to communicate to get around the language barrier. There’s nothing that quite describes the feeling of communicating with someone without using words. Truly gratifying and utterly unforgettable.
The homestays are often organized by companies, so there’ll probably be a community area with Internet access (if you’re at all worried about being off the grid!). At the Ometepe homestay, this was set just off a deserted beach, complete with hammocks and the most blissful sunsets. Proves more than anything that you don’t have to pay for five-star accommodation to enjoy paradise!
If you’re thinking of visiting somewhere where it’s possible to take part in a homestay, I can’t recommend the experience enough. Not only can you feel good about giving back to the communities in the area you’re visiting, but you can also fully appreciate and understand their way of life. Not to mention make new friends and feel touched by a place in ways you never will have before!
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