Cut to the end of the story, and I can without question say it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had; to have an authentic experience in a country and really understand it, and its people, is a gift.
It’s difficult to truly comprehend what real life is like in a different country, (or culture) from your own, unless you integrate yourself with it. Homestays provide a wonderful opportunity to understand your host family’s way of life, their family and community bonds, their livelihoods, what they eat, where their food comes from, what are their traditions, what does their day look like?
Regardless of how little my host family had, they wanted to share all of it, they were extremely proud of their home and I felt honoured to be their guest.
Many families who open their homes to outside visitors are in search of alternative livelihoods, particularly in coastal areas where the burden on the natural resources has reached breaking point.
Homestays support the local economy, provide sustainable tourism alternatives and contribute to conservation.
Sometimes, we take for granted that most of world speak at least some English. But in some of the more remote spots, there is nothing quite like a language barrier to motivate you to learn key words! Carry a notebook, ask questions; find out how to say some basic phrases and descriptions of your days’ activities to impress your hosts.
A pack of cards is always a winner, guaranteed to build a bridge between any language clash. Point to numbers and colours, say the words out loud, write them down, your hosts will reciprocate; you will laugh at one another’s pronunciation. Pictures are key. Even a children’s story book works a treat. “Cow”, “Spoon”, etc. The visual references create neural pathways that embed the new words in your memory.
A huge part of any country’s rich tapestry is traditional music and dancing. In the absence of verbal communication, this is a wonderful way of transcending those barriers. After an evening meal, the raffia matting would be cleared from the concrete floor; what was just a moment ago our dining table, is now the dance floor.
The children, whose cheeky faces had up to this point peered in fascination around the doorways, flood into the room, giggling and singing, showing us how to move to the music that is traditionally theirs. Much hilarity ensues, we can’t quite master their moves, nor they ours; but laughter and smiles are the same the world over.
Words by Rachel Mason, MyLateDeals Writer
Originally from the UK, having shaken off the constraints of corporate life, Rachel travelled Madagascar, Singapore and SE Asia. A musician and passionate advocate for sustainability, Rachel is now pursuing her passion for writing, travel & marine conservation with new projects in Asia Pacific.