Imagine a place, deep in the mountains which feels like home. Happy smiling faces, delicious food and peace that is omnipresent.
You wake up in the morning, open your window and there is a freaking gigantic mountain in front of you, standing there in all its glory. Hike and trek during the day through lush green valleys, take a dip in the cold refreshing spring water. Have your meal under the shade of an ancient tree and sit on the edge of a mountain slope, relax and witness a glorious sunset.
In the evening you can sit by the crackling of a bonfire under a star lit sky and get lost in the world of mesmerizing stories and folklores told by the villagers themselves. And then doze off in your comfortable bed, under a warm blanket in a wooden hut.
Feels like a dream doesn’t it, well it might be closer to reality than you perceive. The only the thing that you may need to change is the way you travel. I have been travelling to the mountains most of life and generally the places I used to stay consisted of hotels, lodges, guest houses, hostels and I used to camp around when needed.
However for the past few years, whenever I travel I prefer to stay at local villagers home and this has made all the difference. I don’t feel like an outsider anymore while traveling to the mountains, a sense of belonging has replaced that. I don’t feel like a tourist now, I am a traveler now who moves from one home to another.
A Sense of belongingness:
‘Heimat’ is beautiful German word which translates to “a place that you call home”. How many times have you travelled and were able to call a place home. Love, belonging and connection are what make a place home; a home stay will provide you this very thing. The people you stay with become your family, the room in where you sleep becomes your home and the surroundings over the time become so familiar that you don’t feel like a foreigner anymore.
Mountains are beautiful there is no doubt about it, but when a sense of belongingness engulfs you the same mountain which once seemed distant will have a permanent place in your heart.
Hotels, when you are travelling in a budget, are seldom comfortable, so are hostels and lodges. The service is mediocre, the rooms are painfully small and somehow the hotel staff always seems to rush you to check out or overcharge you for extending your stay. These hectic styles of abodes knead out the very essence of travel. You tend to always think about the money spent, the days you stayed and the sole reason because of which you embarked on a vacation- to relax- gets lost in the process.
Home stays on the other hand are comfortable, budget friendly and gives you the freedom to explore the surrounding to your heart’s content without burning a hole in your pocket. Moreover mountain dwellers always build these stunningly beautiful abodes and to be able to stay in one of them is a blessing.
Authentic Organic Cuisine:
People residing in far away mountain villages are mostly self-sustainable and unlike us, they grow their own vegetable and rear cattles for food and farm activities. Hence the food that you are served is authentic, organic and delicious.
Have a meal together with your host or maybe even try to cook with them together if you get the opportunity. Unlike staying isolated in a hotel, you can join the special Markets where you can get information about the Market’s history, basic local ingredients, fruits/vegetables and spices, taste them and also buy them for the local meal you want to learn with host’s family. These interactions will take you deep into the local gastronomy by preparing traditional meals with your local host’s family. In this way, have the opportunity to learn traditions in the most authentic way.
A deep insight about culture and traditions:
Get a deep insight into the local culture through your host which you cannot find in any book. When travelling to a distant land it can be a daunting thing when you’re exposed to new cultures, although it doesn’t have to be. To make the most out of your travel adventures, mingle with the locals know about their culture, traditions and as the saying goes when in ‘Rome do as the Romans do’. A deep understating about the culture of a particular place not only broadens the mindset of an individual but gives you something to hold on to, which you can take back with you and remember that place by.
Support the Local Economy:
Tourism may be one of the biggest industries in the world, but the money frequently doesn’t filter down into the local economy. Staying at a homestay, you know that a significant proportion of the money you spend is going straight into the pocket of an individual or community, rather than multinational chains. The beneficial trickle-down effect of your money spent in the local economy has a much greater impact and helps poor communities.
Living the routine of a farmer, animal rearing or getting abreast with local industries such as pottery, woodwork or handicraft, while these things seldom accompany anyone’s travel experiences; home stays provide a difference. Interested in gardening? Well, home stay organizers would help you find homeowners who share your interest, learn about new gardening techniques or tend flora and fauna you have never seen before.
Get Off The Beaten Path:
When you experience a place through a homestay, you are staying in real homes, which are more often not that away from the main tourist hubs. And so you will get to see a much more authentic side of the country and its culture.
Of course, you will still be able to visit tourist attractions and points of interest, but you’ll also be experiencing day to day life. So you very much get the best of both worlds, plus access to cultural gems that many tourists won’t even know about.
Make friends who live there
Living with locals naturally brings about deeper relationships than you’d have just by interacting with the people who reside in the vicinity. You have the opportunity to genuinely become friends–family, even–with people who call this place home. Not only does this enrich your travel experience, but you’ll also have people you can keep in touch with and perhaps even visit on your next trip there.