Why homestays?


Recently, I came across a post by Shivya Nath, a well known travel blogger wherein she talks about power of travel to change us. We keep saying how travelling to new places changes us, it widens our horizons, helps us to become broad minded etc etc. Does it really happen? I have seen so many people travelling abroad for work or pleasure , so many ladies migrating to new countries/cities with husband but even after years , the mindset remains same. So, basically it all depends on us if we really want travel to bring change in our life or we just want a break from the routine.

I feel the vacations which we refer to as (so called) "travels" are nothing but the change from the mundane activities. We rarely give us a chance to get out of the comfort zone and experience something which will leave its impact behind.

I keep talking about how nature has power to teach me philosophies of life. ( I know I have become very repetitive in these terms). Be it about mountains during Triund or ocean at Goa or greenery in Munnar, my feelings remain same when it comes to nature. One thing I miss to mention or may be don't realize it then is how the people I meet during these vacations also teach me so much.

It was easy to meet like minded people before when I was a trekker.I travelled in groups and often met people with whom I was never best of friends but connected very well at some level. Over a period of time, trekking became rare and meeting such people too. But still ,given a chance I definitely choose a local experience over luxury. Luckily, I have husband who has similar beliefs and hence travelling to offbeat places, staying in homestays is never a debatable topic.

Today, I specially want to talk about home stays and how it is redefining travelling. With crunch time and rare opportunities to give travel a chance to mould us, home stays are the best bet. When I look back at my last few vacations, it's not only the landscape or photos I think about but also the people I met.

Every time when we start to plan a vacation, we start with searching hotels or resorts and then end up booking a home stay or a villa. Thanks to AirBnB. A big heartfelt thank you.

My Dehradun-Mussoorie trip wouldn't have been memorable if I would not have booked AirBnb stay and met Harshit(host) and his family. Harshit is into film making and was doing good for living in Delhi but considering the only child and with such a big property to take care of , he decided to come back to Dehradun. He was the mastermind who turned the villa into a homestay.

We say that age takes a toll on life after a while. I don't say that anymore after meeting Harshit's mother (60+ age) who is managing the 100 year old villa with her son. She takes care of food, hospitality and housekeeping with her 2 maids. Me and mom spent our morning chatting with her and she was kind enough to spend time with us like we were her own guests.She is a living example of how one should change with time and make most of what you have. We also got to know that she started the venture with running a cafe and selling organic products which are grown in her own garden. My mother who was becoming a little pessimistic about life because of age and health had a whole new perspective about life after meeting this lady.

It's never too late to begin anything in life ????

Read more about the trip here.

Photo of Why homestays? 1/4 by Pallavi Washivale

A weekend trip to Kodaikanal was a similar experience. This one, we did not book through Airbnb but it was again, a very basic stay where only food available was maggi. omelette , chai and dal-rice. I still remember the night in the valley where only light coming was from some village far away and of course a couple from England who was homeschooling their children, building an eco-house in valley. While celebrating halloween with a bunch of strangers, talking to them again made me question our education system and man.. how much I wanted to follow their steps!

No, we didn't visit any of the touristy spots of Kodaikanal. No pictures at the Kodai lake and I don't know any resort there and NO REGRETS!

I am not here to promote or boast about how we don't choose posh resorts and yet end up creating awesome memories. Actually, we end up spending more than a hotel which might have costed lesser with some deal. The point here is , the interaction with fellow travellers is restricted in a hotel/ resort. The staff is busy doing their job and most of the times impressing us to get a better tip. Whereas, I feel at homestays, the host or caretaker is more genuine and takes every effort possible to make the stay comfortable and the trip memorable. The other thing why I prefer home stays is the food.

There is no option but to eat outside once you are out on vacations. Homemade, freshly made local cuisines are much more affordable and healthy at home stays than any other restaurants. Meals are prepared on request hence there is no or rare chance of getting stale food.

Wayanad stay was one such experience. It was our first time with Kerala cuisine and the cook who was also caretaker made sure that we will fall in love with it. He was not after earning money and genuine enough to offer us to go and try Kerala cuisine at a famous restaurant in Wayanad instead of eating at stay.

Photo of Why homestays? 2/4 by Pallavi Washivale
Photo of Why homestays? 3/4 by Pallavi Washivale
Photo of Why homestays? 4/4 by Pallavi Washivale

The true hospitality is when you understand what guests need without them saying anything. We were just back from the 5 hours trek in the heat of March and this fellow offered us with watermelon juice without we even ordering. He then also mentioned that he had called a forest officer at the base of trek to check about us as we were little late than expected time. Who would do that ? ????

These were small gestures but say a lot about the attitude of a person. The same person suggested us to which places to go and which ones to avoid. We never had to search on google for the same.

The location of jackfruit tree homestay was absolutely amazing. It was at the foothills of Chembra peak and balcony opened in front of tea gardens and stunning view of Chembra. I did not find any other resort or hotel at this location and even if there was any, I can imagine the charge/night. This is one more reason why I prefer cutting down a bit on luxury and paying for view. The room was clean but very basic. We had similar experience at various other home stays as well. The money charged is not for the amenities but for location and I am totally fine with it. I don't remember when was the last time I called from room for service. It has always been going to common room or kitchen for anything I want.

In short, we do compromise on few things while staying in home stays but what we get in return is worth every penny paid.

Few tips before choosing a stay:

Read reviews. People are honest and give faire idea about how the place would be Call owner/caretaker to ask about the route if going by car. Most of the places are in interiors and google map doesn't give correct direction. Also, the owners have better idea of intercity route. Choose the place on Airbnb but then try to find out the direct website. AirBnb charges the owner as well as client. You can save some amount by directly contacting them. (Now you know, it is not sponsored post) Final and most important tip: Go to such places only if you are flexible regarding luxury of stay.

I would recommend you to plan your next vacation in some home stay and experience the place in a local way. Interact with locals, eat local and feel local. I bet you will come back and post your experience here.

Happy Travelling!!