There are many misconceptions and myths when it comes to doing a homestay abroad. In recent years the impact of this type of lodging experience has grown, so it has become more and more common to engage in this type of activity. Homestays have a very wide range and are ideal for travelers who seek to learn something new and want to participate in a true local experience.
You might hear different stories about homestays gone bad and weird experiences while traveling; probably everyone who’s done a homestay has something remarkable to tell. We have to keep in mind this is an entirely bilateral experience; while doing a homestay both you and the host give and take. A homestay can be done by anybody, you do have to keep in mind that at some point you will be leaving your comfort zone though; language, beliefs, religion and the diet can be something completely unknown to what you’re used to.
But true wanderlust means knowing when to leave your comfort zone and currently homestays have become a part of everyday tourism and responsible travel. More and more people are doing it so there are certainly more perks and benefits than cons. So I would say that the best pros from doing a homestay are:
While travelling on your own and staying at hostels you pretty much only meet other foreigners doing what you are doing; the local interaction you have is very little. While staying with a local you can learn how to move around and places or activities only known to locals, your host family will be like your tour guide but they will also provide you a more authentic experience and approach to everyday local life.
Improve communication and language skills
The best possible way to improve and become fluent in a foreign language is to practice it constantly with native speakers. You will be constantly listening to it and it will be easier to pick up pronunciation and get familiarized with the local slang by sharing and communicating with your homestay family.
A chance to learn something new
The lifestyle is different in another country so there are many chances for you to integrate as a local in new activities. Other than trying a new language you can learn a new art, hobby, craft or some particular line of work that can only be done there; for example In Spain take flamenco lessons with locals or in Vietnam work in the rice fields with the farmers. In Guatemala there is a wide selection of local and cultural experiences to try!
Try delicious local food
Staying with locals will also give you an insight about the local cuisine, preparations, ingredients only own to the area and flavors you are not familiarized with. Some travelers become so attached to local dishes that learning to prepare them is a MUST! Your host family can also recommend venues to try local food and can teach you how to prepare your favorite dishes.
The price is not as high as staying at another lodging establishment such as hotels or hostels. You receive value for money; most homestays usually give you your own private room, laundry, simple cleaning services and some meals guaranteed (which will save you money for excursions and other activities). Also your money is being used as an extra income for a local family and improves their economy.
Staying with a host family can also help you avoid those feelings of homesickness and will give you support and guidance while you are getting adjusted to a new place. You will be sharing and interacting with your host family, you are invited to become a part of their home and they will make you feel safe.
In the end a new family and home away from home will allow you to return home as someone renovated, passionate about another culture, fluent in new language, with other abilities and skills and broader perspectives of yourself and others. It does not sound bad at all, so you might as well go out there and give it a try! We recommend trying our Homestay Program in Lake Atitlán and El Paredón if you are around or ready to come to Guatemala and want to have an authentic experience.