When I first travelled to Europe, I had the romantic notion of cramming as many destinations into one month as possible via hostel living and travelling by rail. It was the trip of a lifetime, jam packed with cultural highlights, mishaps and adventure.
Fast forward ten years and things have changed a bit. First off, I’m more of a relaxed traveller now. I still escape to the cobblestone corners and seaside vistas of Europe as often as possible, but where once I sought out hectic itineraries and bunk beds, I now search for hidden gems and local haunts — and while I often travel solo, that doesn’t mean I have to travel alone.
At first, I tried the hotel and rental property route, using Google to guide me to local forums and hotspots. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll find this path to be terribly unsatisfying. Whether it’s tasty eats, outdoor adventure or underground art you seek (or maybe all three!), the best way to discover the thrum and beat of local life is by taking the plunge and trying homestay travel.
There are a few different options for homestay travel, including researching private rooms and scouring homestay websites. One option that is particularly safe and convenient is G Adventures’ Local Living trips, which offers tours of various locations across Europe that combine homestay travel with the flexibility to choose how you spend your time.
Love local and learn
The term “love local” is on trend for a reason. People are craving real, salt-of-the-earth interactions and activities. Many travellers are looking for outside-the-box adventures that they can’t find in a travel book or tourist centre. Homestay travel provides a truly unique way to embed yourself into a culture and community and is particularly great when you’re learning a new language or visiting a city on your own.
The former is a no-brainer: it’s well known that immersion is the best form of language learning, and what better way to learn than to live surrounded by the language? What’s more, you’ll have the advantage of learning local slang and vocabulary. But living in a homestay is also an incredible way to get an inside look at the culture and daily life of a region. Witness firsthand how neighbours and families interact, what they do in their down time, the radio stations they listen to and what a home cooked meal really tastes like. These are the moments that you remember — the moments that make you feel at home.
The Local Living tours include a good mix of optional activities (including local excursions, yoga, hiking and culinary courses) combined with time spent with your homestay host. If you run out of ideas, you can also talk to someone G Adventures calls the local “Chief Experience Officer” to get ideas on how best to explore the area. It’s a bit of a choose your own adventure style of travel that allows you the convenience of a comfortable home base that you can return to after exploring the surrounding areas.
Travelling alone, while nerve-wracking at times, also offers you the opportunity to meet new people. When you travel with a partner, a group of friends or family members, the entirety of your trip is often spent with them, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for making new connections.
A great way to ensure that you’re never truly alone when travelling solo is to stay with a host family. You’ll be granted the unique opportunity to start a friendship with someone that you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. What’s more, your host will also likely know the best (and most affordable) ways to get around town by bike, transit and on foot, making it easy to explore new parts of the city you might have missed or skipped.
Tip: If you’re staying on a farmstead, you can always pitch in around the farm during your stay or ask for a tour to get to know the locals better. This is something that G Adventures suggests on some of their tours in Italy.
Step outside your comfort zone
One of best things about homestay life is that it gets you outside of your comfort zone. Humans love to connect; we just sometimes need a little encouragement when taking the plunge. But just think: anyone who’s willing to bring you into their homes and their lives is probably eager to learn about new cultures and create unforgettable memories — just like you.
You’ll also be far from alone on your big adventure. G Adventures will ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible in your temporary home, and their Chief Experience Officer is always around to introduce you to new people and experiences during your trip.
G Adventures offers European homestay opportunities in areas like Umbria, Italy, and Southern Dalmatia, Croatia. To learn more about G Adventure’s Live Local tours, head to their website or sign up for their mailing list.