“Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition.”
James Baldwin

What Exactly Are Local Family Homestays?

Note: The term “homestay” in Asia does not have the same meaning as this post. Instead, most are small inns and bed-and-breakfast establishments with several guest rooms. These small inns are called guesthouses in many other parts of the world.

A homestay with a local family is similar to hospitality exchanges, except travelers pay families to put them in a room in the host’s home.  

In Latin America and often in Europe, almost all learning and volunteer vacations offer students or volunteers the chance to stay in a homestay with a local family as part of their programs. In Latin America, the families also provide two to three meals a day most of the time. 

Language schools usually encourage students to stay with a local family to practice the language in a real-life setting. Sometimes, students stay for several months in a homestay while volunteering or studying in another country.   

My Experience with Homestays with Local Families

I love staying in a homestay with a local family. It is, by far, my favorite type of long-term accommodation.

Homestays are the only accommodation that has played a substantial role in my life. Through homestays, I have met a girlfriend, forged other close friendships worldwide, and have gotten a chance to see the daily life of people in other countries. Homestays also helped me learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian.

I have stayed in 25 Latin America, Europe, and Canada homes for almost a year. The rooms are usually comfortable (though in Latin America, sometimes the furniture and beds are not very fancy or comfortable), and the food is ample. 

Sometimes the homes are luxurious as well. For example, I had a lovely room and private bathroom in a spacious, elegant 15th-century apartment in Venice, Italy. In Siena, Italy, I stayed in a fourth-floor gigantic apartment (with ample space to myself) with a balcony overlooking an olive orchard and the old town.

While I love a homestay with a local family, I have had the following “bad¨ experiences:

  • I have never been so cold as during a three-week homestay in May, winter in the Southern Hemisphere, in Cuzco, Peru. I have also stayed in some pretty small and not very comfortable homes. (Yet, the host family was kind and hospitable).
  • Spending five weeks in Milan, Italy, with a woman who I never really learned to like very much. She would go on hour-long rants about fake news stories in rapid-speed Italian without hearing a word of my conversations. 

That said, most of my homestay experiences could not have been better. Through homestays, I have gotten to know people in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Canada (Quebec), and Russia like they were my temporary family.

Mostly, these homestays were arranged as a part of a language or volunteer program. The language and volunteer programs match families and students to provide inexpensive, culturally enriching accommodations and allow students to practice their language skills.

Usually, I paid half for the homestay (often with meals) than I would have paid for a small hotel room or an Airbnb rental (without meals).

Since most homestays are for students or volunteers, it is rare to see Fifty Plus Nomads in these accommodations. I have stayed with several families with over a hundred guests for many years, and most told me I was one of only a few guests over 25.

Homestays Around the World 

Not long ago, someone developed a website exclusively for people who want to participate in short-term, low-cost homestays in local’s homes worldwide: homestay.com. Airbnb initially catered to this market, and some locals still offer homestay-like accommodations. However, nowadays, most Airbnbs offer limited or no interaction with the hosts, and the properties listed are occupied mainly by guests only.

In February 2022, I listed the casita in my house in Mérida on Airbnb. I live in the main house and interact with my guests as much as possible and desirable. I will write about my experiences in future posts.

In Asia, staying in a local family’s home can be challenging to arrange. Occasionally,  in Asia, tourists can stay with tribal groups for a couple of days. In some countries, like Japan, you may also stay with a local family as a part of a language program. However, I could not find accommodations with local Thai families when I studied Thai. 

Bed-and-breakfasts, agriturismos in Italy (farm vacations), gites in France (like bed and breakfasts), monastery stays, and retreats also provide the opportunity to interact with locals in a home-like setting.

I have become friends with locals through gites (Sylvie Reeves, the owner of Parfum de France), bed and breakfasts (Vicki Skinner), and Micheline (Calgary City View Bed and Breakfast).

I love my homestay with a local family in Fontevraud, France. My host was Sylvie Reeves (pictured here). Sylvie rums both the Parfum de France language school and the Samsonelle gite in Fontevraud, France. She organized two weeks of outstanding tours and activities in the nearby Loire river valley and provided me with excellent private French lessons, I also stayed in a beautifully restored, fully-equipped apartment in her Samsonelle gïte,
I loved my homestay with a local family in Fontevraud, France. My host was Sylvie Reeves (pictured here). Sylvie rums both the Parfum de France language school and the Samsonelle gite in Fontevraud, France. She organized two weeks of outstanding tours and activities in the nearby Loire river valley and gave me excellent private French lessons. I also stayed in a beautifully restored, fully-equipped apartment in her Samsonelle gïte,

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Want to Know More About Homestays?

I love homestays; however, I am one of the few adults who has regularly stayed in local’s homes for many years. Therefore, most websites with valuable tips are for college and high school kids. However, tips like these from GoOverseas are helpful for adults, too.

Additional Posts About Learning Foreign Languages; Spanish, English, Cooking, Art, and Other Classes; and Volunteering for Expats and Long-Term Travelers

Additional Long-Term Travel Posts From Fifty Plus Nomad

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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