Last year Erika, who had usually spent all her Christmas seasons at work and with her family, had the possibility to leave for holidays on Christmas time. She decided to fly again to Africa where she had travelled the previous spring. As she couldn’t find travel company from her friends, she found Tanja, another Finnish woman, through a Facebook group. Together they travelled from Finland to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and spent Christmas in a Duara-village in Makuyu, Central Kenya.
It is around nine o’clock in the morning as I wake up. I step out from my own room where I have stayed the last 3 nights and step to the yard of the compound. The grandmother of the house sees me and wishes ‘selamat pagi’ (‘good morning’) with a sweet smile. It seems that the whole family has been awake for quite some time already, and are fully occupied with their daily routines. I greet the grandmother happily and try to hide my tiredness. She offers me breakfast from the family kitchen and my day starts with some sweet Indonesian tea.
As Milja and her newlywed wife Meeri booked their honeymoon trip, they wished to go to a gay-friendly country with good food and off the beaten track possibilities for experiencing real culture, nature and people.
Duara circle consists of different people with different roles. In addition to the hosts and the developing team, those who do really important work for Duara are our local contact persons. They work as key persons between travellers and hosts, but also between the hosts and the Duara team in Finland.
We are now introducing you to Adi (29) and Suri (28), a married couple working as Duara contacts for three villages in Bali.
Natsuko and her family started to plan their trip to Sri Lanka in January. They made researchers on the internet and sent emails to different organisations and companies, for finally confirming their travel plans for a week-long holiday in May. Everything was looking great and they had even managed to book 2 nights in a Duara village for spending some time with locals during their trip.
Sometimes the parents are just not enough – kids travelling for a longer time miss their peers, hobbies and even school. Company of other children is vital to them, and no tourist attraction can compensate that. Erin’s family had travelled for four months when they arrived in Thailand. Their 9-year-old son missed his life back home and became tired of walking and “exploring”. Slowly he started refusing to do anything suggested – Erin’s family had to rethink their trip, they needed to slow down and find kids!
What’s it like to travel to Duara villages as a female solo traveller? We asked three adventurous women about their experiences in Tanzania, Bali and Sri Lanka. All of them shared the same core message: homestay is an excellent option for a solo (female) traveller and adjusting your expectations in advance is the key for receiving a rewarding, eye-opening and memorable experience.
For the last two springs, Duara village Kigamboni in Dar es Salaam has had the privilege to host a student group from Aalto University on their project trip to Tanzania. While staying in Kigamboni, the students spent their days working on their projects and returned home every night to eat dinner and spend time with the family just like local students would.
Duara co-founder Elina has arrived back from Kenya in March. Together with a Finnish sociology student Iiris they tested three villages for Duara and confirmed nine host families.
To make everything ready for Duara Travellers, Iiris and Elina tried out many of the things that one can experience in the area as a Duara traveller: hiking, fishing, milking cows, fetching water, cooking Swahili food, watching a football game in Mombasa, picking tea leaves, walking across the hills, market visits and experiencing gospel in a local church.
Duara co-founder Annika just returned from Thailand impressed by what she discovered there. “Opening the window and breathing cool mountain air or bathing in a local hot spring were unexpected experiences to find in Thailand, but perfect for Duara”, Annika says. Three new villages in Northern Thailand, near Chiang Mai, are now on our website, ready to host visitors!
Visa, his two brothers and one cousin set out for a two week journey in Tanzania. Afterwards he says that their homestay with Duara is what he remembers best of the 15 days: “I think it says a lot.”
A dust road takes to a grey concrete house. Behind the house but far away, soars an active volcano. There is a basketball rack in front of the house, two cows and one horse saunter in front of it. A smiling older man and a young man with dimples walk towards me: I’ve arrived at my accommodation for the next couple of days, in other words home. This is literally a home, home of one Nicaraguan family.
Six days, 4 adults and 5 kids in a village in a developing country. To some that might sound like a lot of work. Many people prefer ease and comfort on their holiday, but Elodie’s and Mélanie’s families chose to take an adventure and it was worth it. It was not difficult they say – a kid’s play in Sri Lanka!
The narrow street ahead of us continues across endless rice fields. I feel like an actress in an adventure film sitting on a scooter driving past these surreally beautiful green hills.
Although we are driving near highly popular Ubud, I see no tourists with their selfie sticks. Instead I see kids walking home from school, whole families driving past us on a single scooter and people working on rice fields in sunset. I feel myself smiling at people, and I see them smiling back to me. Some people on the field raise their hands up to wave at us. I want to wave back but I can’t let go of the scooter bench.
Towards the end of our trip in Vietnam, after spending weeks getting to know the wonders of its nature, the fast pace of its cities and the chill atmosphere of its beaches we were still craving for one more adventure in this country that had already given so much to us...
Some people might think that staying in a local village requires an extended travel history in Africa, Asia or Latin America. That is not true at all. You do not need to be an experienced traveller to enjoy staying in a rural village, but quite the opposite.
Our traveller Joni had never travelled outside of Europe before embarking on a six month journey this January to first study in Taiwan and then to explore Southeast Asia, including a stay in a local village, Yen Phu, in Vietnam, near Hanoi.
To bring you closer to our villages and host families, we want to tell you the story of Nirmala and Silvester from Alagollewa village, who decided to open their home to travellers.
Isabel spent her first weeks in Bali surfing in Canggu and doing yoga in Ubud with other travellers. As she had no plans for the next weeks, she started asking around what to do and ended up in Munti Gunung.
“It was not an option for me to go to Kuta or Seminyak or other super touristy areas. I wanted to get to know the local culture and get involved.”
“When I travel I don’t need luxury, but I need clean sheets in a nice, usually a four star hotel. I am a 'champagne-in-a-hotel-room' type of traveller. Or actually, maybe a sparkling wine type.”
It sounds like the experience in Huong Non was far from clean sheets and champagne.
I stayed in Huong Non, Vietnam for 5 days in January 2017. I had been backpacking South East-Asia before, but unfortunately my experiences have been somewhat "touristy" because I have not really experienced these countries from the local perspective. When I heard of Duara, I decided I would give it a try when backpacking for the next time.
We moved in with a local Muslim family for a week in a fishing village in Kizimkazi because we wanted to experience authentic African lifestyle. We camouflaged ourselves with culturally appropriate clothing and we hopped on a speedy dalladalla minivan to Kizimkazi.
We just spent one week in a small village near Neluwa town in Sri Lanka. We stayed in a “homestay”, in other words in a local home with a charming and caring family which pampered us for a week.
I am picked up exactly on time by Prathap, the local Duara contact person. He even takes me to see the fishermen on the Kalkudah beach although I am not sure it is his job really. He seems to keep an eye on if I’ve settled well before he leaves. There is a sense of excitement in all of us, this being new to us all.
Last week we travelled three long days from Ruanda to Arusha, Tanzania. The journey was extremely long, roads in poor condition and we didn’t have internet so we had to find a place to sleep when arriving to each village exhausted after such long travel days. However, crossing the border to Tanzania was easier than any other border crossing before, we got the visas from the border and the staff was really friendly.
I begun my Duara experience from the busy bus station of Moshi which is the town where many travellers stop by on their way to Kilimanjaro or other “most visited places in Tanzania”. I, on the other hand, was not on my way to any of those places but to a little village, called Lembeni, located in the middle of Tanzanian countryside.