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.
What encouraged you to try a homestay with Duara and how did you prepare yourself?
Raija (6 nights in Likamba, Tanzania):
”I saw an interview in which two guys were talking about their experience in a Duara village and thought: that would be cool, a chance to see local life! And that’s where it started from. To prepare myself for the experience I carefully read the information on Duara’s web pages and re-watched the interview.”
Netta (3 nights in Munti Gunung, Bali):
”After travelling quite a bit and exploring the more traditional tourism sites I feel like they’ve started to resemble each other a lot. That’s why I now aim to experience destinations on a deeper level and learn more about the local way of life.
I’d decided to travel to Bali and when doing some research on what to do there I came across a blog post about Duara and got excited about the concept.
I didn’t prepare myself especially much for the experience but did go through the information that Duara sent me and reminded myself that the living conditions could be anything really and that people wouldn’t necessarily speak English.
I wanted to avoid creating any certain expectations and tried to keep my mind open for the experience.”
How would you describe your overall experience at the village?
Salia (3 nights in Neluwa, Sri Lanka):
”I especially enjoyed the calm and peaceful feeling of the village, after having spent a week in Colombo. The surroundings were really relaxing and it was lovely to be able to see the stars at night because there were no city lights.
During the evenings we sat on the terrace with some neighbours or friends of the family and I was taught some local card games. I’m not sure if I understood the rules correctly as we had no common language but we had fun!
One day the family took me with them to a family event in which the niece of my hosts was presenting his fiancés family to her family for the first time. I felt honoured for being invited in their private family event.
Other days I walked around the village and went swimming in the river with the local kids. They were very interested in me and wanted to take me around the village.
I also visited the local waterfalls with an English class of teenagers and participated in cooking, went to see the tea fields and different fruit trees and plants which the hosts were growing.
The food there was delicious, even though breakfasts were quit heavy to my taste, and I found it a little uncomfortable to eat alone and not with the family. Apparently it was a very cultural thing however so I just had to accept it.
I was happy there were kids around me and that they wanted to communicate with me because I was sitting a lot on the terrace and just observing what was happening around me. This was not a bad thing, it made me realize how different lives we live and allowed me to just enjoy the timeless environment.
Overall my stay in Neluwa was a wonderful and very much an eye opening experience.”
Raija: “I enjoyed my stay at the village. Everyone was really interested in me and wanted to show me what they were up to. During my stay I felt that I could participate as much as I wanted and likewise my need for private time was respected.
The best thing about my stay was the peacefulness and the beautiful surroundings of the village. It was wonderful to leave the busy cities behind for a bit and have the opportunity to focus more on the present.
During my time at the village I felt like there was no rush and I didn’t stress my mind with anything unnecessary. And of course the friendly people, everyone wanted to come and talk to me and help me. It was great to have a chance to participate in the daily activities of the villagers.
The language can be a bit of a challenge. I know a bit of Swahili and then used body language when we ran out of words. One person at the village knew some English and he liked to show me around and took me to see some neighbours and made sure I had the chance to participate in different activities.
I felt some signs of a culture shock which was probably because things at the village are done so differently than back home in Finland. Before the experience my main concern was how to get to the village in case it was really hard to reach. But everything worked out really well and the contact person was superb.
I was taken really good care of during my entire stay.”
DID YOU FEEL SAFE IN THE VILLAGE?
Salia: “I felt very safe the whole time I was in the village.”
Raija: “I was told that the village was very safe and I did feel very secure during my stay. I always had someone to walk with and didn’t feel scared. Of course the traffic can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. All in all I’d say that common sense usually carries you pretty far and when you behave in a sensible manner you’ll usually be fine.”
Netta: “I felt really safe, it’s a lovely community where everyone knows each other. The biggest startle one might experience in this village are the little pranks by the kids, such as them letting some roosters free!”
DOES GOING TO THE VILLAGE AS A SOLO TRAVELLER BRING SOME BENEFITS OR CHALLENGES?
Salia: “I feel like I was definitely more approachable and felt more open to new experiences. I also paid more attention to what was happening around me and gladly joined different activities, such as kitchen chores.
As a challenge I would mention the fact that I didn’t have anyone to spend time with when the family was busy with their own activities and at times it would have been nice to have someone with whom I could have talked to about the experience while it was happening.”
Raija: “I probably took more contact to the locals because I was traveling on my own. If I’d travelled with someone I would have probably ended up talking more with my companion and the local contact would have been less. I also feel like I was more easy to approach since I was traveling solo.
I think it was because I stayed there for a longer time (6 nights) that at times I would have preferred to have a travel companion there with me so that we could’ve shared the experience while it was happening. There aren’t really a lot of connections to the world outside the village so at times I felt quite isolated.”
Netta: “When you go alone you need to give quite a lot of yourself and prepare yourself for constant interaction. There’s no hiding behind anyone else’s back. That can have a very growing effect.
During my first night I did miss someone to talk to so that I could have gone through the experience so far but what I found really helpful was writing my thoughts down to a notebook every night. That way it was easier to process the events of each day and I could start fresh the next day.”
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND DUARA EXPERIENCE FOR A FEMALE SOLO TRAVELLER?
Salia: “I would, because it allows you to see and experience the local way of life in rural destinations. A homestay will give you a memorable and thought provoking experience for sure.”
Raija: “I would! Especially if you’d like to experience something else than hotel or hostel accommodation. This is a great way to get to know the locals and if you’re curious to see the local way of life this is a great way to do that. The experience gave me some perspective to life and was a good reminder that there’s not only one correct way of doing things. It also felt very good to be able to fund a local family instead of seeing the money go to a chain hotel for example.”
Netta: “I most definitely would. You shouldn’t be scared to go alone. It could be slightly more stressful because you need to give a bit more of yourself but in return you receive more as well. I was taken such good care of that it almost made me emotional.”
“I was taken such good care of that it almost made me emotional.”
GIVE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR A STAY AT A DUARA VILLAGE!
Salia: “One should prepare themselves with realistic expectations and understand that there won’t be a guide to accompany you the whole time. It’s also important to remember that English isn’t necessarily spoken at the village and that the activities offered might not take a lot of time.”
Raija: “It’s a good idea to do some research on the destination beforehand and to find out about the living conditions so that you know a bit about what to expect. It’s important to have realistic experiences and to have an open mind. You should also have the right attitude and be willing to participate and show interest in what’s happening around you.”
Netta: “Leave with an open mind and with the understanding that you could face anything really. Don’t be afraid of the unknown but rather have a relaxed attitude, listen to yourself and observe how you react to different situations.
Be patient as some things take time and it could be a while before you feel comfortable. Feel free to take a moment to yourself whenever you feel like you need it. Remember that the family has in a way invited you to stay with them and that they are there for you if you need help.
Be prepared to express yourself without words if necessary as English can be poorly understood at the village and don’t be surprised to encounter a lot of interest towards you from the villagers. Listen to yourself and others and think about what you could do to make the experience and atmosphere more relaxed.
It’s ok to be nervous about the experience. In fact it can be a positive thing as it can force you to be more open minded and present at the moment. During the experience, show that you’re interested about what’s going on around you and that you’d wish to participate.”
YOUR WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR SOMEONE HESITATING WHETHER OR NOT TO GO?
Salia: “Keep an open mind and be curious! And don’t load too much expectations for the visit in advance.”
Raija: “Remember that anything can happen even in your home so don’t be afraid. Listen to your heart and live your life! Fear is often lack of knowledge and it’s important to not let your or other’s doubts prevent you from making your solo trip happening. Have courage to reach for your dreams! I can warmly recommend Tanzania for solo female travellers.”
Netta: “I engourage you to go! However wonderful the touristic side can be it’s a good idea to also explore beyond it. Even though the facilities are very different, the experience is so genuine and the people very welcoming. I absolutely encourage it if you’re even a little interested. But if you’re more of a pool person and like to have your own schedules then perhaps not. Remember to listen to yourself and don’t force yourself.”