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.
We talked with Erik from Finland, Anabel from Germany and Zita from France to know how their trip went and what they appreciate the most when travelling abroad, either studying or exploring on a holiday. And which one will they choose in the future – hostels or homestays?
How do you normally travel, besides this trip with your university?
“I travel in so many ways. Before this trip to Tanzania I spent a month in Argentina driving around the country with a rental car. We didn’t book anything beforehand and tried to survive with a very limited student budget”, Erik laughs.
“I would consider myself as a backpacker, but I’m not as adventurous as Erik. I like to see local life if possible and ask my friends for advice when planning my travels. I love the countryside way more than cities”, says Anabel.
Had you stayed with locals before and how did you find them?
“Yes, I always try to get in touch with locals. In Cuba I stayed in private homestays called casa particulares, which is a little bit similar to Duara as an experience. Cuba is unique since knocking on peoples’ doors who have chosen to open their homes to travellers is very common there. In Tanzania I would not have knocked on someone’s door just like that.”, Anabel explains.
Zita likes staying with friends who live in the destination, which for her has the same perks as staying with locals through networks such as Couchsurfing. “With the help of these networks you get to meet people and they enrich your experience, but it is also much more demanding since you have to be available for others and make compromises on your own plans. However these tend to be memories that stick with you when you think back about your travels at home”, she says.
During this trip Zita acted as the supervisor for the student group and was a little nervous whether the students will enjoy staying in local families.
“I was worried if the students would appreciate hanging out on the beach more than what I suggested but to my relief they understood the idea and got a nice experience. And so did I – with Mama Harriet we got to see them cook and eat together with them. They showed us how to wash laundry and we met her young daughter and talked about daily stuff. In the afternoons we had time to hang out in front of the house, laugh, do laundry, watch goats on the street. We even got invited for dinner at her brother’s house.”
Anabel and Erik agree that staying in a family brought something extra to this trip, some of it surprising.
“I was surprised of how excited local teenagers were to speak English with us. I was also surprised by the quality of the food and that there was plenty of it, and the real taste of fresh mangoes and avocados”, Erik laughs.
Anabel remembers learning about small everyday things such as whether it is possible to flush toilet paper, where to put waste water and was amazed how well the family cooked rice on open fire.
Which one do you prefer, hostels or homestays?
Erik thinks that combining both helped them to get a good oversight of how it is to live in Tanzania from multiple perspectives. Whether homestays suits everyone travelling to Tanzania or any other culture, depends on what the person is looking for.
“If you really wants to get to know the destination, Duara can give that experience to you. I personally think we did well choosing to spend the first week in a hostel and the second one in a family since we got to see both. I enjoyed spending time with the family, despite the small language barrier we had. They treated us super nicely and we had absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I could see how happy they were to host us”, he says.
It seems that if one is prepared to live in someone’s home instead of a hostel, they might have a more flexible attitude towards surprises on they way, and perhaps lives more in the moment than when living in a hostel with a more fixed set of expectations.
“I would definitely ask myself the intention of going. One has to be ready for an adventure, ready to see how people live everyday and experience their hospitality. Which I would encourage everyone to do. I always felt safe and I felt it was organized, since the people hosting me are known to the company. I knew I had a Finnish organization to contact just in case, which was a big advantage as a European.”
Whether she prefers hostels or homestays is a tough call. “It depends on the travel – I enjoy homestays but also like hostel life. It’s sometimes nice to be alone, and sometimes it’s nice to meet new people easily. I can’t say which I like best – maybe it’s the combination of hostel life and homestays that does it for me.”
Text by Johanna from Duara. Photos by the travellers and by Duara.