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 in Vietnam.
“I actually hadn’t travelled much before booking a village experience with Duara. My first long trip was last year, when I did an interrail by train in Europe. My second long trip was my university exchange in Taiwan this spring. From Taiwan I did a trip to Vietnam and decided to stay in a Duara village.”
Although Joni hadn’t travelled in Asia before, he had already noticed something on his previous travels across Europe. Wherever he travelled, he always felt the need to connect and interact with local people. Staying in a local village fulfilled this need. While in Yen Phu he noticed how different it is to live with a local family in a village instead of a hotel in the city.
“Hanoi was busy, upbeat and there was constantly someone trying to get something from me. You can’t really escape the buzz in the city. The atmosphere on the Vietnamese countryside was completely the opposite.”
“Staying in Yen Phu was an intense and extraordinary experience. I was present in the moment all the time. In terms of connecting with locals this experience was on a whole new level, since you can’t really hide from them! You spend all the time with them, and learn how they live.”
“Spending five days alone with a local family in Yen Phu village was definitely the most memorable travelling experience for me so far.”
As you might have heard, there might be someone in the family or community who speaks English. However, as our villages are very rural, not all host families speak English. Joni, as many other travellers staying in Duara villages, used other, creative ways to communicate with his hosts.
“I stayed with a middle-aged couple, who were very traditional workers doing their daily chores. I don’t speak Vietnamese and they don’t speak English so we had to invent our own way to communicate. We used Google Translate, sign language and even sometimes basic Chinese. After all we did manage to understand each other, which was pretty amazing!”
There are certain things about staying in a local village that are very different from staying in a hotel. Some of them are easy to describe, but others are harder to put into words. Joni thinks that the best way to explore the differences is to go and see for yourself.
“I believe I got a deeper understanding of the culture and of the local way of life living in the community than if I had lived in a hotel. Especially the sense of community in the village made a big impact on me. I was impressed by the warmth and respectful attitude of locals towards me as a complete stranger. I felt really relaxed and safe to be around my host family and all other community members.”
“You often hear stories from other travellers of how they met people from different cultures and what it was like but being able to experience it all yourself is what affects you in an unforgettable way. Seeing is believing.”
“On the other hand, staying in a rural village for a couple days was a relief for a Finn who sometimes just needs his own, quiet space.”
Photos by Joni.