Finding accommodation is usually an afterthought for me. I book my transport, skim read a few guides and then realise – oh sugar! I still have nowhere to stay!
But I also firmly believe that choosing the right place to stay can take a trip from kinda fun to this-is-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me kinda fun.
Like that time I stayed with a kind Amazigh family in Morocco and let them teach me how to bake bread (even though I never quite mastered the art). Or when a lovely family in Beijing invited me into their home and helped me practice my calligraphy (even though I’m still pretty crap at that too).
Or that time, in Santorini way past midnight, when I danced around the pool with the hotel owner who was old enough to be my grandmother.
See what I’m getting at? It’s all about the people. The people you meet on your journey are more important than the destination itself. Feel free to take that as a lofty philosophical musing or just a simple travel tip.
What Is Homestay?
Great question. Homestay is an accommodation booking platform which matches you with hosts all over the world, helping you find a place to sleep and a local guide in one go.
My Homestay Experience
I stayed in a leafy neighbourhood called Islington. It’s hard to get that small town feeling in a metropolis like London, but Islington gets it just right – on Highbury Park you will find anything from local butchers to florists. Forget the anonymity of self-checkout at Tesco… people actually know each other by name here.
The property’s owner Heidi was absolutely lovely, and kind enough to leave me a long list of places to visit even though I insisted I knew London quite well. She also gave me clear instructions on how to get around the city, connect to wifi and all the other basics you want covered when visiting a new place.
Staying in her home was a very interesting experience – Homestay definitely gives you an intimate look into somebody else’s life. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea I really enjoyed it. I’m nosey and not afraid to admit it!
Heidi’s living room was like a small art gallery, with hundreds of foreign objects haphazardly scattered around. And each object – from delicate hand-decorated china to African burial masks – told a story. They kept me entertained for hours as I sat there answering dull emails.
Heidi’s pad also has one of the most amazing terraces I’ve ever seen in London. Just sitting out there as I ate my morning bowl of cereal made me so relaxed and energised!
As for my room, it was cosy and had a lovely garden view. There were two beds in it which came in handy as I decided to stay with my boyfriend at the last minute. There was also a sink in the room where I brushed my teeth and did my makeup – and we also had a bathroom to ourselves on the floor above.
All in all, staying in Heidi’s flat made my trip to London very memorable. From getting to know a new neighbourhood to meeting a wonderful lady, I’d highly recommend Homestay. Don’t be afraid to leave anonymity behind and have an authentic local experience!
Have you ever heard of Homestay? Do you think you’ll try it out? Let me know in a comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Disclaimer: Homestay invited me to try out their service for free. But as always all opinions are my own – I’d never compromise my integrity to save a few bucks.