Somehow it has happened that locals we have met on the road have changed not only our perception of life and humanity, but that by being in contact with them we have changed our plans completely.

A very good recent example: a Balinese family that ‘forced’ us to stay with them a whole month instead of three days.

The more we travel, the less we organize, so it was normal that we ended up in Ubud in Bali without having a clue of where we were going to stay. We were walking for about an hour and half while looking for a guesthouse when we entered a homestay hidden down one of many side streets of the town.

Putu (34), which means ‘the first daughter’, and her husband Wayan (34), which means ‘the first son’, are the owners of a brand new homestay called Angga. When we say brand new, we mean we were extremely lucky to be their very first customers! We guess they were as excited as we were.

Our small ‘castle’

The homestay impressed us straight away. It wasn’t only that we were walking on completely sparkling tiles, using a brand new sink and shower and sleeping on fresh sheets and a perfect mattress. There was also a small terrace in front of our room that looked like a small house with a uniquely decorated door and windows, complete with Hindu sculptures standing along the stairs leading to our room. It was all decorated with fresh, bright, yellow flowers.
Another beautiful cultural discovery was a small yard at the back of the homestay, where there are eight temples, each belonging to a different family.

Balinese family

Our Balinese family.

Wayan, Putu and their three children, Sintia (9), Angga (7) and Anggi (3) surrounded us from the moment we arrived, and after the first questions about our homelands and some minor confusion as to how we have no job, no house, no wedding rings and still travel, we slowly started to grow closer to each other.

Blessed

If Bali is ‘the land of Gods’, then they welcomed us in one of the best possible ways, because we arrived three days before the two major Hindu festivals: Galungan and Kuningan.

We were so excited to see all the preparations on the streets and in our new homestay! When Wayan offered for us to celebrate the first festival (Galungan) with them, we were jumping from happiness and enjoyed the opportunity to take dozens of pictures in the local costumes that they lent us for the special day.

Balinese family

Ivana and the women of the Balinese family wearing Kebaya, the traditional costume.

Suddenly we felt like part of a family and shared their devotion to the traditions. Gianni and I were feeling blessed to be dressed in the costumes and our hosts looked proud to share this important event with foreigners who shared their house.
We followed the family to three ceremonies in Hindu temples. The most fabulous was one at the majestic Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three).
Putu took great care of us and gave us some instructions on what to do during the ceremonies.

“Just follow me,” she said at the beginning and showed us the whole procedure of how to put our hands together, how to pray and how to receive the holy water from the priest.

Balinese family

Ivana praying with the Balinese family at Pura Samuan Tiga temple.

Not that we did everything perfectly on the first try, but since we were accompanied by a local woman, the priest forgave us our imperfection.

That day the family took us to the beach, where we had a great time together, especially Gianni, who was jumping over the waves with the children.

Italian Sunday

The festivals mean a lot to the locals also in terms of family bonding, so we had a chance to meet other members of the family who came for a short visit. That Sunday we decided to give something in return to our hosts, so we offered to cook an Italian pasta for them. Without knowing how many people would come for lunch, we prepared a big pot of pasta with aubergine, tomato sauce and mozzarella.

They helped us to cut the veggies, sampled the cheese that was a new taste for them (not everyone was thrilled by it) and every now and then a member of the family peeked into the kitchen to check out where the strange smell was coming from.

Balinese family

The kids of the family tasting for the first time Italian pasta.

About twenty people were waiting in the yard for their very first plate of pasta. Without too much hesitation,they ate it all. To be honest, some of them admitted the cheese was not their thing, but they liked the pasta so at the end of the day, our mission turned out a success.

Wayan and Putu

Wayan works as an electrician in a hotel in Ubud, while Putu works a few hours per week in a warung (a small, local restaurant), but they’re currently focused on building the homestay business. They’ve been married for eleven years now, and decided to invest some money and build the two rooms for guests. It took them six months to complete the building works and now they’re doing their best to run the business successfully.

Balinese family

Gianni and the men of the Balinese family wearing traditional costumes.

It has already been two weeks since we arrived to stay with Wayan’s and Putu’s family and we are incredibly grateful for this experience. We’ve sampled local food, visited local markets with the family and had the privilege to wear local dress. But what counts the most is the opportunity to learn and try to understand a totally new culture, which brings us to another level of respect and multicultural experience.

Have you ever stayed with a family while traveling abroad? How is your experience? We would love to hear from you!

20 Responses

  1. Franca

    What incredible experience! These are the things that make travelling something really special, we love staying with locals too and we’ve done it many times mainly thanks to Couchsurfing. The photo of the Balinese kids eating Italian pasta is priceless :)

    Reply
    • Ivana Greslikova

      Yes, definitely! CS is one of the best way how to understand the other cultures better and from first-hand source.
      I guess housesitting opens you a way to go local, too. You guys know the best how easily it becomes in a new country once you settle down there for a while :)

      Reply
  2. Linda Bibb

    What a wonderful experience! We’ve stayed with others thru Airbnb but not had an opportunity to do a homestay yet. We love Bali. Did you learn any Bahasa Indonesia?

    Reply
    • Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Linda!
      Homestay concept is a great thing for travelling, indeed! So far, we’ve learnt only some basic phrases, am afraid it’s too little time to catch up more.
      Happy travels :)

      Reply
      • Mike (Nomadic Texan)

        Ivana, I guess you would highly recommend this homestay. I am not familiar with the concept. How do you compensate the family? Do you do chores, help with groceries, teach the children another language or what? Great post and I look forward to your response.
        Mike

      • Ivana Greslikova

        Hi Mike, that’s a good question! The concept of homestay is living with a family, having an own room and often own bathroom, share some activities with them, as we mentioned, and… pay for it. It’s definitely more convenient and interesting than a hotel. At least this is how it works here in Bali and I assume in many countries in SE Asia. We pay about 15 $ per night, b-fast included, plus complimentary tea and coffee through all day.
        However, I do believe it is possible to stay with someone and offer in return the ‘services’ you are writing about. Actually, next time we’ll try to offer something in exchange! There is so much to exchange for! Thanks for that, Mike 😉
        The idea is to support locals and I guess it works well, at least from what we have experienced so far. So, yeah, when in Ubud, find the Angga Homestay! Lovely helpful family :)

      • Ivana Greslikova

        ps: Mike, try to check out this website: http://www.homestay.com/
        We haven’t used it so far, but it sounds great! Sabrina Iovino can give you more info. She had an experience in Tokyo!

    • Ivana Greslikova

      Yes, Agness, they are really nice people and we’ve been so grateful to meet them!

      Reply
    • Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Dante, we travelled only to Bali and Antique province in the Philippines, so it’s hard to generalize. BUt from what we experienced, I can say the food and accommodation in Indonesia was cheaper.

      Reply
      • dante

        Thanks for the reply, that really isn’t surprising actually. One of the worst things about the Philippines is the cost and quality of accommodation. I have friends in Thailand who pay 2/3’s the amount I pay for places that are twice as nice. I will travel to Indonesia soon and was just curious, thanks again!

      • Ivana Greslikova

        No worries, Dante, enjoy your trip to Indonesia!

  3. Anis Hidayah

    Oh,,, that is interesting experience. I am from Indonesia but when I was visited in Bali I am never the use Bali Tradisional costume. I am very jealeous to you. Oh, That’s interesting story.

    Reply
  4. Robert

    What a wonderful home stay experience and very affordable accommodation option as well. We recently stayed with a family on our first visit to New York City and loved the experience of living and learning from the locals. Your pictures are beautiful and definitely an inspiration for those considering home stay travel in the future! Rob

    Reply
    • Ivana Greslikova

      Thanks a lot for the comment, Rob! Yes, home stays are some of the best options when learning about a new culture and customs :) Happy travels!

      Reply
  5. Victoria

    Hello Ivana,
    I stumbled across your website whilst looking for a village to stay in with my kids in September and I can’t even express with my words how amazing reading your stories feels to me,
    A Nomadic lifestyle is my destiny and finding your website has completely confirmed this for me
    Much Love ,
    Victoria

    Reply
    • Ivana Greslikova

      So sweet, thanks a lot for stopping by, Victoria :)
      Hope you’ve found a lovely base for you and your kids! It’d be nice to hear back from you once you settle down in Bali and start your nomadic adventure. Keep in touch :)

      Reply
  6. Kelly

    It looks like this post is from a few years back, but I’m curious to know if there are a lot of homestay opportunities in Bali? I know that now Airbnb has homestays all over the world, but mostly in very populated areas. How did you find this one? It’s seems like a hidden gem!

    Reply
    • Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Kelly,
      Bali, and Ubud in particular is FULL of homestays :) We found it randomly, when walking down the street. You will find villas rented by locals literally everywhere. You’ll see lots of signs on the streets that will navigate you there, or if you book a night or two in a hotel and then walk in the town or explore it by motorbike, I’m sure you’ll find many places where to stay with families :) If you like the place we’ve written about, feel free to contact them through the link we embedded in the text. Cheers!

      Reply

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