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Bali / Responsible Tourism / Vastuullinen matkailu

My most unforgettable travel experience: staying with a local family in Bali

*Experience offered by: Duara Travels

The children gave shy waves at the window. Chickens were running from the front yard as the motorbike parked under the shelter. The dogs were curious about me, a tourist with a backpack, someone so far from home. The father of the family, Wayan, pointed at a building that looked more like a temple and told me that was my room. A typical Balinese family lives together with sisters, brothers, and grandparents around a shared yard, where each family has their own little house and a shared temple.  Evenings are spent together outside sitting on the porches eating dinner and watching tv.

This would be my home for the next three nights. I dropped my backpack on the floor of my room and looked at a gecko running on the wall thinking about how I would cope as a guest of this family, where we had no common language with anyone but the father. I gathered the courage to go outside my room, and we enjoyed a cup of tea the grandmother had prepared outside. I tried to ask Wayan about the family’s normal days, the hobbies of the children and school, about Balinese life in general.

Ducks were jumping on the kitchen table, and the grandfather was chasing them away with a leaf from the banana tree. At home in Helsinki, I chase away fruit flies with a newspaper. Same same, but different.

“It was no easy holiday, but a leap outside my comfort zone to a world so unfamiliar, but I was welcomed by the family with arms so open I have never experienced hospitality like that in any five star hotel around the world.”

duara travelsWayan Sila – the family’s home (at the back you can see my own accommodation)

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The dogs of the family

My room during the stay (picture: Duara Travels)

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Children of the family

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duara travels wayan sila

Wayan, the father of the family

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Duara Travels makes it possible to stay with a local family

Duara Travels is a Finnish company focusing on responsible travel globally. They make it possible to stay in local village communities in developing countries in several locations around the world, in a way that is beneficial for both parties. I stayed with a local family in Bali, but there are locations available also in Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana.

More and more travellers are looking for authentic and sustainable experiences during their travels, and Duara Travels is the perfect answer. The company makes it possible for the village communities to make an additional income and you can be sure that the money you pay for your trip goes where it is most needed. Three-day accommodation packages currently cost 120-150 euros. The host family gets 40%, the local English speaking contact person 10% and 10% is used for the village. Duara Travels gets 30%, and 10% is used on money transfer. My first thought was that I’d definitely be willing to pay more for this experience, it was something that can’t be measured in money – you can’t expect such a warm welcome in any of the world’s five star hotels. While it might feel like a small amount though, the Balinese make around 200 euros a month.

Duara Travels focuses on responsible and sustainable travel in everything they do. Increasing job opportunities in the travel industry in the more remote areas is a significant factor in many developing countries and destinations like Bali, where many areas suffer from over-tourism. Duara Travels has local contacts in all the locations, and they have helped in finding suitable host families around the world. You can read more about how this all works here.

You don’t have to spend your whole holiday in a village community, but I recommend considering a leap outside your comfort zone and trying what staying at a local village community feels like for at least three nights.

P3251091.jpgP3240880.jpgThe family cat

Tempeh and rice for lunch (tempeh is not usually served to guests because it is considered food for the poor, but I told the family I love it)

P3240884.jpgP3251116.jpgWayan’s brother

P3250992.jpgThe men of the village prepare for the ceremony by slaughtering a pig and preparing food from each part

Real Balinese life – three nights in the village of Sindu

I don’t know if any other place has made such an impression on me. I packed my backpack with tears in my eyes and covered my eyes with sunglasses, so no one would notice.

Wayan Sila’s family consists of his wife and their daughter, grandmother and grandfather and Wayan’s brother and his wife. In addition to the family, there are three dogs, chickens, geese, and pigs at the house. I had my own (very simple) room in a different building, but I only went there to sleep because I wanted to take part in the family’s life actively.

At fist I wasn’t sure what to do and just drank tea at the porch curious about my new home and wondering about how I will survive with only a squat latrine for several days. Lucky I’ve stayed with strangers around the world, but especially for someone not used to living with strangers, things might be a bit difficult in the beginning. Should I help with the daily chores? Sunbathe on the porch and stay out of the way? Try to play with the children? Fortunately, by the first evening, I already felt like I was part of Wayan Sila’s family.

I happened to stay with the family at a time of the largest annual hindu ceremony, so a large part of the time was used on preparations. I was able to visit the temple to prepare offerings with the mother of the family, and after a few moments of shyness, the local women welcomed me with open arms. I sat on the stairs of the temple and folded bamboo leaves into different types of decorations while posing for various selfies the women were taking. There was also a woman called Putu in this group, and everyone agreed we looked exactly the same. She is now my Balinese sister and writes to me now and again on Facebook Messenger.

In the evening, Wayan and his daughter took me to see the local market, where we enjoyed street food while flies were flying around and stray dogs waited on any meat that might fall off the table. I was very far from home, but there was no place I’d rather be. The family showed me the village of Sindu, and we drove around the village on a motorbike – all 3 of us on one bike, as they do. Wayan is also a tour guide and a driver and wanted to show me the most spectacular local sights from waterfalls to temples.

On the last evening, I had the honour of attending the largest ceremony of the year. Us women dressed in white shirts and yellow sarongs and walked through the village with a procession and music towards where the ceremony would take place. I had the honour of being a special guest and possibly one of the only outsiders, who had taken part – I received a lot of curious shy looks, but most of them quickly turned into warm smiles. The ceremony itself was unfortunately cut short by heavy rain, which was no surprise during the rainy season.

When you stay with a local family, you also share their meals – and hand on the heart I can swear that nowhere in Bali have I eaten more delicious food than with the Wayan Sila family. Of course, some may be put off by pig blood sauce or dishes cooked using other strange organs or the fact that food is stored in a cupboard rather than a fridge. I didn’t specifically enjoy pig’s blood sauce, but the tempeh with a taste of nuts served with rice and bananas must be one of my favourite foods thus far.

For breakfast, I always had a fresh coconut straight from the tree. I felt like Tarzan’s Jane when I climbed into the tree with a machete to get my breakfast – the tree top was only two metres high, so no, I did not learn to climb along the palm tree, just to make it clear.

After three nights, leaving felt difficult. A part of me missed hotel luxury and my own time, but another part was ready to step on the brakes and stay. I don’t know if any other place has made such an impression on me. I packed my backpack with tears in my eyes and covered my eyes with sunglasses, so no one would notice. The family gave me tight hugs and told me to return whenever I want, as they are now my Balinese family.

P3250968.jpgP3250960.jpgP3240922.jpgP3240931.jpgP3240914.jpgP3240912.jpgP3240900.jpgPreparation for the ceremony

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Book your own adventure in a local village community

When I left for Bali, many people who follow me asked if the real Bali even exists anymore – of course, it does. If you want to dive deep into a new culture during your trip, I recommend this type of experience through Duara Travels from the bottom of my heart. You can choose either three or six nights.

If you want to stay with the same family as I stayed with, you can find additional information here. Please note that the dogs of the family are guard dogs and this family might not be suitable for you if you don’t feel comfortable around dogs.

Duara Travels is a safe way to get closer to a local culture and to become a part of a village community. The families have been carefully chosen, and you have an outside local contact person who speaks good English to help you. My contact person Buana visited me in the evenings and helped me with transfers. The village of Sindu is very close to Ubud, but some of the village communities are located much further away from the tourist destinations.

When you make your booking, use the code VEERABIANCA and get 10 € off all accommodation options. This does not come off the percentage paid to the family or village community!

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Book your stay here.

About Author

Veera Bianca is a passionate storyteller and hospitality expert with an urge to roam the globe. She spends her time on the road searching for meaningful experiences, reviewing accommodation and airlines – trying to inspire you to leave your comfort zone and getting to know new cultures.

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