Thursday, 20 March 2014

Going the Home Stay Way

I wanted a respite from the plastic confines of a hotel, was not much in the mood for room service and took a fancy to befriend locals. So I chose to do just that on my next trip – I went the home stay way and what an experience it was.
What is it about home stays? I mean why would you leave your home to travel across the globe and live in a stranger’s home? The bed, the pillows even the bathroom arrangements are not going to be like that at yours; then why this sudden fixation with home stays when you can just as well choose to stay at a luxury hotel or resort?
Aha, I think it is part of the dynamic nature of travel; it’s like adding a dimension to your regular travel experience by befriending the unknown.   
A friend suggested I try Airbnb, a platform where you can rent a room or a flat at a local resident’s home and stay with locals. Now that’s what I was looking for. So I decided to give it a go.
After a couple of brief and friendly online interactions with the hosts I zeroed in on Stephie and Stephan’s home, there was something so inviting and endearing about the interaction with them. Stephie shared her excitement of hosting us as she had just got back from a trip exploring India and was eager to share her memories.
So even before we arrived at their place, there was a sense of familiarity which eased any doubt of staying at a strangers place.
Serendipity. One of my favourite words in the English dictionary, I like to call it happenstance too. Here's why. We were late to collect the key to their home and were almost resigned to the fact that we might be homeless for the first couple of hours in Munich and there we saw our host Stephan waiting for us at the station with the key. Us having taken the wrong train, losing the way to reach a couple of stations too far, then riding back on, getting off at the far left side of the platform just where he stood, all summed up to a pure moment of happenstance, a couple of compartments here and there or a couple of minutes arriving too early or two late and we would have missed each other.
I have shared my experience of the day we arrived in the story about The Key.
With the key now safe and secure we headed towards the apartment in the direction Stephan had pointed out, a couple of blocks away. The local residential homes gave me a contemporary vibe with wide open glass windows and well light spaces. An early morning photo shoot was in process as we walked up the set of stair overlooking the studio towards our home for the next few days in Munich.

Even though it was a rented space that slight hesitance stalled me at the entrance as it made me aware of entering a stranger’s home.  They were both off to work so we knew we had the home to ourselves for a while this gave us time to settle in.Neatly placed shoes to one corner at the entrance, a jacket rack and an old polished wooden trunk greeted me. With the soft patter of wooden flooring we entered their home. The colours – with small motifs hanging around the corridors leading to a magazine collage like colourful kitchen.

Chocolate nuggets placed at the center of an old wood table surrounded by a divan covered in the most eclectic of hues; their furniture made for a cute and quaint arrangement.  
A kettle of freshly brewed tea awaited us as we entered the kitchen and whilst I helped myself to a cuppa, the handmade bulletin board adorning the wall across marked with their memories; photographs of friends, cards from family and messages from previous guests gave us a glimpse into their lives and even before we met them, I already liked them.

Our designated room was beyond the kitchen and what do we see just as we enter our room? A gorgeously colourful room yes, but there on the bed kept snug atop each pillow – a little welcome gift a Bavarian chocolate!
Talk about combining the candid comforts of home with the luxuries of a hotel!

We enjoyed conversations with Stephie about India and she shared anecdotes with us about her experience with the sweetest people while she travelled through Rajasthan. She opened up her loot of spices and the Indian cuisine recipes she had brought along with her to Germany and one of the days we almost set about attempting to cook a batch of Aloo Gobi(A dish with potatoes and cauliflowers infused with Indian spices and masala) but were stalled by a late night at the local bar instead.

One morning when my sister and fellow traveller Yuktie took ill with a cold and cough, Stephan volunteered to make her a home brew concoction from his collection of greens and herbs. I think she was half cured just by that adorable act kindness! “How are you feeling now,” he asked when he got back home that evening. “Oh much better thanks to your herbal drink,” she gushed. “I think it’s more of a placebo effect!” he said. Aha!      
Make sure to mark your flag on this uber cool scratch map when you visit Stephie and Stephan's home 
I would love to tell you more of the little things that touched my heart while staying with Stephie and Stephan but I’d rather you discover them yourself the next time you visit Munich. 

Tips while choosing to stay at a home stay:
-          For a worthwhile home stay experience look up local residents that offer to share a room from the homes they actually live in. This brings in a local flavour to your experience, with their suggestions on things to do and explore without hampering your privacy and independence.
-          A lot of home-stays I noticed on rental sites are fully furnished apartments that hosts rent out for the duration of your stay. That’s not so much a home stay as just an apartment on rent.
-     Opt for home-stays a couple of stops away from the city centre. I often find ones located in and around the city centre are noisy and overwhelming and I prefer coming back to a quiet home after a long day of exploring. 
-      Always ask your host about things they would recommend to do, may be step out with them for a drink and exchange travel stories; you don't have to follow everything they recommend, its just good to get a local perspective.Don’t hesitate to share your travel stories with them, you will be surprised how keen they are to meet new people and know about new cultures.  
Listed below are a few amongst the many digital platforms that showcase shared accommodation spaces for travellers

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