09/08/2015 8:53 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

How To Be At Home On A Holiday

Kolkata, INDIA: Indian men play cards as they sit beside a lake in Kolkata, 31 August 2006. Environmentalists are raising their concern on the encroachment of wetlands, small water bodies due to the increasing real estate boom in the country's major conurbations. AFP PHOTO/Deshakalyan CHOWDHURY (Photo credit should read DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)


Travel has always been my indulgence. There is so much to see and explore and so many people to meet that sometimes one lifetime seems short. There used to be a time when I preferred staying in luxurious hotels or resorts while on vacation. The hotels did great and still do fine, but I wanted some more flexibility. Those rigid check-in and check-out times didn't always gel well with my travel plans. Also having young kids meant that I wanted something more homely with access to essentials like milk, fruit and medicines too. A nice, warm host to chat with seemed like the icing on the cake. After all, we do want to know more about the place than what the tourist guides tell us.

Over the years, the urge to sightsee all the "touristy" spots has significantly declined. Just lounging around in my hammock or staying put on a beach chair watching the water ebb and flow are very pleasurable, in fact, desirable. A few years ago I went on a vacation to Chikamagalur near Bangalore. My father had also come with the family. This was our first time in a homestay. Now we were still a bit wary of this concept. Would the service be up to the professional standard we were used to in hotels? How would it be to stay in someone's home?

All our doubts were put to rest by the extremely hospitable family that we stayed with. They also put out a lavish spread for breakfast and dinner every day. As my father loves his chapatis which they could not make adeptly, they even invited me into the kitchen to make my trademark thin, round flatbreads. We had such fun for three days even though there was no internet and sporadic TV reception. I haven't slept as soundly as I did there. It was so laidback and refreshing that writing about it makes me yearn for it again.

Having had a great first experience, we enthusiastically tried homestays on our visits to Coorg and Kerala. Each visit left us with precious memories and allowed us meet people who showed us the best of their homes and cities. On one of our trips, my son fell sick just before the journey date. We were about to give up the travel plan altogether when the gracious hosts put our minds to rest. They looked after my son providing him hot milk and hot water that helped him recover quickly. Well, the famed Indian hospitality is still alive and kicking in these lovely homestays.

Remember the movie The Holiday? I was watching it again a few days ago. Such a heart-warming tale of two strangers who lived in each other's houses in far off countries. You know some day I would like to try that. Wouldn't it be fun to live in someone's home just like you would in your own, with no restrictions of hotel guidelines and rules especially in a foreign country where you sometimes feel so alien? A friend of mine recommended World Escape, which is among the oldest and most reliable websites for exactly these kinds of getaways.

Perhaps for my next trip, I will try out living in someone else's home. That will up the adventure quotient, don't you think?

So, do you find the idea of living in a home when on vacation appealing?

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