My boyfriend and I recently returned to the USA from Vietnam, where we spent one incredible month exploring the bustling city of Hanoi, Vietnam. That’s not so impressive until you realize we hardly spent any money over the course of the month. Our accommodation, food, and most activities were free!
So how did we do it?!
Johnny and I volunteered our time in exchange for a private bedroom and delicious home-cooked meals! Through the website workaway.info, we found an amazing program called Homestay Vietnam, which placed us in a home with about 15 Vietnamese students aged between 18 and 25. Here, we taught evening English classes for an hour and a half each, as well as private tutoring classes in our free time. By voluntarily teaching English to these bright and willing students, we were rewarded with an experience like no other. Our students were caring, hard-working, willing to learn, and adventurous. They cooked us lunch and dinner every weekday and even made me special vegetarian meals! Their thoughtfulness never went unnoticed. Johnny and I had our own bedroom (with AC and fast wifi!) and shared a bathroom with the students. Our students often let us borrow their motorbikes to get around, which was always a sweet gesture and bonus. Our house manager, Khoa, made sure we felt comfortable and ensured we were enjoying our first trip to Vietnam.
The work was simple and fun, and Johnny and I enjoyed teaching our students so much. We were living with two other foreign teachers, Richard from England and Julianne from Norway, and the four of us spent many of our free days adventuring together. Julianne and I taught the basic level class together, while Johnny and Richard taught the advanced level. We were each required to be available for private lessons during the day as well, but the students were more eager to take us out to eat or to go exploring than to sit in the classroom.
Our students took us camping, to museums and special sites in the city, to local restaurants and adorable coffee shops, to bar street and karaoke on a Saturday night, to the Battrang pottery village, to beautiful pagoda complexes, and to SO many other memorable places!
When the month ended, we realized that we had created such a lovely little life for ourselves in the charming and sometimes crazy city of Hanoi. Now, we already miss the cheap, strong coffee and the dizzying motorbikes and being lost in translation, laughing and drinking Hanoi beers with our students/friends. We were so lucky to have this experience and get so close to local Vietnamese people. We saw a side of Hanoi that many travelers do not get to see and we will never forget our month at Homestay Vietnam! We highly recommend the experience of ditching personal comforts and trusting others in the form of a homestay. The new food, new friends, and new adventures taught us more than we realized at the time. Volunteer in a homestay in Vietnam; we really don’t think you will regret it.