Travel fantasy – erased

I’m not sure when exactly I stumbled upon the fantasy of owning a hostel, but I’m pretty sure it was either on my lap of South America in 2004 or soon after when dealing with the travel come-downs back home.

I fantasised about how cool it would be to welcome foreign backpackers into my hostel and make a place where they would feel at home and where I would meet amazing people from all over the world. I would put on barbecues and have a plethora of information on activities and local sights. They would smile and share travel stories. In my fantasy it would be amazing.

Mi novio and I have just finished a 10 day stint hostel-sitting where that beautiful little fantasy was shattered. How can it be so bad in just 10 days you may ask? Well on this green grassy side of the fence I never considered the following:

* You are chained to the property. Travellers don’t have weekends off. (Actually they do, but that’s from their work or whatever, not from your property.) You need to be there all the time, and if you’re not there, you need someone trustworthy to be there. Mi novio described it as being in a cage, or rather a prison, even more apt when considering the front gate with padlock that requires opening and closing for the inmates – oops, sorry, for the guests – at all hours of the day and night.

* Utilities are essential services and when they don’t work, you’re in the bog. Here in the land of Colombia everything is possible but nothing is certain. This includes water and wifi services. When there isn’t a permanent connection to a water service and you rely on the water company to release water to fill your tanks every week and it doesn’t arrive when you have a full house of guests and the reserve tank is empty you start to panic. Same when the wifi goes on the blink or decides to be super slow and all you can hear from the guests is a bevy of complaints about the internet connection you start thinking you’ll lose them all to the competition.

* Ah yes, the competition. Taganga is pretty much chock full of hostels, guesthouses and the like for people trying to find a piece of Caribbean dream. So how is this Colombian family run hostel staffed with people who have never backpacked in their life supposed to compete with the neighbouring resort of a hostel that provides everything a traveller desires. It can’t. Like mi novio described so accurately, it is one of the little fish that always hangs around the bigger fish to feed off the leftovers. When the neighbouring hostel is full, this hostel starts to get some lodgers.

* Sex, drugs and party time. They’re carefree and miles from home, but does that mean they can leave used condoms and smoked up joints on the serene rooftop terrace? No one wants to hear 3 different couples having sex in the one night. No one wants to open the door to a guest who is having sex in the morning light in front of the hostel. They may only be here for a night or two, but this is where you live and work.

Add a 6 month old pitbull that lives in the hostel and likes to go marauding in the middle of the night, eating Christmas decorations, remote controls and ripping open bags of rubbish to spread up and down the hallway and a complete lack of reservation and accounting system and we landed in the middle of complete chaos with a bang.

After 10 days of running a hostel we realised that despite meeting some great people and feeling good about helping them with their questions about things to see and places to go, we are not cut out for this lifestyle. In the 10 days we were at the hostel mi novio spent about 3 hours one night sleeping with me, all the rest were spent in the hammock in reception ready to open the door to all the party-goers arriving back at all hours of the morning. Both of us were well and truly ready to head back to Santa Marta and sleep uninterrupted in our own bed.

One of the best things I’ve come to realise though, is that we make a great team. I bring a number of ideas to the table and mi novio is the go getter who executes them. We think along the same lines and have the same philosophies when it comes to running a business but we have different skill sets. I think any business we have and put our energies into will succeed, it’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity.

However, I am now taking my hostel fantasy, wrapping it in threadbare hostel sheets and throwing it in a big garbage bag. It’s not my problem anymore if the dog gets to it.

Do you have a travel fantasy? Has it ever turned to reality and was it as good as you imagined?

The chore hostel

I’d never encountered a hostel where, in addition to paying for your bed, you had to do some other cleaning task to qualify to stay.

Sure I’ve come across plenty of places where you work in exchange for a bed, but not where the sole cleanliness of your room relies on the effort of the person who stayed there before you.

For me, this wasn’t such a big deal, I was happy to clean up after myself. Unlike at home, while on the road I’m quite pedantic about cleaning up after myself and drying my dishes rather than letting them drain in the communal kitchens. However, when the initial state of the place is pretty tatty and the chores are said to be “to engender community” I kind of get a bit affronted.

You wouldn’t think it is a hostel with all the broken down old cars and ancient caravans waiting to be restored in the carpark. As I marketer, I know that’s not how you present your business. The verandahs in front of the rooms all had planks of wood and other bits and pieces caked in dirt cluttering them up and the kitchen looked like an explosion had gone off.

In the kitchen’s defense, that was after a veritable truckload of donated food past their sell by dates had entered the hostel. Something they get for their non-profit status. So while it was a bit scungy yet oozing potential, the free food is a bonus to backpackers always on the lookout for a cheap feed.

This hostel feels like home

I’m staying at the most beautiful hostel in Durango, Colorado. It is so chilled and homely that I don’t want to leave it to see anything.

It is more like a b & b that’s how nice it is. Super clean, quality utensils in the kitchen, a cosy lounge, a deck looking out onto the bush, shelves for those sleeping on the top bunk, fluffy towels, soft sheets and an even softer blanket. A five out of five on my TripAdvisor review.

The kitchen inspired me to bake brownies, from a packet, but still my first bit of baking since I left LA. But I don’t want to think about baking for too long though as I miss my KitchenAid beaters and my pav plate from Goodwill. I’d love to just whip up a pavlova for the hell of it, but it is a finicky business that requires all the right equipment, and most hostels don’t have it. Needless to say when I’m camping there definitely aren’t the facilities for pav making.