I spent 6 weeks volunteering in a party hostel in Santa Marta, Colombia. When I was approaching 6 months on the road, I needed some time to keep my backpack unpacked, have time to work on my blog and to slow the trip down as it was really getting to me. It would be an understatement that I experienced heaven and hell at the same time.
Before I go on, I will need you to keep a very open mind all through the article.
Trying to stay the person I am
I put on my nice dress, fixed my hair and walked into the hostel to ask for a job. Just like going on the interview, I prepared, but for nothing. The manager asked me if I can start in 10 days and that was it. I was in. On my first day I was thrown in the deep water, drugs, alcohol, sex and loosen standards all around me. It was a bit of a shock.
So I decided to lay down some ground rules and I told my colleagues that I stopped drinking last year, I never tried synthetic drugs and have no intention to, and I will party my own way. I judged these people, I though they are way too old to act this way and I turned out to be the odd one out. The more I resisted, the harder it got to fit in so I changed tactics. I started getting involved in the drinking games, I stayed up later and acted crazy sometimes. It felt very unnatural at first as I set high standards towards myself, but what I only just realized here, that I stay the person I am even if I loosen up a bit occasionally.
My core values didn’t change. My personality didn’t change. My priorities didn’t change. My behavior did. I started to very much enjoy dancing most nights, having staff shots, mix a cocktail for myself here and there, share intimate stories with my new friends. As weeks went by I finally accepted, that this is not my natural habitat, but I love it. I loved every minute, every second of it.
Wheel of unfortune
Those who follow me on Facebook must have heard about the wheel many times before. It was designed to get the party going. Please keep an open mind when you read this part. I wouldn’t share it, if it didn’t have a positive psychological outcome, so try to focus on the big picture rather than the details.
Tasks included: Swapping clothes with the opposite sex, drinking from/against/with each other, giving lap dances, spanking one another, run around almost butt naked riding a plastic horse, giving kisses and many more…I know, this is just insane. I walked into a hostel where this behavior was considered normal and it was completely against everything I stood for. I was all shocked that they expected me to participate in this madness.
So I spent days resisting until I gave in. The first time I had to give a lap dance I felt embarrassed, but then I looked around and everyone was cheering, smiling, congratulating when I was done, giving high-fives and told me I was so cool. What kind of reaction is this? – I thought.
The next day these people called me by my first name and started talking to me. This was the moment when I realized; it is not just a stupid drinking & getting people naked game. It is an icebreaker. It demolished my thick ice that’s for sure. Once the shield was down I voluntarily started spinning the wheel and they loved it. So did I.
I witnessed doctors, layers, teachers, managers, business owners and shop assistants leave their comfort zone during this game and not once I heard critics, negativity or judgmental comments. Everyone but me understood right away, that this is the time to enjoy life in a very different way.
My home is the world; my family is all of you
At the beginning I tried to stick to my plan to go to bed early, go for a run at 6 AM, work online, then start my shift in the bar. Sports were incredible hard in this weather so I gave up on them, but I forgot to really socialize and worked online instead.
Time and time again I forced myself to leave the computer and just “hang” in the bar, watching TV and keep company to others. Guess what, this is when I started making friends and friends turned into family. Each morning we summarized the crazy night the day before, exchanged gossips and shared more and or of ourselves. As I started opening up to those who I already knew, it got easier to do the same with those who I didn’t know.
It was 6 weeks of intense training on how to read people better, how to get to really know someone in a very short time and how to establish strong friendships in only a few days.
Many would consider me open minded and flexible, but I reached a whole new level of open mindedness in the hostel.
I will briefly introduce this topic, but only for the sake of you to prepare for what comes next, as I plan to write an article solely dedicated to talk about the nomadic romances. Clearly it is very different. This fake reality seems accelerating at first, but because almost everything has an expiration date, it takes its tolls on the soul.
During six weeks my emotional world was on a roller coaster like never before. It is definitely the easiest way to meet the kind of people I like to spend time with. All the nomads have the love of travel in common, and we are all in our best state of mind while on the road. We are all happy, approachable, exciting, flexible, adventurous and sun tanned. Who doesn’t fall in and out of love in a heartbeat in this environment?
People rotate, the crowd changes, but the mentality is always the same. And it’s very attractive.
I had my interest peaked and my heart broken too often in such a short period.
In what other context would you meet 80 new people every 2 days. I felt love and I felt pain within the same 24 hours sometimes and my god it was a heavenly hell.
What time is it?
It is shot o’clock. I will never be able to stop smiling when someone asks me that question. With my new family we started new traditions. Just like on Sundays at home we have lunch together, just like exchanging gifts at Christmas, we developed our own little rituals. And if you ever studied psychology, you must have learnt about why it is crucial to keep traditions. Because it marks the passage of time. Because you belong. Because you practice something that only those few who you love practice it with you.
Shot o’clock was one of our greatest jokes and traditions, so depending on how many times we heard the question ‘What time is it?’ we either got a hangover, or woke up fresh the next morning. Most importantly, we all did this together. My family and I.
On the 16th June, I left with a broken heart, seriously sleep deprived from the crazy parties every night, weak from the repetitive food I was eating and with cried out eyes. This party hostel environment was toxic, destructive and addictive. It was time to leave. But I will never forget the good times, good laughs, the trips together, the bad decisions together, the dancing, the juicy stories and the hugs. I gained a new family.
One of the most important takeaways for me was appreciating permanency. Right now everything is temporary and constantly having to say goodbye takes some getting use to. I still don’t know how to handle it. If I could close my eyes and be in Budapest for 1 day it would recharge me and I could carry on. Looking at another 6 months of “I hope to see you in the future’ seems impossible. But, bring it on!
I learnt to completely leave my comfort zone and feel confident about it. I was very judgmental despite my biggest efforts, but being part of the act I was judging helped me change my mind, accept it and enjoy it. I was a different person in the hostel. There were aspects about this persona that I loved and I hated, but it was all new and it added something more to the person I was before volunteering here.
Participating in something I didn’t believe in time and time again turned out to be a huge learning curve. Hitchhiking is crazy so I tried. Hitchhiking a boat is even crazier so I tried. Drinking because a wheel tells me to is crazy so I tried. Meditating at 6 in the morning in the middle of a banana plantation is crazy so I tried. Sleeping with 10 people in the same room is crazy so I tried. Telling a stranger my biggest fears and dirty little secrets is crazy so I tried. Openly talk about my deepest feelings is crazy so I tried.
Enough of judging what you don’t know. Try it first. Drugs are bad. Have you tried? South American people are weird. Have you talked to them? Kissing a complete stranger is bad. Have you tried? Asking for a ride from a random person is crazy. Have you tried? Latin America is dangerous. Have you been here? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I just choose not to listen to it if it’s not based on personal experience.
To understand what’s going on in the world you have to see it first!
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