I volunteered at a hostel in Santa Marta (North Colombia) and it was fab. We worked behind the bar for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week in exchange for 2 meals and a bed. I was dismissive of volunteering at hostels initially, it’s paid work surely?! But actually it gives you the chance to save money, you only agree to a few weeks of work and it’s really, really nice to have a place to call home.
Living on the Caribbean coast was as you would expect: sticky heat, deserted beaches, banana trees, jolly holidaymakers…
I was lucky to find such a friendly hostel. The staff did a great job of mixing with the guests so the atmosphere was especially lovely. We shared everything from food, to day-trips, to suncream; a girl even gave me some spare tampons because she knew I was travelling for months, sweetie.
It also meant that there were no secrets, but that was all part of the fun. We slept in 10-bed dorms so most mornings started with a cheeky ‘where did you sleep last night?’ and behind the bar we got a great view of all the action.
Here are a few characters I came across:
An Italian guy who came to Colombia to eat really good food, the equivalent of expecting a low calorie meal in a chip shop
A rampant unidentified guest who woke up a fellow volunteer (2am, asleep in the communal area, they’d never spoken before) and told him he better sleep in her bed tonight
A guy who looked like a sexy Fatboy Slim. His response when I told him was ‘that’s not difficult’. Oops
A middle-aged traveller on the hunt for vaginas under the age of 25…
Tayrona National Park is a two-hour bus from Santa Marta and it’s divine. You rent hammocks for a night or two, take a bottle of local rum and enjoy the combination of jungle hikes and pristine beaches. Tropical camping, really. This was taken after a heavy storm at about 5am, the skies were changing so dramatically I couldn’t resist going for a walk.