When I first arrived at La Serrana, I wondered if I was staying at a hippie commune!
If you know me, you know I have lived a pretty innocent life. I am not much of a drinker, not because I don’t like it, but because I fear I can be good at it and when I start to like something, I rarely go halfwayIt has always just seemed like a better idea for me to stick with diet coke on most occasions. Illegal drugs? Haven’t tried a single one. As a teen growing up, I had so much access (no disrespect to my dearly departed brother who cleaned up his life) that it never really held an appeal. And…I like being in charge of my senses and have seen too many negatives to understand the draw. I avoid non-prescription meds because I think illness is the body’s way of building our immune systems. Plus, I got sick on my prom night from taking a few extra Advil for stomach cramps. People will say that for a woman who gets around a lot, I really haven’t. I think my favorite quote from a friend was that they were unsure how someone so worldly could be so innocent. I have found that people generally protect me from harmful situations and have never been confronted with peer pressure to make bad decisions. So, sometimes, I can walk through life missing the underbelly of what is really going on. know that and wondered if that was happening as I sat in the common area of my Colombian hostel.
While visiting the mud baths, one of the girls wrote the name of this hostel on my iPhone. She said it was a lovely place and worth the great effort to get here. Later in the day, I heard a side conversation where she told another girl about a place where she stayed all night because they took some kind of herb that made for the happiest experience of her life…she said she laughed and smiled all night, so I held that little nugget in the back of my mind while taking her recommendation.
My aunt, affectionately named Bones, has done most of my hotel bookings for the trip. She would say I just don’t want to be bothered and that I prefer to use my time dreaming and meeting new people and she is probably right. Plus, she is good at finding cheap and interesting options and I like the way it keeps her involved in my trip. I have loosely budgeted $50 a night for hotels with the knowledge that it should be cheaper for the first half of my trip and more expensive in Australia and Italy. I told Bones that I had this hotel choice covered and started my trek to the “amazing” destination the girl told me about.
I took a bus, a van, and a jeep -over rocky terrain to get to this ecofarm. The farm is remote enough that a boy jumped onto my van in his school uniform carrying what I guessed was his family dinner-a live chicken clucking from a mesh bag. I imagined from the farm description that I would be pulling up to a large barn with people working the land, but instead my first sight was of a house area with couches, chairs, and tables. There were people hanging around everywhere using their technology, watching movies, and chatting. Most of the rooms are dorm style, but I like my own quiet space.so I have the private room for $23 per night. I was welcomed by a young guy from New Zealand who was staying here as a volunteer…I would soon learn that many of the guests were volunteering in some capacity who initially came for a few nights and liked it so much that they stayed. He seemed really happy to share information about communal dinners, shared laundry, and nearby hikes.
I unpacked and wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. Should I go look for a cow to milk or something? I walked around the property and have to say it is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. There are rolling hills, beautiful trees, not a house or road in sight, and the clouds laid in air right looking close enough to grab. The common areas included a tv room, kitchen area, tables, and lots of chairs for lounging. The decorations were economical, but cool with wine bottles hanging from wires on the wooden ceiling, murals painted on concrete walls, and cool little details wherever I looked.
As I sat lounging in the common area, a young man came to me with a Tupperware filled with chocolates. He said he made and sold them…this was my first bit of suspicion…wondering what exactly was in those chocolates, so I passed. I heard a few guys talk about returning from their hike and one said he was hoping he would find mushrooms while on the road. For about 24 hours, I watched everyone…looking for signs that I had entered the darker side of hostel life…waiting for the awkward moments to begin where I would have to put my moral convictions on the table for all to see. There had to be a reason everyone was so happy, right?
But…I have been here for two days now, and my theory has changed. I joined the communal dinner last night…it was delicious! We had fresh guacamole, grilled beets and pineapple, potatoes, rice, and burgers for those who ate meat. I listened to stories from guests who had left their jobs behind to see the world. One woman had been on the road for two years and was currently volunteering at the hostel wearing her previous hat as a financial analyst or something fancy like that. In exchange for room and board, she spent a few hours each day creating spreadsheets while looking out on the expansive views, having her laundry done, meeting interesting people, and swinging in a hammock. Others shared stories of long term travel or how they had been enjoying farm life in Colombia. After dinner, people watched movies, one guy pulled out his guitar, others worked on laptops and chatted with friends from home.
I thought of all the people I know at home…and the stress you can often see on my own face, and couldn’t help but wonder exactly why we do that to ourselves. It hit me…I wasn’t on some crazy hippie commune…this is exactly what relaxed looks like, I just hadn’t seen that on so many faces for a long time.
In my days here, I am living on the wild side and have adopted a few hippie traits…I haven’t washed my hair since I arrived-my first time in years-I always wash my hair if I am leaving the house. And…I am not planning to wash it tomorrow either. No makeup either. I didn’t do anything today…no hiking, no exploring, just sitting and reading. I handed my laundry over to the community pile without a second thought of who would be touching my underwear. I didn’t bring many cold weather clothes with me, so I have worn the same long sleeved shirt for the third day in a row-with just a spritz of Fabreeze. Tell you what…I almost even ate that hamburger tonight and am considering buying one of those homemade chocolates today, but then again, those might be steps too far on my road to a personal revolution.
(Side note…I really do think they are just homemade chocolates and that makes people happy, too)