62 – 60 Days Remaining
I’m staying in another lovely hostel at the moment, well I never like to call the places I stay hostels, despite hostel often being their name. Most often if you call a place a hostel, the word comes with a negative connotation, especially if you’re speaking to people who don’t travel on a budget or are of a certain generation. People tend to think,
“Oh no! A hostel? Like the YMCA?!”
(Although on a side note if you’ve stayed at the incredible YMCA hostel in Hong Kong, you’ll know that there is certainly nothing negative about a YMCA). Anyway, I think I’ll use the word ‘guesthouse’. At the moment I’m staying at another lovely guesthouse.
A great guesthouse/hostel/homestay/inn/bungalow/hostal/hospedaje….is a building which is made to feel like a home. It’s a building which is so comfortable you don’t want to leave and so different you’re interested in every nook and cranny.
Only about 20% of the guesthouses I’ve stayed in over the years fit this criteria (to read more about that check this blog). However what I’ve come to notice is that the majority of the best guesthouses are owned by foreigners. Foreigners, who’ve finally put down their rucksacks, unpacked and settled somewhere. They’ve bought land or an old building and turned it into whatever they think is the ultimate travelling destination. They’ve used their positive and negative guesthouse experiences to make it wonderful.
I decided way back in the Thailand days of my travels that this is what I wanted to do too.
Back then I just wanted to build a couple of bungalows right next to the ocean, earn just enough so I could peacefully enjoy the sun, sea and sand forever. However after travelling around South America for the past six months and stumbling across the odd wonderfully designed and incredibly creative guesthouse I decided I didn’t want to use it as an excuse to be lazy on the beach (although there’s nothing wrong with that). I want to take on the bigger challenge of creating something meaningful, something that will stop travellers in their tracks and make them unpack for a while.
I know the feeling of travelling around for months on end, having a ball but at the end of the day falling asleep in a place you’d rather not be sleeping in. Then suddenly out of nowhere stumbling across a wonderful place to lay your head. I want to create that memorable experience for travellers. After 3 years of travelling and staying in numerous places I definitely believe I know what works and what doesn’t. Oh and what fun it would be to take on the challenge.
This is obviously all a dream as I have used all my funds on further travel. I have no regrets whatsoever about this, I’ve had a deliriously wonderful time and I am lucky enough to still be on a fabulous adventure. Plus it’s more research under the belt of what works and what doesn’t for a guesthouse. Who knows maybe I’ll take on the challenge in my far away future.
Anyway I wanted to share the stories of the foreigners I’ve met who’ve successfully created fantastic places for the world wanderer to stay. They are all very intriguing and I’m obviously jealous of the lot of them!
Secret Garden Bungalows – Nusa Lembongan – Indonesia
I stayed here in November 2010. The bungalows are owned by an English couple. They stopped off on the gorgeous little island of Nusa Lembongan during their travels of Indonesia only to curiously look over a wall. Behind the wall were the remains of some bungalows, but they were completely engulfed by the overgrown garden. They asked a local whose land it was, the local explained it was owned by a Japanese man. The bungalows had been left to ruin because of the great drop in tourism after the horrendous Bali bombings. The English couple contacted the Japanese man, who was glad to sell the land & the bungalows to them. They spent a while rebuilding and designing the bungalows. Now they are known as the Secret Garden Bungalows and attract many travellers as the gardens and bungalows are truly heavenly. I’m still hoping one day Tom and I will also happen to look over a similar wall!!!
Coral Bay – Palawan – The Philippines
I stayed here in August 2009. This place is incredible; I think this has to be the ultimate dream location for my imagined guesthousebusiness. Coral Bay is owned by a Danish couple Monica and Ulf and it is just perfect (don’t get me started on the all-inclusive food WOW). A beautiful natural setting, beaches, boat trips, kayaking, mangroves, well designed bungalows… The Ultimate Dream!
Hostal Tralala – Salento – Colombia
I stayed here in February 2011. This hostel is owned by a Dutch man called Hemmo. This hostel is so well designed and incredibly comfortable. There are lots of colourful tiles, hammocks, plenty of natural materials and lots of natural light. Hemmo sold everything he owned in the Netherlands, went travelling around the world, stumbled across a gorgeous old house in Salento Colombia, bought it and converted it into Hostal Tralala. Yes, that is the dream!
Hostal Macondo – Arequipa – Peru
I stayed here in July 2011. This guesthouse is owned by a Sardinian couple who travelled South America, spent a year in Lima and then found this place in Arequipa and decided to buy it and turn it into a guesthouse. They are just setting up this guesthouse now but it has all the signs of being a well created and comfortable guesthouse. A perfect place for the traveller to unpack.
Le Rendez-Vous – Vilcabamba – Ecuador
I stayed here in April 2011. This place is incredibly relaxing, the well thought out garden design runs around the individual adobe bungalows. Plus the included breakfast with homemade bread is perfect. The guesthouse is owned by a French couple, Isabelle and Serge who travelled around South America and fell in love with Vilcabamba. They decided to open a guesthouse so they went back to France to earn the money to do so. Then they headed back to Vilcabamba and opened a French creperie while they searched for the best location for their guesthouse. After finding the perfect location they created the delightful Le Rendez-Vous guesthouse using traditional building methods.
La Posada del Sol – Samaipata – Boliviar
I stayed here in August 2011. This guesthouse is owned by a man from Texas called Trent. He’s been there with his wife Chary for the past seven years. It’s another place with great gardens which the rooms open on to, a popular and successful pattern it seems! It’s really quiet and relaxing and there are plenty of DVDs and books to borrow.
La Dolce Vita Guesthouse – Sucre – Bolivia
I stayed here in August 2011. This place is incredible. It is a Swiss-French family guesthouse owned by Jackie and Oliver. It has everything the traveller could possibly need… guest kitchen, sun terrace, tons of outside seating (perfect for Sucre because it’s hot), a living room, TV, millions of DVDs to borrow, a book exchange, large, clean rooms, brightly painted walls, travel information and even a recipe book which guests can add to! Such a well thought out guesthouse. This could be the ultimate model for a successful foreign owned guesthouse.
That’s just a handful of great places, owned by foreign travellers who’ve put down their rucksack and unpacked.
Who knows, maybe one day that will be me!
Important side note:
◊ Obviously the ultimate, ultimate dream would be to win the lottery, buy my own tropical island (a la Richard Branson) and live there chilled out forever. BUT I’m trying to be more realistic.
♦ Or check out the newly updated section My Travels… Asia. Now including Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Thailand.