Despite the rocky start, I quickly settled into a nice routine in Santa Marta. I strongly believe that you should never judge a place based on the first night you spend there, especially when things don’t go according to plan. It happens more often than you’d probably imagine and these days I flat out refuse to make rushed decisions until I’ve had a chance to sleep on them. Needless to say, more often than not, things do majorly improve the next day and Santa Marta was no exception.
The hostel I’d booked – República Bahia – did turn out to be the right choice. I was moved to a bottom bunk the next day and while the Internet had not fully come back I was given assurances the situation would be looked into. And it was. A few days later the technicians came around and things improved drastically (for a little while, at least). With that said, I feel like the reason I managed to be so productive over the first few weeks was precisely because Internet access was so limited. Funny that, eh? 😉
Either way, I’m guessing the question you’d like to see answered is: What’s it like to live in a hostel? A lot of people ask me why I didn’t book a hotel or Airbnb instead and the answer is quite simple. One, I can’t afford it. A very central hostel in a place like Santa Marta costs somewhere between 5 and 8 euros per night with breakfast included. Two, I can’t be alone otherwise I just get too distracted. I know it sounds silly, but it’s the truth. Staying in a hostel allows me to stay focused.
You’d think being surrounded by people meant I’d get more distracted and, while that’s not totally incorrect, it’s a different type of distraction. I do chat to people often throughout the day, some chats longer and more interesting than others but they all allow me to take my eyes off the screen for a bit. The hostel, housed in a beautiful colonial building, has several large tables that are usually used by people who – like me – have some sort of work to do. I’ve mentioned before how Santa Marta proper is not a major tourist hotspot so during the day the hostel is largely quiet as most people just go out to do their activities.
My routine is very simple: I wake up in time for breakfast (which is served until 9:30 a.m. and consists of granola with yogurt or pancakes with fruit, and a cup of tea) and then read for about an hour or so until I finish my drink. I work until around lunch time and head out to one of three places that serve vegetarian food near the hostel. I spend the afternoon working until around 8 p.m. then go out to grab some dinner, which I tend to eat back at the hostel while watching a TV show or movie. At first I was going to Subway a lot but have now discovered many places that serve vegetarian food, from burritos to pasta or sushi. I’m spoiled for choice!
Sharing a room is nowhere near as bad as it’s made out to be. These days a lot of hostels are built on the premise of comfort, to the point where you almost have your own little apartment. Some have regular bunk beds with curtains for privacy, while others – like this one – have a sort of capsule. Each bed has its own power socket, light, and plenty of space to store things. Worth noting I always travel with earplugs and eye mask to ensure my sleep isn’t disturbed by snorers or noisy early risers.
I’ve met a ton of nice people in the hostel but also a fair few nutters, like the German who was adamant Europe lived under a fascist regime and the media were brainwashing people to control them. What? That sure was a breakfast chat I wish I’d never had. There was also the older British man who made sure to update me in vivid detail every time he headed out to “meet” street girls. Oh yeah, and the Canadian who was so drunk he fell from a top bunk, broke his chin, went to the hospital to get stitches, and then was telling people he’d been attacked in the street at night. Sigh. Never a dull moment! 😅
The hostel has some events (from yoga to salsa classes) but, as you may have guessed, they’re not quite for me. Even the pool I’ve only managed to use once. I try not to forget that the reason I’m in Colombia is to work and not to have fun. Yes, I know I’m probably being too hard on myself but I feel incredibly bad about not having done anything while I was in Lisbon during the pandemic – so many plans, so little result. I’ll relax once the books are out. That’s a promise I made to myself and intend to keep. 😁 Creativity is a hard animal to tame. You never know when it’s going to decide to manifest itself, and once it does you better let that beast roam free!