Mexican Hostel to Become Vagabond Home
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- I had previously checked out a hostel and discussed going into the hospitality business with a couple of guys in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
Read more at Vagabond Journey to start hostel in Mexico?
We found an adequate place for an adequate price, some money was put down on the table, the key was handed over — we had a hostel. Now we were ready for the hard part:
I was not on the same page as one of the partners for the hostel business. I went to talk to the ring leader of the operation, a Mexican/ American named Carlos — who is without a doubt my closest friend in this city — and told him that there was no way I could be in on the project with the other partner. I am a traveler: I do not fight, I leave.
Carlos turned to me and spoke quickly, “I was thinking that it could be better to run the place more as a collective than a hostel.”
Good idea. Neither Carlos, his girlfriend, nor Chaya and I want to stay in San Cristobal for more than another two months.
Why were we starting a business?
We were starting a business because it fell on our plates, a new fork in the road presented itself, we found a path before us that looked too good not to walk down. The traveler who sticks to an itinerary goes nowhere; the man who is not open to unexpected opportunities is going to miss those precious intersections that can change a life.
But the hostel did not seem as if it was going to work out very well if we ran the place as a business, the partners did not share a collective vision.
So I jumped at Carlos’s suggestion of not complicating out lives, finances, and friendship with starting a business, but transform the old hostel into a collectively operated traveler’s home.
This would be a place where travelers can come and live for cheap for a month or two before traveling on, a place that would be a center of the universe for backpackers making up their living on the road, a social center of sorts for vagabonds. I liked the idea. We would collect enough money at the beginning of the month from everyone to cover rent and expenses, and just let it be from there. We would not need to advertise, would not need to deal with ledger books, accounting, showing people rooms all day long, keeping up appearances for guests. No, the traveler’s who would stay in this place would, essentially, live there — and it would therefore be their responsibility to keep the hostel functioning.
The profit motive of the project would not exist, we would simply create a place run by travelers, for travelers — and Carlos and I would be able to leave at will, having invested only our share into the collective. We would hope that others would take responsibility to keep the place running, if not, then oh well — it was fun. At $200 a month for rent and perhaps another $200 for expenses in a place with a carrying capacity of at least 10 month by month residents, we were looking at a home where travelers could live well on $40 a month.
San Cristobal is also full of travelers who would be more than willing to participate in this project.
It sounded good to me, I wanted to have a part in starting up this traveler’s home.
In a single day, Carlos rounded up 10 people who wanted to move in. Some of them would eventually drop out, others would join, but it was perfectly evident that this traveler’s collective would get off the ground.
Then I walked over to the hostel to show it to my wife and baby for the first time.
My wife’s foot had spoken. The place was too dirty, too rickety, too inconducive to a little kid playing around on concrete flooring that was in a state of perpetual crumble, that there was no way that my wife and baby were going to move in. By all accounts, this traveler’s home was not suitable for small children. By the combined forces of sense and a good wife who knows when to squash the fanciful ideas of a husband whose notion of family life is still a little askance, we made our exit from the project.
Though the San Cristobal de las Casas traveler’s home lives on without us, the collective has been assembled and the work begins.
In a world where backpacking has become dominated by rich kids, where the hostelling infrastructure has been gentrified beyond the point of no return, where travelers are being nickled and dimed around each corner they turn, where true vagabonds who make up sparse livings on the road are few, these traveler homes are needed. I hope this example is followed elsewhere, and these collective living arrangements for travelers spread all over the earth, providing cheap places to stay and good projects to work on for people living life on the road.
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