As I mentioned in my previous post, I went to Georgia for my Spring Break when I was at Keene State College. It was the most amazing week ever, where I met some wonderful people who changed my life, but I doubt if I'll ever see again. My friend Beck had been a couple of years before and persuaded us to make the 30+hour bus ride from Keene to Brunswick, GA. I'm so glad that she did.
When we arrived to the Hotel in the Forest, all backpacked up to the ears, we were taken straight to the hub of the hostel, where we paid up for our week's stay. As soon as you walked into the gates of the hostel, the whole atmosphere changed. People changed. The noises changed. It was incredible. We were then shown to our 'treehouse'. It was really a Hut on Stilts, with 8 bunkbeds on the top floor, and hammocks slung from the ceiling on the ground floor. We put our stuff down and decided who was going to be first in the shower. There were only 2/3 showers, so we had to take it in turns. Especially as they were outdoor showers, with very little shelter. Luckily they were quite deep into the forest, with many trees to camouflage you. Our nearest Shower was called the Angel shower, and there were a few angel statues dotted around, and a huge full length mirror. The shower spout was attached to a tree surrounded by boardwalk, so that you could stand underneath the water looking out onto nature herself. It was so peaceful, with hardly a sound at all, other than the running water. Once we were all clean and dressed again - without shoes I'd like to add...There had been quite a bit of rain the week before, so all the paths were quite muddy and sandy, so you just didn't wear shoes, I didn't see a pair of shoes all week - we walked back to the main part of the hostel, where we were given a quick guided tour. Beck remembered most of it anyway, and she was thrilled to be back again. There was a certain serenity to the place that just took over, and I think we became very different people. We were just in time for the free dinner that you get every night, and we walked into the dining room to see everyone standing in a circle around the room holding hands. We duly joined in, not really too sure what to expect, when one of the managers informed us that at this time every day, everyone gathers to say their name, where they come from and what they are thankful for, for that day. At first we all felt slightly awkward, not really too sure what to say, I think we all managed to stammer out our thankfulness for our safe journey, and our friends and family back at home. By the end of our stay, we were so relaxed in our surroundings that we were thankful for the birds and the trees; the sky and the lake; the incredible people we had met there...I could go on. I think that was one of my favourite parts of the Hostel.
As I've just mentioned we met some unbelievable people during our stay in the forest. There was a group of people touring the states in a Camper Van named Georgia Peaches! One guy was called Ralf and he was as big as a bear! He was huge with broad shoulders with long dark hair and a big beard! He was slightly grizzled with age, but still had the glisten of youth in his friendly eyes. You would have expected him to have a great booming voice, but he didn't, he spoke quite softly, as if not to disturb the nature that surrounded us. He wore a long thick poncho, and gave the best hugs I think I've ever had in my life. Because of his great size, he just enveloped you in his arms and for those few moments in that embrace, you knew that if the world collapsed around your ears right then, you would not be harmed, because you were protected from everything. I would give anything to have another of those hugs. I remember one night, a small group of us had been talking until quite late, and when it was decided that it was time for bed, the 4 of us stood up and had a 'group hug' with Ralf being the 'centre'. We must have stayed like that for a good 5 minutes, but it didn't matter, because once again the world was right. No one felt the need to talk, the silence was not awkward - just peaceful.
There was another man whose name was Colonel Jack Cornflower. (How cool is that?????) He was phenomenal. I swear he saw the world in numbers! He taught us all about the Mayan calendar, and that numbers were the basis of the Mayan Culture. (There are loads of great websites out there if anyone's interested. I won't link them, as there are just too many.) We would sit and talk for hours and hours about all sorts - the UK, travelling, stars, the universe, culture, food....You name it - we talked about it! He knew how to read people, how to discourage their insecurities and encourage their inner self to be true. There were many other amazing people staying at the hostel, from families with small children, to more spring breakers like ourselves, to people with busy day jobs who just wanted to get away from it all. What struck me the most was how these people would come down to Georgia and live the ideal (to me!) lifestyle of being close to nature, recylcing everything, living off the land etc, and then inform us that they were IT Consultants in Detroit, or Piano Tuners in Boston, or Photographers in New York...It was almost as if they, and us to a certain extent, were leading a double life. It was fascinating to me.
The week we were there was the week in which the USA declared war with Iraq, but because we were so cut off from all civilization with no TV or radio, and just one telephone, most of us didn't have a clue. To be honest, I liked it that way. On the Wednesday night the owner of the Hostel came had held a meeting on the porch of the main building. It was then that he broke the news to us - obviously the mood changed, and went from being a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere to very somber, withdrawn. As the gathering broke small groups just drifted away to discuss the topic at hand, until later on when nature seemed to take over again, as if she was telling us that there was nothing we could do about what had happened, so just accept it, and go with our lives. And after all - who are we to argue with Nature!?
It was just the most incredible week ever, and I WILL be back at some point. There are so many people I want to take there, because they have heard so much about it! I just can't wait for the time to come when my opportunity arises, I'll snap it up in an instant! And if any of you are ever in the Georgia area (!) pop on down to Brunswick (well just outside) and stay at the Hostel in the Forest!