I’m not sure if I should tell this story. What if it never happened? Did I really find such a place, I wonder now, months later?
I will put the words on paper. It’s up to you whether you believe me or not, when even I doubt myself.
As I sat with my laptop, sipping a cup of tea and browsing through travel websites, resisting tomorrow’s going to work, I found them on Workaway. I shook the head in disbelief and promised myself that one day I will get there – the south of Thailand, on a paradise beach surrounded by dirt jungle paths.
More than two years after, mini van left me in the muddy street. The rain that held back all day cascaded down. The roosters curiously followed my steps to a new home.
„Miss, where are you going?“, a voice behind the fruit stand asked me.
„The tree house“.
„Oh, it’s just here“, Mon said, pointing a finger at the sign „Welcome home“.
And Home it became, with the Mon’s kitchen across from the door.
Sandy floor, sandy feet
It was a place like no place before. Sandy floor creaked rhythmically under my feet. Wooden swings by the bar called for icy cold Chang. Travelers were talking and laughing in the hammocks, building secret places among comfy cushions. White maltese Blue slept next to the charging station while Pirat the cat didn’t like to hang out with people. Except when it rained. Then Pirat slept in my bed.
Life was lived in the open. The ocean breeze flowed through the invisible wooden walls, inviting travelers to marvel at the world, to escape from burnt realities, to see each other once again. For the first time in my life I thought: Wow, these people seem genuinely happy.
I came as a stranger, I became a volunteer and I left after one month as a family member.
I swam with the glowing plankton soaking up the salty waves, surrendering myself to the mighy ocean and sparkling nights. In a little treehouse community in Thailand I found what I was so hungry for. It was an escape. It was disappearing in a world much better than the one I left behind.
I laughed not knowing that I could laugh so hard. I cried. I did yoga on the beach. I dipped my toes in water and watched eagles fly. I kept on losing myself in Koh Lanta sunsets. Time didn’t matter. An avalanche of warm feelings began to rise in me. Fireworks cracked beneath my feet. I was absolutely free in my wildness.
It’s a jungle, baby. What drew us to the place with sandy floor?
Roaches. Cockroaches everywhere. Sandy feet means sandy bed. Unimaginable heat. Sweat and dust. Mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever. You go to bed sweaty. Your sheets are sweaty. Your body is constantly sweaty. Would you do it? Would you sacrifice four hours of your precious time to help a hostel designed in the style of a treehouse? It doesn’t sound appealing, right? Well, I did it! I was constantly sweaty. My hair was full of dust and I couldn’t wash the sand off my body. I had three roommates – two cockroaches and one wood destroying bug. They look absolutely “gorgeous” but hey, it’s a jungle baby…
Let’s do it a little more attractive now…
There is a place on a paradise island run by a family that believes in individuals. There are Marilyn, Jessie and baby Jaden. For them people aren’t numbers nor robots but living, breathing souls.The place is designed as a treehouse, mostly from wood found at the beach. With lots of love, art and volunteers, it has turned into a huge living room for travelers who crave.
80 meters away is Long beach. Ocean roars early in the morning. Blanket of stars covers the sky as you cover yourself when going to sleep. Breakfast is amazing and as a volunteer, you get it for free. Beans shipped from England? French toast? I got my private room and bed with a mosquito net.
A manager of a hostel, a beautiful mature woman with an amazingly deep eyes Marilyn fed us with her homemade yogurt, cooked ginger and stories like: “I remember watching Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison on a stage once…”. She took care of our bellies and our souls. “Darling, drink, just don’t get drunk during your shift“, she told me upon my arrival making me feel welcomed and relaxed.
“What’s your story?”, Marilyn asked me.
“I put my belongings to my backpack and bought a one-way ticket to see the world”, I replied.
“Good! This place is good for you and your heart”, she said with the warmest smile.
I shared the “staff” tree house with two Canadian girls, Emily and Jenny; Mat and Rosie, the managers of the hostel from England and with an Irish guy Ronan. Later Connor and Franco joined us. Our days were filled with joy related to the maintenance of the hostel. We were divided into shifts but helped each other without asking. We worked barefoot. We watered the flowers. We changed beds calling that shift „sweating balls“.
When it would get too hot, we’d lie in hammocks and stare at our Facebook. We’d talk about travel plans and who ate what and where. “Have you tried chicken massaman curry at Mon’s place?! It’s amazing, right!?” It amazed me how easily we connected. How easily strangers become friends. And when our shifts ended, we stayed. Chillout House ate up all our free time, our attention and ego. You may think that we were crazy, remembering the first few sentences.
Why did we do it then? Why we left the comfor for „this“?!??
For simplicity and uniqueness that comes with living in such a place? The colors? Living with people who speak different languages and come from different parts of the world? The hammocks and the ocean. Bamboo cold showers. New working experience.
“There comes a moment on a journey when something sweet, something irresistible and charming as wine raised to thirsty lips, wells up in the traveler’s being”.
– Patrick MacGil
There I tested my limits. Can I do it? Can I live an uncomfortable life, not worrying about the materialistic stuff, make up, new phone or jeans? The answer is YES. Time spent there gave me more time for what truly matters – myself.
In Chillout House we could be whoever we want to be. When you come from a country where creativity and individuality aren’t nurtured nor appreciated, and when you find a place and people where they are – it’s magical. I have never worked behind the bar and was afraid of it. I indulged myself into this adventure and guess what? During my second shift I got a tip and a job offer! Two Americans offered me a job in Germany after I didn’t want to take a huge tip just for myself but wanted to share it with others, even though I was working alone that night.
“Give me a piece of paper”, one of them said before leaving.
I got back an address and a phone number. Magic working?
I learned to dance salsa. I replaced shyness with hunger for learning. A cocktail master from South Africa taught me how to prepare a mojito. Argentinian Franco helped me with my Spanish and made me fall in love with coffee. I was fine. Happy as a child. To believe in yourself can be the hardest thing to do. To question your decisions can be a constant agony. But when you open your heart, magical things happen. And in Chillout House I felt that my heart expanded as never before.
A piece of paradise
I wanted to become part of a backpacker’s society ever since the movie based on Alex Garland’s book „The Beach“. I always wanted to find a piece of paradise as Leo did.
He said in the movie:
“And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment… It lasts forever”.
It seemed impossible. Until I found it. Like a blazing fire, that feeling still burns inside of me. It makes me walk boldly into unknown, through the everyday, until I find my piece of paradise again.
We were free. Happy. Life was hearbreakingly beautiful with the treehouse crew.
When night fell and the music began to flow through the air, we turned the colorful lamps on so stars could see its way and bring us refreshing breeze, as well as unlimited possibilities. We played mega Jenga. We laughed and listened to the music. Baby Jaden was dancing and the ocean kept on roaring loudly.
My heart was full.
I dedicate this story to my fellow volunteers. May the Road keep you safe.