Hello, Sante Fe. Are You the Universe?
The Sun was lowering over my shoulder, orange reddish hue reflecting in my rearview mirror, while the city lights appeared in the far distance. Six and half days after leaving my home of Cambridge MA., I was now entering what I hoped would be my new home for the foreseeable future. Hello, Santa Fe. It’s nice to finally meet you.
I can’t honestly say I knew what I was getting myself into when I chose this as my destination. I actually had no clue. All I had going into this trip was me and my van, the mule on fuel. No job, no contacts, I didn't really know anyone and I certainly didn’t know the area. All I had was the plan to live in the van in an RV park and see what I could do with this jigsaw puzzle of a new life.
Though tired from a week of travel, the giddiness was alive in my body. Arriving in the dark I made my way to the RV park. “I’m here!” I proclaimed, as I pulled into a nice lot with a mountain view. “I can get use to this,” I thought as the little sliver of sunset left crested over the mountains. Now that I found my lot for the evening and beyond, I went to use the bathroom before heading out to dinner. A sign was taped to the restroom door. Its information made my jaw drop: Bathrooms and water will not be usable until our full season starts April 1st. It was January 19th.
Well, I was hungry for a taco, so I decided I would not worry about it for the evening. That plan worked pretty well until it was bedtime. It was an extremely frigid night, but no problem. This is exactly why I purchased my propane Buddy Heater for the van. But apparently, Buddy goes on strike at 7000 foot altitude. It was 15 degrees fahrenheit. Thanks a lot, Buddy. I had been in Santa Fe for exactly four hours and I had no bathroom and no heat. What are you trying to tell me, New Mexico?? Maybe I should head further South away from the New towards the Old?
The next morning, I woke sniffling and needing to pee. I’m sorry RV park, but if you can’t provide a bathroom, I’m gonna use a bush. Craving some breakfast, I found the nearest place I could, ordered the biggest coffee they had, along with a breakfast burrito, and started researching the next urgent need of the day: a shower.
It didn’t take me long before I found a hostel in town. With all the hiking I’ve done these past few years, I have enough experience to know that most hostels will provide a shower for a small fee. Let me finish up this breakfast and head on over to get myself clean. Another coffee to go, please!
There ain’t nothing like a hostel. Hostels differ from motels, hotels, etc. because of their funky atmosphere, which feels like summer camp for adults. Those with wanderlust are drawn to them because of their low rates and the fact that they usually provide access to a kitchen and other common areas where you can meet other travelers from around the world. A hostel is like the United Nations minus all the political hoha, and their aesthetic often portends cheap worldliness. They are the flea shop of accommodations. Santa Fe’s International hostel was all of that and beyond.
When I arrived, Jenny the hostel’s fearless leader (manager) greeted me kindly with a few questions about where I was from, what brought me to Santa Fe, and if I was a serial killer. Before long, I was in a nice hot shower. While lathering myself head to toe, a sudden light bulb flickered in my head. Maybe I can arrange to work for stay until I figured out what I was going to do long term. After an indulgent, skin reddening, scalding hot shower, I came back to the front desk and asked Jenny, “You guys wouldn’t be looking for help, would ya?” Jenny’s eyes lit up like the big bright lights of Boston’s Fenway Park. “As a matter of fact, we just lost someone and could really use the help.” Okay, Santa Fe, maybe you do want to keep me around…
For the next two hours, I hung out with Jenny going over the hostel’s needs and telling her what I was looking to get out of Santa Fe. “My plan is to spend at least six months here, Jenny.” “Well Jesse, we require a six month stay in order to do work for stay here at the hostel.” The dominos now started falling back in my direction. Preston, the hostel’s owner, came through and introduced himself. He’s one of those characters who is so old school he may have originated the term “old school”. He also has an uncanny resemblance to my paw back at home.
Even thousands of miles away from “home”, I would still have a daily reminder of where I came from.
The hostel provided me with a room, a shower, and all the food I could eat (Whole Foods donates several times a week!). The great synchronicity is that my long term goal is to own my own hiker/wanderlust hostel--and now Santa Fe’s hostel was providing me with a blue print of how to achieve this dream.
The first few hours of my arrival may have been discouraging, but the universe had more in store for me to reward my leap of faith relocating to a town I’d never been before. The community is something else. The people here, from my hostel coworkers to the many locals I have befriend around town, have embraced me with open arms. I’m reminded of the many characters I’ve met along the trails of America. Folks who are always searching out the best version of themselves, trying to live life on their own terms.
I came to Santa Fe looking for two things: a place where my wanderlust would feel at home, with mountains instead of skyscrapers, and a tribe who shared my philosophy of life. I think I’ve found both.
I also came to practice what I preach. To be me. To be the version of myself that I most love.
They say the universe provides. Well the universe and Santa Fe just might be two peas in a pod. A pod that is telling me to keep putting into life what I expect out of it. To keep practicing what I preach…..
…..Hike the Good Hike