Georgia: A Rustic Retreat to Truly Get Away from it All
Hostel in the Forest in Rural Brunswick, Georgia
Hidden in a forest of palm meadows and pine trees, just outside of Brunswick Georgia, is one of the most unusual hostels you find in the United States, called Hostel in the Forest.
The 133-acre piece of pristine wetland and pine forest which is home to Hostel in Forest’s three geodesic domes and nine tree houses is more than a place to crash when driving up or down the highway. It’s a self-sustaining community, and an experience to be had.
For only $25 a night, you can stay in either one of the treehouses, or in the Corral, and eat a family style diner.
The treehouses themselves each have their own personality and names like the Peacock Hut, the Screen hut, or the Bamboo hut. Some are placed closer to the communal area surrounding the three geodesic domes while others are placed further in the woods for people who really want to experience the solitude of the forest.
There is also a range of beds in the huts; most huts have a double bed and an optional extra mattress while the 3 peacock huts have three single beds each.
Likewise, there is also the option of huts with electricity or huts without electricity for folks who prefer candle light. When reserving your stay it’s not always possible to request a specific hut but if you have a preference it can be accommodated most of the time.
On the rare occasion when all the treehouses are full guests can also stay in the Corral, a two-story building with bunk beds more reminiscent of a traditional hostel. Although, most traditional hostels don’t have screen walls so that you can wake up with the forest, or hooks to hang up your hammock. The second floor of the Corral also doubles as the art room, here guests can paint, sew, or even give art classes to other guests.
Because the Hostel is run entirely by volunteers who spend a few months at a time living at the hostel in exchange for their skills, the hostel also asks guests to volunteer to do at least one small task to help out.
While an art class could count, most people just take some time to weed the garden or sweep the floors, if you’re really in a hurry you can simply take out the trash on your way out since there is no way to dispose of trash that cannot be composted on the hostel grounds. Doing one of these little chores is a great way to meet new people and develop the sense of community that makes Hostel in the Forest so special.
This community spirit is most evident at dinner time. The meals are vegetarian, usually vegan and, of course, made by volunteers. The veggies come from the hostel’s garden or one of the local farms near Brunswick. After diner is announced by ringing the bell near the central dome, a communal dining hall fills with guests and volunteers.
Before anyone digs into the meal everyone circles around the tables and holds hands, listens to the sound of the forest, then introduces themselves, adding one thing they are thankful for. After dinner, the radio, one of the few electronic devices used on the grounds, is turned on and the entire group chips in the cleaning party.
Hostel in the Forest is more than a place to sleep and eat at though. There is a spring fed lake with a diving platform, a canoe, and a kayak all guests are welcome to use, as well as a pool with a rope swing. Trails snake through the grounds leading to orchards, gardens, and meditation circles, but everyone is free to hike through the forest.
The central dome has instruments guests are welcome to play and after every dinner guests and volunteers are encouraged to join around the campfire and hang out.
A few times a year the hostel holds ceremonial Sweat Lodges run by Native American experts in aLakota style lodge, although these are probably the busiest times of the year to visit. The hostel also hosts popular, workshops like didgeridoo basics, kundalini yoga, and natural building workshops. These activities and events, along with the strong communal ties are what separates Hostel in the Forest from your average hostel.
For backpackers used to thinking of hostels as a place to leave your pack and a bed to sleep on, Hostel of the Forest will be a welcome and relaxing surprise, and for people who have never stayed in traditional hostels, Hostel in the Forest will be a perfect first step into the hosteling world.
Virginia Drexel is an aspiring travel writer from Florida.