How I decided to change my life and discover the world as a Backpacker.
From a baseball career to the beautiful village of Guatape in Colombia
Hola, Patrick Here, your typical 28 year old American from upstate NY, travelling the world. Well not exactly. My travels began about 3 years ago when I decided to walk away from my life in baseball. These 3 years of travel have been absolutely incredible all leading up to now and my time at Casa Kayam!
There is a life outside baseball.
Way back in the day, 26 years ago to be exact, was the first time I hit a ball with a bat. Thats right, I was only 2 years old! This was the start of a life in sport for me. Throughout this time playing multiple sports (mostly baseball) I learned a lot about working hard and striving towards goals. This helped me a lot throughout not only my sport but my life as well. At 22 years old I walked away from my dreams of playing baseball, dropped out of university and started working full time. This job happened to be at a start up brewery owned by two friends I made through baseball. One an Ivy League graduate and a Wall Street trader and the other an investment banker. Its safe to say over 15 months there I learned a lot. Out of everything I learned, the most important thing was that there is a life outside of baseball and now I was curious. Throughout my work there I still played baseball in a semi professional mens league. A league in which former minor leaguers, current and former collegiate players continue their love of the game. It was here in this league that pulled me back to the baseball life.
Back to baseball
About a year after working at the brewery, in the middle of a game against one of the best teams in our league, one of the other teams players asked me what I was up to now. This guy just happened to be a former pro and was currently coaching a collegiate team. So I told him “I’m working at Dave’s brewery, actually I had 4 beers before this game.” His prompt reply was “BULLSHIT, you need to get back into baseball.” For 4 years prior I had played in this league. Playing college ball leading up to the season and with a full training regime. This season was the first year I did none of this and I actually got better, a lot better. I really took this brief conversation on the field to heart and it changed my life completely.
After the summer, three months after that conversation, I did some serious soul searching. I quit my job at the brewery to start coaching baseball and training to play professionally. Now 24 and back in the baseball world, I quickly began to feel noticed as a player and coach. Something that I hadn’t really felt in all the years leading up till then. It wasn’t long before my schedule filled up with lessons and parents were asking me when I was going to get signed. What I had started to realize at this point was that I had grown up. My time in the real world had tough me a lot and it translated well to baseball. This relationship between baseball and life actually goes both ways, something I’ve realized more and more over the years. I was starting to see the world differently and was growing ever so curious about everything else out there.
The big crossroad of my life
Here came the big crossroad of my life, with my 25th birthday approaching I started thinking to myself; I’m almost 25 and really haven’t done much else than baseball with my life. I’m also at a point where I can play professionally in low level California leagues and seriously start my pursuit of a professional baseball career. Or just say “Fuck it” pack my bags and leave. The pursuit of a baseball career from the low levels like that is extremely difficult. You can end up in those leagues for 2 years, never advance, spend your own money because they don’t pay enough to live, then your career is over. Or you slowly climb the ranks and slowly earn a bit more money. A long process stretching at least 5 years. 30 years old and only baseball? I think not.
My life as a Backpacker, from Australia to Colombia
December 13th 2016, JFK, NY —-> December 15th 2016, Melbourne, Australia. My sister had already lived over a year in Melbourne at this time and I hadn’t seen here since she left, so I figured that was a good place to start. I had my working holiday visa approved and tickets bought sometime in October and was ready to start my new life.
My journey in Australia
My first step in Melbourne
For my first month in Australia I spent it with My sister and her boyfriend on a little trip down the east coast, Cairns to Melbourne. Amanda and Ryan’s trip ended after 3 weeks and I stayed an extra 2 weeks in Sydney, only to head back down to Melbourne. I found a part time job coaching softball and doing bar promotion for accommodation at my hostel, so I stayed a bit. Melbourne is a great City with a huge cafe culture, beautiful artwork and vibrant night life. I can see why its been voted most livable city in the world multiple times! Despite this, “I aint no city slicker” as my dad would say and after 3 months and a depleted bank account, I need a real job and out of the city life. Plus I got stuck in a hail storm, Melbourne and your 4 season in one day, adios I’m heading north.
From Melbourne to Darwin
I decided it would only be right to go from one extreme to the other, Darwin was the perfect fit! So I left Melbourne the first week of May, just before the dry season. It was the perfect time to find work before the crowds of backpackers rolled in. On top of that I could find a job that counted toward my second year of my visa. Truth be told this only took my 5 days and I was hired as a receptionist at the very hostel I stayed at. Darwin is full of everything from beautiful nature, swimming holes, waterfalls and incredible wild life. Well all of that and the crazy people that reside there. For those of you that don’t know; the Northern Territory of Australia has no extradition law to send criminals back to their state of crime. NT is essentially a safe haven for all of Australias criminals and oh does it show. It would be considered a rare night to not hear a drunk fight off in the distance, or right in front of you. All these lovely things plus much much more! I had my ups and downs with this place, hating it one day and loving it the next but it was all about to change.
I found love
The end of August 2017 I started seeing my girlfriend Charlie. She was staying at the hostel, we got to talking, went out for drinks and never looked back. We instantly clicked and balanced each other out really well. Charlie had been traveling about 2 years at this time and regularly did help exchange, couch surfing and woofing. This meant a lot of the time, Charlie lived outside of the chaos of Mitchel Street and in the suburbs. Where I regularly went to spend nights. Having my own 4×4 this wasn’t an issue and also allowed us to really explore the area. The last month in Darwin turned out to be the best and left us Primed and ready for our journey around Australia.
Our road trip in the west coast
In the last week of September we left Darwin for the infamous Australian west coast road trip. The raw nature on this trip was mind blowing. Gorges, waterfalls, deserts, hot spring, cliff jumping, beaches, ancient mountains, natural springs, blowholes, sand dunes, all the way to dense forrest in the south. Everything was untouched! No concrete, no boardwalks and most of the time not even paved roads. This beautiful nature with thriving wild life from kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, emus, dingos and numerous different birds. There was even multiple times on this trip where we spent 3 days at one place and didn’t even see another person! Unfortunately with all these rough roads and intense Aussy heat, there was a lot of money that needed to be spent on tires and repairs.
A piece of really bad working experience
After about 3 months on the road we were out of money with a dying 4×4 and in desperate need of a job and a new car. After a lot of searching and a bit of bad luck we found something. Something, yes, something decent, no. With about $100 left between us we didn’t have much of a choice. From being treated as slave workers, to shaving hours off pay slips, the bogans were true pieces of shit. Arrogant, racist, fucktards that with any luck, they’ve already been shut down by fair work. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place is not a good feeling but we had to push through. I was endlessly searching for something better while still showing up to work every day and alas my diligence paid off! After working 14 days straight we were free of that hell hole.
West Cape Howe Winer: our Christmas gift
On December 25th, Christmas day, we relocated to Mount Barker Western Australia, at West Cape Howe Winery and what a gift it was. A small little town in the heart of the Porongurup wine region of Western Australia. We started out there picking blueberries to prove our worth and were quickly moved into work in the vineyards. After about 3 and a half months here we were asked to stay and work through the vintage. I was moved into the cellar and Charlie a spotter on the harvest machines. At the pleasantly plum sum of $27 an hour and upwards of 70 hours a week we weren’t about to say no to that kind of pay check. After a total of about 5 months here, there was no work left for us to do and time to hit the road again.
On the road again
This time we were going to do it right. Throughout the 5 months I did a bit of work on the 4×4 and sold it, as well as the second car we bought. Combine that with 5 months savings and BOOM, Land Cruiser. Hands down without a close second the best vehicle I have ever owned . We could literally go anywhere our hearts desired! So we hit the road again this time exploring the south coast and its beautiful white sand beaches, forests, lakes and rivers. Stopping at every National Park along the way until Port Augusta, where we would head north. We decided to go the long way to Alice Springs taking the Oodnadatta Trail and mostly unsealed roads. We ended up finding a little aboriginal community called Iga Warta along the way where Terence told us he needed some volunteers. Terence is a truly incredible man working his ass off day after day trying to keep his ancestral traditions alive. After 10 days and a bunch of different little tasks and countless traditional stories we had to continue on.
Becoming Aussies… or not
Eventually we reached Alice Springs where we needed some new tires and a service on the cruiser, just a quick pit stop, or so we thought. It was at the mechanics where we were offered our first job, the first day we got there! After a bit of asking around we decided to stay a month… or 5. We decided to jump on the opportunity for another good pay day. I ended up working for Britz, Mighty and Maui camper vans and picking up some extra bartending shifts for the turf club. These jobs came after a week of construction in the bush, which was a whole different experience. Seeing first had the problems with a lot of aboriginal communities around Australia really was enlightening and left me desiring more than the construction. Thats not my problem though and a topic for a different discussion. Charlie landed a job for Way Outback tours and we settled down for a bit. Like I mentioned earlier, life in the NT is different and Alice was no exception. A Big town with somewhere around 60,000 people and the highest crime rate in the country. Not something you would necessarily feel every day but every once in a while. Like the time Charlie left a $20 in the cruiser and some kids through a rock through the window. You know little things like this. Outside of this life here was great, only 45 minutes from the first natural spring and 15 minutes away from the first hike. Theres a very unique landscape with the oldest mountain range in the world, full of gaps and natural underground water springs. This paired with endless nature and camping. Oh yeah and your at the start point for Uluru and Kings Canyon. We really felt like true Aussies here, working hard all week and camping every weekend. We actually enjoyed it so much we tried to get sponsored, unsuccessfully so.
This actually turned into a problem for Charlie and I being from different nationalities, finding places where we can live and work is a tall task. So with our unsuccessful attempt at becoming Aussies, we now had to go back to the drawing board.
When it’s time to meet parents of your love
Get a chance to discover Europe
We decided after 3 years of traveling for Charlie and over a year together, it was time to meet the parents. We planned out a 3 week trip to Thailand before landing in France the 23rd of December to surprise her parents. The surprise was great from shock to tears we saw it all! This trip to Europe lasted 2 and a half months, travelling around seeing family and a lot of France. My first time in Europe and I was blown away by all the castles and majestic churches. All the architecture was truly astonishing and different throughout, from Barcelona, throughout France and into Amsterdam. This paired with the rich European culture, I will definitely be back for some more.
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]After seeing all of Charlie’s family in France it was only fair to do the same with my family. So we went from France to New York to surprise my dad. Then drove to New Jersey for my mom, on the way down to Washington D.C. to see my brother. Being the travelers we are it was only natural to go visit my cousin in San Francisco and my other cousin in Seattle. Luckily enough, my cousin in Seattle works for enterprise so we got ourselves a nice purple jeep for a little over 2 weeks, which we used to explore Washington and Oregon. To finish off our 3 months in the States we spent a week with my friends that all live in Colorado now. The trips in Europe and the states are limited to 3 months because of our visas, meaning we have to keep traveling!
Let’s go to Colombia
From Bogota to Guatape
Colombia just kept popping up everywhere when we were planning where to go next and we just couldn’t ignore all the signs. The final straw was when I looked up flights and saw NYC —> Bogota for 107 euros. We touched down in Bogota May 29th 2019 with the original plan of looking for teaching jobs. That didn’t work out, not because theres no work, but because this country is just so incredible! We continuously got distracted by the places we were, and all the activities. From Bogota with all the street art, markets and the Monsarate climb. To hikes in Villa de Leyva. Rafting, Canyoning, Paragliding and Zip lining in San Gil. The tranquility in the mountains of Minca and Hiking to Cerro Kennedy. The beautiful beaches of the north coast in Park Tayrona, Costeño Beach. The Fisherman lifestyle and scuba diving in Rincon Del Mar. Still with all these amazing places, the total package really lies at Casa Kayam hostel.
Our life in Casa Kayam Hostel in Guatape
At this time we have spent about 4 months in Colombia and are staying 6 months in total. 2 of those months were spent volunteering at some hostels in Rincon Del Mar and almost a month now at the hostel Casa Kayam in Guatapé. As Charlie and I travel, more or less, full time we tend to not want to move as much. I have really learned to enjoy traveling like this, you get to know the places better as well as the people. It really allows you to enjoy the experience much more. This stay in Guatapé was only supposed to last a week, but every morning has that, nope I’m not leaving today vibe.
Being 20 minutes outside of town its quite and disconnected from the tourism in Guatapé. 45 minutes from the cascades and 1 hour from the mirador and endless hills and fields to explore. All that plus more waterfalls in San Rafael, Casa Kayam hostel is a great base for exploring the area. Just the nature around the hostel is enough to keep you here and then you add in all the activities here theres no reason to go. From various games (Ping Pong with Hugo almost every day) to different instruments, animals and a very good group of long term people, there’s always something to do. Also the full kitchen with an oven and plenty of room to store food is a rare gem in Colombian hostels. It really is a place where people can be and do whatever they want. There’s comfy places to chill and many different sleeping options and numerous places to be alone or interact with other travelers. There really is something for everyone at the Casa Kayam, but who am I to say that, you should see it for yourself, who knows maybe you’ll fall into the Guatatrap as well!