Glamping in the Forest : Hostel in the Forest, Brunswick Georgia
Gently rocking on a wooden swing chair, sitting smack dab in front of a beautiful serene lake, cup of tea in hand, I pondered the awesomeness that is Georgia’s Hostel in the Forest.
Like many other camping experiences, while it may not necessarily start as glamping, if you approach it in the right way Hostel in the Forest provides everything you need and more. Situated on 105 acres of forest, the hostel operates as an intentional community (aka ‘hippy commune’). Five to ten staff rotate in and out, caring for the organic gardens, cooking amazing vegetarian food (included in the incredibly cheap overnight price), building new tree houses or geodesic domes for accommodation, chopping wood for the nightly (and sometimes daily) campfire and generally caring for the place.
The manager position is the longest term volunteer / work trade role with volunteers expected to stay and care for the place for 9 months to a year. You get an amazing sense of history and the continuity of this warm refuge in the forest in the cosy reception area. Alongside the wood burning stove, comfy couches and reading material there is a display of photos (inevitably smiling) of every manager since 1975!
The changing fashions displayed in the pictures might have given you a sense of the changing eras throughout which the hostel has been situated on this beautiful piece of coastal forest… however, with many areas of the Hostel offering a ‘clothing optional’ policy, not enough of them are wearing enough clothes to tell what year it might be!
A lot of the facilities are pretty basic, and in many ways this is exactly what is needed. Guests stay in dorm style accommodation on a ‘first in, best dressed’ type policy. Couples usually seem to be accommodated in (small) private quarters but this is not guaranteed. On the plus side, unless there is an event happening over your dates (do check the website) this place is truly a hidden gem and you’ll often get the run of the place.
Why do we like it?
So, what’s great about Hostel in the Forest? First of all the serenity. There is a ‘no cell phones outside of the dorms’ policy. This means that everyone literally sees one another – and not the screen of their phone. This is admittedly annoying if you use your phone to take photos, but, especially for those people (like me) who travel with a camera, most people adapted to, and appreciated this policy, pretty quickly.
Having everyone present in real life allows for awesome conversations to take place – but there’s no pressure to join in with this if it isn’t welcomed. We found other guests and staff to be incredibly respectful of personal space. If there IS a lot going on you can always escape into some of the 105 acres and many hiking trails. With that much space there’s always a place to find some peace.
Things to know about Hostel in the Forest!
The accommodation is incredibly picturesque from the outside, but can vary a bit indoors. This is absolutely not high-end luxury. Mattresses and bedding are provided but we were very glad to have taken our own sleeping bags.
There are a couple of amazing outdoor showers and bath, but, be warned, these can’t be booked, or locked, and are considered communal. This place is very hippy! The lake is one of the clothing optional places – you can swim and relax – but you might get more of a view than you bargained for. Ahem.
The vegetarian food at Hostel in the Forest is amazing. Evening meals are provided but you may have to take part in a hand holding ‘circle of gratitude’ beforehand. If you don’t want to share food that’s ok too as you are welcome to use the hostel kitchen to prepare your own food.
No other way to put this but the toileting situation is not for everyone! There are composting toilets which are strictly ‘no liquid’ – which means that peeing is done in the woods. This is ok at night when it’s dark.. but, depending on how at peace you are with being overlooked, can lead to a difficult hike to find a quiet spot during the day. I branched out one evening to find a secluded area and, at exactly the wrong moment had someone come round a corner flashlight in hand. There are certain things which don’t need to be floodlit!!
The Hostel in the Forest staff are volunteers. This means that the experience can vary quite considerably according to how things are being managed, and how the temporary group of staff are gelling at the time when you happen to be there.
There is no camping outside of the provided accommodation so, no tents and no campervans. This is the rule that seems the most of a shame to me as, while I understand that you might not want a line of 50 foot RVs lined up beside the lake, having an area for tents or allowing people to head back to a small campervan in the car park at night would seem to be on message with the aim of the hostel.
Overall, we had a gloriously peaceful stay at Hostel in the Forest and we’d go back like a shot.