I was born in Australia, but I traveled to Europe in 2007 to learn. I spent a year away, mostly in the Balkans. There’s a misconception about tourism: the most visited countries of the continent are in Western Europe. Actually, there’s plenty of places to visit in Eastern Europe, and there you can have an authentic experience. My perception was that I needed to visit the Balkans to feel things that weren’t easy, like difficulties with the language, perhaps very different cultures, and see what happens.

After a few trips to Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, I came back home and took postgraduate studies in education. Then I returned to Montenegro to start a hostel project with Tom.

We bought a building, took it down and built a new one for our project. It was difficult because we didn’t know much about the culture or purchasing a property in a foreign country. However, we realized that all this process isn’t too difficult in Montenegro. It became a much bigger project than we could possibly imagine.

One of the reasons to manage a hostel was to help young people travel. In the region, it’s hard for youngsters to have enough money for trips. Salaries aren’t especially good for young people and hostels are a very viable option for reducing expenses. I think that’s why it’s gaining popularity in the Balkans. Besides, it’s not only a cheap alternative, it also allows you to share with other travellers, and being in a common space is great to meet others and share experiences. It invites you to put your computer or phone aside and socialize, to remove the barriers between us.

Since we've been here, I think we’ve caused two different opinions from two different perspectives. On one side, the youngest people who see us as a blessing, as an opportunity to bring the world and prosperity to Montenegro. But also there’s other people who probably has lived here for generations, who think exactly the opposite. We’re often doing things that they see odd, like our long hair, walking around with no shoes, or our girlfriends lifting bags of cement alongside us… those are odd things in the streets of Montenegro.

I love teaching, I spent a long time teaching but I decided it was time to try something new. I'll probably go back to work in schools in a few years. I think there’s a connection between what we’re doing here and teaching. One of the biggest things in that work is to understand kids and their behavior; you learn a lot by being teacher. And in this current job, we need to stay close to the folks, we’ve got to understand and respect them.

Each day, four or five people leave the hostel, and four or five are arriving. They all share food, drinks, wine and transfer their culture to others. The main thing we want to do here, is to create an atmosphere that just attracts really lovely people, and it doesn’t matter if they’re very quiet and don’t say a word for the first couple of days or whether they’re extroverted. It doesn’t matter where they’re on the spectrum, I think, as long as they’re respectful to each other. We’d love to see them become a part of the history of this place, because a place is made by the people in it.

Andrés Piña
Bar, Montenegro
A place is made by the people in it.
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