A Good Conversation with Jan Van Rijn

Welcome to Jan van Rijn, co-owner of an awesome surf hostel in Guatemala, The Driftwood Surfer. Read his fun story on travel, starting a hostel and why he is running 12km along a beach with a mini pig.


Firstly, a bit of background, who are you?

My name is Jan. I’m a 27 year old guy from Holland I grew up above a Bar-restaurant from my parents. After high school I started travelling in Asia and after one day I knew I wasn’t gonna stay in Holland.


What’s your story? What has been your journey up until this point?

I finished my study and was paying off my school debt. I don’t like the winters in Holland so I decided to work somewhere for 2 months and travel 1 month so I wouldn’t spend too much money.  A friend recommended Guatemala and hostel, Los Amigos in Flores, so I wrote an email and I was hired as a volunteer. After 3 weeks the owner offered me a job as manager and I stayed for more than a year in Flores.

After more than a year I wanted to go on and quit my job. The owner from Los Amigos told me that 2 guys sold their hostel to start a new surf hostel in El Paredon and that they were looking for a third business partner so I met up with them in Antigua on a Friday. We went down to the beach to see a property and on Sunday we suddenly had a deal. They asked me “are you in Jan” and I responded “I guess so” haha. It all went so fast. A week later I was back in Holland to find investors and after 6 weeks I came back with the money to start a big adventure in Guatemala. We’re open since 2 years now and I never felt any regret.


Why start a hostel? 

After my first travel I knew I wanted to start a hostel. A hostel is super social, with cool people from all over the world with their own stories who want to meet other people. Not everything has to be perfect in a hostel, but the vibe is chill and no stress.


Do you think you’ll ever move back to Holland?

Not full time haha I love the summers so eventually I want to be like 3 months a year in summer in Holland.


Your biggest high so far?

Biggest high was when my parents came to visit for the first time and I could show them my passion. They never really left Europe but supported me in every way they could, so it was awesome to show them everything.


Have you had any doubts along the way? If so how did you overcome them?

This is my first big project so of course I was in doubt sometimes, because I was inexperienced. I have 2 business partners with a lot of experience with setting up a hostel so we form a great team together.


Any future plans for Driftwood or other projects? 

We’re 2 years in now and we still have many projects to do. We’re gonna expand 2 more rooms and I will make sure we’ll have more llama decorations haha. The next will be a Merllama fountain that spits in the pool haha

After a couple more years, I want to travel more, start maybe another hostel and later on I want to buy a sailboat to sail around the world.


Alright, so tell us what’s the story with a pig running 12km along the beach?

So they gave me for  a mini pig “Potato” for my birthday. He’s fucking awesome haha. Every day we go jogging on the beach for 4km and see how much trash is washed up on the beach. We take bags with us to clean up but the next day there is new plastic again. At the beginning of May, a Dutch guy, Boyan Slat came in the news again with a solution of how to clean up the oceans. With his system and the use of ocean streams they will be able to filter out all of the plastic out of the oceans.

There are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. That’s enough plastic to circle around the world 425 times and weighs more than 38.000 African elephants.

At the end of this year they will launch the first system in the Pacific to start clean up the “Plastic islands”. When all the systems run they will be able to clean up 50% of all the plastic out of the oceans world wide. 50% in 5 years isn’t that amazing!

I wanted to do something for such an awesome project and to make it more fun I came up with the idea of running the whole beach from El Paredon to raise money for “The Ocean Cleanup”


How can we help? 

If you want to help you can donate on the link and share it on social media. After the run you can also donate direct to the project on their website. And of course help clean up yourself and try to reduce waste 😊


This isn’t the only cool thing Driftwood has been involved in, tell us about the other social/community projects

We live in a small fisherman community where we try to help where we can. We try to buy as much as possible locally for a fair price, do constructions with locals, have local workers and sponsor local projects.

We also organise twice a year a free dental project, so the people in town went for the first time in their lives to the dentist. We work with the local NGO La Choza Chula to raise money for community projects, organise movie nights in town in the dry season and sponsor surf competitions. So we try to help where we can 😊


To finish off, a few questions we always ask our Good Sorts,


How do you define success?

When you believe in something and other people start to believe in it as well


So you’ve got an idea, or a concept or passion, what’s your biggest piece of advice to get started?

Believe in it, be creative, don’t be afraid to take a risk ( just don’t be stupid), and don’t give up because failure is not an option.


Your advice to the youth of the world?

Nothing is forever, you can always change. Try everything otherwise you don’t know what it is and do you have a crazy idea, make shit happen!

A big thanks to Jan for sharing his story with us! If you’re ever in Guatemala I would highly recommend going to stay at The Driftwood Surfer in El Paredon. I was suppose to go for a couple of days and ending up extending to stay for over a week for Christmas. A top spot!

Don’t forget if your keen to see Jan run 12km with a mini pig to raise money for The Ocean Cleanup, donate here now!
For more on the Driftwood Surfer, check them out on Facebook and Instagram