Ses Salines beach at the most southern tip of Ibiza is known by the rich, the beautiful and the famous. Walking along the shoreline it all appears pretentiously picturesque: yachts on the horizon, the inviting aqua clear waters, a sharp and jagged coastline of yellow cliffs, carved stones by the water’s edge. But when I look a little closer I find champagne corks in the sand, see a naked woman tanning next to her gold pumps and hear techno from the beach bars drowning out the waves. Ibiza (pronounced ee-bee-tha) is the largest Balearic Island off the Mediterranean coast of Spain or, as my friend Jelisa more accurately describes the island, “it’s the Las Vegas of Europe.”
The four of us traveling only pretend to fit in glamorously, booking our budget airfare and “couch surfing” with strangers for free. Ryanair is a popular low-budget European airline, the kind where everyone claps when they’ve landed. I’ve bought plane tickets from Ryainair for as little as $20, making it one of the best resources for seeing Europe. However, beware—Ryainair will also charge its customers a small fortune if they don’t check-in online at the appropriate times, if their carry-on item doesn’t fit into the tiny compartment or any number of other ridiculous restrictions.
The night we landed, Woody, Chloe and I took a bus in good faith to San Antonio where we intended to stay for free in the pent house of someone named Shahid Hannan. CouchSurfing, for those who are unfamiliar, is an international network for travelers to host and stay in other people’s houses free of charge. Shahid is English, like everyone else in San Antonio. The city reminds me of Little China in New York City except it’s the Brits in Ibiza.
San Antonio shed its clothes at night, neon lights and house music beckoning half naked crowds of loud and belligerent English youth. Shahid met us downstairs in the middle of the nude anarchy nonchalantly. He shared a pent house flat with three other blokes and while the place itself looked like the trashy, broken apartment of four guys living in Ibiza that one would expect, the view over the marina was spectacular.
The world famous DJs that perform daily in Ibiza—and for which Ibiza is most notorious—make the clubs some of the most luxurious, over-the-top venues that exist and also some of the most expensive. Shahid helped us into club El Paris for Hedkandi’s 10th anniversary for almost nothing (Hedkandi being a famous UK-based house music record label). Inside the lavish club, girls in different costumes came out in rotation dancing from a platform suspended below the ceiling. Break-dancers showed off their talent while a woman in a white gown levitated on a glowing number 10 above the crowd as she wailed on her saxophone.
Yet this spectacle couldn’t compare to our night at Ibiza’s most famous club—Pacha—in Ibiza Town. Jelisa’s mysteriously well-connected connection, Chris, got the four of us into Pacha free. The bouncer unleashed the red cord letting us pass into the Clockwork Orange alternate reality known as “Luciano’s Vagabundos.” Men and women startled me in their clown-like attire of top hats, vests and dramatic black eyeliner. The house music and light show on the bottom floor overwhelmed my senses, leaving my legs light and weak in my high heels. We found a less packed, less intense DJ set on the second floor. Green, blue, purple, pink and amber lights saturated every dance floor, lounge, bar and topless dancer splashing around in her giant sized wine glass full of water. Everything was in movement except for time, which had no effect on how long we stayed dancing.
Ibiza was well-dressed debauchery exposing her bare leg at the podium. While these club scenes were opulent and surreal, our more resonant moments were shared on Shahid’s balcony at sunrise and over “eggy bread” that sustained our couchsurfing hosts. CouchSurfing was the grand experience because a host can always give the best advice on what to see, where to go and how to get there, while giving authentic insight into the culture at hand.