It is one thing staying in a hostel for a night to two and it is something else living in one. My first hostel experience was with my good friend, three years ago in Dublin. At the time, I didn’t know what to expect and whilst I tried to remain positive, the idea of sharing a dorm room with eight other people who I didn’t know, failed to appeal to me. My room at the time was a mixed dorm room which didn’t help, as I came to learn, as most of the guys were Australian and came back in the early hours of the morning made as much noise as possible. Of course, any backpacker can be loud and can come back drank and basically be a nuisance but on this occasion, it was guys. So this was rather off putting, sleep being a necessity and all and I get pretty cranky if I don’t have enough sleep. Nonetheless, this aside, I quite liked staying in a hostel, it is cheaper, a little cosy and convenient for those of us who don’t need luxury. Sharing a bathroom was also not a deal breaker especially as males and females had separate bathrooms.
Since then, I have stayed at a range of hostels throughout South East Asia and South America. Africa, in my experience, has few hostels; I stayed at ones in South Africa and Kenya but this aside, there aren’t many. Australia, on the other hand, has plenty of hostels. I have stayed in dorm rooms as cheap as one US dollar and others costing over twenty pounds. I have had the luxury of having the whole room to myself but have also shared with seven others. I tend to prefer to share with females but that said, I have met and travelled with guys with whom I shared a dorm room with. Generally, I find females to be a little more tidy and mindful and above all, I don’t have to worry about waking up and seeing a guy sat with nothing else on but his boxers. Of course, each to their own and I appreciate that sometimes females can make a mess and be loud but given a choice, I would rather share with females.
Staying in a hostel as a backpacker or traveller is very different to living out of one. I spent several months living at a hostel in Encarnacion, Paraguay whilst looking for work. In Alice, I had work but no room which led me to start living out of a hostel again. It was initially a short term solution but as time went on, it became easier to continue living out of the hostel then to move again. Just because me and others are living out of this hostel and going to work, didn’t mean that backpackers weren’t coming every night and staying for a night or two. I met many a backpackers who had come for the night before heading out the next morning on a Uluru tour. Some of these backpackers were in a different part of the hostel but many of them stayed in my eight bed dorm room. These backpackers didn’t have to worry about work the next day and consequently both came and left at all hours of the morning.
I get it, I really do. It is a hostel and this is hostel life and those of us that had work in town had adapted away from this hostel life. It was an interesting set up to say the least. Some of my friends worked in the hostel and so didn’t have to worry about paying each night. I had a ‘proper’ job so it was different for me. I often met backpackers who teased me about my job as in their eyes it wasn’t a proper backpacker job. I wasn’t flipping burgers or waiting on tables, instead I was working as a domestic violence counsellor. Some also came to realise that I was making good money, again, I wasn’t on the minimum pay and didn’t get cash in hand. For me, it was an adjustment as whilst I have worked in this field, prior to this, I had not done such work whilst living in a hostel. Self-care is an important aspect of this work and it proved a little tricky at times to have any self-care whilst staying at the hostel. A good night’s sleep was not always a given and even a hot shower was hard to come by.
This wasn’t of great concern to me however. What was perhaps difficult for me to adjust to was the clicks and circles of friends which were already in place prior to my arrival. It was a little like high school all over again where certain people sat in a certain place and included set people. I kept my head down and took some time to observe and analyse this clicks. It was fascinating for me to see these interactions and I learnt a fair deal just from observing. I am not the loudest person and I am no extrovert so it always takes me time before I feel comfortable enough to approach a new group of people. I have little to no trouble approaching individuals but groups have another dynamic. I managed to approach most of the backpackers individually and break the ice. Things became a great deal easier after this and I grew to learn a great deal about some of the long staying backpackers at the hostel.
The highlight for me staying at this hostel was meeting and sharing in-depth, intellectual conversations with a few of the backpackers. It was easy for me to open up and share aspects of my life and this was reciprocated by my friends. It took me some time but I manage to have some great conversations. No matter where I go or who I am with, this is what I crave and need. Sometimes small dose’s do the trick but other times, I just want to offload and share parts of my life and then listen to someone’s journey or experiences. I know with some people it takes time to reach this point and it can be hard work and back home it is a slow progression. But, whilst I have been on the road, every so often, I meet someone or a few amazing people where conversations just flow and we are in-sync. This is a pretty special place to be in and I have managed this time and time again from staying in a hostel.