Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Hostels

When you're trying to sleep to the sound of squeaking bed springs and heavy breathing that eventually turns into moaning from the bunk next to yours, you will wish you booked a private room. When you're trying to shit in a bathroom with ten other people puttering about, you will wonder why you hadn't.

When you're walking in the total blackness of the room after arriving past midnight from a long day of getting lost in an unfamiliar city, you will take pity on yourself--especially when you realize that you still have to climb to the top bunk, which you always seem to get assigned to.

When you're waiting for the microwave to make your canned soup feel a little more comforting as the big group of giggling girls experiments on a three-course dinner right before your eyes, you will feel lonely. The buzzing hostel crowd will only make it worse. 

You will have to be creative if you want to read in bed after your roommates turn off the lights. Prepare to send some very strange messages to random contacts – this will most likely happen when you use your phone as a nightlight.

Some habits, you'll have to hide. Think twice before singing in the shower or reciting dialogue from Romeo and Juliet out loud.

There will be awkward silences with roommates, or strangers you share tables with at breakfast. There will be sentences that are articulated but never understood. There will be a lot of stray hair in the shower. There will be strange smells and puzzling stains.

But there will also be writing on the walls, and under the beds, from people who have been there before you. When you're reading them, you will feel like you're in on an incredible secret. Maybe the secret is that you don't have it so bad after all.

After all, when you're preening in the mirror and a tall, handsome stranger sidles up to you and says "beautiful," and flashes you a certain kind of smile, you will be thankful for communal bathrooms.

And when you're unlocking the door of your room with the ghost of midnight kisses still burning on your lips, when you're unable to sleep for excitement after an unforgettable night, you will be thankful for a key to a room full of newfound friends to gush with.

And when you're spending on vintage books the money you set aside for food, you will be thankful for the unlimited Vegemite and toast they had at the free breakfast. You will also be thankful for the girls who taught you how to eat Vegemite.

You will meet a lot of people who will teach you things. The guy from California will teach you about architecture over breakfast, because that was his major. The girl from Mexico will teach you about the Tube, because she arrived in London five days before you did. The pair from Australia will tell you what tradies and chewies and sparkies are, and that Australia is populated only on the coast. The Spaniard will give you directions to the Big Ben.

It's not so bad after all, especially when the hostel owner takes you on a tour that makes you fall madly in love with a city you thought you didn't like. Or when the same hostel owner scores you a free VIP pass to the Beatles museum just when you thought you'd have to pass on it because you ran out of money.

It's not so bad at all when you meet a Bangladeshi girl in the bathroom, and break out the Bengali phrases you thought you'd never use again when you left India last year. Or when you discover a great book that someone left behind. Or when the really cute guy helps you with your giant backpack. Or when you realize just how beautiful a conversation in broken English can be. Or when you get the ten-bed dorm to yourself for a few minutes and you do a silly dance just because you finally can.

In fact, it's sheer happiness when you're sitting at the kitchen table after a night out, playing cards and fortune-telling and laughing yourself silly, mapping out future travels, and waiting for sunrise with people you met only a few hours back, because you realize that even in that foreign place, miles away from where you came from, there is always somewhere to call home.

Hostels I stayed at while travelling around the UK:
The Walrus Waterloo, London
Caledonian Backpackers, Edinburgh
Clink78, London
Embassie Backpackers Hostel, Liverpool (my favorite!!!)
Rest Up Hostel, London

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