A stay in a hostel is an eye opening experience for anyone. Sharing a room with at least 10 people, bathroom facilities with 30 and being packed together like sardines is an interesting experience to say the least, but, meh, it’s also really cheap. The first month of being a sardine proved to be an interesting adjustment.
No personal space, that’s fine.
Brushing teeth next to 5 other people, wow these people really brush their teeth a long time. Am I brushing enough? Are they just brushing because I’m still brushing? OK, stop brushing!
The inevitable snorer. I hope I’m not snoring. I often slept light in stress of pondering this exact scenario. The snorer was always shunned in the morning.
Drinking, wow the drinking! I used to think Americans drank a lot. We do, but so does the rest of the world. I guess sharing a room with snorers and a bunch of other noise makers requires a sedative to get to bed.
Usually people were respectful, they tried to be quiet and on the days I needed to catch up on rest I usually woke up to an empty room after uninterrupted sleep. Of course 17 box fans in a tiny room added a nice white noise that probably helped a lot. We needed them for the heat but this was a nice side effect.
After the initial adjustment, hostels became comfortable. So much so that whenever I had a quiet room alone to myself I couldn’t get to sleep. 6 months of hostel living was an interesting experience – one that I will probably never do again – but still one that I greatly enjoyed. During this time I met a lot of people, but I started to notice several archetypes after a while.
The Intense Traveler
Usually a solo-traveling woman. They had read every guide book, new the cheapest hostels and food joints, had a schedule busier than a Fortune 500 company’s CEO and rather than chatting or talking, it was more of an interrogation or a robotic fact relay. Their time was burning up by the second and you really only got to speak with them if you could keep up with their manic pace on the way to the next activity.
These bros and girls may not remember a thing about their trip. They seem to gather knowledge only from the previous gringo hostel. And that information is only the next party hostel to end up at. They start drinking early – time is no factor. They proceed to drink and consume any other substance they can get their hands on until they pass out. They wake up haggard and continue on the same cycle. I swear, some of these people never even left the hostel. Luckily most hostels have a security guard to usher them to another bar if they are being too loud, but in the instance there is not, the other guests are exposed to the most ludicrously useless circle of conversation they have ever heard and country of origin bragging. Good job. The worst example of the Party-girl I met told me that she had to steal someone else’s Facebook photos of Machu Picchu to post to her own so that her father wouldn’t know that she never actually went to see it. Mind you I met her in Guatemala, so she travelled quite a way in this hostel hopping manner. Also, as the Gringo Trail winds, I would often see these folks later on down the trail, “Dude, did I like meet you in Honduras?” I would usually respond swiftly with “no no, lots of us bald and bearded gringos out there, have fun!”
The Intentional Hippy
While these folks sure are kind, I found myself overwhelmed at times, especially in San Marcos at Lago Atitlan. They were seeking the deeper meaning of everything, particularly in relation to themselves. Usually conversations turned into arguments because there was an overanalyzing of particular word choice and there were people from all over the world trying to communicate in English. What’s the point? What’s the deeper meaning? There is no point! I’m jumping off this deck because it’s fun! I’m all for a bit of contemplation, but would you just take it easy man?
The First Time Traveler
These folks were an absolute joy to be around. They only had a week or 2 in Costa Rica and they were going to live it up. Most of them had at least gathered that countries are in fact different, but they weren’t bashful to share about their own. Speaking in phrases or deep cultural idioms that would even confuse a native English speaker, they often became frustrated when a fluent local couldn’t understand them. I tried to explain this scenario to a good ol’ southern boy, but when he responded with “you sh*ttin’ me?” I decided it was a lost battle. These folks were usually excited about the adventure sports and the cheap beer.
The Good Friend
Over the course of my 6 months of constant travel, I came across a few good friends. After meeting hundreds, perhaps thousands of people during these few months a few really stood out. With some you only had a few days, others at most a couple of weeks. Somehow you were traveling solo, the next day you had an inseparable travel companion. I learned so much about other countries from traveling with these friends. Long bus rides lead to conversations that wind through every aspect of our consciousness. A few unforgettable weeks in Costa Rica, sailing from North America to South America, a short time shared in Guatemala. I will never forget you all and hope our paths cross again.
These are but a few of the many interesting characters you will meet on the road – get out there and enjoy.