The Eclectic Social Scene of Hostels
There are very few circumstances in this world which create the instant comraderie of youth hostels. Backpackers and travelers alike converge to produce an odd and unexpected harmony of simple human bonding.
The diversity can be shocking, and to the unexperienced traveler, intimidating. A single girl, for example, walking into a dingy dorm with one old “creepy-looking” man and two guys who look alarmingly like skin-heads. A moment of awkward silence ensues as the girl eases off her backpack and fights the urge to flee. Clearing her throat, the girl will say “Hi” and the repetitive, yet necessary, conversation will commence.
“Hey, how’s it going. Where are you from?”
“No way, I went to school in Atlanta. We’re from New York. The old guy’s from Vancouver.”
They all laugh and the girl breathes a sigh of relief.
A few hours later the odd quartet will be down in the bar, or hanging out in the communal area near reception, swapping travel horror stories and saying things like, “Man, If I were home I would SO
go to Quiznos right now.”
And there it is, the instant albeit brief friendships that spring up in hostels the world over. Some turn into long-term relationships, but most are alive only for the moment, leaving people wishing they had more time to get to know the “cool Australian guy” a little bit better. Strange, isn’t it, that people who would never speak to one another in the “real world” can so easily become friends.
The answer to the mystery, I think, is common ground. If you’re in a hostel you’re on a budget. If you’re on a budget you’re going to break it and misery loves company! Who else but a fellow hosteler will understand your remorse and self-loathing at learning the cafe down the street sells bottled water for 50 cents less than what you have been paying?
In general, hostelers are pretty open as far as individuals go. There is no privacy. People are forced to interact. It should be taken as a good sign that these people generally get along quite fine if not quite well. It is not uncommon for random groups of people to actually start traveling together for extended periods of time.
There is a lesson in all of this, but I’m not sure I am exactly qualified to breach the psychological aspects of the whole thing. What I have found, however, is that it is not hard to get along with other people, new people you don’t know or trust. What is hard is putting yourself out there, introducing yourself to your new neighbor or actually speaking to the guy at Starbucks who hands you your coffee each morning. So take from this whatever interpretation you want, but know this: the more you give of yourself the more you will get back in return.