The silent heroes of backpackers

Backpacking is about travelling, there is no doubt about that. It’s about seeing the world as it is, imagining it as it was, and trying to come to some understanding about our place on earth and the footprint we leave behind, so future generations can stare open-mouthed at our own personal belongings behind museum glass for many years to come.

But, and I don’t think this fact is lost on many, it is also about having a holiday. You know, chilling out and appreciating each day rather than running from one job to the next and collapsing at the end of the day, having accomplished nothing.

And holidays are relaxing as they are tiring – a warm, soft bed at the end of the day sometimes an important consideration. Ok, so some hostel beds are better than others, but I’ve found they have all been pretty reasonable to date. No, I’ve found it’s the roommates that affect sleep more than anything. More importantly, whether they snore.

snoringI never used to have anything against snorers, but travelling has put me in the situation where eight or more bodies heave with the effort of simply breathing, every night, and I can’t say I’ve had a decent night’s sleep since.

I did buy earplugs, I did, quite early on when the symphony hit my nerves like a physician’s hammer against the kneecap, my fists clenched and my blood boiled, and I could finally understand that wise soul who once said that everyone has it in them to kill someone. ?So I had the earplugs, and only the sounds of my heartbeat could be heard, steady and calm after the storm.

But there was one. And there has been one ever since, in every room, one who’s snores echo so loudly that nothing could block it out. And the fists clenched and the blood boiled once again. How do they breathe? Doesn’t it hurt? Doesn’t anyone else want to drop a stack of books on their head? Nights are long when you have so many questions and sleep is too far in the distance to grasp.

And so morning arrives, and I head off to a new town, a new bed, a new set of roomates. The ears are sore from the wind, the iPod earphones, the earplugs, and so when it’s time to sleep I decide to make do with the noise until I cannot bear it any longer.

There is none. Not a sound. The light traffic makes itself known outside, there is wind and sometimes rain, but inside it is a tomb of silence. Surely there will be one later on, I think, there always is.

Next thing I know, it is morning once again, and I lay in the stillness of the room, in the silence, refreshed, awake, rested. The girls rise slowly, sleepily, mumbling morning greetings as they plod sandal-clad to the showers. I didn’t tell them, so they were unaware of their power, of the gift they had given me.

They were the silent heroes, and I will always remember them.

photo by Symic

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