In the last 6 months, I’ve stayed in many hostels and met many people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. I’ve realized that they’re actually pretty much the same five people over and over again. They break down as follows:
The guy who uses “party” as a verb way too much
This guy had the craziest night last night. You wouldn’t believe how crazy this guy’s night was. You want to know how crazy? The time he came home was a time much later than people usually come home! And you know what he was doing the whole night? Partying!
Of all the travelers you meet, he will be the most driven. He has a singular, clear purpose and that purpose is to party. Ask him what he thought of the last city he was in and the answer is sure to be in terms of how hard they partied. If you happen to encounter him after visiting a city where they didn’t party, he’ll be quick to assure you that while the city itself didn’t party, he and his travel buddies brought the party anyway. If you ask him if “partying” is just another way of simply saying “drinking” he won’t like you.
“Which city were you in before this one? Did they party out there?”
“I think I might stay in and rest a bit tonight, since I partied pretty hard these last few nights. Oh, what the hell. I gotta go out and party!”
“We were partying with these Bolivian guys who wanted to party downtown, so they took us to this party in this sick party area for a party to end all parties!”
“I think I might start partying my hair on the left.”
The old person
The hostel environment is, for the most part, a collection of people college-aged or in their mid-twenties. For many, it’s a rare chance to be completely independent in a place far from their usual environment and conventions, so they take the opportunity to let loose. This is why the International Regulatory Commission for Youth Hostels (IRCYH) issued a mandate in 1832 requiring all hostels to have at least one (1) old person on site at all times. The old person serves as a necessary check against the debauchery and depravity in a hostel that would otherwise escalate out of control.
Out of all the shared rooms in the hostel, the old person is usually in yours, which is good news as it keeps you better protected. Say there’s a tall, comely Swedish girl sharing your dorm who walks around in the mornings in her underwear as she’s getting ready. The old person counterbalances this by walking around the same field of vision in only his underwear and sock garters as he gets ready for the day. Say you and some other guys in your dorm are thinking of pre-gaming with cheap liquor before you head out for the night. Does it still sound fun when the old person sitting on her top bunk five feet away from you is knitting a mitten for her grandson and glaring at you? Exactly. You can thank the IRCYH and the tireless old person volunteers for keeping things under control in youth hostels across the globe.
“A lot of you young folk stay up late and don’t wake up till 11, but then you miss half the day!”
“Berta and I went on a guided walking tour of the historic candle district this afternoon. It was really quite remarkable.”
The guy who has a much deeper appreciation for the local culture than you do
He doesn’t just “like” the culture here. He gets it. In a way that you don’t. Sure, he’s reading the same Lonely Planet: South America guide that every backpacker carries. But he’s reading it better, ignoring all of the “mainstream” and “gringo” destinations everyone else in this hostel is drawn to.
In a way, he’s like one of the locals. You can tell because he’s wearing a poncho with a llama on it. You can’t just go out and buy that at every single souvenir shop in the city. That is, unless you’re really in with the people here. While he doesn’t speak the language per se and doesn’t really know anyone from the area, what he observed during the hostel pub crawl last night and learned during his conversation with the guy downtown who sold him some weed gave him a deep insight into the rich, vibrant local culture in a way that you probably will never begin to understand.
“The culture here is just so real. I really like how it’s not so superficial and consumerist like it is in America.”
“You see these people and they don’t have money, but they have a strong sense of community that we’ve lost with our consumer culture and our superhighways.” (seriously a direct quote)
The guy who’s here for the TV and Internet
There are some days where you’re exhausted from moving around constantly; you don’t give a shit about seeing another beautiful church, fascinating museum, or breathtaking mountain. You just want to sit in the lounge, check facebook, and watch old episodes of Friends that are played eight times daily here. For this guy, that day is all days. Generally, he’s here for some reason other than primarily travel, like he got sent here for work and decided to arrange an extension of a few days to explore the local culture. And what better way to understand the culture than by understanding their pop culture? For example, did you know that in South America, the show House is called Doctor House? This guy does.
“Did the Internet go down for you, too? This is ridiculous!”
“The hostel dinners are usually shit, but if you ask at the staff desk, they’ll order KFC for delivery.”
The hot girl that is inexplicably never in places where you can talk to her
If you spend your downtime in the communal areas of the hostel like the TV lounge or the bar, it doesn’t take long before you’ve met and talked to everyone else who’s staying at the hostel. Unless that person is a really hot girl you’d love to talk to. In which case, she’s never around. You believe she exists because you catch fleeting glances of her as she goes between her room and the bathroom in a towel. Or when she comes home from a day of sightseeing and goes directly into her room (which, unlike the case with the old person, is never your room).
If you study her movements carefully, you can intercept her for brief conversations when she leaves her room for necessary tasks like eating or using the bathroom. This is not advisable as it’s even more heartbreaking. She’s invariably even more beautiful up close. She’s friendly, kind of flirty, and laughs at your jokes with a little “something might happen here” twinkle in her eye. But she is perennially just on her way out to something, and when she gets back, she’s calling it an early night.
“Excuse me. You’re kind of blocking the door to the bathroom.”
“Yeah, I know it’s only 10 o’clock, but I’m just so exhausted from all the museums today! I think I’m just gonna crash.”
“Nah, I’m taking it easy tonight. I need some rest since I was so drunk, uninhibited, and free the nights just before you got here.”