Hostelling for me was an incredibly eye-opening and memorable experience. Over about 20 days I met a whole range of weird and wonderful people in the hostels, each of them bringing their own unique cultures and perspectives. Here are some experiences of mine.
Language barriers and elementary inquiries
While in New York, I didn’t meet many people in the hostel aside from the very interesting old lady I met when I first arrived, but there was one person I won’t forget. After a long day of travelling I was in the common area editing photographs on my laptop when an Asian man in his late 20s comes up and starts talking to me, asking me for something. In French. And Mandarin Chinese. It soon becomes clear that he doesn’t speak any English.
This is going to be interesting. I tried to understand what he was saying in French but my comprehension skills back then were non-existent. I tried talking in English but he didn’t understand a word, so it wasn’t long until we resorted to large animated hand gestures and charades. Charades, the universal language. Five minutes of stalemate and finally a breakthrough is made when he picks up the cable for his laptop and I see an Australian plug.
“THAT’S IT! You want to use my adapter!”
I happily obliged and we soon became odd, linguistically-divided friends.
It’s okay guys, I’m new to this
I was super paranoid when I hostelled in New York. After my first day of travelling in New York I stayed in the cafeteria/lobby until about 3am on my laptop, and then I headed back up to my room where everyone was sleeping. I was so paranoid that someone would steal my stuff while I was asleep that I opened my locker and loudly forced both my day pack and my massive backpack inside.
I’m in an 8 person dorm by the way. I woke up about half of them. At 3am. Yes, I was THAT asshole.
At least I was for that night. Then I continued to do it the next day (only two woke up!), and the next. After that I learned to become a little more liberal with my possessions. No one is going to steal my underwear.
French-Canadian Hostelling and Meeting People
Since I couldn’t move into residence until the 4th of January I spent almost two weeks hostelling in Montreal, and met a whole range of weird and wonderful people. For the first couple of days at the Auberge Bishop – great and super cheap hostel by the way – I was in a 4 bedroom dorm all by myself, but it wasn’t long until I started getting some roommates.
My first roommate was a man named Alexis from Lyon, France. He’s a finishing exchange student who studied marketing in Québec City. He learned English while he was here so he was able to sympathise my difficulties with the language barrier, just from the other side. I taught him and he taught me as we continued talking.
It wasn’t long after I initiated conversation with him that I realised why it’s so easy to make friends in hostels. You instantly have so much to talk about because nearly all of us are out doing the same thing – we’re young and we want to see the world. We connect over our differences, not just our similarities. Conversation quickly moves from basic introductions to literally anything and everything – including travel, sports, architecture, where we call home, language, politics, spirituality and their views on life as a whole. People can open up to you a lot when they know they’ll be gone the next day.
We connect over our differences, not just our similarities.
Over New Years I had to move to a different hostel because Bishop was booked out, so I packed my bag (and left some unnecessary baggage at Bishop with a friend exchanging from my uni) and headed to M Montreal. This place was expensive ($40 a night!) but it was pretty dope. If you ignored the fact that 7 other people were living in your room, it was basically a 4 or 5 star hotel. Tons of room, a substantial free breakfast in a cool bar downstairs, en suite, bathtub, fresh towels every day and… wait for it – 3 PLY TOILET PAPER. After living with 1 ply trash for the majority of my trip this was basically a godsend. I don’t even get that where I live in residence.
3 PLY TOILET PAPER.
In Montreal over New Years the hostels are generally flooded with 18-21 year old Americans because it’s 18+ to drink instead of 21, so the majority of my roommates didn’t really have any substance (sorry) but one 28 year old guy Jason was pretty cool. We got into some really deep conversations about literature and the universe and Game of Thrones and all kinds of stuff.
My New Years was pretty fantastic. I’ll write about it –here– (there WILL be a blog post, and that will be a link, I promise)
Once I got back to Auberge Bishop I was in a 4 person dorm which was filled with new roomies! A couple from São Paulo in Brazil – Daniella (22) and Mattheus – And a 19 year old guy from Russia called Konstantin. All of them exchange/international students at Brandon University in Manitoba. And I thought Montréal was cold. We all talked for hours, with topics including university, exchange, heritage, culture, language, gender and travel. I learned about all these intricacies in the Portuguese language which was brilliant (Oi Oi Oi), and picked up some Russian too. Language is a wonderful thing. The only shame is that you have to say goodbye to everyone so quickly.
Language is a wonderful thing.
Introduction to Eccentrics
There were some very interesting characters that I met in the Auberge Bishop, some that didn’t really fit the mould. There was an elderly Asian lady named Annie, a 35-40 something Toronto guy who I can’t remember the name of (let’s call him Mark… wait I think his name actually was Mark), and Dan.
Mark was a very shady looking guy – he wore dark enveloping clothes, black beanie (apparently called a hat in Canada) and thick rimmed glasses, he was overweight, unshaven and relatively tall – but he was incredibly nice, offered me some of the food he made several times and even gave me free painkillers when I broke my wrist.
Annie must have been at least 55 or 60, but she was a really interesting person to talk to – she’s travelled all over, from New York to London to Tokyo. She also gave some great tips on the best food in Chinatown. Now Dan.
Dan was the most peculiar of the bunch. He was about 40 years old, extremely friendly (solid Canadian) and… he had been living in the hostel for 4 straight months now. What. He organised everything with the owners and has his own storage in the basement to keep his things, but it’s a 40 year old man literally living in a hostel. I get that it’s really cheap but it’s still incredibly bizarre to see. Dan works as a bartender and studied art history at university when he was younger. He also plays the clarinet at a really high level. He knows the hostel owners. He’s from Montreal. Basically this guy will tell you his life story and then some as soon as you meet him. Astoundingly talkative. He was a memorable character.