Hostels are great, aren’t they? A nice way for budget travellers to save some money on accommodation. Not to mention meeting people if you’re travelling alone. Over the years I’ve stayed in a few hostels, and I must say I find that the quality varies quite a bit from Europe over Asia and to the US. The thing about hostels, and more specifically staying in a dorm there, is that you never know what you’ll get. Will it be packed, will it be empty, will you have your privacy, what kind of people will be there?
I must admit I’ve never been a huge fan of dorms. I just really value privacy, and I’m usually more than capable of meeting people somewhere else, some other way. BUT sometimes everything else is just too damn expensive and I find myself thinking “why not? It’s just for one night”.
That was basically the thought that led to my last night ever in a dorm. I was in Oxford, having met with a couple of friends from Ireland, and we had planned a weekend together. After visiting Stonehenge we headed to Oxford where we had booked three beds in a 18-bed mixed dormitory in a central hostel. When we arrived everything looked alright. The space was a bit tight, it seemed a bit old and dingy but it was mostly acceptable, so we made our beds and headed out.
After a very long day we arrived back at the hostel. A little background info: I had gotten some utterly heartbreaking news that morning and I was doing my best to keep myself together and not fall apart in front of my friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Didn’t wanna ruin the weekend. As soon as we opened the door to the hostel something seemed a bit odd. All the lights were out but there was clearly a person in the room. The person was lying on MY bed. We all backed out of the room to see if we’d gotten the room number wrong. Nope, it was the right room! Went in again. Strange man still lying on my bed having made himself comfortable, no socks on and watching something on his iPad. People who know me will know that I have this thing about personal space, and this man was stepping so far over the line I couldn’t even be nice about it. “You’re on my bed!”, I told him in no uncertain terms. His reply was that my bed was just closer to the power socket, and he needed to charge his iPad. So I guess he thought it okay to arrange my pillow and duvet so that he was very comfortable, bare feet on my pillow. He got off my bed when I had a slight meltdown, and my friend went to get me clean sheets from the reception. The guy apologised a few times, but I was just not having it. Any other day I might have been able to laugh it off (but seriusly, who would do that?!), this just wasn’t it.
We then all went to our respective beds, turned off the lights and hoped for a bit of sleep. But no, bare feet-guy was still watching YouTube videos on his iPad with the sound on. And when I say on I mean it was ON. He was several beds away, even sort of behind a wall but it didn’t mask the sound. Other people then started arriving to the room, one by one. Some of them turning the lights on in the darkened room. At one point one of my friends went to bare feet-guy to ask him to use headphones since he was IN A ROOM WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Didn’t even occur to him.
It was perhaps 1 a.m. by now and we were waking up around 6 to get the the airport on time. Suddenly, the door opened once again and in walked this man who was at least 30 years older than the average hostel guest (I’d say he was around 60). He had one of the top bunks and clearly had quite a few difficulties getting up there. He then changed into his pajamas in the room, and okay it was dark, but still. Maybe a quick trip to the bathroom or something (I sound like such a prude, I know, but isn’t it just common courtesy and very standard dorm room behaviour?). We were then entertained by listening to his whining and moaning as he climbed up the stairs to his bed. Oh, but it didn’t stop there. You know how it seems older people often have a tendency to make these little noises or outburts no matter what they do? So he did that. Just lying in bed, sighing and sounding like he just couldn’t get comfortable. When he finally did get comfortable he began snoring like there was no tomorrow. This was also right around the time a Chinese girl, whom we met earlier, started talking in her sleep from the other end of the room. By then it was all so ridiculous my friends and I started giggling and made a WhatsApp group just so we could silently discuss the damn mess that was this dorm room.
Just as the Chinese girl was really yelling in her sleep in a way that sounded like she was being chased by a pack of rabid dogs, the old man woke up. Ah, so the snoring stopped! Yeah, but he then got so upset by the girl talking in her sleep that he started cursing and swearing and turning over and over again to let everyone in the room know just how much he hated the situation.
By the time our alarm sounded I had been snoozing for maximum half an hour and as my friends and I picked up our bags and quietly slipped out of the room, I made myself a promise: That was my last time staying at a hostel dorm!