In my hostel, you’ll find thirty-something backpackers.
In my hostel, it’s a bit dirty, beds aren’t very comfortable and you have to wait your turn to take a shower.
In my hostel, the washing machine leaks and we’re all using spoons to eat, like a bunch of kids, because God knows where the forks are.
But in my hostel, we’re connecting, bonding over the days spent living together as if we were roommates sharing a big house.
In the morning, the hostel is buzzing with activity. Most working travellers are getting ready to go pick or package kiwifruits. Some take the time to have breakfast, other are putting their shoes on quickly, barely awake, barely out of bed. Everyone leaves. Then, nothing. It’s quiet.
During the day, I’m often alone in front of my computer in the lounge. Every now and then, one, two, three people stop by and relax, call home, eat and leave again.
Around 5 p.m., a few backpackers are stepping out of the dorm—they work the night shift in packhouses. They eat, and then they leave for a busy night packing produce until the next morning.
At 5:30 p.m., pickers and packers are back and they are taking their showers.
In my hostel, there are couches outside welcoming a dozen backpackers every night. Cigarettes, beer and rum are shared to the beat of rap, rock, metal or reggae music.
In my hostel, there are Argentinian, Indian, German, French, Kiwi, Maori and Chilean travellers.
In my hostel, cultures meet in the kitchen. Indians teach everyone how to make naan bread, Argentinians are giving us a taste of dulce de leche and one of the Maori takes charge of meal prep once in a while because we have to have a “family dinner.” As for us French, we make crêpes, lasagna, pineapple curried chicken and sweet treats.
In my hostel, everything is shared—a meal, a beer, a cigarette… take it, your turn tomorrow. I’m grabbing that, but feel free to have some as well. Hungry? Come over here, I have some food. And it’s as simple as that.
In my hostel, cultures also meet through our respective mother tongues. One of the Argentinians finds it hilarious that “arroz” (“rice”) is “riz” in French, a Chilean likes the sound of “qu’est-ce qui s’passe?” (“What’s going on?” in French) and anyone who knows a few words in Spanish practices them with the Latinos. Haimona tries to teach us Maori and is struggling to pronounce “tarte tatin” (“Apple pie” in French). None of us will remember this new vocabulary, but who cares?
In my hostel, it barely takes two weeks to feel like we’re at home with relatives. Funny how quickly we adapt when travelling. Funny how quickly we get used to nice things.
In this big, shared house, we’re all very different. If it wasn’t for hostel life, it’s unlikely we would have met—we are from all over the globe, with different cultures, backgrounds, age ranges, languages, travel plans and goals.
But day after day, we get to know each other, we learn to appreciate our differences, we discover we do have things in common. Suddenly, we realize that seeing someone after the work day puts a smile on our face. We take pictures together, we tell each other secrets, meaningful things.
In my hostel, there are “ghosts”—travellers who come and go and with whom few words are exchanged. Then there are people who will be remembered, who interact, who make an impression.
There’s an unmistakable bond between some people—wordless conversation, looks exchanged, the weird feeling of understanding and knowing each other despite the fact it seems they have nothing in common. In my hostel, you do meet interesting people.
So it’s harder than it seems to leave when, after a couple of weeks, I have to hit the road again.
A couple of weeks is a very short time. Yet, after spending two weeks living with these other travellers, listening to music from all over the world, laughing together, listening to stories or simply being together, you do become part of people’s lives and they are part of yours.
Words have been said, words that I will never forget.
Neither will I forget their smiles—Haimona, Mason, David, Rick, Rav, Juliette, Abigaël, Samuel, Belen, Brandon, Lauren, Param, Chiara, Grey, Teresa, Sebastian, Anki, Charlène, Brendon, Camila, Noelia, Mateo…
I will always remember this ordinary-looking hostel that makes me smile every time I remember my trip to New Zealand.