The best thing about traveling and staying in hostels is meeting interesting people. This is also the worst thing, but it’s not so bad when you realize that the majority of the people who are there chose to stay in one because they wanted to connect with other people. It’s also not so bad if you were a young college student.
The last time I walked into a hostel, I watched a kid named after a popular alcohol get checked in by an easy-going desk attendant in the front lobby. I turned my head to look at all of the colorfully-painted walls and images of mostly inaccurately artistic maps only to hear the whiskey kid be told directions on how to get to his room. He looked a little uneasy having to memorize all the codes, the rules, and how to properly check out without getting charged for it. I watched him as he walked towards the dorm with his blankets in hand.
The guy at the lobby desk then turned to me. His face lit up and he smirked a little. He slowly checked me into the system, walked me through the rules, allowed me to take photos of all the codes, and then proceeded to walk me all the way to my dorm room while carrying all of my things up the stairs. If you would have asked me ten years before then if that guy liked looking at my face, I would have assumed that he was just being polite, even after poor tequila boy ended up taking an additional 15 minutes to find his room. Front desk guy ended up coming back upstairs several minutes later after I had settled in, but he turned back around when he saw that I was busy shoveling Chana Masala into my mouth from a scaldingly hot pouch.
I realized in that moment, before I briefly chocked on my curry, that I have really grown as a person over the last several years up to that point. I think about it all of the time, but when you are around a bunch of young people who are new to the world of adulthood you realize how much more confident, experienced, and how much more common sense you have from just experiencing life over time. Not only am I little more aware, but I also take my time to make decisions and I should trust that my over-planning with multiple contingencies can suffice a three-day excursion hundreds of miles away.
I spent that night at the hostel writing. I would occasionally allow my attention to wander as I typed in order to hear some of the kids chatting with each other. A guy whose hair was prematurely aging cooked an entire two pounds of spaghetti for a group of guys that had booked one-way tickets from all over just to be in this beautiful place. They chatted about other hostels they stayed in and the places they ended up traveling to with friends. Halfway through the night I ended up in my all-female dorm room with a couple of students studying complex sciences. They were nice and friendly and pointed out their beds before quickly getting into their pajamas and breaking out their laptops to do some homework. I asked if my wild clanking of the keys was too-loud and they said that they couldn’t hear it over the TikToks that they were watching.
I think it’s beneficial to be able to occasionally check yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone and viewing who you are in a different light. It’s a great way to find out things about yourself that you may not have realized previously. I realized just how old I was sitting in the corner of the kitchen listening to the boys, who were adorned in hoodies, talk about how they got really drunk at some 21 and under club. I thought about how I would rather spend a night out in the woods sleeping under a tarp next to an open flame and someone else’s dog. I believe that is called growth.
Later that night I also promised myself that next time I would just get a hotel room.