Anti-social hosteling

I have a love/hate relationship with staying in hostels.  I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I tend to be 12 to 17 years older than most of my hostel-mates.  Hearing stories about spring breaks, or worse, their recent prom, has finally stopped giving me little embolisms.  What’s becoming increasingly exasperating, as I find increasing success as a travel writer, is the inordinate amount of time I spend working at the hostel (read; hiding in a corner behind my laptop, not making eye contact with the people who are there just to have unbridled fun, because, ironically, I hate those guys.).

The reason I still stay in hostels – dire budgetary issues notwithstanding – is because I love the community; socializing with people from around the world (and ‘by around the world’ I’m largely speaking of Canadians and the ubiquitous Australians).  I get a charge out of the open network of information sharing, as there is always someone who’s just arrived from wherever you’re headed to next, who can ease the just-off-the-train discombobulation. 

Alternately, I hate the rules (I’m looking at you Italy), the fact that I can never sleep due to some kind of noise disturbance and the occasional attack of bed bugs (I’m looking at you Paris).

Predictably, in the past two weeks, I’ve been so bloody busy that I haven’t been able to partake in the parts that I love.  Apart from one rest day, I spent my nine days in Nice, France working like a miserable dog.  Every day, I’d rise and eat breakfast with all the much younger and happily hungover residents, chat a bit about what they were doing that day, proffer some touring advice, and then I would trudge through the unspeakably beautiful weather to the café with the free wifi, pay my ‘table rent’ (a four euro cup of coffee) and sit there and diligently work for as long as my powerful new, nine cell, laptop battery would allow.  Then I’d return to the hostel, plug in and work offline until it started to become obscene.  Then I would get some dinner, do a little light reading and then bed.

Repeat, times eight.

The torturous part was talking to the other guests in the mornings and evenings and hearing about their day:

Three cute Canadian girls:  “Oh Leif, we had a ball today!  We went walking along the beach and it was so gorgeous that we went skinny dipping and frolicked in the sea!  It was so liberating!  We took a ton of pictures!  You should have come with us!”

Me:  “Yeah.  Lovely.  Say, you got those pictures handy?”

Or the Aussie dudes:  “Oh man, we met six gorgeous Swedish babes and drank like 13 bottles of wine on the beach.  Then we were like, [expletive] it, let’s go to Monte Carlo.  So we did and we ran into Bono in the bar and he was like ‘Let’s fly to Rome on my private jet and get some pizza’, so we did.  It was absolutely surreal.  Oh!  Bono would have loved talking to you, cuz at one point he was like, ‘You know, music is great, but what I really want to do is travel writing.'”

OK, I made most of that last one up, but the extent of my suffering was only slightly less pronounced than that little bit of embellishment.

If there’s an upside to this, I got a crapload of work done, which will be great exposure – in nine months when this stuff sees print… welcome to travel writing.

As always, hostel sleeping was a serious problem.  I’m a light sleeper in the first place and when you have drunks staggering in until 2am and the early travelers getting up at 6am (and re-packing everything they own, with a constant clamor of zippers and crinkling plastic bags, because it never occurs to them to do all this the night before), there’s an agonizingly small window of deep sleep time to be had. 

It’s strange, my hearing isn’t that great in general (stupid rock ‘n’ roll), but at night, in a hostel, I can hear a butterfly fart.  I can sense when a light turns on three rooms away.  To say nothing of the inevitable sounds of people who are younger, drunker and less burdened with work, hooking up and briefly forgetting about the 60 people that are within easy earshot as the thumping starts against the wall, headboard, floor, shower stall, broom closet, etc.  Ah, Europe.  What happens in the broom closet, stays in the broom closet.

Anyway, enough of that self-pity, I’m mere hours from moving into my new home near Oristano, Sardinia; a ground floor apartment in a tiny village, just off the beach.  Judging from the fuzzy mobile phone pictures I’ve received, there appears to be plenty of closet space. 

A good sign if I’ve ever seen one.