My Most Ridiculous Travel Experience
Anyone who has traveled anywhere knows that travel is not always rainbows and butterflies. I’ve found that the best way to get through those trying times abroad is with a little bit of humor and the understanding that no matter how crappy a travel experience seems, at least it’ll make a good story someday.
During my six months of backpacking alone around Australia, I ran into my share of ridiculous situations: I worked for a boat captain who liked to walk around in the nude, took a four-day road trip with a stranger in her mouse-infested campervan, and saw a gigantic shark while surfing. But my favorite story to tell has to do with my first night at a hostel in Surfer’s Paradise. Here’s what happened:
My friend drops me off at the hostel on a muggy afternoon and drives off. I’m pretty nervous. I’ve stayed in hostels before but never alone and never for more than a few nights. The plan is to live here indefinitely, cleaning and doing laundry in exchange for accommodation. I check in at the front desk, meet my new coworkers, and get the key to the four-bed dorm where I’ll be living.
But traveling is about getting outside of your comfort zone, right? I’m a strong, independent woman. I can do this.
I had just assumed that, as an employee, they would put me in a room with other women. So imagine my surprise when I walk in to find two of the beds currently occupied by men. On a bottom bunk is a skinny Asian guy on his laptop. He looks at me quickly but doesn’t return my hello. On the bunk above him, completely passed out and smelling strongly of stale beer and sweat, is a guy wearing nothing but boxers. The other bottom bunk is fully blocked from view by a sheet fashioned into a makeshift curtain. I dump my stuff onto the remaining top bunk and step outside to think this through.
Ok, so not what I expected. But traveling is about getting outside of your comfort zone, right? I’m a strong, independent woman. I can do this. I step back into the room, make my bed, and leave to explore the hostel.
When I walk into the room later that night, Skinny Guy is still sitting on his bunk looking at his laptop. He still doesn’t acknowledge me. Drunk Guy is still passed out on the top bunk. He still smells terrible. I crawl into bed and fall asleep.
Sometime later, I wake up to a blond girl coming into the room. She turns on the light and noisily gets ready for bed. Eventually, she crawls into the curtain-covered bunk below me. I finally fall back asleep.
I feel something press into the middle of my back and realize that Blondie has shoved her cell phone into the wire mesh below my mattress to get it out of her way.
A few hours later, I wake up to what sounds like a freight train roaring through the room. Drunk Guy has rolled onto his back and is now snoring louder than any human being has ever snored before. I looked down at Skinny Guy, wondering how he can sleep through this horrible noise. But he isn’t. He is still awake, still looking at his laptop, only now he’s wearing headphones. I pull out my own headphones, turn on some music, and try to fall back asleep. I’m starting to feel as though this may have been a mistake.
At around 5 AM, a man comes into the room. He crawls into the curtain-covered bed below me with Blondie and wakes her up. I look over at Skinny Guy, who is still on his laptop. I wonder if he ever sleeps. Around this time, Drunk Guy starts snoring again. After a few minutes, Blondie and the new guy start hooking up. I feel something press into the middle of my back and realize that Blondie has shoved her cell phone into the wire mesh below my mattress to get it out of her way. I move around in the hopes that they’ll realize that I’m awake two feet above them, but they either don’t notice or don’t care.
I’m debating whether to just tell them that I’m awake when, through Drunk Guy’s snores, I hear Blondie whisper, “Let’s have sex.” As they start going at it, the cell phone digging into my back begins to vibrate: Blondie’s alarm. But she’s too busy gettin’ busy to turn it off. At this point, I put my headphones in, turn my music all the way up, and think that at least this will make a good story.
I’m debating whether to just tell them that I’m awake when, through Drunk Guy’s snores, I hear Blondie whisper, “Let’s have sex.”
After a while, I pause my music to see if they’re done. Blondie is whispering angrily, “Are you kidding me? Wake up! We’re not finished!” New Guy has apparently fallen asleep in the middle of their hookup session. The situation is so ridiculous that I laugh out loud. As I’m laughing, Blondie’s cell phone alarm goes off again, vibrating against my back. She grabs her phone and leaves the room in a huff. The second she’s gone, I carefully climb out of bed, find my shoes, and turn to make my escape when I catch Skinny Guy’s eye. He is still awake, still on his laptop, and still hasn’t said a word. I wonder how many sleepless nights he’s spent in this hostel and what else he’s seen. I quietly open the door and slide outside. It’s close to 6am and I have barely slept. I head for the beach, where I take a long, long walk and rethink this whole hostel idea.
So how did things end up? When I got back to the hostel, I went straight to the front desk and told them that I needed to switch rooms to preserve my sanity. It turned out that they had put me in the wrong room; I was supposed to be in a room by myself. I ended up staying there for a few weeks. I became friends with Drunk Guy, Blondie got kicked out, and I never saw Skinny Guy again after that first night. And as I had hoped on that ridiculous, sleepless night, this travel experience became one of my favorite stories.