On my way to Jamaica last week, I had an overnight layover in Miami. Not wanting to spend a lot of money on lodging, I booked a hostel near the airport. After getting off the bus and wandering around lost for an hour (in heels and in the heat), I arrived at the hostel hot and tired and looking forward to ditching my roller-bag and taking a nap.
As soon as I walked into the dorm room, however, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. First, though it was only two in the afternoon, there was already a party underway in the dorm’s common room. Beer bottles lined the coffee table, techno blasted from the stereo system and several people were smoking in the kitchen; using the sink as an ashtray.
After saying hello and dumping my stuff on the bunk bed, I decided that since I wasn’t going to be sleeping any time soon, I might as well take a shower. But as soon as I opened the bathroom door, I realized that wasn’t going to happen either, thanks to the naked girl passed out on the toilet in the dorm’s only bathroom.
“Oh! Sorry!” I said, backing away from the open doorway as soon as I saw her. I expected her to hastily stand up and slam the door shut, but she didn’t even seem to register my presence.
“Are you okay?” She didn’t move. Crap, is she dead? I thought. I headed down to the reception desk to find the hostel’s manager (a shirtless, barefoot 30-something), in a fight with the housekeeper.
“Can I help you?” he asked as soon as he noticed me.
“Um, yeah. I’m checking out…” I placed the dorm key on the desk in front of him.
“Why? Is it because of the girl? Cause you can change rooms if you want…”
“Um…you mean the girl passed out in the bathroom?” He knew about her?
“There’s a girl passed out in the bathroom!?” He looked at the housekeeper accusingly, as if he had had something to do with it.
“Yeah. Look. I’m gonna go…” I said, wondering what girl he’d been referring to, but too weirded out by the situation to want to stick around to find out.
Later, after gathering my stuff and wandering down the highway a ways, I found a motel. Though it cost 70 dollars (about 50 dollars more than the hostel had) I was happy to pay it.
Five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about staying in that hostel. I would have no doubt joined the party; heck, I probably would have been the one to start it. But now, at 29, getting wasted with strangers on a Monday afternoon was the last thing I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was take a hot shower (alone!) and crawl into a comfortable king-size motel bed and sleep.
When I read about travelers like 29-year-old blogger Matt (who’s been bouncing around from hostel to hostel nearly non-stop for the past five years) or about 34-year-old blogger Christine (who not only stays in hostels with her husband but with her one-year-old baby as well), I wonder how they do it. I also wonder whether or not they should.
As Christine explained:
“No one wants to party their way around the world and then find a baby is in the room… especially if they’re from the States. I noticed this taboo pretty quickly as we stayed in a hostel in Bogotá…the American kids were definitely not into the cherubic angel cooing at them from across the room (sort of a buzz kill, me thinks).”
A few months ago, while staying in a hostel in Portland, Oregon, I encountered something similar. I awoke at six in the morning to get a drink of water and as I sleepily stumbled out of the dorm room barefoot and in my snowman pajamas, I was embarrassed to find a 40-something Asian man sitting in a chair in the hallway. Though it was barely dawn, he was dressed in a suit and watching Modern Family on his laptop. It looked as though he’d been up for hours.
We nodded at one another and I patted down my messy hair, feeling both self-conscious and resentful that he’d caught me looking so disheveled. It was Saturday, for crying out loud! He should have been sleeping off a hangover like a normal person.
But he wasn’t the only one up early. There were quite a few other older people chatting in the kitchen over coffee. One guy looked to be in his late 60’s.
“I’m so hung-over,” I overheard him tell a girl. He was clearly trying to relate to us; to let us all know that even though he’d probably been given a senior citizen discount when he’d reserved his hostel room, he was still cool. It was painful to watch and I felt embarrassed for him.
Anyway, what do you think? Does the old adage “age ain’t nothin’ but a number” apply here or do ‘old people’ cramp a hostel’s style?