Life in hostel#5

The last stop in my 9 months journey was in Santiago de Chile, where I spent 3 months of (almost) winter. This was, by far, the most challenging hostel of all.

Let`s start with the positive part: I was living close to the city center, in a bohemian borough, I was getting paid (not much, but enough to get through) and my boss was really nice, but a bit chaotic.

On the downside, the weather was cold since it was winter. Compared to European weather it was nice and warm, but unfortunately I did not have my winter gear with me, so I had to get around with the things I had on me. Which proved to be more difficult than I originally thought, since the hostel wasn`t heated and sometimes it was warmer outside than inside. I found out the hard way that hot water bottles can be a lifesaver, especially during the night.

The FIFA world cup was taking place in Brazil, so that`s where all the tourists were travelling to. Because of the high prices in football tickets and accommodation, few of them could afford to visit other countries in South America. As a result, the hostel was most of the time half empty. Not just my place, but the entire city was lacking tourists. Things were a bit boring, especially around the hostel.

My fellow travelers working in the hostel were not as friendly as my friends in Argentina. To be more precise, they were friendly and helpful, but they were busy with their stuff and didn`t have much time left to hang out. There was a French girl living in the hostel with her boyfriend and they were spending most of the time in their room. The other girl was also French, but she was constantly skyping with her boyfriend back in Germany. Luckily, other colleagues arrived from Canada, Mexico and Chile, so things got a bit more animated.

There were two other permanent members in charge of breakfast and cleaning, one weirder than the other. There was a younger guy in his 30s, always unhappy with something, always mumbling  and quarreling. He once tried to start a cocktail business in the hostel, selling drinks to clients without the boss’s consent. One of the clients told my boss how good the cocktail was and he got told off. My biggest issue was the noise he was making in the kitchen preparing breakfast, right next to my room. It’s not nice waking up each morning at 6am, in the sound of slammed cupboards and dashed dishware, so I started using ear plugs.  However, he was nice when he was smoking pot, and this was happening rather often.

The  other one was weird looking and socially awkward, sometimes even freaking customers off. I always compare him with Lurch from the Addams Family in my mind, although he isn`t as massive. A lean man in his 50s, with wispy hair, gray eyes and an overall dusty appearance. The hostel was constantly receiving bad reviews and complaints about him smoking in the shared dorm or just being weird. However, the boss only fired him only after he punched a guest in the face, who happened to be the cousin of the lousy guy. Throughout my stay, I was worried he might snap one day and burn down the place.

The best thing about my stay here was the fact that after a month and a half I received my own room and bathroom. Even if it was really small and crowded, it was exactly what I needed after several months of living in shared dorms.

The time spent in Chile was’t the highlight of my journey, especially since I was facing some personal problems. I sometimes think that maybe I wasn’t able to appreciate the people around me enough, because in the end my boss helped me with some issues and even threw a goodbye party for me. From time to time, I miss my little room and the  time I spent there.

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Source: TripAdvisor
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Life in hostel #4 – Cordoba


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As time goes by I realize that even though life in hostels is more or less the same everywhere, every experience is unique. I am now used to sharing a room with 5-7 people, used to not having storage room, personal space or intimacy. All these things that were so important in my former life seem to be a small price to pay for the privilege of seeing the world. Hand-washing my clothes is now a routine. Before, shopping for supplies and cooking were a bourdain, but now I see this as a chance to relax, to share with friends  and to learn about different cultures.

For personal reasons I wasn`t feeling too happy when I left Buenos Aires, so I really needed some time for thinking, as well as the company of friends. I was lucky enough to find the perfect balance in Cordoba. So far it`s been the most intense part of my travel as I was forced to face some truths about myself. The lazy life at the hostel and the quiet city gave me the chance to reflect a lot. And I had the chance to meet some wonderful people who listened to me, adviced me and distracted me when I was feeling blue. It`s a big deal to meet people who will act as if nothing happened when they see that you`ve been obviously crying and who won`t try to distance themselves from you because of this.

Two of my colleagues from Buenos Aires knew the place and assured me that it was the best hostel ever and that I was going to have the time of my life there and that I will soon forget about my troubles. But a week after I got there the owners sold the place and the vibe of the place suddenly changed. It was a period of change for everyone, but I believe that things worked out fine in the end.  I know that things will change, but I hope it will continue being a good hostel.

The truth is that people who live/work/spend a lot of time in hostels can be judged more like characters than real persons.

As it happens I`ve met a lot of characters  in this hostel. It is the first time that I meet pairs of characters, just like in comical plays.

First there was the group formed by the 3 ex-owners, each of them with a different personality, but forming a balanced trio: the messy party-gower that would set the mood in the evening, the control-freak that would organize everything to the last detail and the neutral one that would sort out the differences between the first two.

Among the volunteers there was a couple from France that always seemed trapped in a fantasy world that only they understood. I really don`t know how they found each other `cause they always gave me the impression that they are the male and female version of the same person.

There was a pair formed by two american guys, also living in a separate, yet more approachable world. They would cook together, go out together, be in the reception together, watch sports together and go to bed in the same time, carrying on with their lives as they were the only two people on the planet.

Another match made in heaven is formed by my two best friends in Cordoba. Always enthuziastic about anything, always full of energy and good vibes and always ready to have a good laugh. I think they both came to this city from different parts of the world `cause they were destined to meet each other. As a friend used to say, spending time with them is like  watching a live comedy show.

Although these trios and duets were the best part of the hostel, I met some memorable individual characters.

The guy who bought the hostel is a senior Canadian citizen who`s always lived in isolated areas, who`s never stayed in a hostel before and who doesn`t speak Spanish. Even though he`s got nothing to do with managing a hostel, I like him because he`s a good person and he used to make me pancakes in the morning.

Also the guy who has been travelling for 2-3 years who lived in the same room with the volunteers became a close friend.

Or the German guy who was always on his computer. It seems more easy to connect with him now that I left and we can chat online than it was to communicate while we were in the same room.

And one of my favourites, a former soldier who leaves in an isolated room in the back yard. His funniest moment was when he was hiding from the Immigration services who came to the hostel for an inspection. This is how we found out that his visa expired two years before. I think that the inspectors were actually looking for illegal workers, but it worked out fine in the end.

This was a good opportunity for me to see how travelling alone affects me. I have noone to rely on like the others did, so I always have to take care of myself. I have to get out there in order to make friends, I have to socialize and to communicate as I cannot  escape in a company of a guaranteed friend.  On the other side, I know that all the friends that I meet on the way will soon be out of my life. I know that it`s temporary, so I enjoy it more.

Normal things like talking to my family became the highlight of my day. Even though this is by far the most socially active period of my life, I`ve never felt so alone. It`s hard to be on your own for so much time, always changing places. But I remember a time when I was surrounded by friends and family when I would feel that no one understood me and that no one could relate to me. I now feel that I`m on the right way, even though it`s a lonely road.

I feel grateful for the time spent here, as I do about all the people that I`ve met, every situation I`ve faced and all the places I`ve visited. Travelling for long periods of time is not always easy, as it seems for the people you`ve left at home. I believe that the moment I`ve left Argentina, that coincided with the celebrating of 6 months away from home, represented a milestone for me. I had to rethink my situation and my goals, and in the end I chose to carry on with my journey.

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