They’ve become something like a second home to me.
Since arriving in Chile for study abroad FIVE (yes, 5!) years ago, I’ve seen more than I can possibly count.
Whether it be a place to lay my head after exploring a new city or to make 5 minute friends to party the night away with, hostels have been my preferred accommodation over the years.
I consider myself something of a seasoned hostel guest. On hostelworld and hostelbookers I’m like a P.I. finding the best one that is clean but homey, big but cozy and full of party but also tranquil.
You’ll be sure to find me at one that has pod beds with curtains, a built in private reading light with a personal outlet, a breakfast that’s more than just toast and coffee, a bar and daily activities like walking tours or “family” dinners.
But if you think all my hostel stays have been backpack bliss then you’re sincerely mistaken.
Here I’d like to recount some of my all time worst experiences in 5 years of hostel staying on 4 different continents.
5. The time when I faced Anti-Americanism
Being an American traveler has mostly been a bump free journey for me. I can count on one, maaaaybe two hands the incidences where I have faced Anti-American comments. To be fair, most were in jest from other Anglophones (Australians and Brits I’m looking at you bullies)…although hurtful nonetheless.
The first time I can really remember actually feeling the sting of one of these comments was in a hostel in Budapest. This hostel was a self proclaimed “party hostel” and hosted it’s share of pub crawls and jäger–trains.
The fun environment and party atmosphere led many to really feel at home
After a big bar crawling night out with most the hostel that was started with a speech by one of the hostel employees telling us to ‘Go ahead and f*ck whoever [we] want, but do it quietly’ I made my way back to my shared mixed dorm.
It was super late and I was ready to change into my pajamas and catch some sleep before everyone’s morning stirrings would wake me. Only problem was that all my possessions were locked in my locker that was shut with a combination lock. With no source of light (not even an iphone) I decided I’d quickly turn on the lights to enter my combination and then turn them back off to feel around for my PJs and get changed.
The moment I flipped on the lights an Australian sat straight up in his bed and with no humor in his voice said, “You’re going to turn on the lights?! Fucking Americans.”
In his defense, that was really impressive he guessed I was American because I had never spoken to him or told him I was, in fact, American.
I mumbled an apology and quickly did what I needed to do to turn them back off.
In retrospect, he deserved something far from an apology. He actually deserved a welcome to the HOSTEL where he was staying, reminder he wasn’t at the Four Seasons and a big go f*ck yourself you stupidhead bigot.
Sure! I freaking hate getting unreasonably woken up in a hostel (one such case even makes this list), but HELLO! it IS a hostel. Bring your earplugs and sleeping mask next time, buttwipe.
4. The time I was alone in Poland and it was scary
I rolled up to my hostel in freezing Katowice, Poland on a solo backpacking trip during winter break when I was living in Spain. Katowice not being much of a must-see city in Poland (besides it’s proximity to Auschwitz) rendered my hostel completely and totally EMPTY. I didn’t once see even one person besides the lady who checked me in all evening and night. It was freaky.
This was a sign in the bathroom…
Deciding to make the most of my solitude I decided I’d….wash all my dirty underwear and hang them on my bed to dry lol
I got into bed early and actually caught up on the book I was reading. Just when I was about to call it a night, I heard footsteps outside the door and finally someone came in. It was a middle aged man with no luggage or anything in hand whatsoever. The thought “should I be screaming?” passed through my head. He gave me a nod and then emptied his pockets of his wallet and keys onto the top bunk and then climbed into the bottom bunk to sleep.
Needless to say, I slept with one eye open the entire night.
3. The other time I got no sleep, but in a girls only room
On a trip to Taiwan just last month I decided to splash out and book a girls only room which was maybe a dollar or two more per night. I’d reasoned this splurge worthy because I really hadn’t planned on partying while in Taipei because of my kidney situation (anyone else know the ungodly pain that is kidney stones??) and I so wrongfully assumed the girls only room would be a bit more peaceful than a mixed one.
Early on I could tell the vibes of the room were all wrong. There were two party girl Eastern Europeans, a couple quiet and shy Chinese girls and one middle aged Chinese woman who seemed to have just moved in with her things hung all over her bed and taking up all the under the bed storage space.
The party girls seemingly not caring about anything or anyone, plopped all their shit in the middle of the room (to be fair, the old Chinese lady took up nearly all the storage spaces). After one of their big nights out I was awoken to screaming and a sort of verbal cat fight in the early hours of the morning.
The Chinese bag lady had moved the party girl’s backpack (which contained her laptop) to another part of the room. The party girl didn’t like this, so she decided she’d wake the bitch up and confront her right then and there.
An argument of course ensued that ended with the bag lady screaming “Fuck you!” over and over, her things splayed on the floor (they were, after all, hanging from the party girl’s railing) and the poor hostel worker having to come in and threaten to charge them all another night.
I was pissed that these psycho bitches were robbing me of sleep on my last night before flying back to start the work week in China, but now I can only smile remembering hearing their funny little argument in English with those heavy, stereotypical accents. The best line was from the party girl in her menacing Eastern European accent telling the bag lady “Vhat is this?! THIS IS NOT LAUNDRY!” referring to the bag lady’s clothes hanging in the room.
2. The time the drunk Chilean peed all over the room
This one takes me back! On a trip to Mendoza, Argentina with my girl gang back when I was studying abroad in Santiago I experienced my nastiest hostel experience.
After a fun night out with my chicas
we made our way back to the hostel to catch some sleep before another day full of probably drunken wine and bike tours.
When all were sound and asleep a drunk Chilean guy stumbled into the room looking for his bed. There was only one free, so I assumed it was his and began to coax his borracho ass into the top bunk above mine. After finally listening to my reasonable voice insisting him to “Salta, weon!” or ‘Jump up there, man,’ he started dozing and we were all happy to get back to sleep again.
Probably only an hour later I heard a thunderous boom in the room. Terremoto? Not again! But no, it was the drunk guy jumping down from the top bunk. Everyone started to wake and just then he whipped out his pico and began pissing on a suitcase. We shouted our protests, but it was too late. Someone ran to get a hostel worker and he begrudgingly wiped up the mess best he could. The real zinger was that this guy wasn’t even staying in our room at all. His friends collected him and only a bit later an Argentine girl arrived, the true inhabitant of the top bunk above mine and owner of the suitcase. Maybe she was borracha herself because she was ridiculously casual about her suitcase being covered in pee and just climbed into bed like it was just another day in the hostel.
Hmmm maybe it was.
1. The time I was sexually assaulted
This story is by far the worst and scariest hostel moment I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s one of my scariest stories all around. Now I hope it serves as a learning experience because I basically did everything completely wrong.
It was study abroad Chile again. This time we took an organized trip to Valparaiso with the foreign exchange student welcoming committee/party with gringos committee.
The entire hostel was rented out by the committee and filled with gringos and those Chilenos (committee members or friends of members) who would love to hook up with an “open minded” gringa.
I remember it being a fun night, starting with an asado for the hostel and then moving to a club to dance the night away to the best of Daddy Yankee and other reggaetón artists (*sigh* I really do miss those nights)
It was only when I was awoken by the feeling of someone slowly pulling my pajama bottoms down did things start to turn sour.
It was very slow and cautious. I can only assume the person had no intention of pulling them all the way down and raping me. I imagine he just wanted to see as much as he could for free without waking me.
Much to his surprise I did start to stir…
He moved away quickly on to his next victim or maybe to rob someone. I sat upright in my bed and when he realized he tried to hide in the darkness of the room behind a locker. I screamed out in Spanish “Hey! What are you doing! HEY!” and he quickly moved to exit the room.
Here’s where I did something pretty stupid.
I grabbed him.
Latched onto his arm in a death grip.
Thank the high heavens he didn’t haul off and punch me in the face!
I looked into his eyes and shouted “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!?” But he didn’t hit me. He looked panicked and started calling to his friend Emilio.
Now I can’t remember if he wriggled free or I let him go, but I do know I jumped out of bed and began to chase him down the hall. He was fast and vanished in a second still screaming the name Emilio. I ran into one of the scuzzy hostel workers and wide eyed asked him if he saw the guy that ran down the hall. I knew full well he had had to have seen and heard him, but the guy played dumb and said he hadn’t seen anyone. Shocked I tried to ask him again telling him he surely saw the guy shouting for Emilio. “But I’m Emilio,” he said. My mouth dropped. Accomplices. They had to have been accomplices. I backed away scared and banged on the door of the chief committee member’s room. He came out of the room with a smile playing at the corner of his lips. He obviously thought I was just some silly drunk girl creating some drama. I felt like they were all against me, all out to get me. I ran away from him with tears in my eyes and banged the door of our room shut in his face.
At this point I thought my friends would be up after hearing all this loud commotion. My screaming, the perpetrators yells and me banging that dang door shut in that stupid prick’s face. Ridiculous (and sad) as this sounds, I assumed they had heard everything, but didn’t care enough to help me. These were some good girls and great friends to me, but my brain wasn’t operating right that night. It didn’t help that the Italian girl in the bunk above me was wide awake and completely nonchalant about the whole thing. I laid in my bed shaking both our bunks with my crying and she only half halfheartedly looked down to ask if I was alright. I figured if it wasn’t a big deal to her it must not have been a big deal to anyone else.
The next morning when my friends weren’t mentioning anything about the night before and I began to complain about not getting any sleep I could tell they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t. I started to talk about how that guy had really freaked me out the night before and they looked back at me like I had two heads. When I told them he was pulling my pants down they’re mouths dropped in horror. All four girls swore up and down they hadn’t heard a thing and that I REALLY should have woken them up.
My last mistake and another I regret was that I never made a formal complaint about the trip to the school, it was after all, an organization affiliated with my host university.
I can now fully and confidently say that I would most definitely act differently if this situation were to arise again. I was brave and indomitable in some moments and utterly reckless and stupid in others. The circumstances of this incident and me being a novice traveler silenced me when I needed to pipe up most.
You can bet your ass if this were to happen again I’d have the whole neighborhood along with the police up with me trying to catch that jerk. In all these 5 years of hostel staying I’ve (thankfully) never been made to feel so threatened and unsafe by another person.
So the moral of these stories? When staying in a hostel, don’t be afraid to turn on the lights.