The hostel is one of the oldest social institutions in existence. The phenomenon of the Eurotrip was first described in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s story, youths today find themselves traveling to various holy sites, spending their nights in grimy dens befriending strangers, getting drunk and sharing stories. Not much has changed since the Middle Ages, except the Christians have been replaced by agnostics, you have a Eurail pass instead of a donkey, your backpack is made of nylon rather than leather and your accommodations are called hostels instead of inns–albeit they still have bed bugs and smell like horse shit. Along with these conditions, you will be sure to find certain archetypal characters along the journey. Here are seven personalities you can be sure to encounter in any hostel because they transcend both time and space.
1. The Hostel Lifer
At every hostel there is ‘that guy.’ We all know hostels are intended for people under the age of 26, but this guy has somehow dodged the age limit and has overstayed his welcome by about three seasons. He has hung around long enough to snag a job at the front desk and now calls the hostel his ‘permanent address’. He can generally be found playing his acoustic guitar in the corner. He always tries to sleep with new arrivals, and occasionally he gets lucky when some poor backpacker gets home too late and drunk and finds herself seduced by his elegant rendition of “No Woman No Cry.” That guy is most definitely creepy, never wears shoes and lurks around the communal shower and like a bad STD; you’ll never be rid of him.
2. The Post Grad Couple
You will always encounter the post-graduate couple at hostels. They usually just graduated from college, met freshman year but now they are testing the strength of their relationship to ‘make sure’ they want to build a life together in San Francisco (they survived Cancun spring break 2009, but that was 3 years ago, and she’s still bitter about the night he drunkenly mistook her roommate for her). They are always desperate to find other couples to hang out with because they feel so threatened by all the singles at the hostel. The couple is always slightly on edge as they nervously wait for the room to clear so they can fuck on the lower bunk (they hate that they have to sleep on separate beds and can’t wait to splurge on a 2 star hotel once they get to Rome). They also bicker a lot, but in the end, they love sharing these moments together.
The only things certain in life are death, taxes and Australians at hostels. I don’t understand it but hostelling comes second nature to this lot. Maybe because they are used to being so spread out in Australia that they crave the close human contact fostered in hostels. Or they feel comfortable with bunk beds and shitty food because it’s in their blood (penal colony, remember).
4. Drunk Group Of Boys
There is always a big group of backpackers either coming off of their Birthright trip, Amherst study abroad Florence or Sigma Chi brotherhood. These boys virtually take over the hostel. They wake everyone when they come in drunk at 3:45am, they organize group day trips to go cliff diving in La Rochelle and seem to bring the party with them. Everything is AWESOME, and you can always find them at the bar with the cheapest pints.
5. The Hostel Ho
There is always the hostel ho. She’s not always present at the off-the-beaten-track establishment, but she can, generally, be found at the major destinations. She is blond, and could either be American, Australian, Swedish or even German, but usually she’s English. She wears super short skirts, flip-flops and loves her Spy sunglasses. She flirts with all the boys and is either traveling with a group of girlfriends or two of her best guy friends. She usually gets the nightly game of Kings or Never Have I Ever going and complains loudly when the local pharmacy refuses to accept her foreign birth control prescription.
6. The Serious Backpacker
You can always find a smaller group of serious Germans or Nordic backpackers. They can be easily identified by their pants that convert into shorts and shameless display of Tevas with socks. They always are the first to go to sleep and wake so that they can make the most of their busy itinerary of museums and historic landmarks. They generally keep to themselves and can be found making spaghetti in the kitchen. They also hang their laundry on a rope suspended between their bunks.
7. The Girl Who’s Traveling Solo
Another familiar female at the hostel is the slightly older girl traveling around Europe alone trying to ‘find herself.’ Most the guys are afraid of her – she may even be lesbian – but she does have a soft spot for acoustic guitar. She wears tank tops, long tribal print skirts, and usually sports some kind of handkerchief/scarf head piece. She is really proud of her really small backpack and believes it to be a reflection of her detachment from the material world. She also will talk to you for hours about how she abhors religious art–do you have any idea how the Church has manipulated the image of the Virgin Mary into a emblematic tool of female sexual repression?!?