If You’re Nervous About Your First Time Traveling: Right now, I am sitting on my bed in a hostel in Berlin. My shit is all over the floor. The girl sleeping on the bed next to me is also fucking her on the floor. And then there are some people, all their belongings locked and zipped. Nobody has made their bed (why you?). This 4 o’clock.
Today it is perfectly normal for me to live this way. But it was not always. It has been more than five years since I left my wildly interested accounting job in New Zealand and relieved of my world adventure. I have probably slept on over 200 beds since then, and countless other sofas, floors, trains, cars, planes, tents, on the beach.
As it has become normal for me over the years, I forget how strange it may seem to others. When people are surprised about this lifestyle, I often turn it off, like it is nothing special. But I have noticed that it can confuse people, make them almost intimidating, and it seems that the backpacking trail is reserved for these odd personalities, who like to stay in dirty socks and sleep in rooms that have legs. Smell like
The 11 Most Beautiful Beach Towns In The World(Opens in a new browser tab)
So today I want to take you all back, the day I checked in my first hostel. Because back then, living like this was anything but normal, and I was anything but an accomplished traveler.
My backpacking career began in South America. I flew to Buenos Aires and was scheduled to live on the continent for 14 weeks.
I showed up that afternoon with a bag full of clothes, some no toiletries, and shoes in my feet. I had neither packed a laptop, nor a tablet, nor a camera. I have no warm clothes. Not even a jacket. I had no guidebook. I did not even take a cellphone.
I really felt that I didn’t need any of it.
Camera? The pictures are in my head. Laptop? Internet cafe. Phone? Who to call?
Once I got off the plane, I changed my USD to the first airport currency exchange, which I saw, on baggage collection. Ever since I learned it was equivalent to having the word “stopped” on my forehead, and I remember an English couple discussing how it was “not a good rate”, but at the time I was aware. It was not how badly the airport was packed. I did not know about these cool little things called ‘travel blogs’. I mean, I just need a peso. This is the place to get pesos, no?
Once customs clearing I headed straight towards the taxi stand. I saw the same English couple I saw at the currency exchange and asked if they wanted to share a taxi to the city. “Sure,” he said, and one of them ran to a nearby ATM to take out some cash.
I had a hostel already booked, I still remember the name: Millhouse Avenue. Initially, I gave the driver the wrong address, so we drove around in circles until I actually got a booking printout from my backpack and double-checked it. When we arrived, the driver asked for a tip. I did not know how much he owed, so I billed him 20 pesos, which at the time was around $ 5 USD. He let out a big grin and slapped me on the shoulder, and then began to sneer at some of the commoners.
I was at the door of eight beds, mixed with boys and girls. Jet fell behind, I slept the rest of the day, only to be out for a while to eat a burger with a couple of my roommates that same evening. I thought it was great – making new friends. There were literally hundreds of people in the hostel, all drinking alcohol, watching movies, cooking, playing pool, chatting in bars. As a life-long introvert, I remember that it was all a bit overwhelmed. I just went upstairs and lay on my bed.
The next morning I woke up and most of my dorm had started their day. Some were outside, some were around brushing their teeth, that sort of thing. I remember one of the staff coming into the room took some dirty sheets and opened the curtains.
“It’s a beautiful day to get out of here, people!”
My heart bounced a little.
Go away from here?
I suddenly felt all this pressure, like when you were a kid and you weren’t listening in class and now everyone is working and you have no idea what’s going on. Around the hostel I could hear all these people altering the map and talking about buses and different places. But I did not get it. How does everyone know what they are doing? What kind of a presentation did I miss in the morning or something?
Of course it only lasted a few seconds before clicking; We were just our caretakers. But I was never in such an environment before. It always caught the bus at 7, had lunch at 12, went home, did its homework, went to football practice. Wake up, iron your shirt, file your timesheet. Even my two previous travel experiences were no different: on my voluntary trip to Tanzania
I was told what my job is, which bus to hold, what time to show, what time to go