It’s amazing how in a world of seven billion people, in a travel culture that focuses on meeting new people and changing yourself, pretty much everybody still fits a stereotype. Hostel culture most of all. There are certain creatures lurking around at every single hostel (or at least, every hostel that I’ve been). Let’s meet them!
- Puke and Rally Ken Doll. Mention a drunk Australian and I’ll throw down cash money that I can name the guy you’re thinking of. Really tall, at least 6’3” (or about 192 cm for my metric minions). Not fat exactly, but just sort of… round. Muscular, but you wouldn’t blink if the guy fell down and bounced. His face is flushed, his forehead glistening, with a dark patch of sweat on the front of his “Same Same But Different” tank top. Depending on the time of night, his eyes might be looking in opposite directions. Bonus points if he plays rugby. He’s either buying a drink at the rooftop bar, or he’s got a water bottle of straight vodka from which he takes massive pull by massive pull. He’s probably staying in your hostel right now. These guys are keeping the heritage of Australia (that is, the kind of people you dump on a desert island to avoid) strong, but even Australia has an excess of them. They all look so similar that they may as well come off of an assembly line. Puke and Rally Barbie and Ken. And you can tell how drunk they are by how thick their accent gets – if they start to sound like Steve Irwin getting fucked by a crocodile, they’re probably blackout. But they’ll still try to make you take a shot with them. Catchphrase: “Oy! Take a shot ye cunt!”
- The Puppy Litter. You’ll hear the squeaking and yapping before you see them. These girls run in herds of at least four. Often British, usually on some form of gap year or summer holiday. Their backpacks are bigger than they are, because their idea of packing light is an outfit for every day of the week. And like any box full of puppies, they’re just climbing the walls trying to talk to everybody. The problem is, every guy wants to “talk to” them too. So they sit in a circle, entertaining the legions of horny backpackers, completely oblivious to the fact that there’s a 3:1 gender ratio against them. The only one aware is the token pug of the litter struggling to stay in the conversation. Once the drinks start flowing, the girls quit playing coy and it’s back to the hostel for a night of keeping the pug awake with bed squeaks. Usually with Puke and Rally Ken. Catchphrase: “Oh my God, I should NOT drink vodka tonight. I’ll have a vodka tonic, please.”
- The Seed Money. When a fast food joint puts out a tip jar, they’ll always put a little money in to start. It makes it look like tipping is the thing to do. I’m convinced that hostels do the same thing: they’ll hire a guy to hang out at the hostel 24/7 to make it look populated. So this guy never leaves. Coming home from a day trip? He’s taking a nap in the dorm already. Getting ready for a night out? He’s in the rooftop bar reading a book. That is, until people actually start showing up and ordering beers. That’s when his job as seed money complete, and he heads off to bed at the eye-droopingly late time of 9:30. He never goes out to do anything and he never joins in the fun. So what possible reason could he have for traveling except being paid by the hostel? And stay as long as you want: he checked in before you, and he’ll check out after you. “Hotel California” might as well be his theme song: he can never leave. Catchphrase: “Oh yeah, that sounds really cool. Maybe I’ll come join you guys later.” (nope.)
- The Soul Searcher. This guy just graduated college with a worthless degree – probably English. He’s got no clue what he wants to do in life and he isn’t qualified for half the shit he does want. So he bought a one-way ticket, hoping travel would clear his mind. He starts growing a beard and a ponytail as soon as he can. And it does inspire him. Maybe he starts his own jewelry company. Maybe he tries his hand at video editing or photography. Maybe he, oh, I don’t know, starts a travel blog as if there’s money there. Whatever he does, he’ll tell you about it within the first few minutes of meeting you, and then every two minutes after that. Attention is a drug for this one better than any mushroom shake or happy pizza, and he’ll scratch his arm and beg for it until you give in and tell him you’ll visit his blog or check out some of her jewelry. Because those few seconds of admiration (“wow, so you just travel and make art? I wish I could do that!”) keep the fear of not accomplishing anything at bay. Catchphrase: “Maybe this subtle self-deprecation will be cathartic enough to help me figure out what I’m doing here.”
- The Cool Person. The one constant in a world of freaks, geeks, and drunkards. It’s magnetic. Really, it’s more difficult to not find that one person you click with. Hell, maybe it’ll be the Drunk Australian, or the Gap Year Girl, or even the Seed Money. Point is, you’ll get to conversing with somebody in your hostel over a beer, and it’ll be all too easy. That’s the thing about traveling. Every single person you meet has at least something in common with you – the desire to get out and see the world. So you’ll hang out for a day or two, and when it comes time to move on, you’ll suggest going together. And after a week or two, when it’s really time to split, it feels like losing a part of yourself. Like saying goodbye to your oldest friend. Fire forged. And then you go to the hostel bar to cheer yourself up… and the whole cycle repeats. Catchphrase: “Let’s end this article on a saccharine moral about the sincerity of travel relationships. Add me on Facebook, bro!”