We made it! The last five people you’ll meet in hostels. Of course, you’ll probably meet many more than this. But as far as this little project goes, we’ve reached the conclusion. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the ride, and stay tuned. In a few days, there will be an epilogue you don’t want to miss. It’ll be like the stingers at the end of all those Marvel movies, except without the exciting music and big name cameos. Or maybe there will be a big name cameo. Stay tuned… (there won’t be a big name cameo).
- The Misfit – “Boys will be boys” is a pretty great phrase. You see a little kid accidentally break a window playing stickball in the street, then sure you fix it, but you don’t ground the kid for life. But you’ll always meet people who take it too far. That kid who used to throw pumpkins through car windshields and lock teachers in the closet. Their moms said “boys will be boys” to them, and now they’re our problem. By the time they get abroad, they’ve probably already been arrested once and knocked up a one-night stand twice because they didn’t feel like wearing a condom. There’s always that one guy who just wants to get into trouble, or do something even the most freespirited traveler is gonna look at and say, “hey man, maybe that’s not a great idea.” Maybe it’s culturally insensitive to carve dicks into the side of the Great Pyramids after bribing the guards to let you climb them. Maybe you shouldn’t get into a fight with that local Filipino guy who clearly has an entire gang backing him up in the club. At a certain point, you know you can’t control them anymore, so you bail. After all, it’s not your job to discipline this guy. Boys will be boys.
- Catchphrase: “Aw come on you assholes, it’ll be fun!”
- The Mask – Back at home, people can be so fake. Straddled with social expectation that they force themselves to fit regardless of its verisimilitude. We all hope that this doesn’t carry over abroad, that faced with complete anonymity and a fresh start people will rise to their best and truest face. Aaaaand then there’s the Mask. The Mask is the person who can’t quite let go of the idea of themselves they’ve created against the backdrop of what they want to be over who they are. So they create fake names and act like total idiots, with a façade you could cut down with a balsa wood racecar. I met a girl who wanted to be like the popular girls back home, so she used a fake name and went around grabbing guys’ junk. This lasted about as long as it took for somebody to recognize her. Turns out, her hometown’s not as small as she thought, and suddenly everybody in the hostel knew her real name. Come on, Oona. You had to know that was a bad idea. There was no more junk-touchage that night. But hey, it’s the Mask’s prerogative. Some people go abroad to find themselves. Others go to lose themselves.
- Catchphrase: “Yeah, I’m a brain surgeon back home and I drive a lambo. I’m only staying in this shitty hostel to see what it’s like to be a poor, insecure college student desperate to make friends. Wanna hang out?”
- The Jock – Speaking of bringing baggage from home. And this time, it’s on you. The Jock isn’t so much a person you meet in a hostel as it is a person you identify with. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get over old insecurities, even if you’ve been at it for a long time. In those times, you might walk into the hostel bar and see a crowded table that just hits you like that tuk-tuk almost did twenty minutes earlier. Those guys sitting over there, laughing, surrounded by girls, are everything you’ve ever struggled with. You can’t go talk to them. Look how cool they are. That guy in the center might as well be wearing his high school letterman jacket. Look at how he’s drinking that beer and looking all inviting. He probably shoved dudes in lockers all through his high school career. Oh man, now he’s laughing. Like he’s better than me. Oh shit, I just locked eyes with him. Why’s he raising his beer glass at me? Is that a cheers? Is he making fun of me? Fuck that guy. I’m gonna grab a beer and just go to bed.
- “Why’s that guy over there glaring at me? What did I do?”
- The Lifetime Movie – I don’t understand some old people. Obviously you’ve got the Uncle Willy’s of the world, who just want to creep on the kind of girls they’ve seen in their huge collection of Girls Gone Wild tapes. We may not like those guys, but we understand their presence. But why would any other older person stay in a hostel? Most young people treat them like they would a plague rat, giving them a wide berth. They refuse to bring girls back to their dorms not because they respect the older person’s sleep, but because it reminds them way too much of that time their mother walked in on them. In the end, most people never end up saying a word to that 70-year-old grandmother sleeping three cots away until she packs up and leaves, and everybody breathes a sigh of relief. But if they had said a word to her, they would have found out how she just survived yet another bout of cancer, and decided that if it came back again she wasn’t going to treat it. She would have told them about how she was seeing everything the world had to offer, the nitty gritty of it that you don’t find in the hotels most older people stay in, because she knew she would be gone soon and wanted to leave her mark on the world. And if somebody had that conversation with her, she would have done it. Because that conversation would have left a deeper mark than any old temple could.
- Catchphrase: None. Speak to them. Hear their story. We now return to your regularly scheduled comedy.
- The Friend From Home – That damn Disney song may be the biggest earworm in the world, because it’s true. No matter how far away you get (hell, try getting downright antipodal), you will always run into somebody you know. Or somebody who knows you. It could be an acquaintance from college you didn’t know abroad. It could be an old girlfriend who bumps into you in Cambodia while you’re trying to talk to girls. In my case, it was a guy I had never seen before, but who lived on my street in college and knew all of my friends. Finding somebody like this will have one of two effects. Either you become total bros, feeding off each other’s energy and having a great time, or you don’t. The latter usually happens to the Masks, like Oona up there. Maybe you’ll get sucked into the same routines you had back home. Maybe you’ll fall into the same insecurities you were trying to escape. Either way, when you find somebody you already know, you’re gonna need to know how to deal with them. It’s a small world, after all.
- Catchphrase: “Holy shit dude, long time no see! I see you’re talking to girls, did you ever get that STD taken care of last year?”
And there we go. Got any other ideas? Send ’em in! Maybe I’ll feature them in a followup series. Just don’t send “the family that doesn’t belong.” I’m already mad I forgot that one.