Yes, I know. I don’t normally post twice a week but I have been receiving lots of e-mails from you adventurers out there wanting advice. Looks like cheap travel is in the air and we’ve got a lot of adventurers preparing to embark on their first hostel experience. Whoohoo!
And I get it; there’s a lot of fear to be had about sharing space with strangers. “What if I get crappy roommates?” “Will it be like the movie? I don’t want to die!” “I’m traveling alone. What am I going to need?”
So by popular demand I am releasing this blog early (I can’t leave my homies hanging). No worries mate; just read so you can breathe easy about your upcoming adventure. =)
I had been pretty lucky so far on my journeys through Australia. Most of the girls in my bunks were friendly, interesting, and courteous. They had been traveling a great deal as well and knew the unwritten rules of how much space to overtake, when to ask questions and share their histories, and when to give each other space. I didn’t realize how lucky I’d had it until I met Jenny* (name’s have been changed to protect the identity of the annoying).
I greeted Jenny like all the other roommates. I shot her a smile, held out my hand and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Hilary! How’s it going? Where are you from?”
She stood in the doorway with a frown on her face. After an awkward pause she said, “What time do you go to bed?” I was taken back by the question. Normally the other girls would respond with a, “Nice to meet you.” I told her I wasn’t sure (I’d forgotten to jot that info in my diary). I didn’t know where this was going but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to find out.
She sat down and verbally vomited her unfortunate encounters thus far. She complained about the woman she had shared a bunk with the night before. Apparently the other woman had gone to bed fairly early. “I mean, she didn’t even tell me she was going to do that. That was just rude.” I nodded blankly. I mean, obviously she should be upset. Who likes quiet roomies or REM sleep?
And as the days went by, I realized Jenny was upset by many things. She held it against the hostel for running out of rubber bands to tie her food bags with. She chastised hostel goers that didn’t know how to use the tea kettle. She complained about the cleanliness of the kitchen, noise in the halls, and the weather. She huffed when I woke up too early or too late or if I was talking with someone in the room. She would ask me what I was doing that day and then list all the reasons why it was a bad idea when I told her. Yep. She was a delight.
I didn’t really care about pleasing her. I just wanted her to shut up and leave me alone.
I tried my best not to encourage her to talk to me, but she just kept cornering me, insisting on sharing why she was right and everyone else was wrong. Apparently her husband hadn’t been able to get the time off of work and so she was doing this trip by herself. I may have felt bad for her had she not been such a bitch. Luckily, I only had a couple of days with her but that was enough.
I learned quickly from this experience that while you can’t always avoid hostile hostelmates, you do need to be ready to deal with them. And while my experience was emotionally draining, I’m sure it could have been worse. Luckily, I can call upon my psychological training but I know I’m not the only one who will have a negative experience. So to help you through those painful interactions, I have compiled the following solutions for those who get stuck in that sitch.
Hostile Hostel Roommates: A Guide on How to Deal
Don’t react to the negativity; that will only escalate the situation. Dilute the drama by using one of the following techniques:
1. Ignore the crap out of them. People only complain when they think there’s someone listening to them. If you aren’t responsive to their drama, drinking in their negativity and responding with, “OMG- no she didn’t,” one of two things will happen: either they will stop talking to you about their drama because they aren’t getting a reaction, or they’ll search for someone new to spread drama with. Either way, they leave you alone and you win.
2. Redirect them to topics you are okay with discussing. If you absolutely cannot be the person that is actively ignoring a roomie you can always train them. When your roomie starts complaining about the other hostel goers, say something like, “Hmm. I haven’t noticed that. Hey, so do you have any pets?” People (especially self-centered people) like to talk about themselves. Give them a topic and see Spot run.
3. If the behavior doesn’t cease, stay positive and try to look at it as a learning experience. This is easier said than done (especially when you’re cornered or tired or wanting peace) but necessary. Remember that this is only for a short while and try to get what you can from it. Obviously you are dealing with it for a reason. If you cannot escape it, maybe there is something you’re supposed to learn from it. For example, I now know that I like traveling and being surrounded by positive, adventurous people. I also now know that regardless of what I do, I cannot make an experience better or worse for someone. I feel bad for Jenny, but am so grateful I’m not her.
4. Find the humor in the situation. Seriously, who gets mad over food labels? Always remember to laugh at the experience. Travel is supposed to be a fun adventure and even in the annoying moments there is something worth smiling at. And just think what a story you’ll have to tell your friends later! Plus, if you don’t laugh you start taking the situation as seriously as your hostile roommate. So smile- life’s not all that serious.
5. If you are absolutely over it, remember you can always switch rooms. Being in a negative environment is not good, especially when traveling so much. You’re already going to be out of sorts so make sure you don’t feel threatened or attacked in your rest space. If you don’t think you can help to adjust the behavior, learn something, make it into a positive experience, or laugh about it, just get out. You may have to pay more money, but you do what you have to do. This is your life. Peace of mind is non-negotiable.
Outlets– Newer hostels will be set up so each person has a place to plug in their electronics and put their bags. But any hostel over ten years old will not be set-up this way.
I once shared a bunk with eight girls. We had one outlet with only one plug. I did the math. If each had a phone, an iPod, and a camera battery to charge, we would have one hour for each electronic, taking rotations every three hours. Yeah. Good luck getting 8 girls to agree to that.
So how do I deal? I try to prevent these problems before they happen. If I’m going to be at hostels for awhile, I throw a power strip in my bag. No-one is going to argue when you pull that puppy out and everyone can charge their stuff at once. Just ensure you throw it back in your bag when you’re not using it so it doesn’t walk off. If that’s not possible, scope out other possible charge locations on the property and charge your stuff there. That way you can avoid the argument all together.
Space– I don’t mind people throwing their stuff everywhere unless I need space to dry something. When I look to ask someone for some room, I do it in a way that’s non-threatening. No-one can argue with logic of sharing, but they can argue if you attack them. So instead of saying, “You know, it’d be nice if you’d move your shit so someone else could have a chance to dry something,” I’ll say, “Hey! It looks like your clothes are good and dry. Would you mind if I borrowed the hooks for a few hours so I can air dry my clothes? I’d really appreciate it.”
And remember. Some of these people never went to camp, never had siblings, never shared space and forget that there are other people around. Some people are just hogs, but if you check them nicely, they’ll be happy to share.
Lockers– Always always always travel with locks that fit through your bag’s zippers. That way if your bag doesn’t fit into a locker or there isn’t enough locker space, you don’t have to argue about it. Your stuff will be safe regardless because it’s locked in your bag. Wasn’t that easy? =)
You’re a chick rooming with a bunch of guys and it’s uncomfortable.
Well for one, if you’re not comfortable sharing space with dudes then start by applying for an all female room. Don’t put yourself in situations you don’t want to be in. If you get weirded out at the thought of having a guy sleep on the top bunk, then recognize it’s your issue and don’t subject the poor guys to your problem. Plus most hostels offer the same price for an all female room as they do for their coed dorms so you have no excuse.
If they are making you uncomfortable for other reasons (i.e. they’re hitting on you), be ready to take command of the situation. Do it in a way that doesn’t instigate confrontation but addresses the problem. So if they’re constantly hitting on you say something like, “Look, I know I’m a chick and all but I’m not interested. I’m just here to have a place to stash my stuff. Is that cool?” If it continues to be a problem, you can always switch rooms.
And while I’m sure this situation happens every now and again, I haven’t met a female backpacker yet who’s had to deal with this. You’ll more likely receive indifference or be ignored.
Remember, the guys may be just as weird about sharing space with you as you are with them. So just be friendly. And don’t worry about it unless they give you a reason to. I promise they’re paying less attention to you than you think.
I am a very light sleeper so again, I come fully prepared to deal with this problem. It’s important to remember that they have just as much right to use the space as they please as you do. So if your schedule’s clash or they’re super loud, it’s partly your fault. Plan accordingly.
I always travel with melatonin or sleeping pills to help me sleep. Then I wear ear buds or use ear plugs at night to block out the excess noise. I listen to music anyway to help me wind down, so sometimes I’ll just leave the ear buds in. I also really like ear putty (normally used by swimmers) because it reduces noise and stays in place. I’ll also wear an eye mask or sunglasses, so in case lights are going on and off I won’t be disturbed.
Sure, I might look ridiculous to the person in the top bunk, but what does it matter? I much prefer that than losing sleep. Pick your battles.
Hostels are awesome for their cheap rates and locales, but there is a risk that comes with sharing space with strangers. Like I said, I have had very few unpleasant experiences thus far but they do exist. The more you can be aware of them and be ready to deal, the easier your travels will become.
Hope this helps you guys with your nerves. Remember that if all else fails, it’s not permanent. And you are a survivor. And as for your hostile roommates? Well, they’ll continue to be like that until they become aware of themselves. So if nothing else, feel bad for them that they can’t recognize how their choices are affecting others.
Didn’t see your concern addressed here? Have a tip I didn’t mention? Leave a comment! Let’s share the love. =)