Feb 11, 2010

the grouchy old lady in the hostel

...is me, it seems. After a week of hostelling in Switzerland, I start to wonder if my dorm days are behind me.

I've taken a handful of solo trips over the years, and always loved the backpacker communing thing; exploring the city with friendly strangers, swapping simple jokes or lengthy life stories. Communal sleep space, though never my favourite thing, was always bearable so long as the sheets were clean and the snoring was minimal.

But it seems that I'm getting older. Now, backpacker conversations often sound the same to me. Now, the ESL teacher in me feels Native Speaker Guilt at trying to draw out a conversation with a traveler from Colombia/Japan/Bulgaria whose English is slow and self-conscious. I'm sure that part of it is the social cushion of not travelling alone, not needing to seek out a conversation partner. Part of it is the experience of being, for the first time in my life, the oldest person at the hostel. This age gulf, and my wariness, were really just at one hostel; a cheap and cheery-looking Interlaken inn steeped (unbeknownst to me) in party-backpacker notoriety. Here, I morphed into the Hostel Crab. Note the behaviour. I'm not especially proud.

-12:30pm on the first night, and a Contiki-like group of Americans studying abroad convene with shrieks in the rooms next door. Teacher Anne came out, knocked on their door, and gave them a teacherly talk about noise. To my credit, I refrained from using the word "respectful," though it sat at the tip of my tongue.

-Passing "glad it's not me" glances in the kitchen at other travelers' ramen-and-a-banana dinners. Yes yes, we can't all travel with aspiring cooks as I do, but I don't have the will to budget myself down to ramen dinners anymore.

-Staying as far as possible from the "hammock room." Apparently, it's draws a lot of crowds to this hostel. Meh.

- Sitting alone in the breakfast room... and not minding it. The hostel had copies of the International Herald Tribune, and I buried myself in that thing.

- Marvelling at the free wifi, and ubiquitous laptops in the common room, which was crowded but silent except for the odd "you guys, I Tweeted that we snowboarded!" Somewhere in my brain, in the section reserved for Murder, She Wrote and saltwater taffy and other Nana-ish behaviour, an elderly inner voice muttered "in my day, no one traveled with their laptops!"


  1. Ah, aging. I hit the 3-0 in two months. (shudder) And yeah, hostels now kinda piss me off.

  2. No fear... someday you will regard these travelers as delightful reminders of your kids and actually want to talk with them! ^^

    Signed: The Other, Other Side of the Fence

  3. i was 21 on my trip to Greece last month and i found myself thinking and acting just like you. i'm not sure what that says about me...thank goodness for earplugs.