Dearest Hostel-Mates

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 12. Strangers, Florence, Places by sabeena2 Comments

First of all, I’m so sorry for waking you up at 11 PM. I had no idea two teenagers would be completely asleep at that time.

I’m also so sorry for scaring you at 7 AM when you spoke to each other in Russian pointing at my stuff. I know I look really scary in the morning, like a small, agitated child swimming in tie-dye. I’m sorry for going “that is my stuff!” even though I know that you knew that too.

I’m also so sorry for steaming up the bathroom so much you couldn’t see, that was annoying, I would’ve been annoyed with me too.

Roommate #1, who slept in the rightmost bed, why didn’t you say hi back? I mean, I’m sleeping in the same room … Your book was cool, though, I wonder what you study (if you’re in school), and how a book about Elon Musk fits into your life.

I wonder what you guys are both there for, especially with how you both made your beds and slept at 10 PM, and left the room at exactly 8 AM both mornings. I wonder what you think of me! I wonder if you are confused by a brown American, wonder where I am from, if you were as protective of your stuff as I was of mine. I don’t think you were, though, you both left your things out, while I slept with my electronics under my pillow.

Roommate #2, who slept in the leftmost bed, I wish I had the one outlet for maybe a moment. In fact, I ran through my three battery packs because I had nowhere else to charge my things. Thanks for not snoring though. Maybe you would have said hi.

France is not my country, no. Russia isn’t either, and honestly my only sense of nationality comes from the U.S., despite being a daughter of Indian immigrants, going to school in the U.S., studying abroad in Italy, traveling da soli in France. But the second night, I trusted you both. I left my laptop out, my iPhone on the table. I left my backpack on the table, although I did wake up every time you walked by. I wish I could pry and ask how you two knew each other, what you thought about the hostel, why you slept in two beds at the opposite ends of the room, leaving me in the middle.

I had never stayed in a hostel before. I had never flown by myself before. I’ve only flown international one other time – Coming to Florence. This was my first real journey, fully trusting myself to get from point A to B, despite my complete and utter lack of a sense of direction. Putting that much trust in myself, and then you two, was new to navigate. Going to Paris, alone, with a backpack in a hostel over a hill in the middle of a small residential neighborhood with the best bread I’ve put in my body ever before, was all new. And then you two, you made me trust even the stranger next to me.

My cousin, when he handed over his expensive camera to some man that offered to take a photo of us, always said to trust people until they break your trust. I’ve come back to that quote time and time again, lost in my memory of trinkets. I mean, by the time people break your trust, it might already be too late, but hey. I would want someone to trust me until I break their trust, right?


  1. Sabeena,
    I love the angle you took for this blog post. Your experience is one I can definitely relate to, and I’m sure every solo traveler could. Traveling, especially alone, involves a lot of trust. Staying in hostels requires a massive amount of trust in strangers. Like you, I am weary at first, protecting my valuables. However, I have experienced getting a bit more comfortable after some time in the room, after scoping out the situation. From my experience, and that of many people I’ve talked to about travails, the stealing of property that we all intensely fear is a bigger issue outside. Out where your things aren’t even on display the way they are in the hostel bedroom. I like to believe that people staying in hostels, for the most part, are like-minded, all on a journey to see and feel and learn. Not necessarily on a pick-pocketing spree. Or maybe the documentation of their name and information stops them from doing it. Regardless, what you’ve pointed out is the biggest part of solo travelling; trusting yourself.

  2. Sabeena,

    I really love how humorous and relevant this post is to us students studying abroad. Being forced into a small shared room with various other strangers is certainly an interesting experience that is almost always accompanied by a few memories/stories to tell friends and family. Last weekend, I recently stayed in a hostel for my first time also, and definitely felt many of the same anxieties and uncertainties that you felt. At the same time, it is likely that the other people (often similarly aged to you) are experiencing the same thoughts and emotions that are racing through your own mind. Was I rude to that stranger who was sleeping? Can I trust them with leaving out the few possessions that I have? At the end of the day, Hostels are an experience that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to either acclimate to your new environment or exist in a state of mild paranoia.

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