There have been a couple of occasions lately when the Solo Travel Society on Facebook has triggered travel memories by the questions members explore. Last time it was a memory of the kindness of two farmers when I was cycling in Prince Edward Island. This time, it is about an incident at a hostel in Plymouth, England. My story is followed by some of those shared on Facebook.
Ok. We're going to roll back time here. Way back to when I was 15 and traveling for the first time without my family. I was on a month long bike tour through Wales and the South of England. Of my many hostel stories, my weirdest took place on this trip in Plymouth.
Looking online, it appears that the hostel no longer exists. I'm not surprised. It was a mansion that had long seen better days. The women's dorm was in the ballroom on the main floor. The men's was upstairs and the kitchen was in the basement as would be the case in a grand home from the 19th century. I'm sure, by now, it has been restored or torn down. Hopefully the former.
On this occasion I was in my bed sleeping as all good hostelers of the time should have been. The front doors locked at 11pm. But sometime in the wee hours of the morning I stirred. Cycling makes one sleep deeply but eventually I woke enough to realize there was someone in bed with me and that someone was crawling up my body. He reached my face and tried to crawl under the covers with me.
Now, it wasn't me in particular he was after. In this massive dorm there were probably 30 girls but my bed was by the door. He was drunk and more. Amidst his confusion and mine, I managed to slip out from under his body. For some reason I didn't make a scene. I had NO experience with such a situation but I handled it calmly. I took his hand and guided him out of the room – he would have been kicked out and probably lost his hosteling card if he was found out. This is long before “hooking up” and independent hostels was common.
Anyway, I guided him out of the room and upstairs to the boys dorm. And then I never saw him again. As a group, we were up early to take on the next day cycling.
The dorm, hostel and experience was everything wrapped into one – it was the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Robin – LOL. Best and worst was Sweet Peas in Asheville NC. We just happened to be above the best pub in town. The whole front (of the pub) is open to the, very active and humorous street dramas. There was a “metal' concert that weekend and we didn't sleep at all. After the pub shut down, the party just took to the streets. Love that town. Love Sweet Peas. Love sleep.
- Donna – Best-Nice, France. It was Cannes Film Festival time and the hostel was down to the last bed. I am a 50+ year old woman and the clerk told me, hesitantly, that it was a co-ed dorm with 20 people… and most of them were from a motorcycle gang! I just looked him in the eye and said… “Oh good!” Turns out he was just testing me and it was filled with wonderful people from all over the world. We ended up playing cards 'til the wee hours of the morning and then several of us went sightseeing the next day! Great time! Worst-haven't had a real disaster yet… fingers crossed.
- Rachael – Worst- DC. Arrived from new york where there was a massive snow storm. Was told my bed had been given away to people who couldn't get to NYC cause of the storm. So I was driven to a weird guesthouse in Virginia by an even weirder old man. Then got driven to another ‘sister hostel' back in DC for the second night. It was more like an old rundown apt building where people lived permanently & I genuinely feared for my life after my sister got into an argument with one of the permanent residents over the one computer. DC is still one of my favorite places in USA though!
- Lucy – Worst: waking up in Venice to find that the sheets hadn't been changed — for who knows how long. And I've had the same experience in a 5 star hotel. They were however eager to fix the problem. The hostel staff not so eager.
- Zabrina – Best (so far; I'll be checking into another one tomorrow night!) was in Philadelphia at the Apple Hostel in Center City. My room was on the third floor of some steep stairs and I'd injured my knee, but the cleaning guy helped me get upstairs and settled, opened the room door to make sure the carpet cleaner wouldn't fumigate me, chatted to me, etc. He (and everyone else there) was awesome and really brightened up a time of frustration and limitations.
- Mary – Worst: Rome, in a place with a staff that argued loudly, in a room that was essentially an open loft to a TV room where Julia Roberts movies played incessantly (The horror!). And, either I was paranoid or two of my roommates (possible mother and son) whispered strange comments about me. Best: Bacharach Germany, in a castle on the Rhine with really cool people.
- Jesse – Worst: a hostel in Sucre, Bolivia. I got bedbug bites all over one half of my face, my friend was electrocuted (twice), and everybody's laundry ended up with holes and black marks that looked like burns. When we complained the staff just gave us blank stares and acted like they didn't speak English OR Spanish
- Zoe – In a hostel in Bangkok in a small co-ed dorm late at night. Krinkle, krinkle, krinkle from plastic bags. An iPod up so high I could hear the music. Then a girl joins a guy in an upper bunk and gets it on. I slept the rest of the night on the roof. Now I Couchsurf.
This week I also wrote about how fantastic hostels are for solo travelers over at HostelWorld.com. Read Five reasons people don't like to travel solo (but how hostels make it all OK)