I’m reclining on a couch in the living room of our hostel in La Serena, Chile, killing time before we embark on an 18-hour bus ride to Iquique, the city that was recently hit by the 8.2 magnitude earthquake and small tsunami in the very north of the country. We’ve heard that water and electricity have been restored to the city, so we’re hoping that when we arrive, our hostel will actually still be there.
Craig and I have had some conversations lately about the “groove” of traveling and whether or not we’ve gotten more used to the routine. I think the obvious answer is, of course, yes. But there are definitely times when I stop and think about what I’m doing and am struck again by how strange it is to not have a home, to live out of a suitcase, to always share a bathroom…
We’ve met several people who have been traveling for over six months, and it is encouraging to see that they don’t look like shells of their former selves. For the most part, they look healthy, clean, and free of bedbugs. Hopefully we will maintain our present state of equilibrium as well! I do think that our clothes have garnered a type of mustiness, though, from spending most of their time stuffed into our packs.
And this, in turn, leads me to the things I get really excited about in a hostel, from most exciting to… well, all of these things are exciting to have, really.
- Private bathroom – Such a rarity! A very costly rarity!
- Free breakfast – Usually just includes bread, jam, coffee and tea, but if it’s really good they’ll have things like yogurt, eggs, juice. It’s very sad when we arrive at a hostel and learn that they don’t have free breakfast.
- Closet – These are also extremely rare, hence the mustiness.
- Table or surface area – It’s nice to be able to spread your stuff out somewhere that’s not your bed.
- Clothes hooks – It is beyond my understanding as to why there aren’t just a million hooks everywhere in hostels. They’re easy to put up, extremely useful, and cheap, but for some reason, there are almost never any hooks–we end up hanging our towels on curtain rods, etc.
- Heater – Despite constantly trying to head for warmer weather, we are sometimes cold and a heater is a nice way to have flexibility over our comfort. It’s also nice to help dry our underwear, which we have to wash at least every other day (since I only have 3 pairs…).
- Comfortable, large living space – If we don’t have a private room (e.g. we’re staying in a 6-bed dorm room–bunk beds!), then it’s nice to be able to go somewhere and hang out without ten other people breathing down your neck in the same space.
Of course there are other amenities that are nice to have, such as a pool, a view, hammocks… But life isn’t really much more difficult if you don’t have them. The list above really makes the whole “living out of a suitcase” thing much easier.
Every hostel has a kitchen, and we can usually whip up a decent meal despite the differences in the cleanliness and utility of the kitchens we’ve used. Bathrooms can sometimes be frustrating if the shower is about 4 square feet in size, but usually they all function the same (or at least you hope they do).
Often, we arrive at a hostel to find that the owner and family share the same living spaces and kitchen as all the guests. It’s a bit weird sometimes… we feel like we’re invading their space or trespassing on their hospitality, and it must be so annoying for them sometimes to not be able to get away from their work.
Our original plan was to try and sublet an apartment in Valparaiso for a month and have a break from this hostel-life. It would have been nice to walk around in my underwear, leave dishes in the sink without worrying about cleaning them right away for whoever wants to use them next, and just sit down to dinner without having to worry about socializing with whoever happens to be at the same table. That didn’t happen, which was probably fortunate, since Valparaiso is still engulfed in flames (Please donate to the Chilean Red Cross to help those affected–we loved this city so much and are incredibly sad that much of its beauty is being destroyed), but perhaps we’ll be able to take a hostel break at some point in our travels.
But it’s time to get up and get ready for our longest bus ride to date (we’re not complaining–the longest ride we’ve heard of was 54 hours!). This is one night that we won’t be spending in a hostel and where all we’ll have to worry about is whether we get blankets, a pillow, and a snack. Fingers crossed for a good ride… thank goodness I got that Ativan prescription!