I spent a significant portion of my younger years travelling through Asia and Europe staying, living, working and partying in hostels. These were great times. I met new people every couple of days, lived cheaply and, for the most part, enjoyed a happy existence. Fast-forward close to a decade and I find myself checking into another hostel with a friend, this time in Budapest. After debating the merits of spending the next three nights in a hostel, we decided that saving a few Euros would be worth it.
Walking through the Jewish Quarter, we found our destination and entered the previously abandoned apartment block, waited for the lift, piled in and made our way to the second floor. Exiting the lift, we were confronted with a door, left ajar with only a rubbish bin to hold it open. Poking my head through I found a 20-something male, staring at a computer screen. He slowly turned, staring at us blankly through blood-shot eyes. Shaking his head, he exclaimed that he was riding the waves of a severe hangover and that we would have to be patient as he checked us in. “Shit, I am too old to be in a place like this”, I thought as his breath reached my nostrils. Not having asked the question, I assumed that he had lost his toothbrush a month or so ago and had simply forgotten to replace it.
Trying my hardest not to stare at his ruptured eye capillaries, I politely nodded and smiled as he went through the offerings of booze-cruises, pub crawls and other alcohol related activities I could undertake while visiting one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. As he ran through his recommended hit list of bars to visit, a young woman walked through reception in nothing but an oversized t-shirt, eyes half-open and with no real urgency. Without missing a beat, the hostel worker continued his pitch as my friend and I craned out necks to look around the confused, scantily clad female.
My internal dialogue at this time was screaming at me to be more open and accepting of others, but on the whole I was feeling that the decision to save a few Euros was a bad one. Being ushered over to the couch to wait for the check in to be completed, I pushed aside a used tissue and the remains of a meal that had been there for god knows how long. Another ‘worker’ came into the common area and flopped onto the couch with a groan. After explaining that his outfit was made up of borrowed, stolen and lost items of clothing he too stared blankly at a computer screen mouth half-open in either amazement at what he was watching or in an effort to breathe. The only time he looked up was to provide an update on the state of his headache from last night.
It seemed that hangovers were the order of the day, so we took our leave after checking in, dumped our bags in the common area and spent the day exploring the city. After walking and having a bite to eat, we returned to get the keys to our room. Approaching the hostel, I became aware of a strange looking fellow walking closely behind us. Normally I am very open to the extroverts among us who like to dress differently or act a little outlandishly. In fact, I think the world needs these people. It’d be pretty boring if we were all the same, right? With this in mind, it is important to note that this guy wasn’t one of these people…
As we covered the two blocks to the hostel, I was able to take in the full extent of this guy’s demeanour. He wore a pink singlet top, old beanie, a pair of flip-flops and a pair of pyjama pants. He was carrying a plastic shopping bag but dropped it at every set of pedestrian lights to straighten out his long hair which protruded from his carefully placed beanie. The most concerning part of his appearance however was around what he wasn’t wearing. He had neglected to wear any underwear under his snug-fitting, close to see-through pants. He swaggered his way up the boulevard behind us for another couple of minutes and sure enough, yelled for me to hold the door as we entered the building. Waiting for the lift, he asked what our names were. “I’m Matt and this is Dave”, my friend politely replied trying not to gaze down at the angry scene in his trousers. “Cool, cool, cool…I’m Peacock” was his only reply.
Wanting to ask whether that was the name his mother gave him, or whether it was a nickname he had earned due to his lack of underwear, the final straw came when he told us of his three straight months of drinking and being hung over. Of course, he was yet another employee at the hostel.
Reaching our room, my friend turned to me the moment the door was closed and exclaimed that he was out of here as he had not come all this way to spend time with a guy who refers to himself as Peacock and refuses to wear underwear. I wasn’t about to disagree, but it was late in the afternoon so we decided to tough it out and spend one night. At 4am, I woke up to the noise of muttering and laughter outside of our door. After laying there for a short period of time, I decided to get up for a visit to the gents. Walking down the neon-lit hallway, I was greeted by a number of kids running past me half clothed, laughing or looking confused. Evidently, the pub crawl crew had just returned from another successful night out. The bathroom resembled a war zone but hey, what do you expect when you have two toilets for 40-odd people who have been out all night drinking.
The next morning over breakfast, we made the decision to book an apartment. A decision process that took a total of about seven seconds. We packed our bags and after spending 15 minutes looking for someone to refund our key deposit, decided to cut our losses and made our way to our new and much quieter accommodation.
Reading back over this, I know it makes me sound like a spoilt, well-to-do luxury travel type. And yes, if I had read this back in my early 20s, I would have thought the same but this is not a judgement on others and how they choose to spend their time. It is simply an account of the time when I realised that I was too old to stay in party hostels.