Why We Hostel: Erin Hamant

27 November 2015

female travelers take picture together

For me, it’s those unexpected moments. I plan a trip and set off but I can never guess when or how new strangers will become my friends. It’s walking down a hostel hallway, striking up a conversation, and my new mates join me for dinner. It’s realizing I’m growing as a person. When someone teaches me something new and it sticks. It’s closing my eyes and listening, being enraptured in multi languages and appreciating all their sounds. This is a story about why I hostel. Hostelling is also about unsolicited generosity and kindness. In 2012, I packed a carryon bag and took three planes to arrive in Barcelona, Spain. I’d be gone for three weeks. Along the way, one of the planes was overbooked and I was demanded to check my carryon. I waited at BCN’s luggage carousel, but my bag was determined lost. After filing a lost claim with the airline company, I hopped on the bus and found my way to the Gothic section of town where I had made a reservation at a hostel. It was midday in June, sweltering hot, and all I had were the clothes I was wearing and a small purse. My red leather shoes felt like they were melting and plastered to my feet. My clothes smelled like airplane travel and sweat. I’d heard stories about people losing their luggage but it was the first time for me, and I was a bit despaired. I didn’t pack a day’s worth of clothes in my small purse. Heck, I didn’t even have my toothbrush or phone charger. Should I go shopping? Everything I needed was packed in my bag. Will it arrive in the morning? Or the next day? I had six days of sightseeing in Barcelona and then my train reservation would take me north to Figueres. As I sat collecting my thoughts in the hostel’s television room, two nice girls from Cardiff, Wales introduced themselves. One of the girls stepped out of the room and returned with a change of fresh, clean clothes for me to borrow for the day after hearing my story. Her generosity stunned me and elated me. I was feeling forlorn in a foreign place; and, before I knew it, I had made two new friends to spend the next few days with and go to dinner. Their kindness was the medicine I needed. That night, I was lent pajamas too (again so grateful!). As the days passed, I went shopping for new clothes. On day four I bought a new luggage piece to hold all the new things I’d acquired, and because I couldn’t imagine traveling around with plastic shopping bags for three weeks to hold everything. Miraculously, my luggage was delivered on the sixth day in the morning just before I was to leave for the train station. A new problem presented itself, now I had too many luggage pieces and the burden of carting it all around with me. To my rescue, the kind hostel staff that had assisted me each morning in checking on the status of my bag, now offered to hold my new luggage acquisitions for free until I returned to Barcelona two weeks later to catch my flight home. Everything worked out in the end, despite the bumps. This is one of my many great hostel stories. I started hostelling because they are economical and they help my travel budget stretch further. But, I also hostel because of the people I meet along the way. I am reminded of the diversity that makes our world a better place, and myself a better person. Furthermore, I definitely travel now with a larger purse, packed with a change of clothes, and I’m always ready – if not for me – to pay it forward should I meet a woebegone traveler with a case of the lost luggage.