Here’s a confession: I have a thing about backpacker hostel.
After almost 5 years, I could still recall vividly the first hostel I’ve ever been. I was 21. It was Sleep in Heaven in Copenhagen. It was winter and around midnight when we arrived, with heavy luggages, tired feet, yet relieved heart (and happy tummy after being filled with warm Chinese take out food on the station). I was scared about getting lost that night; too scared for falling in love at the first sight but I can still feel the bunk bed I slept in, hugging a city map the hostel provided me.
In the morning, I remembered the hostel free-breakfast which was similar with the other hostels I stayed later; toast, honey, jam, cereal, fresh milk, cheese, orange juice. I looked at the window, there was snow outside and a copy of local newspaper hanging inside. I felt the warmth of the hostel receptionist and stacks of neatly folded city maps, bright colored promotional postcards and other nicely designed attractions information. I remembered the orange and blue of the wall and the colors of pinboard full of travelers’ notes and memories. The city was saying Hi to me subtly. I was surrounded by my travel mates and beautiful strangers I knew I would never encounter again. I remembered how excited I was, how I felt butterflies inside my stomach.
The same feeling struck me each time I stayed in a backpacker hostel; Amsterdam, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Barcelona, everywhere, no matter how lame or shitty it was, no matter how hard it was to find or how many stair steps I had to climb to get into my room. The butterflies kept coming. I love greeting the receptionist, showing my booking code and passport while looking around and getting my mobile phone connected to the hostel wifi. I love looking at the traces of travelers that were left, scattered around the common room. I love half-audible murmur of a guy saying hello to a distant lover through Skype. I love watching the other travelers passing by, with big carriers, ready for new experiences they were trading with the days and months of being absent from the comfort zone called home. I love being those strangers.
I adore the whole combination of homesickness and wanderlust. I have a thing about a place gathering them then protecting them by being a temporary comfort zone, accommodating numberless feeling, answering countless repeated questions, never minding too late hello and too early goodbye.