When I first arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, the plan was to stay there for a couple of nights before heading off to Waiheke Island, where we were going to work on a vineyard. Five months later, we were still in Auckland, in the same hostel!
From the moment we walked through the doors and were greeted by a friendly receptionist with a huge smile, we got had a good feeling about the hostel.
We took to dorm living like ducks to water and were surprised by how quickly we integrated ourselves into life at the hostel. We soon started working for accommodation and moved into the workers’ dorms. Before long, we had our very own international family who we came to love dearly.
Actually living and working in a hostel is a little different to simply staying for a few days. We came to learn that the longer you stay in a hostel, the more unusual quirks you pick up, as what was meant to be a short term place to rest your head becomes your home.
You know you’ve been living in a hostel for too long when…
1. You and your fellow worker roomies have acquired bags filled with half empty shampoo and shower gel bottles. (The perks of being on bathroom duties) When at first you did a victory dance when you spotted an abandoned Herbal Essence with a puny squirt left in it, you now boast a handsome collection that you can trade easily for better goods, kind of like prison.
2. You have literally hundreds of vouchers for a free drink and free fries for the place next door. You will never, ever use all of them, but you keep picking them up when you spot them.
3. You know which beds have the crap mattresses, and all about that one bed that keeps getting bedbugs.
4. You know all the staff and some have become like surrogate parents
5. The kind of strange cleaner that people are afraid of/hate, well, you have a special bond with him. You understand his struggle, and he understands that some mornings you are going to be slower than usual at making beds.
6. But when that same cleaner does a clear out of the fridge and throws away your non-labelled food, you are really upset that those rules still apply for you.
7. The free food bin is no longer a source of major excitement. You still clock it every time you walk in the kitchen, but these days, unless there’s Nutella or something in it, you’re not going to push people out of the way to get to it.
8. The hostel feels like your house. So, when new rules, or rather old rules, like ‘no one on the roof after 10 pm,’ or ‘no playing in the fire escapes’ are re-enforced, you feel like the manager is your strict mother, and you pout about it like a surly teenager.
9. When you come upstairs to find that your table has been taken over by newbies, you cannot believe it, and don’t really know what to do with yourself.
10. You know never to get in the jacuzzi. Ever.
11. You get some great secret perks. Access to the private rooms, the ability to replace your lumpy pillow from the locked supply case, first dibs on all abandoned books and clothes, and illegal parties in the closed kitchen are just some of them.
12. Your worker room is over-flowing with everyone’s stuff. You may have all come in here as backpackers with one bag each, but somehow, you have all amassed so much extra shit that if you were to pack it up right now, you would need at least another backpack each, and some boxes.
13. You have made yourselves so at home, with everyone having built their own bed-forts made from sheets, broken bed frames and cardboard boxes that management cracks down on you all big time, stating it is a fire hazard.
Notices go up on the walls, a deadline is given, and you all nearly riot, horrified by the fact that you have to return to bunk beds with no privacy. This is no longer a hostel dorm, this is your family’s home being torn apart.
14. When one of your nearest and dearest leaves, you are devastated. You feel as though you have lost a brother.
15. You know how to make the most of the dodgy wifi. There are certain sweet spots, but if you let others know about them, you ruin them. Of course, it becomes pretty obvious when you sit in the bathroom all day.
16. You have turned the dark and scary basement into your own private yoga studio. At first, the fire escape was the place to be, but then they copped on to it, and you had to go elsewhere.
17. You find certain types of travellers unbearably annoying. Whereas before you may not have even realised what they were like, now you can easily spot these stereotypes the second they saunter in. There’s the ‘entertainer’ with the guitar, the guy with the verbal diarrhoea, the one who would steal the food from between your teeth rather than pay for anything, the competitive show-off who will ask you where you have been only to tell you that it is so over, and many other characters you will struggle not to throw off the balcony.
18. You haven’t paid to do laundry in months. But you have no cotton buds left.
19. You sometimes go out of your way to avoid eye contact with new people. You know it’s not very nice, but you can’t go through another ‘What countries have you done?’ boasting face-off. All you want is a cup of tea.
20. When it is time to leave, you feel like crying to think that you may never return to your strange home away from home. But on the bright side, you have enough shampoo and shower gel to save you buying any for another 6 months!