So that happened last weekend.
I was in London for a zine fair and I couldn’t afford to stay in a private room let alone a hotel (ah the dream!). The zine fair was in a part of London that wasn’t particularly fashionable or close to anything. I decided to save myself a lengthy commute so I picked a place that was within walking distance. It was above a pub and had great ratings on Hostelworld.
At this point I should mention that I have been staying in hostels since I was 19. I did the backpacking thing in Australia and Europe before I moved here. I am not a princess in any way.
I asked for a quiet room on the bus ride down hoping that they’d still have one available. I booked a four bed female dorm so when they emailed me back saying that they had a quiet room available but it was a mixed dorm I quickly responded that it was perfect.
There was a punk show on at the pub with people spilling out onto the streets as I got there. I had to climb exactly 64 stairs to get to my room at the very top which, with a suitcase full of zines, wasn’t easy. There was no one in when I got there. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was stuck with a top bunk which I knew would leave bruises. I unpacked some of my things and then decided to go get a cup of tea. I brought my own bags in a little Tupperware. This is who I am. As soon as I walked into the “common room” I wanted to walk back out again. There was a group of young men playing a card game. I made my cup of tea and sat on the bench at the back of the room. There was an older man on my right with earbuds in studying. I looked up from the book I was not reading to see two young women coming in. One was wearing a fishnet top with tape covering her nipples. I wish I could have worn something like that at her age. They seemed to know the men. The men were playing a song that I knew and liked which everyone started singing and dancing to. Except me. It was not the place or the time. I wondered, on Instagram, how quickly I could drink the scalding tea and leave the room. Pretty quickly, it turned out.
An older man came into the dorm room eventually. We chatted a bit and he seemed friendly. He was there for the punk show downstairs. When he left I got into my bunk (bruises incurred) and tried reading my book. I was tired from the travel so decided to have an early night. I put my earplugs and pulled the threadbare duvet over me. I covered my head and tried not to poke my head outside.
Soon after, someone came in the room and turned the lights on. They saw me ‘asleep’ and whispered ‘sorry’ and turned the lights off. This happened throughout the rest of the night. I saw two other men join the room at various points. It was unclear where they were coming from, what they were doing and why the door and light need to constantly be opened and on. Needless to say I did not sleep well. I tossed and turned all night and at one point woke up with a shoot pain in my lower back. I could feel all the springs of the mattress digging into me.
I ‘woke’ up (can you call it waking up if you haven’t slept?) the next morning very early. I turned over to see my older ‘friend’ from the night before sleeping naked with one bum cheek sticking out of his bunk. I groaned and turned to face the wall scared what else I might be subjected to. I tossed and turned for an hour or so before deciding to get up. I forgot my toothpaste at home so I had to ask bum cheek man for his. He was very gracious. But still, he showed no signs of getting dressed or feeling embarrassed for sleeping naked in a mixed dorm. In a hostel room. I worried about what he might catch. Between the draft and the mold I slept with socks on to make sure I exposed as little of my body to the room.
I made a quick getaway. My body was sore. I was sniffling. I was yawning uncontrollably. Things I don’t remember from staying in hostels as a 19 year old. There was no staying up late getting to know my bunkmates. If anything it was about trying to avoid everyone. The dirt, cold and mold got to me in a way I used to find charming. I wanted my bed and my warmth. I wanted a hotel room with clean sheets with no mystery curly hairs to be found.
So maybe I’m not a princess but I most certainly am 32.