Hostels are a great place to meet people. They are also a great place to learn about the many things that can go wrong with travel. Usually these kinds of lessons are communicated over the complimentary coffee and breakfast which you have to make yourself, in a big common kitchen.
Sometimes you hear horror stories about travelers who have lost passports, lost debit and credit cards, or got lost in foreign cities and slept on benches. Usually these stories are second, third, or even fourth person narratives, they happened to friends, someone met at a hostel who swore it’s true. Very rarely do these tales ever happen to the person who is telling the story. And you hardly ever see the results of the story first hand. In Mexico, I had the pleasure/horror of seeing just that.
I was sipping weak coffee and piling salsa on scrambled eggs in a hostel in Mexico City, when Bernard came home. I had met Bernard briefly the night before. A twenty year-old Brit, he was friendly, if not a little shy. He had gone out with others from the hostel the night before, and from that morning they all seemed to have assumed that Bernard came home with somebody else. After comparing notes, they realized he had not come home at all. The girls seemed worried, the guys sure he was fine.
Then Bernard came through the front door.
To this day, I have so many questions about Bernard’s night, and I’m sure he does as well. Because the common area of the hostel was in the front of the building, he had to walk through to it to get to the dormitories. There was nowhere for Bernard to hide.
“Morning,” he said sheepishy, with a grin on his face. Heads turned, forks and mouths dropped in unison. Bernard had the floor.
Bernard was not wearing pants. Yet, he had his belt fastened around his waist. He had one shoe, which he was carrying in his hand, and one sock, which he was wearing. His button up shirt had several buttons missing. There was what looked like dried blood on his upper lip. And to top it all off, he was wearing a sombrero.
“What happened?” someone asked for the group that was shocked, horrified, and now suddenly awake.
“I’m fine,” Bernard said. “Fine.”
“Mate,” one of his friends said. “Mate, What happened? Do you have your passport? What about your wallet? Did you get mugged?”
Bernard took of his sombrero to reveal a shaved head. “No worries, mate,” he said stoically. “I have holiday insurance.”
And with that he went to his room. I left the hostel a few minutes later to catch a plane. I’ll never know what happened to Bernard, but I can’t recommend holiday insurance enough.