Tag Archives: Hostel

Murphy’s law and Chinatown in Roma.

imageIt was unusual for me to have dire thoughts prior to leaving on a trip. But, this time I did. I had visions of being robbed, left alone, lost…. I think they came from the guide books and a travel book my friend sent me. ” Watch your stuff!” Beware of late-night train & bus stations, keep you money secure in your belt.” Maybe it’s because I just felt too lucky, and too blessed- the shoe will fall. What ever silliness runs through one’s head like a bullet train, it is hard to drive those thoughts away.

It all started well. My flight was on time from the U.S. My burly English seat companion was of my ilk. We slept and laughed-slept and laughed. The flight from London was two hours late.

In Rome I found the train. Two ticket machines were defunct. But finally, I got one. When I was taking it out of the tray, I spotted a 20 euro note on the ground. Found money is a good sign. To counter that, the last train was pulling out of the station when I got there. I ran for it anyway. I was the last person standing in the cavernous station. Alone. A guy looking through the garbage cans was working the perimeter of the place. He looked at me and passed. Finally, an employee opened a door. “Last train. Go to bus.” It was English-enough to make me feel better.image

I found the bus. The passengers were sitting patiently, waiting to leave when the driver came in and yelled at an obviously gay, young, Asian passenger across the aisle from me. “Get off the bus!” He yelled something about his purse. The passengers sided with the passenger. “It’s just a purse. Just a friggin purse!” They yelled at him. the young  man held his ground. (and niggled the driver just a bit) “I’m never getting off this bus!!” Ah, I could have been in New York in the 70’s.

20 min later, I got out of the bus, took a cab driven by a tout driver who preys on tourists, ( even though my shoes DO NOT LOOK LIKE I AM A TOURIST )and, because I had no idea how far the hostel was, took him up on his offer of 20 Euros for a three or four block trip. 20. Easy come: easy go.
(Btw, it was the second time I’d been gifted a 20 dollar bill on the ground in a week!)

At the hostel the night guy said there was a problem. “What problem?” I asked nicely. I have been on the road 24 hours, I am tired, cranky and need to sleep. And, I have a reservation.”
“The hostel has been closed. I can send you to the Downtown Hostel. ” “Will you pay for it, otherwise I am not going anywhere.”
He looked at the computer and called someone. ”
“Good luck. You can sleep here tonight.”
I slept like a baby. Now I am in the Downtown Alessandro, Roma. My bed is comfortable, my belly full. Two slices of mushroom pizza-2 Euros, one half bottle of vino tinto-2.5. Huge fresh strawberries, 1.5 E. And, image
imageI found Rome’s Chinatown. See. Good luck everywhere
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Home.

Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where they have to take you in, if you have to go there. It’s in your heart. It’s with your family….

As I type, I am in the kitchen of the Backpackers Hostel in Ensenada, Mexico. I’m drinking tea, munching on a dark chocolate Milky Way.  It occurs to me that I am capable of making myself ‘at home’ just about anywhere in the world. But, I’ve  been seven years on the road. Seven years!

A year or so ago I began to long for my own home, to make a place for me again. I want my art on the walls, mementos of my trips, photos of my family and friends, a pot of tomatoes, some herbs, a bunch of red geraniums trailing over a wall, or porch railing, the smell of laven

 Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

Cabin interior

Cabin interior

Moving crew

Moving crew

Mis Amigas

Mis Amigas

The Cabin

The Cabin

Wildflowers in the front yard

Wildflowers in the front yard

der, a hammock, a clothes line, the freedom to be naked if the mood strikes, if it’s sufficiently warm out.

It never occurred to me when I sold my house that I would miss it. Then again, maybe it’s not the house I miss. I began to travel a couple of years after my son died. Maybe its him I miss. Perhaps it’s my friends: belonging, the comfort of being accepted-warts and all. It’s being around like-minded,  folks who care about each other-who care about me.

A couple of months ago I packed Margaret, my Mini, and headed across the US back to California. At present I am at Brandon’s in Venice where I lived over a decade-longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived. But, Venice is congested, and expensive, and the mountains are calling me. The music my talented friends play, beckons. The warmth of affection, solitude to write, hiking trails, laughter.

A couple of weeks ago, I was back in Tehachapi and Kernville.  Being there was easy. Being with friends is that: easy. Uncomplicated.  I’m ready for easy; knowing the language, where the post office is, biking to the bank. I’m ready to resume my soirées, St. Patrick’s day parties; ready to write more, maybe finally get the one woman show underway, the books published, to hang out with old friends, make a few new ones, to make a home for me again.

 

Youth Hostels: Not Just for the young.

I’m a traveler. I may be young at heart, but I’m anything but years young. My AARP card is wrinkled and worn. My current passport has six pages and three years left. So far, I’ve visited thirty countries, Not that I’m counting, but it’s my frequently asked question.

Back around circa 2000BT ( before texting ), my friend who works for United Airlines gave me a buddy pass for Christmas. ” You can go anywhere in the world you want.” Anywhere? Whoa! I chose Thailand. It was my first time in Asia, but definitly not the last.

 

Tom Brown and Claudia, Chacapoyas

Tom Brown and Claudia, Chacapoyas

Upstairs lounge FDH Lima

Upstairs lounge FDH Lima

Room in Paradiso Ayahuasca , puerto Narino

Room in Paradiso Ayahuasca , puerto Narino

Psygon Surfers School and Hostel, Mancora, Peru

Psygon Surfers School and Hostel, Mancora, Peru

Hospedaje Golondrinos

Hospedaje Golondrinos

Unfortunately, unbeknown  to me, it was Chinese New Year.  Apparently, the Chinese don’t celebrate their New Year for a long weekend, regardless if it’s a dog, rooster, ox, or sheep year, they keep up the festivities for weeks.  Bangkok must be on their celebration route. While i was trying to figure out were to go,  a Canadian couple I’d met walkng off the plane said they were going to Singapore. As it turns out, I, too, could go there if I wanted. “No, problem, Singapore, Miss, seats avail

indespensible clip

indespensible clip

able,” said the sweet, Japanese desk clerk.

It was one or two o’clock in the morning when we landed, but Ellen went to a pay phone. Using her budget travel guide-book, and advice on how to use the phone, from a friendly guy passing by, she found us a hostel, the first of many for me. The hostel consisted of several rooms above an Indian restaurant in the Hindu part of town. My small room had two twin beds, but I was the only occupant at the time, a door, and a balcony that looked over the main street. The well-worn sheets had a Mickey and Minnie Mouse pa

Bed at Flying Dog Hostel, Arequipa

Bed at Flying Dog Hostel, Arequipa

ttern. The pillow was a hard lump; the mattress slightly fluffier than the floor. The shared bath was huge. Several toilet stalls sans doors, or seats lined the wall. Each had a bucket of water in the corner with a large spoon or ladle. The trick was to dip it into the water to wash oneself after..well, you know.

On a small table near the balcony door in my room was a wicker basket with a sheet of paper, pencil, and a small bell. A wooden chair sat next to it. Upon further inspection I realized the paper was a menu. All I needed to do was check off the stuff I wanted and drop the basket down from the balcony and the food would be sent up to me. I love room service! The problem was I didn’t recognize the food. I would learn soon enough. For the moment , I sat on the little chair and watched the street vendors set up for the day. I was happy. The room cost about 6.00 US dollars a day.

Since then I have stayed in many hostels around the world. They vary wildly according to culture, price, and comfort, but compared to hotels, for independent travelers, they are inexpensive and much more interesting. In a hostel you get the latest skinny from backpackers on places to eat, buses, routes, sights on and off the beaten path, and nightlife. If you are traveling alone you usually can find someone to share expenses on local day tours and taxis. It’s likely you will find friends for traveling and even life.

Many hostels have private rooms and bath, but most people sleep dormitory style in bunk beds. Breakfast may or not be included, but usually there is kitchen where guests can store and cook food, and a common room with one or two computers, a TV, video games or movies, a bar, and maybe a pool table. There might be bikes to rent, and tours at reasonable prices, city maps, and local advice. The Hospedaje Golondrinos in Iquitos, Peru had lovely, warm water pool.

Through the years I have adopted a few methods for convenience and privacy. I pack a few sarongs, a couple of 8-10 foot cords, and a package of plastic and metal clips designed for paper, but the triangle inside allows me to slide the clip along the cord. I tie the cord from end to end along the top of my bunk, and hang the sarongs as curtains. I also carry an extension cord. It’s

Patio with pool table Flying Dog Hostel, Lima

Patio with pool table Flying Dog Hostel, Lima

invaluable for charging phones and laptops where there is only one outlet across the room or on busses. On some busses the outlet is up above the seats in the back of the luggage rack. I run the cord along the top and down the side, hooking it with the clips on the curtain line.

As there are everywhere, there are thieves in hostels. I never leave my small pack with iphone, pad, money & passport out of my sight. On busses, these things go under the seat ahead of me or under my  feet-NEVER above, out of sight. On my last trip one of my favorite sarongs was stolen. It was irritating, but not crucial to the trip.

There are many sites on the internet for hostels. I use Hostelworld.com most of the time, but Tripadviser.com and hostelbooking.com are popular. This allows you to read the reviews of travelers-and we are an honest lot. The main gripe these days is wifi & water, and cleanliness. The last few years we’ve seen an out break of bedbugs in motels in America and Europe, and although I’ve heard of them in hostels, I haven’t had the experience. Ask. Don’t be shy. Are water and wifi reliable and available 24/7? Wifi might just be available in one room, or not at night. The same with water. I personally hate cold showers so the water will make or break the deal for me no matter how cheap the bed is.

All this aside, what makes a hostel exceptional is the staff and the people you meet. Many young folks ignore me. I understand. Who wants to hang out with someone who could be your grandmother. Fortunately there are those who appreciate having a person with a different perspective and stories to tell. I’ve taught yoga in hostels and cooked big pots of delicious soup, but mostly I’ve learned from the youth. A few weeks ago I was joined in my morning yoga routine by a Martial Arts Master/Teacher from France. We each learned some new moves. The photos are from some of my favorite hostels during the past two years in Brazil and Peru.

I can’t wait to visit some of the folks I met on my trip: Ireland, Italy (Tuscany), South Korea, England, and of course, back to Peru.