Hostel Life: 3 Weeks in

3 weeks in Chile.

Already 1 week more than most Norte Americanos take for their yearly vacacciones. I’ve visited 3 cities in Chile, went to 4 museos, took 2 walking tours, rode planes, interstate overnight busses and figured out the Santiago Subway.

As a volunteer at 2 hostels,  I’ve created a logo, then animated it, learned some bartending, cleaned bathrooms, served breakfast, lit outdoor heaters, learned how to barbecue – Chilean style, and gotten to know around 15 local Chileans by name.

And next week I go to volunteer at a 3rd.

3 weeks. And I see a line of endless days stretched before me like the long hallway to the staff bedrooms at the latest hostel I am volunteering at.

Occasionally, I meet hostel guests who have been traveling for months – 5 months, 8 months, etc. Universally, to me they seem a tad…weary. But also: if they weren’t fluent in Spanish before, they certainly are now. Some still have fears, which I thought would disappear after awhile, fear of theft, of more egregious things, even murder by gangs while traveling the remote byways of South America by car. But they are also more street smart. While newbies may not lock their belongings, longtimers always do.

They do less of the tourist things, maybe one or two in the town they find themselves in, but not the daily trips like I find myself taking. Nina, a German voluntario who has been traveling for 5 months said, ‘Yeah, that’s what you do in the beginning. After awhile it’s enough just to interact with the people around you. Maybe see a few of the sites.’

I’m struck by how many young people travel for months in the hostels I meet. 3 months is not unusual – travel all of South America during a break. Sounds fine to me, but was nothing I thought I could do at their age. I was busy being in school, then in my career, getting married and divorced. Maybe they are the cream of their respective nation’s crop, but it’s hard to figure this out as I am surrounded by these adventurers.

Like me now, I guess.

I tell people that I am traveling for a year, and every time I say this I feel like I am saying, ‘I am exploring the solar system…’ Like it’s a phantasy, and I used to let out a little laugh when I said it. Now, I just say it as if it’s a fait accompli, flat smile, studying their reactions.

Most they think it’s great, ask about my itinerary. The longtimers mostly do the same, but sometimes just nod, like: you really don’t know what you are in for.

I don’t, it’s true. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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