In New Orleans we stayed at our first hostel. Not first hostel of the trip. First hostel ever. In the past our lodging has been mostly a mix of camping, hotels, and Airbnb. Honestly, as far as US travel goes, we’d never really considered a hostel before. They were just rather off our radar. Turns out that most substantially sized US cities have at least a few different hostel options.
We plan to primarily stay in hostels next year during our overseas travels so we thought it was time to get at least one under our belts. We chose the India House Hostel because it was right on the streetcar line. While it might not have been the “most updated” as one fellow guest put it, the hostel makes up for that with a comfortable lived in atmosphere. Also, it’s huge! Everyone kept commenting about how large the hostel was. Comprised of multiple buildings, it has ample space and bathroom facilities (very important) as well as great outdoor areas for socializing and relaxing.
The thing we most enjoyed about the hostel was the ability to easily meet fellow travelers and hear a variety of ideas and opinions. There were people of all ages and walks of life there. We talked politics. We talked religion. We talked culture. And of course we talked travel. When you chat with strangers about these topics you benefit from different perspectives you’re not likely to get in your own close circle.
We were fortunate enough to make some new friends during our stay and get some fantastic recommendations. In fact, since we began our travels we’ve been meeting more and more people on the road and receiving loads of recommendations, advice, and information. Whether its campsite neighbors, fellow hostel lodgers, or friendly folks at refreshment stops, it seems there are welcoming and helpful people around every corner.
This got me thinking about past trips and wondering why we never seemed to meet these people before? Were they suddenly just planted here by aliens? Is it because we’re driving a tan van that people want to talk to us now (insert sarcasm font)?
I quickly realized what it is. I know these people have always been there, but now we’re opening ourselves to the experience of meeting them. We’re taking the time to have conversations with strangers. To learn about them. What’s their story? Where did they come from and where are they going? Basically, we’re taking the time to connect with other human beings while we wander.
In the past we were too busy trying to get away from the constant communication life we lived to really engage with others. It’s not that we were hermits or anything; we did talk to people while traveling. It’s just that we never delved too deep. We never asked why they chose that particular place to visit, or their thoughts on recent politics, or where in the world they most want to go.
I know many people who do make connections with others when they travel, so this could be more a product of my own introverted nature. Regardless, once we started asking these types of questions, we’ve been surprised by the answers. It’s enlightening to hear other people’s perspectives. We’ve also found that it’s not a matter of time. It’s a matter of effort. You don’t need a lot of time (or effort really) to talk with people. You just have to put yourself out there a bit, and you’ll be amazed what you learn.
I’m not trying to blindly ignore the fact that there are monsters and evil in this world. Sadly this seems more apparent than ever lately. However, I believe that most humans are good. Sure there have been some assholes on our travels (ahem, person who stole from our campsite), but the vast majority of our personal experiences and interactions have been pleasant.
This journey is already having a positive impact on us in ways we never imagined. We’re astonished at the amount of kind, helpful, and fascinating folks we’ve met on the road. At the end of the day travel is about so much more than seeing things and taking photos. It’s about connections, encounters, and evolving outlooks.
What do you think? How much of the travel experience is personal versus relationship based? Any stories about great travel connections?