Turning up in Australia I was using the safe and cosy option of Couchsurfing for the first week in Melbourne. Both hosts were close to my age with the first being a Viking battle reenactment enthusiast and comic book fan, while the second was a quietly religious man who was putting together a book called "The Simple Complex Gospel", a kind of New Testament for Dummies.
Both were very kind and generous people but the important thing was, I could relax around them.
Moving on to Sydney and the Couchsufers were spartan, so I opted for a backpackers' hostel in Coogee Beach. It had reviews on Hostelworld and Trip Advisor ranging from good to piss poor BUT it was cheap. I rang ahead before booking to check that they took old guys like me (some have a 30-something cut off limit) and the weary-sounding manager assured me it was OK.
I rocked up the next day and was escorted by the same manager into a 12 bed dorm, sharing it with a bunch of guys ranging in age from 19 to about 28 who were from a selection of countries. Two were Italian, a language I can speak, so we had a good chat and I dumped my stuff before setting off for a walk around the bay.
I've stayed in hostels before and you get what you pay for. At AU$31 per night (about 18 British pounds) there's no excuse for bellyaching about sharing your sleeping/ living space; any reasonable noise that people make; or having to queue to take a shower (or a shit). The free breakfast that was part of the deal was some value brand cereal from the local supermarket that didn't come with milk (that was available for $1.20 pint). Cooking facilities were basic and due to the fire risk, the management would lock away the pots & pans plus the toaster once they closed up for the night at 8pm. Despite requests to wash up anything you use, a lot of people opted to be lazy and just left all their shit in the sink, covered in old food for the cleaners to deal with in the afternoons. The dormitories had people's clothes and crap everywhere and it was hard to tell whose stuff was whose after a while.
ALL of this is to be expected in a bargain basement travellers hostel designed for people who just want a place to crash as they take in the sights and sounds of a new country/ city. The beach was about 50 metres from the hostel meaning we had a few swims in the surf, accompanied by a cold beer or two
The hostel was directly above a McDonald's meaning that all guests got vouchers entitling them to a reasonable amount of food for the small price of $5. Domino's pizzas and Subway also offered discounts and there was free wi-fi via the McDonald's even in the hostel (provided you didn't go to the top floor though).
All in all it was very reasonable and like I said above, you get what you pay for.
But something for me just grated about nearly the whole experience, and it was nothing to do with the place, the other guests OR the living conditions. What it came down to is that I have finally outgrown my adolescent trousers and can't live in an atmosphere like that any more. One or two nights and I would have been fine. A week was a BIG mistake.
First of all food would go missing from the kitchen and walk-in fridge. I personally have no qualms about using other people's salt, pepper or cooking oil but regard it as a fucking liberty if people steal my cheese or noodles. This happened to various folk while I was there and on the Saturday there was a big party where I had a 4.5 litre box of wine taken, despite writing my name all over it with the words "FUCK OFF" as per unofficial instructions from the management.
Secondly nearly every room had smokers who would light up on the balconies despite this being against both the hostel rules and the law. Live and let live I say, but the piss really was taken when they were smoking marijuana out there. The long suffering manager actually burst in one day trying to catch the dope smokers, accidentally knocking a can of Coke over that was near the door. As the sticky brown mess fizzed on the floor he fumed "WHICH FUCKING CUNT LEFT THAT THERE?!!" and told me privately later that he'd burst in as the police had phoned him to ask if there were dope smokers on the premises.
Later I found out that 4 weeks before I got there, a guest in my room had smashed the balcony door (with his head), gone up to reception attacking random people and when the police turned up had jumped out the window (3 floors up), bouncing off the roof one level below and fracturing his skull on the pavement.
On the night of the big party the room next to mine was thrown over to the celebrations, with everyone getting tanked up and the place looked like a bomb had gone off. It was only later that I realised that any poor sod assigned that room who wasn't in a party mood would have had to simply put up with it until exhaustion kicked in for his or her roommates.
In my room I had swapped my assigned top bunk for a lower one in the left hand corner. Reason being that whenever the guy below me had turned over, I felt like I was in the crow's nest of a ship. For privacy I also blagged a separate bed sheet and used that to hang over the side, creating an impromptu cabin where I could get some illusion of privacy. This and a set of those squishy, orange ear plugs that they give out on aircraft meant that I was able to sleep despite conversations at 2am about Puke Parties or where to score the best and cheapest ganja. I later found out that the guys in the room jokingly referred to it as my "rape cave" as all they could imagine me doing in there was quietly masturbating.
A girl in a room four doors down was a long term guest and the dictionary definition of insecure. From Essex in the UK she was 20 years old, pretty, yet overweight but had a habit of constantly putting other people down or insulting them. A friend of hers turned up to visit and while at the beach one afternoon we all sniggered when we heard her say "I didn't want to share a bed with you as you're always bringing different guys back to shag".
My sanity slowly eroding I finally decided that I needed to do something about this and arranged to do that money saver thing of driving someone else's car from Sydney to Cairns...a distance of over 2500 kilometres.
At the last minute a friend of mine offered to let me stay as long as I wanted at her place, about 45 minutes from the hostel. When I arrived the next evening I could have wept when I saw the double bed (all mine) and the clean sheets, clean towel and lack of hormonal kids smoking illegal substances.
The people in the hostel did nothing wrong. As recently as 4 years ago I behaved EXACTLY like they did and enjoyed every minute. Shagging, drinking heavily and going skinny dipping at 3am. Now...I'm more content to read a Jack Reacher novel and go for a long hike.
The hostel was OK, it was simply a realignment of tastes on my part that led to this being an ordeal and not a pleasure. For the first time I saw the people in the room as younger than me and not as peers.
It's now obvious to me that I am way past this and need to find something else.
Funny thing is...I actually don't give a fuck.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
* BTW....The manager has the patience of a saint and I seriously don't know how he puts up with all this without losing his shit.