I’m flying to Dublin this Saturday. I’ll be spending two weeks in Ireland, England, and Scotland with a pair of my friends. We’ll see the sights, drink the pints; be tourists in someone else’s large city for once (I’m lookin’ at you, London).
The three of us are going to be staying in hostels, of course. I rarely consider other housing options; the opportunity to meet other young, eager travelers in a shared space is too good to pass up.
As I stand here on the brink of another international adventure, I can’t help but think back to my first hostel experience, a couple of years ago. That summer day, Beth (my friend, and former college roommate) and I, both introverted individuals, found ourselves in a massively social hostel in Florence.
When we first walked in, drenched in sweat from the hot Florentine day, we saw a young man slumped in a chair in the middle of the outdoor communal area. He gave a feeble wave as we approached.
I can’t remember who said hello first, but after the initial greetings, the following conversation took place (paraphrased, of course):
Him: Scottish. You?
Him: *nods* Right. *pauses, blinks slowly* Ah, sorry if I’m a bit out of it. I went out drinking last night and…this morning at about 4 am, I woke up at the train station with half a chicken nugget in my lap.
So that was our first interaction with the Scotsman.
We met the other travelers that evening:
The Irishman, who produced two bottles of vodka out of nowhere during our card game (we played Kings). He also kept encouraging the others to sing the “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH,” song whenever Beth and I were in the room.
The Norwegian, who spoke little, but, during our Kings game, kept a waterfall round going for so long that we all finished our drinks. (And managed to smirk at all of us the whole time without spilling a drop, too.)
The Canadian, who was as polite and honest as we all expect Canadians to be. When I told him, “As an American, I think I’m supposed to make fun of you, but I like you!” his response was, “Yeah, see, we don’t hate you either!” Then we spent the rest of the conversation discussing the merits of skiing.
And the Brit, who oozed snark, yet spent the entire evening swapping movie quotes with me. His Sean Connery impression was spot-on.
Once we were all deep into the first round of Kings, the Irishman told everyone to sing their national anthem in their native language. He launched into Gaelic. The Brit harmonized with a lively rendition of “God Save the Queen.” Beth and I, of course, sang the good ol’ Star Spangled Banner.
In yet another round, the Irishman (it was always the Irishman) suggested that we all tease each other about our national stereotypes. I found myself shouting things like “Cheerful drunkard,” “Pushover” and “Pompous,” while the others happily informed me that I was, “Pushy, entitled, and loud.” I couldn’t even deny it. #GreatjobAmerica
Then we all decided to visit a nearby bar that catered to tourists. It wasn’t long before our group got a little lost. The Irishman and the Scotsman, who had been leading the way, stopped to ask a passerby for directions.
The Brit: “We’re a group of foreign tourists, being led by an Irishman and a Scotsman, who are now asking a random American for directions to a local bar. …Does anyone see anything wrong with that??”
After we had finally reached the tourist club, there was a moment where I was being crowded on the dance floor by two enthusiastic Italian men. They danced closer and closer to me, one coming from either side. (Just picture two birds of paradise doing mating dances around a really confused dove. That’s all the imagery you’ll ever need.) Finally I just straight-up ducked down to dodge their outstretched arms, and they ended up colliding. I escaped, still in a crouch, as my fellow tourists laughed at the unfolding scene.
The Canadian: *holds up hands helplessly* I was starting to wonder if I should help you…
Me: *laughing, pointing at the Irishman and the Brit* SEE. THE CANADIAN CARES. HE lives up to his country’s positive stereotypes!
But they all lived up to their positive stereotypes, in the end. They were a group of friendly, diverse individuals — a great introduction to international travel.
By the end of my UK adventure, I hope that I can say the same for myself!
Thanks for reading,