14 conversations you always hear in every hostel

July 20, 2018

One of the best things about staying in hostels—besides the great locations, the unbeatable value, the friendly staff, the list goes on!—is getting to meet like-minded travellers from every corner of the planet, and joining all the conversations that bounce off the walls of the hostel common room. Spend enough time shooting the breeze with your new pals and you’ll notice the same subjects pop up time after time (after time after time), like these 14 conversations you’ll hear in every hostel you book.

1. “So, where you from?”

This is the line that’s broken the ice for every hostel conversation since the very first globetrotter sewed a flag patch on their backpack. And every time you utter the words, you hold your breath hoping for an answer that sits somewhere between ‘Australia’ (ugh, another one…) and ‘Zambia’ (ugh, I don’t know the first thing about that place…).

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2. “Oh, do you know…”

How many times have you told a fellow traveller that you hail from Canada, before they shoot back with ‘Oh! My cousin’s boyfriend went on exchange in Vancouver six years ago—maybe you met him?’. Sorry, bud. I’m from Toronto, it’s a big country and even I haven’t been to Vancouver yet.

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3. “What’s the wifi password?”

Backpackers can survive without adequate food and water—a cup of instant noodles and the occasional beer is enough to subsist off—but wifi? That’s non-negotiable. Just gimme the password or mainline an ethernet cable into my veins STAT.

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4. “Where’s the free food shelf?”

Okay, fine, even travellers on the very tightest of budgets need something to eat, and you’d be surprised what an inventive chef can whip up out of a cucumber, a bottle of Sriracha sauce and a half-eaten packet of pasta up for grabs in the communal kitchen. It only gets dicey when the follow up comment to this question is, “Aw yes! Pickles!”

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5. “Can I borrow some…”

The other source of free food is a friendly hostel full of like-minded travellers, who almost certainly aren’t going to need that entire pound of butter or one-kilo bag of carrots. So go on, don’t be shy and ask your neighbour for a cup of sugar or half their steak.

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6. “Where have you been?”

There’s no topic that travellers love discussing more than the places they’ve ‘done’… and comparing the stamps that fill their passport like Wayne Gretzky running through the silverware in his trophy cabinet.

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7. “Where are you going?”

This one inevitably follows the previous one because backpackers never stay in one place for too long. If you’ve been talking to someone in a hostel for more than two minutes and you don’t yet know where they’re from, where they’ve been and where they’re going, you’re doing it wrong.

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8. “Oh, you’ve never been?”

Nothing wins that game of travel one-upmanship than the utterance of this phrase. “Oh, you’ve never been to rural Yemen/Moldovan wine country/the summit of Kilimanjaro? Shame, it’s beautiful this time of year.”

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9. “It’s not the same these days”

Why did the hipster backpacker forget his jacket? Because he started travelling before it was cool. When a vagabond has been on the road long enough, prepare to hear about the good old days—two-dollar cocktails in Budapest and smoky salsa bars in Havana before they became ‘overrun by tourists,’ whispered without a whiff of self-awareness.

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10. “They’re not as good as the ones back home”

Another unfavourable comparison comes when travellers trade notes on what they miss back home. For the English, that means a quality cup of tea. For Canadians, that means coffee from Timmy’s (even if you hate the taste of the stuff, just seeing a cup of it is somehow a small comfort).

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11. “How much did that cost?”

Backpackers compare prices with the same scrutiny that stock brokers analyze assets on Wall Street, and the hostel common room serves as the trading floor. Five bucks for a beer? Pfft, they’re only $4.50 at the bar down the street if you go between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Bringing us to our next conversation…

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12. “Ugh, I’m so hungover”

Do the math: if you save fifty cents a pint, then proceed to polish off 10 pints, you’ve earned yourself a free pint! That equation doesn’t seem so clever the next day, but it’s amazing how much you can recall about a night that you hardly remember.

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13. “Going out tonight?”

There are lots of little lies that backpackers tell themselves—‘that dude snoring in my dorm isn’t too loud,’ ‘Thai fisherman pants are appropriate attire to wear out in public’, ‘that laundry can wait until next week’—but top of the list is ‘today’s going to be a booze-free day,’ which is something you tell your new travel buddies half an hour before you meet them at the bar.

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14. “What are you going to do when you get home?”

Hmmm, that’s right, reality. That thing that the four walls of a hostel block out for the duration of your trip. Who knows. Who cares. Where’s that bar pouring $4.50 pints?

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