My home for the last month has been a student hostel. After my landlady got divorced, she gave us 60 days to get out of our comfortable stand alone house so she could move in. Choosing a hostel for my last three months of college sounds like a preposterous last resort, but in truth my move here has given me far more than any Craigslist listing would.
I paid my first months rent with trepidation, as my experience of hostels was limited to manic short term stays where travelers try to party as hard as their itineraries will allow before moving on. That’s all well and good for them, but if this was my house, I wanted a place that I could relax in as well. But you’d be surprised how comfortable a double can be with some ear plugs and sleep mask. It’s the common areas that bear the brunt of the noise due to them being constantly filled with warm bodies.
And yet that’s actually the single best aspect of this situation. I’ve essentially traded comfortable sleeping hours for never ending excitement. In my full size house, despite me having 5 other housemates, there were days when I would come home and browse Tumblr over dinner all by myself before spending an hour or two on the computer before heading to bed. Now, I never eat alone – there’s always someone else eating next to me, full of interesting stories about their day. And if I want to browse Tumblr, my laughs are multiplied by the giggles of the passerby who watch over my shoulder, leading to more shared laughs – one of the absolute best things in life, in my book.
I turned the lonely kingdom that was my house – all the space in the world and nobody to share it with; and turned it around into a tiny communal space shared with 40 odd buddies. There’s something to be said about the power of passively having friends nearby. You don’t have to call them, don’t have to work around their schedule, don’t have to transport them – just announce that you’re going somewhere, or latch on to any of the many daytrips the hostel offers, and you’re set. It is the same lackadaisical why-not spirit that every traveler seems to lose once they come home, the polar opposite of the malignant and pervasive “I’m too busy” that pops up all too often when I proposition my university friends for adventures.
The trade off, of course, is that I won’t see many of these people after their itinerary takes them away. Unlike my university classmates, these guys aren’t around for the long haul. Luckily, the fact that it’s a student hostel means that most people’s stays here are measured in weeks rather than days, but there’s still sad good byes every two weeks. I’ve been able to practice my Portuguese with a real person, brush up on my Spanish on a daily basis, and learned from multiple twentysomethings who’ve started location independent businesses. Even the short term relationships have value.
But perhaps most powerful bonus of the hostel is the fact that my bedroom is no longer a desirable place to be. When I lived in a proper house, I had two huge rooms and an attached bathroom to myself. I had a queen size mattress, a closet, and enough space to leave most of my bags and clothes spread out on the floor. It was a textbook definition of the American Dream, and the type of setup that many with less find themselves wishing for.
Yet it was actually a curse. Lulled into comfort and complacency by all my doodads, I would sometimes spend the entire day in my room, only leaving after dinner. I’d be productive: switching between sitting at my desk, standing there, or working on my bed in desperate attempts to shake up the monotony of my surroundings. Time did not intrude into my quarters – my room was a closed system completely independent from the world at large. And yet only a few times was this funk enough to actually get me up and out of the house to go explore. It was just too comfortable and easy to stay there.
Now, my bedroom is a tiny double shared with Mahmoud, a Yemeni political refugee who doesn’t speak much English. (His friend Samir next door tells me that he is ‘sick in the head’) Our creaky bunk bed is just a little too small, and the stuffy room isn’t truly remedied by the stand up fan we put in. It is not a place where I want to spend more time than necessary.
But this is what makes it powerful. Now, when I wake up and face the titanic daily struggle to rouse myself out of bed in order to become a functioning human being (This quote has also been helpful), there are fewer forces conspiring to hold me down. Before, I could loll around on my cavernous bed, mess around in the bathroom, and listen to music during my morning routine – now I pretty much get straight out, wash up, and emerge from the door ready for the day within half an hour. There’s no reason to lag.
Now I spend my time more consciously. I’m either in the main room, (socializing, making meals, or both) in the secluded study room, (writing or knocking off my to-dos) or in my bedroom (reading or sleeping, only). Every area has it’s unique activities associated with it, and nothing else. No longer is my private space a siren song of peace and comfort to lure me away from whatever other slightly less interesting thing I may be doing.
My bedroom, like yours, is not real life. It is constructed to be separate from the world, as a guard for a good night’s sleep. But at the end of your life, do you really want to look back on years of solid sleep? Sleep is but a prerequisite for real life, not the end all. Nothing exciting will happen in your bedroom without you actively making it so. Meanwhile, outside your door, the entire world is happening, on its own, whether you are there or not.
That is what the hostel move has done for me. It has brought the outside world into my previously sterile living space, and allowed me to passively soak up friends, experiences, and wisdom every night at the dinner table instead of new Tumblr posts all by my lonesome. No longer can I hide from the world when I am tired – it has come to me. And as a result, I am freed from the tyranny of a comfortable bedroom.
Of course, as a minimalist young person with lenient living requirements and a hunger for new life experiences, I fit well within this hostel. My father, with his finicky bed requirements, need for daily naps, and greater desire to recline and watch television at the end of the day than attend a dinner party, would not thrive here. And I’m not saying you should move to a hostel. But I will say that my decision to do so has made me more productive, happy, and wordly. Even on the nights when I have nothing planned, I always have something fun to do.
While you’re young, why settle for anything less? A two bedroom two bath sounds about as appealing to me right now as a cubicle farm. For the short term, a hostel is a fantastic choice.