Although I swore I was done with dorms after the last time I stayed in one (Istanbul, April 2013, when I was woken up by a bunch of drunk Australians at 4:30am), I was visiting Copenhagen last weekend on a budget, and I chose to stay in a dorm again, in order to keep my costs down.
Now I’ve never really been a great fan of staying in dorms, even in my early twenties. I’m not a particularly trusting individual (I don’t automatically give you my trust; you have to earn it). I’m wary of people until I get to know them. I don’t just assume that if I leave my phone charging while I pop down to breakfast, it will necessarily still be there when I return.
I’m also an introvert. Don’t get my wrong, I can be a really sociable person. People interest me. I love finding common ground with those who were once strangers, I love learning about their similarities, their differences, their motivation, passions, ambitions, and goals. But I need my time alone, to properly relax and recharge the batteries in between the socialising. I love having my own space at the end of every day.
Staying in a dorm doesn’t allow me that. It also doesn’t allow me the peace of mind of being able to leave my stuff in my room without having to pack it away in a locker, secured only by a combination lock that someone could easily break if they knew what they were doing.
Realistically I’m sure the majority of people who stay in dorms aren’t thieves, and true enough most are considerate and accommodating of their room mates.
But I still don’t feel entirely comfortable staying in dorms. This last weekend only served to highlight that fact.
But not in an angry or frustrating way, more so a mildly amused one.
And that’s what inspired me to write this post.
So here are a few things you should know about staying in dorms.
You have to creep around making as little noise as possible at all times, because everyone’s got different schedules, and there will always be those that are climbing into bed whilst others head out clubbing (yes that happened to me in Copenhagen. And no, I wasn’t the one going out clubbing ;-))
You cannot unpack because there is no room to do so and nowhere to secure your stuff aside from your locker.
You have to lock up all your stuff up every time you go to the bathroom. Or risk having it stolen (or is that just me?).
It’s impossible to sleep straight through the night without disturbances or interruptions, even with earplugs and an eye mask (although these do help a lot).
There is always that possibility that you will arrive at your hostel and check into your room to find someone sleeping in your bed (yes, this also happened to me in Copenhagen. It happened to me in Amsterdam as well).
If you’re in the top bunk, you must try to remember that when you get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.
You will almost always have to wait for the bathroom in the morning. Unless you get up at 6am.
You end up sleeping in your clothes on more than one occasion, because when you come up to your room at 10pm the lights are already out and one of your room mates is sleeping, and it’s too much effort to try and find your pyjamas in the dark.
Of course dorms can be really fun places to stay too. You’re sharing your living space with a bunch of people who quite probably love travel as much as you do, which means that not only do you have instant company on tap (providing your rooms mates are susceptive to it), but that you immediately have something in common with your fellow bunk buddies.
Because dorms are often occupied by solo travellers (especially those on a budget; single rooms can quite often cost almost as much as double or twin rooms and are a lot more difficult to come by), the likelihood of finding someone else who fancies checking out that cool new eatery down the road or sharing a beer or two at the local bar is quite high. And you know that tour you really wanted to book – the tour that won’t run without a minimum of two people in the group – well, there may well be someone in the dorm who’d be interested in going too.
Just be aware that sharing a confined space with people from different backgrounds, cultures, time schedules, and sleeping patterns is a very different experience to having your own room. Interesting and fun, but not without its frustrations 😉