I adore traveling. I just wish I could bring my bedroom with me. Yes, I am one of those obnoxious people who requires a meticulously controlled environment in order to sleep.
However, the lure of lush, rolling Irish fields and fresh Parisian baguettes proved stronger than my lust for sleep, so my friend and I trotted off to Europe with our American-sized backpacks stuffed with travel essentials: Cliff bars and grandiose, overly-romantic expectations.
First stop: the bonny hills of Ireland.
First misconception shattered: English is English, wherever you go.
Hoping to ease into the foreign language experience by commencing our European jaunt with an English-speaking country, I was flummoxed to discover that I didn’t understand a word from the Irish. I knew we were speaking the same language … it just didn’t sound like it. It literally sounded like Mandarin to me. Is there a Rosetta Stone Irish course for English speakers?
After an eternity of wandering through the cobblestone streets of Dublin, we arrived at our hostel. Note to travelers: booking hostel lodgings is similar to online dating. No matter how nice the fellow is, you don’t know what his family is like until it’s too late. Our hostel was tolerable enough, as far as hostels go. It was our roommate that would prove to be troublesome.
Following a refreshing cleanse of travel grime (courtesy of the bathroom floor, which was a standing lake), we settled into our room and cheerfully made small talk with one of our roommates, a Polish fellow, who unfortunately turned out to be a Potential Roommate #1: The Crazy Gabber.
Small talk evolved into big talk, as he proceeded to tell us his entire life story. Unlike Irish English, I lamentably understood every word of Polish English, down to each excruciating detail of how he was working in Ireland in order to send money to his impoverished Polish family. A charming story, really; just not after 24 hours of being awake.
Eventually, the now-pressing need for sleep overwhelmed our good manners, and we stopped responding to him. He kept talking. We told him to shut up. He kept talking. In a sleep-deprived delirium, I threw my water bottle at him, hoping the physical force would convey the verbal message he obviously wasn’t understanding.
I don’t feel guilty about that act of violence. He deserved it, and besides, it was filtered water. It was probably good for him.
And still, the relentless fiend kept gabbing. Finally, we resorted to ‘playing dead.’ I can sympathize with hunted animals on a whole new level now: the clammy desperation, the dread of blowing your cover, the rustlings of the nearby hunter, the chilling sound of the weapon cocking (which in this case was a verbal flood that threatened to implode my brains with the ferocity of a bullet).
It worked. His torrent of verbal vomit slowed, when he finally realized we must be dead. No point in wasting a riveting story on corpses!
The next morning, we requested and moved to a private room. After spending the day jaunting about Dublin, we returned to the hostel to find our Polish friend speaking loudly to the receptionist, and then viciously point at us when we entered. The receptionist asked where we had been that day.
Apparently, 2,000 euros had been stolen from Polish Man’s locker in our former room the night we shared it with him. We appeared highly suspicious, as we requested to move to a different room after the robbery occurred. Thankfully, they realized we were Americans and the Marines would launch an international rescue operation if they so much as fined us, so we got off the hook.
Thoroughly scarred by our hostel experience, we opted for hotels for the rest of our European adventure. They say the best part of traveling is the people you meet and the stories you hear. I generally agree, with the caveat that the bonding occurs in a pub, or on a subway – NOT in your bedroom.
I now travel with a stainless steel water bottle: gabbers, beware!