As a traveler, the backpacker and hostel community is everything. Being around people who are doing the same thing as you, sharing stories, songs, and culture. When I first started my trip I knew about hostels but didn’t realize the community that existed. My favorite story of my trip is the introduction I got into the community.
I was coming from Israel (the only place I was part of a tour group), and spent a day in Rome. Luckily I met a local who spent the whole day showing me around. That night I was to catch a train to Assisi, Italy to volunteer at an English summer camp.
When I got on the train it was dark out. As we went through stops I noticed the announcer wasn’t saying the names of the stops. All I knew was I needed to get off at Assisi. Once a long period of time went by I started to get nervous thinking I might’ve missed my stop. I started to ask people on the train if my stop was close or if we already passed it, but no one spoke English.
The train line ended and we were in Florence. I was planning to go there-only not yet in my trip. As I got off the train I saw a group of three backpackers, so I asked them if they knew of a hostel nearby. This was the last train so I would need to find somewhere to stay. They responded saying no, they were planning to sleep at the train station. That shocked me at the time…only later in my trip did I realize this was normal and I did myself many times.
My next step was to tell the person picking me up that I wouldn’t make it until the morning so I borrowed someone’s phone. I planned to get the first train out in the morning. Since I didn’t know of a hostel I decided to try to sleep inside the train station on one of the many benches. The other backpackers had disappeared.
After sleeping on the train station for about an hour (among many other people) the police came in to kick everyone out. With the station re-opening in just a few hours, people were frustrated. We all moved to outside the station.
I walked out not knowing what to do. This was only my second real night backpacking. I felt defeated and plopped on the ground with a puppy dog face. Then I looked up and there were the three backpackers I saw before. They were setting up camp. Moments after I noticed them one of them walked over to me and offered for me to use one of their mats (I had none). I immediately got a huge smile on my face and said yes. I walked over and they gave up a mat and squished themselves to make me comfortable. We locked all of our bags together for safety.
They were three young Turkish guys backpacking for a few months just like me. We ended up spending the whole night talking about philosophy, politics, and culture in our home countries. They showed me what the backpacking community was like and what it meant to be part of it. They did this by showing me kindness.