My first hosteling experience occurred when I had to vacate my Barcelona homestay at the end of my language course, and I didn’t have a place to live. I packed up my suitcases and made the trek to a youth hostel in the city center, probably in tears (shocking, I know) and feeling like I was about ten minutes away from homelessness (fortunately I had more money than reason and was actually about ten months away from homelessness). I hauled my bags up the stairs to my dorm room, opened the door and found myself face-to-penis with a naked German guy, lounging around as if he was on the beach in Girona. This guy partook in a number of activities including reading, stretching and packing his bags, all while revealing his true self.
Nobody else joined us in the room. We had little to say to one another. He spoke minimal English. I spoke minimal Naked Stranger. As this was my first hostel experience, I began to wonder just what people might mean when they talk about “hosteling”. This was before the days of UrbanDictionary.com, so there wasn’t a safe place to look up the term to see if I’d misunderstood. There was a brief period of time in which I wondered if I should also take off my clothes… was that part of backpacking? Was I somehow being rude by remaining clothed? Despite my self-doubts I chose to remain clothed for the duration of my stay.
Since then I’ve spent several months in hostels all over the world, and rarely encountered the level of free-spiritedness I saw during those days in Barcelona. I would say that your average hostel is somewhat less prudish than a Catholic school, but significantly more covered than a YMCA change room. Even in an all-girls dorm people tend to be pretty modest- they might change in a bathroom stall or with their back to the others. Few people walk from the bathrooms to the dorms in a towel. Personally, I like to model body acceptance and I will be “that person” changing in the dorm room or walking quickly to my destination in a towel, however I always put on something before engaging in activities like yoga, jumping jacks or the communal breakfast. When it comes to being naked in a hostel, do what you want to do… just be prepared for me to blog about it later!
* Repressed Memory: Wow, I forgot! Writing this post reminded me that when I visited the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona there was also a naked man outside the church, posing for photos with anyone who didn’t think the church’s eight large towers fulfilled their phallic vacation photo needs!