Travels with Laptop Charlie #4 – Laptops and Hostels
I’ve stayed in hundreds of hostels and I’ve worked in a couple and I even used to manage a few of them. In all of that, I’ve seen a few things and over the years, I’ve seen some big changes that those who don’t travel as frequently as I do may not have noticed. First of all, let’s talk about security in hostels. It’s laughable. I worked at a hostel where the cleaners were nightly taking the back panel off the security lockers and taking a little money from every one of them. This went on for months until finally, one night I caught them at it. Needless to say they were fired, but who knows how much money they had taken from travelers. What does that have to do with a laptop?
Let’s say you are going out for the day and you want to leave your bag with the desk or in the luggage room. Do you know who has access to that room? Do you know that the person behind the desk is honest? Do you know that when you come back your stuff hasn’t been gone through? Nope.
In fact, a hostel I stayed at in Scotland had five laptops stolen during the time I was there. They were all stolen from the left luggage room. Someone went in, rifled the bags, took the laptops, and left. The girl at the desk was busy doing the laundry and never saw anyone go in or out. Laptop Charlie was on my back checking out a highland heather walk. The extra weight in the bag is good for me anyway.
I’ve noticed something sad about laptops and hostels though. It used to be that common rooms where strangers became friends, where new comrades drank together, and where people from different countries shared traditions and culture. Not so much anymore. The last few years I’ve seen hostel common rooms turn into areas where everyone is alone in reality and virtually talking with friends on Skype, catching up on Facebook, sending emails, or just surfing the net on their laptop.
A few nights ago I sat right next to an Argentine man on one side and a Chilean guy on the other. None of us said a word to each other until I pulled out a bottle of wine and offered them both to share it with me. I had to offer twice. After that we had a wonderful time talking about cultures, politics, Hugo Chavez, math, art, and of course women. We became friends, just the way it used to happen and after a little bit, they both closed their computers. Yes, in this case, I was that annoying guy who interrupted their computer time. One was on Facebook and the other was reading the news, I peeked before interrupting them. I don’t like to interrupt writing or blogging.
Something that does drive me crazy is hostels and hotels that charge you to use their wifi. If I go to the trouble to bring Laptop Charlie with me, isn’t it just common decency for them to let me use my computer for free?
- Vago Damitio travels and writes about it while pretending to do something his wife finds more respectable. More of his adventures and travel tips can be found at http://www.vagobond.com