I'm old, and probably a bit grumpy. So that might explain why I've come to believe that hostel dorm rooms aren't always the most pleasant places to stay.
Sure, they save you a bundle of money and can be a great way to meet fellow travellers. But sleeping in a dorm also means being thrown into a small space with a bunch of strangers from different cultures who might have very different ideas about what counts as acceptable behaviour in this shared area. It can be a bit of a nightmare, especially if you're old. And grumpy.
So in the interests of allowing old, grumpy people a night of uninterrupted sleep in a cheap abode, here are the dorm-room niceties that really should be observed by everyone.
No plastic bags.
Is there a more annoying sound in the world than plastic bags being rustled while you're trying to go to sleep? It's like fingernails on a blackboard. Dorm dwellers: please don't rifle through plastic bags in the middle of the night. If you really have to do it, make it in the daylight hours.
It's 3am – turn the light off.
So you stumble home, drunk, at 3am, open the dorm door, and what do you know? It's dark. So you flip the light on. And everyone else is instantly awake. Best thing to do is carry a little torch, or even use the light of your phone to find your way to the mattress before passing out. Everybody wins.
Pants ON please.
You know the guy. The one who's really "comfortable" with his body. Perhaps a little too comfortable. He'll be wandering around in his boxers or his tighty whiteys, chatting, packing his bag, typing on his computer. Do us all a favour: keep your pants on until you're about to go to bed.
Make the sex quietly. With a towel curtain.
It's too much to ask – and possibly hypocritical – that no one engage in dorm sex. If the mood does take you, however, try to keep the noise down. And maybe hang a towel from the bunk above. We all know what you're up to, but it's better we don't have to see it as well.
Ha, as if. You only realise the shockingly large number of people who snore when you start sharing dorm rooms. Can you at least keep it down a bit?
Hang your wet stuff outside.
I recently bunked in northern Scotland with a guy who came in from a day's cycling in the rain and hung all of his sopping wet gear around the dorm, and left it there for the night. I didn't get sick, somehow, but the place still smelled like a sodden dog for days afterwards. Find somewhere else to hang it.
It's 3am – IM your friends somewhere else.
You might think you're being quiet, but the tap-tap of computer keys sounds like gun shots when you're lying in bed at three in the morning. If you have to message people, do it from the common room.
Leaving early? Pack tonight.
How many times have you been woken up by someone sorting through their entire backpack at six in the morning? Or better yet, chatting to their mate in stage whispers: "Oi dude, have you seen that yellow shirt I had on yesterday?" If you'd packed the night before you'd probably have found the yellow shirt, and I'd have got to sleep in this morning.
Don't touch my stuff.
Despite all of the whinging above, I'm pretty sure I do annoying things in dorm rooms as well. Maybe I put my stuff in an awkward place. Maybe it's strewn around a bit too much. But if that's the case, just ask me to move it – don't touch it yourself. And while we're on the subject of touching, remember: stealing from fellow backpackers is the lowest thing a traveller can do.
Bring earplugs. And an eye mask.
Everything I've mentioned is, in my eyes at least, excellent advice. However, the chances of everyone you ever share a dorm room with following that advice are about zero. So wherever you go around the world, pack your earplugs, bring along an eye-mask, and life will be so much better.
What are you rules of dorm etiquette? Post a comment below.
Australian Festival of Travel Writing
Melbourne dwellers! If you've always wanted to abuse me in person rather than just anonymously over the internet, I'll be appearing at the Australian Festival of Travel Writing on Sunday, March 24th. Acclaimed author Brian Thacker and I will be talking about using humour in travel writing – it promises to be a very funny hour or so, mostly thanks to Brian. Details here.