Sacramento Hostel

Unsure of myself getting here, not sure if I was confident enough, a “true traveler.” Would I fit in at a hostel alone?

Well, awkward interactions with the front desk. All on my part, of course. Was a perfectly lovely possibly transgender man, who was super welcoming and nice. I come back down inquiring about the bug powder and then having to come back down a third time to buy a lock, which he gave to me a dollar cheaper because the sign was wrong in the showers.

Left with a self conscious and awkward comment. “I’ll get out of your way, now.”

Stop.

Get over myself. I am as valid here as anyone else.

Hesitatingly made my way back upstairs. Locked my stuff away in a locker, and then headed to the shower.

Jumped into a shower, and a girl yells over the shower stalls, “That one just doesn’t heat up. I’ll be out of this one in a second.”

And I’m like, actually this one is heating up. You just have to turn it the opposite way than it says to.

A few minutes later, “Do you mind if I sing? I’ve got a show tonight.”

I was thinking she’s singing at an open mic night, but then after she continues talking, I realize that she is a street performer. She’s yelling over to me, “I have gained a new appreciation for peeing. OH MY GOD.”

What is life sometimes.

She continues talking to me throughout my shower, through the stalls. And before I’m even out of the shower, before we’ve even met face to face she’s asked me to hang out tonight.

This is hostel life. This is what I remember.

This is also being alone life. Jesus. People.

Anyway. I get out and get dressed, and she’s telling me her story. Well, the past nine months of her story, at least. She’s from about 25 and fromToronto, Canada, and has been hitchhiking, traveling singing and playing her violin the streets across the country for the past nine months.

I ask her how she feels hitchhiking as a woman, and she gives me a laundry list of useful advice. For example, she always carries protein powder in her bag, and drinks all the water she can. “You can pee anywhere. You can’t always find water, or food.”

A few rules for women: never take your shoes off in a car if the driver asks you to. She’s heard from friends that some creeps like to get your shoes off so you can’t run as fast.

And also, never take your jacket off. No matter how hot you are, or how high they turn up the heater. If they’re asking you to take your jacket off, or anything off, you need to jump out of the car and reclaim your power.

Like, literally goes on for 30 to 45 minutes straight, standing in a towel in the shower room. She was super intriguing, I never really got a word in because she had a lot to say. And I’d never talked to a legitimate lifestyle hitchhiker before. She was very experienced in it– she had traveled down from Canada, all the way to the East coast, down south and then back to California. She had never had a bad experience, but she also knew that she was lucky. A lot of her friends had experienced bad situations.

I told her I felt lame, I was here to relax and read books all night. And she told me that’s the best things to do in a hostel.

How’d she end up in Sacramento? Fell in love with a traveling salesman and followed him here.

He was a traveling salesman, so he’s gone now. But she’s still here. Fell in love with Sacramento after him.

She had a travel partner for part of her trips, but he got hooked on heroin. Then got off heroin and onto meth. She was visibly disturbed talking about this, how she had to physically feed him and take care of him because he’d lost care about anything and everything.

I didn’t ask her name until I was walking out the door. “What’s your name?” “Mat. Yours?” “Annie.”

Walked out of that, into my room.

And I met Jada.

Jada is a 35-40 year old woman who is absolutely naturally beautiful. She works in the fashion industry in L.A., but considers her real job as an activist.

“You and me, Annie. We just need to get away from the rest of them. We are up here, they are back there. We got to surround yourself with positive people! It’s the people in San Francisco you want, not the people from L.A. I don’t know why in the world I’m living there.”

Jada and I are doing the exact same thing. She has a cousin in Sacramento, and I have a team and a campsite about five minutes away. We’re both hiding. Staying in this hostel purely for a get away.

Jada was the same as Mat, talked to me for about 45 minutes straight, I barely got a word in. She had a lot to say, as well. She was super fed up with everything and everyone in Los Angelos. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia she had a great southern accent and style. She gave me these eyes, would be talking about some government conspiracy theory, and Jada would look at me, raising one eyebrow, and we’d both go, “Uh-uh-uh….” shaking our heads at each other across the room.

I told Jada were I’d been living this year, and when I said Mendocino county, her eyebrows went up again. “I’ve been thinking of getting into that industry… it’s going to get big…”. She’s all about it. Wanted to hear all about living there. She is so animated and hilarious. Jumping around the room with excitement.

Jada stayed in this hostel a few weeks ago. It’s her getaway spot for real. She travels all the way across California just to stay in this beautiful hostel.

She’s scared to leave the hostel though, in case she runs into her cousin and has to do some awkward explanations. But she’s reading in the room all night. What I was going to do, but now that I’ve made connections I want to escape again so I can be sure I don’t have any conversations the rest of the night.

But a few weeks ago, they had the windows open, we’re on the second story, and apparently something got in and bit one of the women on the leg! So Jada is making sure the windows are closed.

But it’s so nice with the fresh air coming in! And it’s raining tonight! It never rains here. What is tonight? Love it.

Before I left, Jada asked me, “Where you going? You have a hat?” I thought she wanted to come with me, but then she just slaps me on the shoulder and says, I just wanted to make sure you’re undercover from your team! You have a lovely night alone, I hope you don’t run into anyone.”

“You have a lovely night in as well, Jada.”

“I’ve eaten A LOT of bugs. Caterpillars are the WORST.”

Girl talking at the table across from me, has two guys rolling on the floor laughing.

Ate at the Thai restaurant alone, so easy now after traveling for a year. No one will know me, and you know what, if they do, there are worse things in life than eating alone.

Actually, going out to eat alone is one of the best things in life. I love it.

I’m a writer. At a Thai restaurant with a Thai beer with a little elephant picture on it, and a yellow veggie curry being placed in front of me. Wearing my standard gray sweater with jayhawk sweatpants.

Smiles, smiles, smiles. I want to go to Thailand. All the gold decoration, the beautiful curry and the smiling people. I want to live in Thailand for a year or so.

Live as many different lives and possible. And write and process them as I meet as many different people as possible.

There’s got to be a way to make a living doing that.

And I’m going to figure it out.

“Show me my silver lining” -First Aid Kit

x

I just got back from an exhilarating night with a local group in Sacramento called PeaceAction. And then afterward, the audience swarmed me because I was the only one under 65 that showed up. They were intrigued that I gave a shit, and were getting my contact information and all.

It feels like the next step I needed to take in my life– really jumping in. You know when you walk into something in that zombie state, completely numb and gnawing on old pizza and reading a paper because you’re faking nonchalance, because it’s the only way you can get up the guts to do it? And then it’s just what you’ve been looking for to come alive?

I realized that I really need to start surrounding myself with more passionate social justice advocates giving a shit and doing something. And I was reminded of how special young people are who care– if we jump in, the world gives us the platform most of the time. Realized that I was changing, and I could take this new passion anywhere. And that it’s important to keep giving a shit, you just have to put yourself in situations to meet others who are giving a shit, too. Learn all you can, meet all the people you can, and then just be ready for the critical moment when it’s time to make change happen.

For a lot of my life I’ve been stretching myself to learn about other’s passions, which I still think is a valuable thing to do, especially for a writer– to learn to get inside other’s heads. But tonight I realized with force that I didn’t have to be a watered down version of myself and my passions, didn’t have to focus on what made others alive–  that there were people just as and more forceful than me. And they were still making it in life. They were doing what I wanted to do.

I wanted to write about this so that I could hold myself more accountable for being involved– as if telling someone is making it so. I want to make sure this excitement sticks, so I’m sending it out into the world. I’m telling you, and you don’t have to do anything with this information. Thanks for listening.

But I realized that I need to stop being scared of being around people who give a shit, and people who put themselves out there. Because that’s who I am, once I’m facing my fears and being the person I want to be as well. And the more you do, the easier it gets. So here’s to doing!

“I’ve eaten A LOT of bugs. Caterpillars are the WORST.”

Girl talking at the table across from me, has two guys rolling on the floor laughing.

Ate at the Thai restaurant alone, so easy now after traveling for a year. No one will know me, and you know what, if they do, there are worse things in life than eating alone.

Actually, going out to eat alone is one of the best things in life. I love it.

I’m a writer. At a Thai restaurant with a Thai beer with a little elephant picture on it, and a yellow veggie curry being placed in front of me. Wearing my standard gray sweater with jayhawk sweatpants.

Smiles, smiles, smiles. I want to go to Thailand. All the gold decoration, the beautiful curry and the smiling people. I want to live in Thailand for a year or so.

Live as many different lives and possible. And write and process them as I meet as many different people as possible.

There’s got to be a way to make a living doing that.

And I’m going to figure it out.

x

Went to the Thai restaurant again after the meeting. The ladies came up to me, “You’re back!” “I saw you walking around a few hours ago”

Then I talked way too fast and gave too much information for non native English speakers– for anyone, really. And I wrote them a note when I left telling them how much I appreciated them, since I don’t think they caught anything that I said.

And I realized I was getting used to people noticing me. My whole life, all I’ve wanted to do was blend in.

But that’s changing.

Just loaned my Dr. Bronner’s soap for shampoo for Nebraska boy.

He’s leaning over the banister looking for someone. I say hello, and he’s like, “There you are.” Been looking around for me to borrow shampoo from. But surprise, I’ve become a little bit more hippie over the year, and no longer use shampoo. I just use all purpose alkaline soap. Not really sure how it’s made, that’s on my list of things to do. I nixed my old hippie soap– African black soap– after realizing that it’s made from charcoal.

“If you want to try it.”

“Yeah. I’ll try it.”

“You watch my belongings?” (I ask a perfect stranger. And realize the ridiculousness of that request.)

Go and grab it, and now I’m waiting, charging my mp3 player, and going through my emails. Getting ready to go for a jog when he gets back with my lovely, expensive eucalyptus scented soap.

He said he only had bar soap. I said I’ve done it before, it just makes your hair stick up straight.

So my contribution for the day– making sure a med student has appropriately flat hair for his interview today.

At the hostel this weekend, this lovely woman in my dorm room, nicest woman in the world, had the loudest snore. And it went on all night, did not stop. All the other girls had to put in headphones, and didn’t really sleep well at all. I didn’t think I was going to fall asleep, but then I immediately did. Just as I fell asleep to the lodge bumping and shaking with the reggae festival attached to the back porch, I can do it with growling snores now, too.

That’s progress. You can sleep anywhere, you can live anywhere.

Well, my weekend alone at the Sacramento hostel turned out to be nothing of the sort.

But that’s okay. It was all exactly what was supposed to happen.

I was supposed to remember that when you’re alone, you’re the least alone you’ve ever been in your life somehow.

It’s funny how that paradox works.

But really, you meet genuine people alone. And especially if you place yourself in the right places to meet like minded travelers and world lovers.

Stay in hostels.

I can’t stress this enough.

This weekend has awakened me.

It’s got in me in touch with my American brothers and sisters. The Canadians up top that I forget about.

And those Europeans that are just so much fucking fun.

GOD I love the Europeans.

I don’t know exactly what it is that I love about them— I think the carefree travel mentality is up there. They are like, you want to come to Hawaii with me? Let’s go now. They feel so much more internationally flexible and adept than my American siblings.

And then the inevitable comparing cultures conversations— my favorite. Launched me straight back to Leicester year. Could have been in Europe for all I knew. It is the people that I love, not the physical place in particular. Maastricht had been to Leicester, talked about the city. Talked about his city as well. Talked about the Rhine in Germany where he now lives- in between Vancouver Canada and Minnesota USA.

World citizen. 25.

x

Have to go back in the next year or so.

It’s time.

Met a girl this morning from Bavaria.

She just graduated from undergrad, and is now taking a five week roadtrip around the U.S.

I ask her, by yourself?

Yes, of course.

That’s fucking awesome.

Netherlands guy leans over. Who happens to be from Maastricht– the city I visited with Loic, right over the border from Liege. He says, “traveling alone is the best way to travel. You meet so many more people. You stay in hostels and let the networking take care of itself.”

Yes, Maastricht. I agree. When you’re traveling alone, most of the time you’re the least alone you’ve ever been in your life.

So it was me, Jada, Maastricht, Bavaria and Las Vegas at the breakfast table this morning.

And then lovely man with a turban, beard and a self proclaimed “cowardly lion” sneeze and a pixie haircut Asian Canadian woman who was silent and mysterious offer me a ride to the airport with them.

I wish I was flying out of here.

Can you imagine I just wrote those words?

I feel like in America, we made going abroad seem like such a big deal. Traveling for extended periods of time seem like a big deal.

And then you have a conversation with some Europeans who are taking a flight somewhere every weekend for the same price as bus fare in a city, and you’re like, what. We can do this, too? Americans can get out? Everyone else seems to be doing it, at least.

GOTTA GO.

Itching to leave the country. Canada is going to have to do it for me for the time being this summer. But next job I get, I’m saving up. And I’m planning an HI hosteling backpacking journey across Europe alone.

YES?

Yes.

I got up the leave, and Jada was like, you gone for good? And I replied, “I’m out.” Maastricht repeated me in my accent, and I smiled, waved and walked out the door.

I survived the night. It was a weird night, I haven’t been on my own in so long. It was cold and raining and lonely, some of the most miserable weather I’ve experienced in California so far.

I spent five dollars on a show at a coffee shop I didn’t wait to see, and walked home in the rain, to fall asleep at 9 at night because the guy at the front desk was killing my vibes with his facebook chatter and hard rock music.

I knew it was just the night. I never like getting to new places at night. I like settling in during the day. And I was exhausted. It had been an exceptionally long week. I knew when I woke up in the morning, the world would open up before me. And I would be on my own. And loving it again.

Woke up this morning to to coffee and bagels and Jada checking to make sure I was staying another night before I peaced out of the room. And then met this medical student from Nebraska at the breakfast table in the morning. Talked about life, learned about his desire to go into the surgical profession. And his mission trip to Peru. And thought, if this med student from Nebraska can fly to Peru for a few weeks and work, and then fly out to Sacramento by himself for an interview, I can do fucking anything also.

Stopped talking to him awkwardly after I was unable to squeeze any more wanderlust out of him, and resumed intensely reading my paper and hoping we didn’t get into another hour long discussion like I had with the women the night before.

I need to be alone, yo.

So here I am now, out on the back porch of the hostel. There is a fountain bubbling next to me, a patio table with an umbrella and lots of space. I walked back inside a few minutes ago to refill my tea, and was greeted by a much more comfortable receptionist, eagerly saying good morning to me and blasting the “500 Days of Summer” soundtrack.

And I feel a lot better.

And now the sky is starting to clear up. And the sun is coming out, the chairs drying off from the night’s rain.

Going to do laundry today, do some budgeting, do some letter writing. tackle my emails– which is always a big deal (100+ emails to sort through. And counting. I just let them pile up. I have all these subscriptions to cool media sites which I receive but never read, and then that covers up all of the emails that I actually need to read and respond to.)

Brought lentils and garlic cloves with me. You would think I was fending off vampires if you looked through my backpack.

Decided if I go back to school, I want to get a masters in social work and journalism both, with an international focus. Because I feel that, even though I would like to get a job in the social work field, I would also like to get training on how to write real freelance pieces for alternative publications.

“The conquistadors called (quinoa) the “subversive grain,” as it made the Peruvian Indians healthy, and thus harder to enslave. Pressured by the Spanish, the Vatican outlawed its cultivation and consumption.” – South American travel book

Talked to an IndianAmerican woman just now, she’s like, what the hell are you doing outside? Aren’t you cold?”

It’s pretty chilly out here. But no one else is out here. And I’ve got a sweater and a scarf. Could be out here all day.

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