Attachment: Working in a Hostel

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

graffiti in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

"Just don't get attached, okay?" he says and the frustration hits me instantly.

Attached? ATTACHED? He's concerned about ME getting attached to HIM?

I'll give him some credit: he may just be the most attractive man I have ever met.  A Justin Trudeau look-a-like but with a stronger jaw, if you can believe.  He had the perfect personality to match the face with a soft voice, strong arms, and a kind demeanor.  I could get attached to him if given the chance, but of course, I wouldn't give myself that chance.  If anything, he started to show signs of getting attached to me. Bringing me chocolate bars from the shop, paying for lunch, letting me keep his t-shirt.  I don't think he realized that this wasn't my first rodeo.

I take a slow breath so he can't see how angry his assumption makes me, as if it's inevitable that I'd develop a crush on him.  "I work in a hostel and have traveled to 20 countries alone.  I know how to not get attached." 

Working in a hostel is great.  I get to connect with so many people since being social with guests is an unspoken part of the job description.  I meet people I would be close friends with if we lived in the same town and guys I'd like to date if the circumstances were right.  But you never live in the same town as the person you can talk with for hours and the circumstances are never right. If I got attached to every nice and decently looking man that walked through those hostel doors, I'd be in deep trouble.

Working in a hostel (the same one I volunteered in for five weeks last summer...I really need to tell y'all that story) has taught me a lot about attachment and letting go. But it hasn't taught me what I was trying to insinuate to the assuming Canadian above.

I was trying to act nonchalant.  As if people walk out the front door, onwards to their next destination and I never give them a second thought.  I wanted him to think I was cold-hearted, the type of person that doesn't get hurt or miss people or care about much of anything. I wanted him to think I was a "cool girl", the type who doesn't fall hard and fast and often.

But that's not me at all.  I get attached all the time, to everyone and anything.  And even though I was trying to get him to believe a false version of me, he was also completely missing the point. Getting attached is the whole point of travel. 

Travel is pointless if you don't get attached, if you don't fall in love.  I get attached to cities, towns, hostels, people, bookstores.  Attached to the view of a city at sunset.  Attached to hostel cats and dogs.  I get attached to mountains, keep returning to them somehow, even though walking uphill is a bitch.

I understood what the attractive Canadian meant and why he felt the need to say it. He was a bit older and gorgeous and I'm sure he's used to girls falling in love with him all the time, but he needn't worry about me. 

The only part of him I'm attached to is the memory of the week he stayed at the hostel, of how he was only meant to stay two nights but kept extending because he also fell in love with the same mountains. 

I 100% recommend attaching yourself to everyone and everything.  Your life will be so much fuller because of it.

Eating Alone

Friday, August 3, 2018

I've finally gotten the hang of eating alone.

Last summer, and all of last year really, I was too scared to eat alone. Sure, I'd get a falafel on the street and go enjoy it in a park by myself, but no matter how badly I wanted to I could not get my feet to take me inside a restaurant and sit down. By myself. Alone.

I'm over that now, mostly. Or I'm much better at getting over myself, at least.

This is my process. I read my book until I'm given a menu and then continue to read until my food comes. Once my food arrives, I listen to an audiobook or a podcast (I cannot read while eating. For some reason I incapable of reading while either one of my hands is actively doing something else). I only put one earbud in so I'm aware of my surroundings and so I don't shut the rest of the restaurant out.  After all, even when dining alone eating out is still a collective experience. I am content with my books and podcasts and food. I am happy.

But then, in typical 22-year-old fashion, I'll think "Wow I wish I had someone to share this with. I wish I had a boyfriend to travel with."

Those feelings are quick and fleeting when I realize that someday when I'm older, I'll wish I could go back to these exact moments.

Someday I will be older and (probably? most likely?) married and we'll get into a fight over something dumb and I'll be so angry and I'd give anything to go back to being 22, to being truly alone. To enjoy a meal without talking to anyone, to not having any responsibilities. I'd give anything to walk home alone at my own pace and have no one waiting for me except my own bed. 

Now, whenever I walk home alone at night and wishing I had a companion, I'm also walking with the acute feeling that 44-year-old me is sooooo jealous of 22-year-old me right now. And I shouldn't waste either of our time by longing for something that I don't currently have instead of enjoying what I do have. Which is an unmeasurable amount of freedom.

All of this freedom feels too big for me right now. I can't comprehend it. Probably won't be able to comprehend it until I have a career, a mortgage, a kid, a husband, until my time is split between a thousand responsibilities. I won't be able to fully appreciate these moments until I have enough hindsight to do all the work for me.

Hmmmm. I could keep thinking about this, but I think I'll just go have another beer.
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