I have never been a part of a clique. In grade school I became friends with my teachers but was never a teacher’s pet. I thought practical jokes were clever but was never the jokester of the class. In high school, no matter if I joined a sports team or musical theatre I never quite fit in one place or another. I was a self-diagnosed social floater. My teenage-self desperately felt the need to belong to a group of people to know who I really was.
Throughout these younger years I developed my wanderlust. When I became old enough to go somewhere on my own I was bombarded with instructions to never travel alone. The stories I heard frightened me and made me feel inadequate. Finally, canceled plan after canceled plan from my friends made me realize if I sat around waiting for someone to go with me for all of life’s happenings I may never get to spread my wings and fly. Then, one snowy afternoon I sat down with my computer and broke a sweat; I had purchased one ticket halfway across the world… just for me!
Solo travel was the plunge I needed to start putting my social floating into good use. I began conquering my fears and directed my energy into making friendly connections once I arrived at a hostel. I arrived alone, made friends from all over the world, and learned more about international lifestyles and cultures than anyone fearfully sitting in a classroom back home. I was discouraged to talk to strangers and told to avoid conversations with the people that I knew nothing about. The interactions I chose to take part in while staying in a hostel are ones that do not translate well into typical society. Today, I am okay with breaking those norms.
Making my lodging at youth hostels takes me away from my “normal” and shows me that socially floating actually means being able to get along with a broad spectrum of people. These people have lavishly shown me that it is okay to be myself and to make some of my own rules. Individuality no longer weighs me down but fills me up! I feel comfortable handling situations on my own and dive into my curiosities of others’ cultures. My ability to socially float has given me the freedom I need to finally fly in with the rest of them!
The reason why hostels have been so liberating for me is that there is no better place to find a spectrum of people. Nothing brings people under one affordable roof like the budget of a twenty-something traveler! It is because of the differences that discovering a new culture so special and interesting. Exposing myself to the flow of inter nationality within travel hostels throughout the world has grown my independence and sets my personality free to run. Spending any amount of time in a building where no one is familiar with one another is a social floaters dream! Every new conversation begins with the question, “Where are you from?” and can easily lead to a conversation that goes into the wee hours of the morning.
Delving into one’s interests, hobbies, dreams, and fears is commonplace in hostel-conversation but doesn’t always show up in other settings. When I was driving through the magical country of New Zealand, I decided to pick up a pair of hitchhikers on my way to the city of Wellington. During the short trip, I made small talk with the hitchhikers and found out that they were from France. The couple had been working on local Kiwi farms while traveling New Zealand. Our words had not gotten much further than that by the time we arrived in the city. I dropped them off with an “au revoir” and no exchange of information.
After spending a week in Wellington at a friend’s house, I hopped on a ferry that sailed to the South Island. I explored the wine country with family for a couple days and finally got my travel legs back when I set off for a more rural part of the country alone. After arriving to a quaint Kiwi town, I checked into a hostel and began cooking a scrumptious, typical meal of Five-Minute Noodles. I struck up conversation with a boy at the dinner table and found out that he was writing postcards back to his family in France. Just as I began talking about the French hitchhikers that I had recently met, his travel partner walked into the kitchen and I recognized they were one in the same! I ended up running into these two whilst on the South Island not once but four times. Needless to say, today we are great friends.
This friendship would have never been born without breaking the guidance given to me by my small town American society. It was necessary for me to travel alone, book a stay in a hostel, and strike up conversation with a stranger. Sometimes the fear others have placed in our ears can get the best of us. We end up missing out on incredible experiences. By breaking through these cultural fears and taking our own paths, we not only bring joy to our own lives but into other’s lives as well. Slowly the world becomes a better, bolder, freer place to float.
About The Author: Hailey Hennessy is an American travel blogger with a passion for stepping out of her comfort zone. She is 23 years old and loves indulging in different cultures… especially the cuisine! Along with foodie, Hailey is also a nature-lover, proud feminist, and amateur yogi!
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