There was nothing special about that morning in Vietnam. Everyone else in the hostel was seemingly excited to tour Hanoi’s famed spots. Meanwhile, I was watching the presidential debates show on CNN. I had my usual breakfast of eggs and bacon, with tomatoes and lettuce.
It was Day 23 in the capital. The longest period I have stayed in a hostel is 4 days. Two weeks is a bit strange. I had no choice, being on a tight budget. I didn’t come to Vietnam for a holiday, but to find work.
Each day, I’d encounter an unfamiliar face and a strange accent. Backpackers were on the go. I got to know their name one minute and see them vanish the next. I can’t blame them. You just can’t leave Vietnam without spending a day cruising Ha Long Bay.
Every overstaying traveler knows the drill. You see what the place has to offer – the food, the sights, the culture, the people, and the uniqueness around you. You make new friends, meet them for barbecue and beer, and discover y’all are like-minded people. When it’s time for them to leave, you still haven’t figured out what to do next. The hostel then becomes your refuge.
On week two, I familiarized my way around, four to five blocks from the hostel. I love exploring the unfamiliar streets of Hanoi on foot. I have befriended some staff of my favorite coffee shop, the nearest pharmacy, and the same ol’ life-saving 711.
There are other things you would notice when you overstay in a hostel:
1. People mistake you for a hostel worker
I’ve been asked many times if I worked at the hostel. Working for one, though, is not a bad idea, especially for travelers who are on the go. If you don’t want a long-term commitment with employers (e.g. school), hostel work is a good option.
2. The hostel treats you as family
When the hostel owner learned that I was on a job hunt, she gave me a shortlist of potential employers around Hanoi. On some days, she would even ask how the interview went.
3. You act like you’re home
Old (household) habits die hard, they say. I guess I took the hostel’s welcome too seriously. Two weeks into my stay, I started turning off the ceiling fan before stepping out. The problem was, I forgot there were people still in a coma in the 16-bed dorm room.
4. You become a hermit
When you think you’ve seen everything the place has to offer, you become introverted. You stay in the hostel all day. Let’s just say I took “Netflix and Chill” to a whole other level at the time. I was lucky I found an online work that has kept me busy for the remaining weeks.
5. You gain more control over the remote
The TV at the lounge was normally tuned in to CNN. While everyone else was out on tour or stroll, I freely watched CNN’s shows or switch to HBO when Trump news starts to make me puke.
6. Eat/Wake/Sleep Routine is established
My home country, the Philippines, is only an hour ahead of Vietnam. While there’s not much difference in time zone, I have started to adapt to Vietnam times when waking up and going to bed. My hostel is perfect for those who need a good night’s sleep after an exhausting day tour. It would have been different if I stayed at the Old Quarter, where there’s a constant temptation to go out and join in the fun.
Of course, twenty-three days mean nothing to those who have lived at hostels longer to save on rent. If you’re one of them, tell me about it! I absolutely loved the experience and hostel living will always be an option for me.