The Ten Commandments of the Hostel Pub Crawl

Let’s face it, as much as we all pretend based on our blogs, photos and Instagram posts that travel is constantly an enlightening endeavor of culture, history, food and scenery, once in a while (or more often depending on who you are) most young travelers want to let loose a bit and seek out a place to party.

Hostels clearly know this, as I’ve yet to check into one across Europe that didn’t immediately advertise that the pub crawl would be meeting that evening in the common area. Secondary to the inevitable hangover that these merry adventures into the local drinking culture provide, I do believe that they are an excellent way to meet and make friends with fellow travelers, especially when traveling alone. Nothing says new friends like being passed crowd surf style along a row of people you just met in the middle of a square in Nice or dressing up in a ridiculous outfit en-route to the famed end of summer party in Lagos along the Algarve in Portugal. From the many nights I remember, and the even more that I do not, I hereby impart upon to you, the ten commandments of the Hostel Pub Crawl

  1. Thou shalt not Pub Crawl the night before travel.

I’ll go ahead right now and be honest with you. I’ve broken this rule at least a dozen times, and every time I regret it wholeheartedly. The resultant hangover from a mixture of sugary shots, sangria and whatever godforsaken mixture of liquor that end up being ingested throughout the course of a night is bad enough when you can lay in bed or on a beach all day. When you must suffer through airport security or several hours on a train, it is a fate worse than death. Trust me when I say, those trains seem like a smooth ride until you’re sitting clutching your backpacking on a crowded commuter train and last night’s absinthe certainly isn’t the only thing with a tinge of green.

2.  Thou shalt not pre-drink.

There will not be a shortage of alcohol. I promise you that. Free beers, welcome shots, and all you can drink for an hour special will take care of that. This isn’t the college bar in your university town, those who pre-drink will not live to see the end.

3. Thou shalt not stray from the path

It happens every time. “I’m going to get some food.” “I need to get some cash out, be right back.” The path to the last bar is not for the faint of heart and those who stray are lost forever, or at least until breakfast when they inevitably complain that “you assholes left me behind!”.

4. A shot for a shot

It is a sin to allow your new friend to do that free shot of Latvian Black Balzam alone. You must revel in the pain together as it burns your throat in such a way that can be felt for days after the hangover subsides.

5. Carb load

Humans love carbs. Potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles, and bread. Thankfully that means wherever you are, you can make sure your stomach is full of carby goodness to delay the alcohol intake. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to be told twice to eat an extra helping of pasta at dinner.

6. Thou shalt never walk alone

In all seriousness, don’t. The walk back to the hostel on your own might seem totally fine because you do it all the time in your home city, but in a new place after a lot of alcohol, it can be dangerous. You become an easy target for pick-pockets, thieves and possibly worse. Stick to the buddy system and don’t be a hero.

7. Thou shalt not be “too cool”

Pub crawls are meant to be a bit ridiculous, there is often games and other tacky activities meant to get people to get to know each other and have some fun. With that being said, there is nothing worse than the one person who is “too cool” to participate. We get it, pal, you’re an enlightened traveler who’s way too cool to get on board with a theme, can you please save your lectures for your wanderlust influencer blog? Because these pirate costumes are rocking and we’re going to make sure the rum is all gone before morning (for real, can we just collectively agree to make regular life pirate-themed too?).

8. Leave your passport somewhere safe.

Seriously, don’t fucking bring it. Like for real, you dumbass, leave it at the hostel. Locked in a cupboard is a much, much safer place for it than your back pocket in some dingy club in Prague. If you can, leave everything locked up. Phone, wallet, passport, camera, liver.

Leave. It. Behind.

Bring your hostel keys and some cash and you will be fine. Everything else is a liability and could not just ruin your night, but your whole trip.

9. Don’t be that person

Almost as bad as the buzzkill, is the person the next morning at breakfast who is insistent on reminding everyone of everything they did the night before. I hated that person in college, and I hate them just as much abroad. No, I don’t want to see the picture of the two people making out on the dance floor and yes, I’m perfectly aware I had to down an entire packet of mayonnaise during the pub challenge, please don’t make me re-live it.

10. Pace yourself

You know what’s more fun than doing those five tequila shots at 7:30 p.m? I can think of quite a few things, however, I can guarantee the list doesn’t include:

  1. Being back at the hostel puking by 8 p.m.
  2. Being in the bathroom of the first bar puking by 8 p.m.
  3. Waking up on a bench, in an alleyway, or on the gross couch of that same first bar the next morning.
  4. Pretty much anything that is the result of doing five tequila shots at 7:30 p.m.

I’ve never been on a pub crawl without plenty of drinks at each bar along the way. Calm down, turbo, you’ll get there.

I won’t lie, “The 10 Guidelines of the Hostel Pub Crawl” just didn’t have the same ring to it and, therefore, by no means must you listen to me. Do what you want and just enjoy yourself however you see fit. Pub crawls are not usually the most glamorous part of travel, nor are they ever the only reason I go traveling, but that’s not to say they can’t be enjoyed and new friends can’t be made. Nightlife is a part of any city’s culture, even if it’s not the most spectacular so why not check it out while you’re there. But, for the love of god, I said CARB LOAD!

An Open Letter to Friends Made Abroad

It’s been said that airports see more tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions than anywhere else in the world. All over the Internet, videos of airport proposals, soldiers returning from combat tours and pictures of flowers, handmade signs and embraces can be found, showing the happiness of greeting a friend or loved one from a time away. 

Leaving, however, is a different story. Saying goodbye is never an easy thing to do, and travellers know this to be true more than anyone. We’ve all been there, leaving for the airport, luggage in hand and a sorrowful goodbye imminent. Hugs from hometown friends after another all too short visit, with a quick “See you at Christmas” that seems all too far away. Saying goodbye to friends and family that have been a part of your life for years and decades is enough to make even the most stoic among us feel that all too familiar lump in the throat as you round through Airport security and out of sight. As emotional as these moments can be, they are understandable. Leaving behind those that are closest to you to jet set off on another adventure is expected to be emotional. 

As the world has become increasingly traveller-friendly, with solo backpackers filling the many hostels scattered throughout any given city during all times of the year, and with increasingly flexible airfare, trains and car share services, travel has not only become about exploring the world, but meeting people from all over along the way. Hostels have changed dramatically from the barren youth hostels of our parent’s generation. What used to be a bed and a locker to store your valuables has been transformed into a lifestyle akin to living in a university dorm. Spacious common areas, organized events and so-called family dinners have completely revolutionized the social interactions of young people abroad. 

It is not uncommon to walk into a hostel common area and see people who met just mere hours or days before chatting, laughing and story-telling as if they have been friends for a lifetime. A funny thing happens to people when they are exposed to this environment; they become humans again. In a world where it has become increasingly difficult to meet people without the use of social media apps and the like, backpacking through hostels has become a refreshingly pleasant way to make new friends. 

I wrote in a previous article about how the joy in travelling is often found in the impact meeting people from around the world has on one’s own life. Time and time again I have found myself looking back over my shoulder after a goodbye with a new friend in a hostel, an airport or a train station, feeling like I’ve left a little part of myself behind, even after a few short days together. In constrast, these goodbyes should not yield the emotional response that the family goodbyes do, yet each time they still impact me more than I expect. 

When you travel, these little pieces get scattered along the way, mixed together with the contributions of others to leave a trail of shared experiences and adventures. Some contributions may fade faster than others, and to some your memory may have just been a footnote part of a larger chapter. For some, you will be part of their book, woven in and out of stories spanning across from beginning to end. Without all of these pieces, the story being told would never be as vibrant, full or quite as worth the read.

These memories, no matter how long or short they may be, leave a permanent ink on the page. A goodbye to a new friend, often with plans to meet up at another time in another country still can be a tough pill to swallow. When I think back to the memories from my own story, the museums, walking tours and church visits have often already begun to fade from memory short of the brief notes made in my journal. The people, however, remain as clear as the day I met them. When someone is engrained in a memory that made you feel something, that is when they have become a part of you. 

Certain parts of the world will always have their sites to see, and travellers will be drawn to them. London has Big Ben, Paris has the Louvre, Sydney has the harbour bridge and my hometown has Niagara Falls. These sites and experiences will always make up the framework of the story. They are the crib notes, the outline that starts the process. The colour, the emotion and the feeling that makes the story worth reading and worth telling lies within the part of the book that can’t be taken from a travel guide. 

Those parts of the story are written while dancing the night away in the nightlife of Portugal with a dozen people you met just that morning. It is written in the hole-in-the-wall Czech restaurant where you had the best meal of your life with two new Aussie mates you made when you offered them a beer in the hostel and it is written on a hostel rooftop in Milan where you turned up with a bottle of wine and a deck of cards and left with a lifelong friend.

We as travellers share a common goal. To write the best story possible, that will be cherished, re-read and forever remembered. Even the worst pitfalls of missed flights, broken phones and lost passports will eventually fade into memory as the moments that took hold of our hearts remain engrained on the page. The goodbyes will always be bittersweet and reunions as they come will be eagerly anticipated. As my own story continues to be written, to my friends near and far, old and new, that have helped to fill my pages with memories that can never be replicated I say thank you. 

Wherever we end up in our adventures, there will always be a spot on the couch for that quick stop in town, a cold beer in the fridge ready to be cheers’d and a new story to be written along the way. Whether I was a footnote, a page or a chapter in your story, thank you for being a part of mine.