September 26, 2018
After spending a couple weeks in AirBnBs, I was bored and struggling to get work done, so I booked a dorm in a hostel for a couple days. I ended up extending my stay for another week. Not only did I meet many amazing people, but I was actually more productive. Hostels will now be my default residence of choice unless there’s a really good reason I need my own place.
When I first checked into my 4-bed hostel, a French guy living in London and a Venezuelan living in Berlin were chatting. I joined the conversation, and ended up getting food and taking a long walk with the French guy. He had just arrived from Russia and told me how amazing it was there - how wild the nightlife was, and how beautiful the women were (he’s gay).
One of the best things about this particular hostel is that it’s attached to a trendy restaurant/cafe. Every morning I’d come here for breakfast, bring my laptop, and get some work done. I found myself way more focused and productive here than at home, I guess because I’m in the presence of other people.
I can honestly say this man changed my life.
He was an entrepreneur in town for a couple days, working on a business idea that he was incredibly passionate about - not some “get rich quick scheme”, but something more meaningful that in his words “could save a life”. I gave him my honest feedback and encouragement, and then he asked me about what I was doing, following up with intelligent probing questions that really made me introspect about what I was doing.
For some reason I’ve struggled to tell people what I’m doing. I have a strong conviction in what I’m doing, but it felt weird telling people, and I didn’t know why. Talking to this man I realized that the reason I’d felt weird telling people was that for some reason I’d felt that if it didn’t involve “making money”, then people would think it’s stupid. This is not something I ever consciously thought about, which goes to show how far capitalism’s “profit motive” permeates our mind without us even realizing it.
Although we were in many ways different - he was extremely well read, introverted but extremely good with people, very proactive - we shared a strong dissatisfaction with the inhumanity of modern society and the system, of robot zombies shuffling to their cubicle prisons like zoo animals, consumerism, society’s obsession with money, the fact that in our modern society we allow homeless people to (involuntarily) sleep on the streets and nobody cares because “it’s their fault” and “somebody else’s problem”.
Talking to him, I felt reinvigorated with my purpose again - something that was strong while I was working but had slowly faded away while traveling and avoiding real responsibilities. I remembered how important this is, and that this is way more important than money.
He was incredibly encouraging and gave me a ton of great ideas - both for articles and videos. I am forever grateful, and hope that one day I can repay the favor.
On top of simply revitalizing my purpose, his unconventional perspective on a lot of things really opened up my mind. I can’t recall the last time I had a conversation as deep and enlightening in a hostel as the one I had with this man. The man was truly an intellectual.
I literally couldn’t sleep all night after being forced to switch into a hot mosquito-infested room, until at 7am or so somebody walked in with a spray and the mosquitos were all of a sudden gone. Luckily I was going to be switching into another room (I’d had to switch rooms every day because the hostel was almost fully booked).
This next room would be the most fun. I chatted with the Malaysian woman living in Singapore staying in the bunk across from me on the first stop of a 2 month trip, and in came a Chilean living in Hamburg and a Polish tour guide. We all grabbed dinner and drinks, and ended up hanging out together the next couple days - walking, sightseeing, taking photos, drinking, and playing games.
We were all crazy, and that’s why we clicked so well. The Polish guy spoke like a comedian, The Chilean was always happy and making jokes, and the Malaysian also had a sense of humor.
Most people I’ve met since graduating college and entering the “real world” tend to be pretty serious, but I’m naturally a very not serious person, so it’s refreshing to meet people who aren’t that I can joke around with.
He was always happy, positive, and cracking jokes. I think he’s the first Latin guy I’ve met since South America, and it really made me remember how different it is there.
He’d been living in Hamburg, Germany for the last year as a chef after working in the import/export business in Chile.
He told me how the women there are like “robots”, valuing work above all else, being very risk-averse, and emotionless.
One memorable story he told me was after he’d moved to Europe for a girl and they broke up after one month, he’d booked a hostel. In the hostel he met three other South American men who had quit their jobs and moved to Europe for a girl, only for the relationship to have ended. They realized they were fools for having done so, because these same women would not have done the same for them - quitting their jobs and moving to another continent for a man. The women would have never quit their jobs.
Meeting him reminded me how different the culture really is between America and Europe. Europeans are generally more serious, logical, and educated, whereas South Americans tend to be more relaxed, carefree, and living in the present moment. On the same day there was a street festival here with a DJ and nobody was really dancing, whereas the same DJ in Brazil would have a giant crowd of people dancing.
People from the U.S. are like a hybrid between South Americans and Europeans, but more superficial, materialistic, and politically sensitive (obviously these are generalizations, the U.S. is extremely diverse so it’s impossible to put everyone in a bucket).
When foreigners meet me they’re often surprised that I’m from the U.S., telling me that I don’t seem like an American - especially one from NYC.
Recently someone told me I’m like a Latin man. I think there’s some truth to this, but at the same time I’m definitely not completely there. I think I’m like a hybrid of Latin and European, with some American and Asian sprinkled in. Or something like that. But what do I know.
Unfortunately everyone has since checked out, and the weather is getting colder. I will be moving to the next hostel because this hostel is fully booked.
Written by Jeremy Bernier who left the NYC rat race to travel the world, work remotely, and find the meaning of life.