Debbie Byrne discovers the agony and the spasmatic ecstasy of hostel living…

Travelling around Australia for the past four months, I thought I was well accustomed to sharing 10 to 16-bed dorms with complete strangers from all walks of life.

I assumed all hostels were full of young foreigners, but was surprised to find some had middle-aged men and women and even, one time, a nun who would pray at random hours during the night. I thought there was nothing scarier then waking up to a fully robed figure performing an unusual ceremony in the middle of the dorms floor but that was until I arrived at a hostel in Canberra.

“Joe”, a free-styling fool from Canberra who lives in the hostel, is now put into our 10-bed dorm room. He is one of those nosey people that is in everyone’s business and insists on talking to anyone who he can corner.

He had been threatened with being thrown out of the hostel for being too friendly and for taking it upon himself to act as a tour guide.

Amongst Joe, myself, my friend Anita and sister Sinead, there are also a few more guys and girls in the room. This particular night we decide to get an early one and headed up at about 10pm. At roughly 1am, I am awoken to a lad screaming the place down. “Oh God, oh Jesus.” This went on for a while until I finally came around and heard him screaming, “please no, a calf spasm!” I burst out laughing.

I turned over then attempted to go back to sleep, when I hear this crazy snoring in the room. It was Joe, the loudest snoring I have ever heard in my life, so loud that Sinead had to go down and buy ear-plugs. If the snoring wasn’t bad enough, when it would finally stop for a while he would then start talking out into the room, having a full blown gibberish conversation with himself. It was so surreal that the lad in the bed beside him felt it necessary to ask him if he was awake.

I don’t think I have mentioned yet that Joe looks like the guy out of the film Full Metal Jacket and is a very unpredictable character to be sharing a room with.

Anyway, next of all I see Joe getting up and falling onto the ground. I am now really scared that this lunatic is up and walking around the room tripping over stuff. He then stumbles out of the room and arrives back a while later, standing at the end of my bed for what felt like five minutes of intense anticipation for what may happen next .

He then starts to make his way back to his bed across the other side of the room and falls over a chair in the process. When he gets there he turns around and starts walking back. All I can see now, trembling with one eye open, is Joe advancing towards my bed.

He then starts to climb up onto my bed, to which I scream out: “what the hell are you doing?”

“Sorry, wrong bed,” he replies and now proceeds to get into Anita’s bed below mine, I hear her say in a nervous tone, “it’s not this one either!”

Then the lad who is staying in the bed beside him screams angrily, “it’s this one over here”. So, it is now about five in the morning and I’m due up at six for work, but I am too scared to go back to sleep after the hours of madness I have had to endure.

So, if that wasn’t enough, after a moment’s peace in the quietness of the night, the lad on one the bottom bunks throws himself out of the bed and onto the floor. He is in agony and screaming after his third consecutive calf spasm for the night.

Well that was enough for me – I was up and out of the room. This was enough to put me off hostels for a while.