The Wackos in my Bed

I’m here to talk about the hostel dorm weirdos. Have you met any yet? No, not the ones who stay in their bunk all day glued to their phones, or those who won’t stop talking when you stumble in after six flights and fifty-four hours without sleep. Not those who want to tag along to everything you do, or those who give you a blank look when you say “Hello.” I mean the real psychos. The probability theory suggests that if you backpack for long enough, some serious wackos are bound to end up in your dorm. I’ve shared my bunk with a couple of memorable ones, both in the most touristy of places. That makes sense. Why would a lunatic journey to Asuncion or Nairobi when they can do their loony stuff much closer to home?

Dorm Psycho A

I’ve just arrived in Split, Croatia’s stunning second-largest city and the ancient capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, packed with treasures I’m keen to have a look at. My hostel is small and homey: only two dorms and a single staff member who makes a fleeting appearance. I take one of the lower bunks; my upper neighbour arrives an hour later and spends some clumsy time making up his bed, but nothing beyond a regular novice backpacker. There are a couple of others in the dorm.

At three in the morning, the stale dormitory air is pierced by a bestial, once-heard-never-forgotten howl. The psycho I mistook for a travel notice rolls off the bunk above mine, landing with a thud.

The rest of us don’t breathe a word. The axe murderer stays planted in the middle of the room, fists clenched, legs shoulder-width apart. Sometime an eternity later, he climbs back up.

All goes as quiet as a reading hall of a public library. I lie pressing the palms of my hands into my ears, my heart beating faster than Olympic sprinter’s on the track. My palms are not as sound-proof as I had hoped. Minutes later, he hollers right through them.

I pack my bags in the dark and brave the short but menacing walk to the bus station, where a few people are waiting for their morning transportation in a room of plastic chairs. As soon as I sit, a middle-aged beard in the next chair tipples face-down on the concrete floor. Is it me? Or is it Split? Either way, I leave on the first bus. To this day, I haven’t built up the courage to revisit this gorgeous Capital of Weird.

Dorm Psycho B

Once I’ve had a few years to regain my confidence in hostels, I visit Europe’s sandpit – the Canary Islands – on a side trip from Africa. Gran Canaria is one of the largest and most populous of the islands, known for its black lava and white beaches, but I’m here for the feel-good ambience of its promenade-centred capital, Las Palmas.

As is often the case in resort-heavy places, my hostel is overflowing with quirky characters who don’t fit the all-inclusive vibe. Its rooftop terrace is so categorically cool that I don’t mind being stuck in a lower bunk – essentially a mattress on the floor – of a three-tier bed, one of two squashed into a tiny dorm.

The twilight-aged chap in the middle bunk above seems a little odd, always on his bed with curtains drawn, but it’s not until I go to sleep that I hear him making noise. The kind of sounds that my brain at first refuses to acknowledge, but finally accepts as unmistakable, unmasked, telltale noises of jacking off with gusto. When he’s done, I hear an undeniable bladder evacuation happening an arm’s distance from where I am – despite the toilets’ location directly outside the dorm. Later, through a gap between the curtains, I glimpse a row of bottles filled with piss lined up against the wall.

It’s too late for me to go anywhere else; I hang out on the terrace for the rest of the night and leave Las Palmas a little rattled.


Janie Borisov is an Australian-based travel writer. “I’ve spent the last two decades visiting every country in the world, travelling in irrational loops and zigzags and getting into all kinds of trouble. My stories let the reader sit on my shoulder as I travel and have appeared both in print and online. When not circling the globe, I’m working on my first book, Tripping All Over.”