Your Guide to Sleeping with 12 Strangers

Written by: Warrick Howard

So you’ve decided to go travelling. You’re going to see things beyond the wildest dreams of most of those you’re leaving behind. You’re going to have the time of your life.

The Dorm Chorus

Travelling will, however, put you in much closer contact with complete strangers than you’re probably used to in your current life. This is particularly true in the dorm environment, where you’ll be spending most of your nights. This is a simple, handy guide to getting through dorm life without making any of the typical ‘newbie’ mistakes.

Timing is key

You’ve arrived in Australia. Your body clock is fucked. Proper fucked. You’ve slept until 5pm and now you’re ready to go and grab a few beers and see what backpacker nightlife is all about.

Fortunately, your fellow dorm mates know how you feel. They’ve been there, they remember the jet lag. The best way to bond with your new roomies is to let them all know just how amazing your first night out has been. So when you roll in at 4am, make sure you throw on the lights, wake them all up, maybe even jump into a bunk or two for a friendly wrestle. They’ll all have fond memories of their first night, and be keen to hear all about your exploits.

This is particularly true for those long term backpackers who have work at 6am; your fresh exuberance is just what they’ll need to refresh them after the tedium of working early starts for a month.

Scubar, Sydney


Most hostels in ‘Western’ countries will have kitchens. This is because eating out is bollock crunchingly expensive, so hostels provide cooking facilities to enable backpackers to bond and share the cost of food.

The first thing to remember is that if food in the communal fridge doesn’t have a name on it, then it’s free food. Always check inside carrier bags which do have a name on them, as often people leave food without their name inside these bags, as a kind of ‘treasure hunt’ for those backpackers who are knowledgeable about such things.

Names which are illegible or foreign are also open to all, and don’t forget that every kitchen has a maid who comes in during the night to wash up, so just leave all your cooking utensils on the side. If there is nothing clean when you need to cook, just head down to reception and ask them to send the cleaning maid up immediately; this is deemed to be poor form by most hostels, and they’ll be keen to rectify the issue as soon as possible. They may even compensate you with free beer for letting them know (you’ll find the free beer behind the bar in the fridges; it’s free when the bar maid pops out for a smoke).


After a while you’ll find it’s time to move on from your current location. Unfortunately, RTW flights have a tendency to depart at a ludicrous hour of the morning. As a result, you’ll have to pack your bags the previous evening, ready for your 4am start. Well, that’s what you’d think you have to do, but the truth is that it’s a far better idea to go out and get shit faced until 3am, and then come in and do your packing then. Feel free to wake others up to help you find your toothpaste if you’re struggling; they’ve all been there, and will be more than happy to help you. You’ll also need to ensure you have an abundant supply of carrier bags to rustle as you’re packing; this is a kind of backpacker ‘signal’ for “you guys have been awesome, I’ll miss you”. Don’t forget the lights, either; you can’t pack in the dark.

Packing in a dorm


Sooner or later, you’re going to experience some rampant fool having a fumble in your dorm room. This is perfectly acceptable, but there are a few things you need to be aware of. Firstly, if the couple wakes you up with their clumsy manoeuvres, it’s widely accepted that this is an invitation to join in. Feel free to jump down from your bunk with a friendly “Wahey!”, windmilling your cock or tits to signal your intention to join their merry game.

Occasionally you’ll be in the situation where the couple are not attractive enough for you to consider joining in, and here you’re faced with two options. The first is to grab a torch, illuminate the beasts, and narrate the events unfolding for the rest of the dorm. “The male rhino mounts the hippo with a monumental effort, and with surprising dexterity for one so large, manages to find his prize without the aid of a bag of flour.” The couple will appreciate your candour.

The alternative is to “call pig”. This is universally recognised backpacker code, used when your dorm buddy has come home inebriated to such a degree that they consider it reasonable to bed that girl who looks like Rod Stewart, or that chap who looks like Mick Hucknall with leprosy. “Calling pig” involves leaping from your bunk, throwing on your lights, and oinking like a pig at the top of your lungs while pointing at the unfortunate specimen. At this point, others in your dorm will aid you in removing the beast to the kitchen, where they can feast on unlabelled food until morning.

Musical instruments

I’m sure you’ve all got visions of sitting on a beach at night around a roaring camp fire, singing along to the chap with guitar who sounds like Ed Sheeran. It’s a possibility, but just because you only learnt the bugle at school doesn’t mean you should miss out.

One of my favourite memories from dorms is young German chap who’d bought his trumpet, and regaled us each morning with a dawn chorus to rouse us from our slumber.  A wonderful chap, and it was such a shame when he slipped in the dorm and ended up with the trumpet inserted unceremoniously up his anus. Still, don’t let that stop you from packing your tuba; backpackers are morning people and you’ll be the talk of the hostel.

Playing instruments in a dorm


Recent advancements in technology have meant that even the most financially deprived backpackers have a mobile phone, and likely some kind of laptop. In fact, it’s not unusual to find 10 backpackers sitting in the same common room, talking to each other on an internet forum as oppose to speaking in person. These situations are tricky if you happen to be travelling without such technological devices, but the solution is to “buddy up” with someone else. Simply sit down next to them (or on their lap if there is no spare chair) and start chatting to whoever they’re Skypeing. Their family and friends will be overjoyed to see how little Hugo is making friends, and you’ll have broken the ice with a new dorm buddy.

If you’re fortunate enough to have technology of your own, then be aware that headphones are incredibly antisocial. Far better to let your dorm buddies get involved with your Skype conversations; particularly if you’re having those calls at unsociable hours due to the time difference. Nothing brings a dorm together more than a group Skype session to your sister at 4am.

It’s also worth remembering that if you have any kind of personal gaming system, like a Gameboy, PSP, etc. then you should always play with the volume on full. After all, how will you ever find out if there’s a fellow Pokemon fan in your dorm if you don’t give them a chance to find out just how skilled you are at “catching them all”?

So there you have it, the simple commandments of dorm rooms. Follow these instructions and you’ll fit in like someone who’s been backpacking for years, and you won’t fall into the trap of making a ‘newbie’ mistake like packing at 8pm on the night before your flight or subtly ignoring the rutting wildebeest on the bunk below.

You’re welcome.

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