Hostel Sex Galore
I know, I know—it wasn't exactly a good idea. We travel for loftier reasons: we want to help communities, we want to develop cultural sensitivity, we want to get to know the world and other people. I did get to know one, that's for sure, but more intimately than what I had expected. She was a blond girl from Latvia (let's call her Natalia), with sparkling blue eyes, and a knowledge in world history that can beat that of a university professor.
Come to think of it—sexual activity (solo, with a fellow traveler or with a local) is a part of the backpacking culture. More than half of the 700,000 Britons who go to Australia have sex, a recent report says. Over a third of this number (39.7 per cent) would do the deed with more than one partner and the odds would increase up to 47 per cent for those who arrive in Down Under single.
There are many factors that drive travelers for a sexual tryst. The most evident among them is the potent cocktail of hormones. Backpackers are usually fresh out of college—wanting to see the greater world out there. They don't leave behind their supply of testosterone or estrogen at the airport. What they leave behind are their inhibitions, fears and timidity. They become bold, act on impulse and look forward to adventures: some of which turn out to be sexual in nature.
Given the fact that young people would have sex whether they are traveling or not, what is unique to backpacking culture is proximity. A hostel room can accommodate to as many as 100 backpackers. Common areas are small and traveling people are generally friendlier, feeling at ease greeting each other or striking a conversation. It is in the patio where I first got to talk to Natalia. After a tiring day checking out a string of temples, I was enjoying my ice-cold beer when I noticed her. Busily sketching something in her journal, she was muttering something as she wrote. And then we talked.
Natalia and I talked about the reasons why we travel, the reasons why we left home behind. We decided to go to an ashram hidden in secluded forest the following day—a trip which would make us closer and further break down the walls between us. It was surprising to know that we wanted to visit the same places and intended to do a bit of volunteering work before going back home. Our similarities no doubt made us feel relax in each other’s presence. Science has long certified that “birds of the same feathers flock together.” In the Morry’s attraction-similarity model, it is said that perceived similarity between two individuals create that initial spark.
I won't exactly call it love but the connection was deeply felt. It could also be loneliness, since we were miles away from home and needed company. Dr. Robin Philip, Director, Centre for Health and Employment and the Environment based in UK calls this sense of loss and isolation as "aculturalisation." People do seek out each other in a foreign territory, more so in a hostile environment. They want to retain a feeling of normalcy and crave for something familiar and this includes sex.
Now, I’ll spare you the boring details. What I can tell you is that we tried every imaginable place in the hostel to be intimate but there were just too many distractions. Finally, we resolved the question by crashing into the honeymooner's room as soon as the long-staying couple from Ireland vacated it. It was painted pink and the bed had ruffles on the edges. It had its own private bath, small but manageable. For a moment, we looked like a couple in love and not just two strangers wanting to have a quick fix. My desire for Natalia was stirred by the way she looked but also by the non-tangibles: the way she moved across a room and the way she talked about things that continued to fascinate her.
I'm sure that Natalia also had her reasons why she shared that intimate act with me: Leonardo di Caprio I wasn't. It could be about the reasons I already specified. Away from the world she knew, perhaps she felt compelled to exercise the freedom that comes only with traveling. Co-author of the book "Why Women Have Sex," Cindy Merton told CNN: "Many of the women were having sex purely because they wanted the experience, they wanted the adventure, they wanted to see what it was like to be with men of different ethnicities."
Parameters are implied in this kind of relationship: it's just about sex. But other couples do fall in love. Some realize that they are meant to be with someone of a different nationality—they are always curious about a different culture, language, or a set of lovemaking skills. Others become best friends to each other and become travel companions, discovering more things about each other apart from their bodies. A few do get married and settle down to create a family.
Whether travelers fall in love or not after a hostel tryst, whatever happens between them is their responsibility. As long as there is no force and threat involved, as long as their minds are free from alcohol and drugs when they make the choice, then they are just two consenting adults catering to a primal need. Traveling has just brought them closer together.