The Hosteling Itch - Biting Bedbugs  

I always thought the saying "don't let the bedbugs bite" was just that - a saying. It was the first thing to come to mind to whoever was trying to find a rhyme for "goodnight, sleep tight," a reference, perhaps, to some antiquated expression passed on throughout the centuries, much like the cute little nursery rhymes that parents teach their children about the bubonic plague and queens who had an affinity for beheading people. Now I know that they are still around, and are alive, well, and thriving in the bottom bunk of room number two in Charleston, South Carolina's Notso Hostel.

The victim: my friend Sarah; it was her first stay in a youth hostel. Despite the fact that she emerged from her visit covered in large red welts where she had been bitten, she said she'd love to stay in a hostel again sometime (only after taking the precaution of spraying herself down with bug repellent before getting into bed).

She has the makings of a real hosteler - someone who is willing to try new things, meet new people, and risk sharing a bed with thousands of invisible bugs for the sake of having an adventure. The Ritz Carlton and The Plaza they ain't, but for those who aspire to be travelers rather than tourists , hostels provide an opportunity to build character, make friends from all over the world, and they usually throw in a free breakfast to boot.

Growing up with a comfortable, clean bed, a sparkling bathroom, and bug-free sheets, I never would have pictured myself as the hosteling type. I knew about them, but I thought they were tenements for poor hippie-type college dropouts with long, greasy hair and secondhand Birkenstocks.

I imagined that they really were supposed to be called "hostiles," but that the spelling discrepancy was a result of a drug-induced stupor on the part of whoever was painting the sign at the time, and it just stuck. Every time I heard the word, visions of drive by shootings and vagrant drug dealers ran through my mind. I could never stay in one of those places.

I've never been overly prissy, but I am one of those people who take an inflatable air mattress and a box fan with me when I go camping, if I can get away with it. I love rooms with views and mints on pillows. I pack six different outfits and at least four pairs of shoes whenever I go away for the weekend.

My suitcase is like a clown car, for God's sake, with ludicrous amounts of unnecessary hair products and toiletries spilling out as soon as the zipper is undone. Yet, despite my somewhat girly inclinations, I've found myself sharing rooms in hostel dormitories with random strangers from all over the world, from Charleston, South Carolina, to Edinburgh, Scotland, and several places in between.

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