Tale from the trail (4): things are not always as they seem

While hiking the Wales Coast Path I learned the hard way that ‘things are not always as they seem‘. Sometimes it was a pleasant surprise, other times… well, not so much. This time I was in for a combination of both.

After a bit of an eventful journey to get to Wales, I was happy to start hiking. I had been nervous about camping alone and for my very first night on the trail I planned on sleeping in a hostel. I was still close to the city and in an urban environment.

It was a long day of hiking and as I walked up to the hostel I got more and more excited. I was looking forward to taking off my shoes and having a nice shower. As I came closer to the house I started noticing some things were off. The fact that there was no sign saying ‘youth hostel’ should have been a first clue.

When I reached the house it did, however, have a real hostel vibe and there were a few people sitting outside. I started chatting with them and asked if they knew if there still was a bed available for me that night. They looked a bit confused and told me they would have to ask the manager, but unfortunately he wouldn’t be back for another half hour. Since I had no were else to go, I decided to wait.

I had a cup of tea and a nice conversation with the other guests and played a bit with the children until the manager arrived. He looked a bit shocked I was there. I honestly was confused by now, but the people were so inviting and friendly I couldn’t imagine I did anything wrong.

The manager took me aside and explained that this place used to be a youth hostel, but it is not anymore. Now I was full-on confused. As he realized I had no idea what he was suggesting, he explained: this is a vacation home for very poor and homeless people, mostly with children. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to spend the night.

I didn’t really know what to say, I had a lovely chat and a nice cup of tea with these people. It was weird realizing that for some of them the nights they spend here might be the only ones where they have a proper bed and don’t have to worry if they’ll have dinner. I thanked them for the tea and the nice company and set off again.

One of the guests walked me to the bus stop. After a short ride I found a nice small campsite. The next day I hitched a ride back to the trail and started hiking again.

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