The Convergence of Luxury and Spirit: Z Hostel PhilippinesThursday, March 19, 2015
“These days I have been still, and so the simple things like staying at a hostel and talking to other travelers like you is enough to make me feel like I’m on the road again. And the road is my home.”
This is what I told two kind-hearted travelers over a dish of Patatas Bravas and quesadillas. They both nod, my new Argentine friends, wearing those big smiles of theirs I’ve come to love, and from the light in their eyes I know that they understand. And that is a rare thing, to meet someone who genuinely understands. Over lunch we stuffed ourselves not just with delicious Latin food, but with fascinating stories of each other’s travels, that we all finish feeling wonderfully full.
After lunch at Señor Pollo, we headed back to Z Hostel Philippines which is just a short walk away where we were sharing an 8-bed mixed dorm with two other travelers. We sat on the floor of our spacious room, and the stories just kept on coming. Hilarious misadventures on a Thai island. Remarkable road trips in Australia. My beautiful sun-drenched days in Langkawi. Every now and then while talking, we’d explored every possible nook and cranny of that room we shared, like little kids who won’t keep still.
We’d climb up the bunk beds only to come down again, and sprawl so happily on the clean white sheets. Dario would open all the cabinets in the pantry, and we’d joke if he perhaps found any food in there. I would ogle at the spacious lockers thinking how smart it was to have a small shelf and sockets inside so you could charge your gadgets in peace, and Steph would tinker with the individual headlamps on each bed. We’d pull the blinds up from our windows, revealing the pretty city view. And from my bed, I’d look down to adore the quaint garden rooftop of the Italian-themed house next door. And all the while, all of us giggling silly thinking how the little luxuries of our room—from the cool air-conditioning to the bidet in the bathroom—could make a weary traveler feel so gratified.
We laugh because, as travelers, we have become so used to cramped hostel beds and hard mattresses that Z Hostel’s wide and comfy beds were enough to make us feel like royalty.
That night, we were invited up to the roofdeck by the friendly owners of Z for an intimate barbeque party. This is my favorite place in all of the entire hostel. We had wine, beer, barbeque, nachos, isaw, and balut that we made our new traveling friends try. Which they did. So enthusiastically.
At the height of the night, I was feeling woozy. I found myself looking over the deck and the lights from the towering buildings of Rockwell were reflecting on the glass in my hands, glimmering like stars floating on my scarlet wine. This is my life, I think to myself. I have found my life. Because it seems that even now that I am technically home, the road keeps begging to keep me. And for just that night, I heed. I let myself drown in wine, and wonder, and overflowing lust for life.
Ever since that night, I have been finding myself back again and again at Z. And each time I am standing there on the roofdeck surrounded by its warm people, I would always say “There’s something about this place,” and whoever standing there next to me would always agree.
Perhaps it’s the friendly staff. The reception crew and the security who deliberately brought taho up to my room because they knew I had been waiting for the vendor to pass by. Or maybe it’s the owners—the team behind Z who are such grounded, funny people who’ve welcomed me again and again.
Or perhaps it’s the convergence of people. The visitors and the hosts. The musicians who would come to sing, and the artists who would come to paint. The buskers and their magic card tricks. The friendly locals and the wide-eyed travelers. The strangers waiting to make friends only if you would say hello.
That’s the thing I love about being in hostels. Being at Z. Always, the convergence of people are enough to make me feel like I’m on the road once more. I’m looking at this city I’ve known and loved all my life, but I feel like it is only now that I am really seeing. I saw Makati through the eyes of my new friends. I walk the streets of Z’s neighborhood and it’s like I’m running my hands across its intersections, its veins, and for the first time feeling its pulse.
On Sunday nights you’d think the city is sleeping, bracing themselves for the Monday, but not here. On their famous Sunday Slowdowns, Z Hostel is brighter than ever, and the people are, too.
Will, one of the owners, told me that when Z started, they would only have a few guests at their barbecue parties. And they were only mostly attended by people they knew. “Tonight,” he tells me, “I don’t know any of these people.” He is grinning, and the thrill in his eyes says everything. The place was packed that night.
They say that you know you are in the presence of a free spirit because you feel good, very good, whenever you are around or near them.
Z Hostel may not be a person, but it definitely has spirit, and one that is irrevocably light and free.
Nicole is a wayfaring soul, writing tutor & freelance writer currently based in the Philippines. She also shares her words and photography on The Stillness in Moving.
Author's Note: Thank you to Z Hostel Philippines for accommodating Nicole. You can also join them on the Z Hostel Facebook page. As always, all opinion are the author's.
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