Homeless With a Place to Lay Your Head: Cooking in Hostels

I’m changing things up a little bit with this blog because I had a little bit of a reminder the other night about my situation. And this is a situation that so many people have here in Australia and I’m sure around the world, it’s just not common at all in the United States. It’s the weird place of being technically homeless and living out of hostels. It’s cooking and eating your meals in a communal kitchen with typically few amenities. It’s not having a toilet even on the same floor as your room. It’s showering with flip flops on. It’s sharing a room with up to 15 or even more people. It’s getting used to stuffing ear plugs in your ears and hoping it’s not your snoring that’s keeping everyone up at night. It’s a completely different life which has become totally normalized to me and I hadn’t yet realized that until I cooked dinner the other night. Let’s talk about it shall we?

So, this came to me after meeting lovely Amera from Reno, Nevada; a fabulous fellow American who was traveling for just about two weeks. I met her with my travel buddy who has, like me, been traveling for a handful of months now, Becca.

We all decided to do dinner together and wandered off to the store together. There was free rice provided by the hostel so we decided on salmon and veggies and rice, simple aye? We got back to the hostel and Becca and I immediately got to it.

Our hostel had a steamer for our broccoli and we started in on seasoning the salmon and cooking up the rice, all while casually sipping from a mug full of wine, seeing as how the hostel was dangerously short on actual cups.

Amera was amazed by our antics. This was the most complicated hostel dinner she had witnessed or been a part of, and yet, to Becca and I, this was just another day in the life.

Living out of hostels is not something you become a pro at immediately (in fact I’m far from being a pro), and there’s two main forms. First off, there are a lot of people who are long term, paying rent for the dorm rooms while working in town. Some hostels will provide “free” accommodation for work, typically cleaning, and then those utilizing that will have a second “real” job which actually makes them money. Anyway, that’s a little different than actively traveling through the hostels, packing up every few days, getting comfortable and then heading back out, meeting people just to have to say “goodbye”, figuring out where the heck the freaking food labels are in the kitchen. It’s all gravy baby and it becomes normal pretty quickly actually.

If I think back, when I first landed in Sydney, I was doing very simple meals – pre made salad mixes,

granola and yogurt (pro tip, use the yogurt container as a bowl: less dishes),

spaghetti and sauce, toast and peanut butter, fruit, or eating out. Let me tell you, eating out gets expensive very quickly, obviously.

And eating spaghetti for dinner every day gets very…carb-y, and doesn’t make maintaining a healthy weight the easiest thing to do.

So, you adapt. I began slowly easing into making satays, veggie pastas, stuffed mushrooms, pan seared fish, participating in BBQ’s with friends from the hostels.

Soon enough, I had my go-to meals which I have basically perfected and can fix up for myself within half an hour. I didn’t have a second thought about it until Amera seemed so amazed by the ‘gourmet’ meal we were casually whipping up in the hostel kitchen. You adapt to the constancy of people cooking around you, maybe you start to learn to eat at weird times so as to avoid the rushes. Maybe you bake things in the toaster oven since you don’t have a real oven.

Maybe you take advantage of the simple joy of having a freezer for once and buy yourself a tub of ice cream to ward off the heat. Maybe you make portobello mushroom mini pizzas in a sauté pan instead of the baked, stuffed portobellos you were originally planning because you, yet again, forgot to check the hostel for the ever elusive oven.

One thing is for sure though when you’re in a hostel, if there’s something free, typically free food, you participate. And if you can go back for seconds, you absolutely 100% do. A lot of hostels will provide a free brekky, typically just toast and cereal, but sometimes you get lucky and get pancakes, and I’ve even stayed somewhere that provided eggs and bacon and beans. Pretty insane. But you don’t spend money on brekky if your hostel has free food, that’s a quick adaptation. Some hostels will have a free dinner night or a $5 dinner night ,or something else along those lines, you participate. Your hostel has free rice or pasta? Your hostel has free coffee and tea? Provided salt and pepper? Provided cooking oil? There’s one thing you actively start doing while living out of hostels, and that is accepting and participating in free things. Free food, free drink, free alcohol, you don’t even stop to think twice, it’s an automatic response at that point. Even if you just bought cooking oil, you save that shit for the next hostel you stay at that doesn’t provide free cooking oil. Simple as that.

It has simply become the way I feed myself now. You get to a point where you have to start feeding yourself properly. You get to this point where you’re tired of spending so much on food. You get to the point where it’s perfectly normal to be carrying around your bag of food along with your other two backpacks. The point where you’re doing the math on how long your “need to be refrigerated” perishable foods have been out of the cold and sitting instead at your feet on the Greyhound bus. The point where you learn how well you can start whipping up the most random ingredients into an actual meal so you don’t have to go to the store again, or because you’re leaving in two days and you need to get rid of some stuff or else you’re gonna have to carry it. I’ve become a pro at looking casually around the kitchen for the food labels for my bags. I’ve perfected the art of finding room in the fridge for my bag. And I’ve learned to casually carry my pocket knife with me when cooking dinner because hostel knives suck. Nothing beats making a meal with a few friends from the hostel, but either way, hostel cooking is definitely an experience that becomes surprisingly normal, surprisingly quickly.

Though it never hurts to have a handful of instant noodles in your food bag, just for those broke as, lazy days.

Wine and Lite Vibes

Now when I left for the Bahamas, my mother told me not to get drunk. Whelp, sorry mom, don’t read this one, it’ll upset you. To my credit though, I did not do this by myself, I was in a group of lovely individuals who were also staying at the hostel with me. Perfectly safe. Also it was a complete and total accident…that makes it better right? That being said, these are two must do things in my opinion if you’re a younger traveler in Nassau and you’re looking for fun things to do. We’ll go in order of what we did first…and that is the 90 minutes of bottomless wine provided by the Graycliff Heritage Village Artists Studios(?maybe?). I’m honestly a little confused as to what this place actually is if I’m being honest. It has a small menu of assorted snacks, and if you google it, it comes up with way too many different things to sift through. Greycliff itself is a very well known name in Nassau. Graycliff mansion was originally built in 1740 by a famous pirate of the Caribbean by the name of Captain John Howard Graysmith. This mansion has gone through 300 years of bouncing from hand to hand; from pirates, to small armies, to royalty, and it is now a hotel, restaurant, chocolatier, cigar maker, wine cellar, and probably more, those are just the things I personally know about it. It’s located on West Hill Street and, either way, whether you’re staying there or not, you should definitely check this place out, it basically takes up the entire street, and there’s definitely something for everyone.

We, being the people we are, were attracted immediately to the bright colors of a little snack/wine place,

and then we of course loved the idea of the 90 minute bottomless wine for $13.00. Okay, this place was flipping adorable, everything was so brightly colored, they had cute little tables out front along the street, and they had swings! Who doesn’t love swings!? So we wandered into the wine tasting ‘room,’ and there were these two beautiful ladies in there. The girl working told us though, that they closed at 5, and it was already 4, so we only had 60 minutes instead of 90. Chinwe and I, being the Americans I guess, looked at each other and immediately accepted the challenge. Jay, the girl working asked us what we wanted to drink, and offered tastes; Chinwe and I just said to pour us something red, there was no time for tasting, we had 90 minutes of wine to do in 60 minutes, gotta get a move on. Once all of us got our wine we went straight to the swings to take pictures…because why not right?

After taking our photos and boomerangs (because you can’t be on a brightly colored swing with wine without taking a boomerang of it),

we moved on, into a very brightly colored room full of closed doors. So usually, turns out, these doors are typically open and full of local artists with beautiful paintings, souvenirs, glass makings (is that a word?), and such. Unfortunately for us though, everything is closed on Sunday pretty much, so we were out of luck, but we did have a great time hanging out and chatting, getting to know each other, talking about our signs and such, you know…as you do.

Great stuff.

We even were able to see a tiny portion of the art that’s created there…bottle trees!

They have history dating back to the 1600’s in Africa, where people would hang bottles on the branches of trees in order to ward off evil spirits. This was typically done in burial sights; the belief is that evil spirits would enter the bottles during the nights and burn off with the morning sun. They had a bunch of art inspired by these stories in the building, it was very cool to see and learn about something that’s not actually just a Pinterest inspired fad (not that I’m hating on Pinterest, by any means).

Chinwe and I kept everyone on track chugging wine, and actually, we ended up staying way later than we realized. We eventually ended up back in the tasting room talking to the girls in there,

taking tasty shots provided by Jay, and cheers-ing to Chinwe and Shauna (Jay’s friend) because they were both celebrating birthdays.

This was an amazing time, and I can’t recommend doing this enough! Bring a friend, or don’t and meet a friend while you’re there; spend some time looking around at the artists stuff, drink some tasty wine, take photos, swing on the colorful swings, it’s impossible not to enjoy you’re time here. We did, eventually have to move along though, and what better place to go, than to the block party just down the street!

Side note, we did actually stop by the block party earlier, keep this name in mind, and remember it, and if you’re in Nassau on a Sunday…GO TO IT: Lite Vibes.

Anyway, our first stop here was mainly for food and bottomless mimosas…you can get me anywhere if you tell me there’s bottomless mimosas. We walked in and were immediately confused…through only our own fault and anxiousness maybe. There was a DJ playing awesome music, stuff that you can dance to, but also just chill and bob your head to. Stuff that’s uptempo, but doesn’t make you want to smash your head against a wall. Stuff that’s happy and fun, but doesn’t get boring or old.

You get the gist? (Side note: all photos with the “Lite Vibes” watermark are from the Lite Vibes gallery and I do not own them; just borrowing). Anyway, we walked in and looked around; we saw the bar…we saw the DJ…we saw a crazy big sign that looked like fake grass

…and we saw people with food. But where to get the food!? It’s like my entire trip to the Bahamas was just me watching other people do the thing I wanted to do, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the thing…let me do the thing! We did some light recon and noticed that everyone with food was walking in from the front entrance…so we turned slightly to our right, and saw food trucks on the other side of the fence behind the DJ. Score.

We proceeded to stand awkwardly at the food trucks/booths trying to decide what to get; Joelle loves corn, so she got some delicious sounding grilled corn with truffle butter. YUM…

look how happy she is.

Chinwe and I both ended up with some shrimp tacos,

very tasty, and the boys shared something which I’ve already forgotten the name of if I’m to be entirely honest. They seemed happy about it though, so that’s a win. And we got to look at some cool street art while waiting,

along with witnessing what I can only assume was a cruiser gang roll up and then immediately back out.

After we all inhaled our food we wandered back to the other part of the party to get some mimosas…the time had come finally. We patiently stood in line at the bar, and upon asking for the bottomless mimosas…heartbreak: they were out. Noooooo! Okay well I’ll just get a rum and sprite instead, when in pirate territory…drink rum. We all got insanely strong drinks and moved along to take some of our first pictures of the day/night with the grass wall,

and that’s when we decided to move along to the wine place.

Fast forward, and we’re back, ready to have a bloody amazing time; and that’s exactly what we got. We showed up and took a hundred selfies right outside, there’s proof of that not only in my phone,

but also from the photographer for the party…really great stuff,

look at that pure joy. We got a few adult slushees and proceeded to DANCE.

I bounced around like a crazy person, (literally, even the Lite Vibes insta agrees see…)

Joelle had some swag,

Chinwe was our calm dancer,

Sith got DOWN with me,

and even though we didn’t realize he wasn’t quite as intoxicated (sorry again mom) as the rest of us, even Mohamed put up with us and threw some moves in.

We took videos,

we took pictures,

we danced,

we drank,

this is easily one of the most fun nights I could have possibly had while staying in Nassau.

They even had giant Jenga,

which we dedicated ourselves to quite passionately.

What else is there that I could possibly say about this block party? It was an amazing time, there were good tunes, good food, good drinks, fun games, lovely weather. Above all of that though, this is where some of my hostel acquaintances turned into lifelong friends, Lite Vibes may be a simple block party on the surface, but it’s much more, this was a place to enjoy; to let down your defenses and have fun and be happy, which is exactly what we did. Don’t pass up this opportunity should it arise for you, this is an amazing thing they’ve got going on with awesome (Lite) vibes. Go. Seriously.