When you’re a young, solo backpacker, staying in hostels definitely makes the most sense; obviously the price is right, but the opportunity to cross paths with like-minded travelers is key. And it’s easy to connect with people when you’re all young, beautiful, and as free as birds while you travel. Friendships are formed quickly, and romantic dalliances are as hot, bright, and fleeting as falling stars.
However, there was something extra special about the hostel in Lisbon. Or maybe it wasn’t the hostel at all, maybe the stars had aligned that week in November, 2008, bringing together the perfect group of people at the perfect time and place. All I know is it wasn’t just me feeling the magic. The Australian trio ended up staying there for over two weeks! There was a big group of us who spent most nights and many of the days together: exploring the sites of Lisbon, sitting out in the backyard swapping stories and talking about life, checking out local markets, bombarding the tiny little neighbourhood bars – there were so many of us we’d spill out into the street and sit on the curb with our plastic cups of beer – we even went to a concert one night! It’s not unusual to meet people in hostels who become friends, but it’s not very common to have an entire group of travelers stick around long enough to have the kind of experiences together that we did. It was so much fun.
I still spent a fair bit of time alone, but more often than not if our hostel group wasn’t hanging out, then I was with the Aussie boys. They were 23, really easy-going, a lot of fun, very cute, and they didn’t seem to mind having me tag along. They showed me some places they liked, and other days I would just follow them to the park where they’d kick a soccer ball around, while I sat and sort of read a book (but mostly laughed at their antics).
As the days progressed, I found myself more and more drawn to one particular Australian guy. Not only was he easy to be around and very attractive, he was also incredibly sweet, and a genuinely interesting person. I was liking him. A lot. However, there were a few reasons why I was in no way going to pursue this attraction:
1. The first night at the hostel, when I joined the massage train, I’d ended up rubbing the shoulders of one of the other Aussie boys. Nothing happened between he and I after that, but he seemed to take it upon himself to be the one to include me in their little group. While there was no real connection there, other than friendliness, I didn’t want to come across as flaky or flirty, which meant I was absolutely not going to put the moves on his friend.
2. Travel flings can be fun, but they can also be unsatisfying, and that was not what I was interested in.
3. The object of my desire gave no indication that my feelings might be reciprocated.
So I continued to enjoy their company, splitting my attention equally between the three of them, and enjoying all the fun times with our hostel group. I had to go back to Barcelona eventually, but I had no desire to leave Lisbon and travel anywhere else until then.
My last night there, our crazy group was all out on the town, together as usual, having the best time. There was dancing and drinks, we were all sweaty, we all had smiles that refused to fade, hugs were being swapped and photos snapped. At one point as I glanced across the room my eyes met the eyes of the gorgeous Aussie guy, and I was stunned to realize that he was looking at me the exact same way I was looking at him. Through the crush of people we managed to find each other’s side, and our fingers twined together. There was an intensity sizzling between us that couldn’t be ignored. How we’d managed to go a week without acknowledging it was mind-boggling! By mutual agreement, and still hand-in-hand, we slipped away from the group and the party, letting the quiet of the night enfold us. Our last night in Lisbon. Our first night together.