Sleepless in Vancouver – and Beyond

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This post about backpacking through Vancouver was originally published in 2007. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

Travelling on public transportation with massive backpacks can be fun. No really.

Laden with 50lb packs and a positive attitude, we boarded the bus-to-the-ferry-to-the-bus-to-the-bus to the Vancouver hostel. It was a 7 hour adventure in total, which we thought would be a good exercise in preparing us for navigating public transportation during future travels.

All went off without much of a hitch, except that our directions from the ferry to downtown Vancouver were out of date, and we had to rediscover our route on the fly. Again – a good lesson learned I’m sure.

Cramming two people on buses with backpacks equalling the size of said people in the middle of rush hour through downtown Vancouver is no easy task, mind you. However aside from being berated by a sour woman for having backpacks on the bus, we survived the ordeal.

Our arrival at the Vancouver hostel was somewhat unnerving. We walked past porn shop after peep show, seedy bar after gritty head shop, to arrive at our destination. It was an old dilapidated building, with questionable amenities, but by this time we were accustomed to not setting any expectations of hostels.

This particular hostel is known in Lonely Planet (the bible guidebook for travellers around the world) as the best place to stay in Vancouver for cheap. I’m not sure what their criteria were, as it wasn’t even what we could call cheap – it was the most expensive place we’d stayed at yet.

But maybe it’s the ambience that makes it the best place to stay, we thought. The message board in the common area featured all sorts of pub crawls, walking brewery tours, and events for the party-going hosteller. And in the brochure the hostel was quick to note that it has a bar on the bottom floor…..this was mentioned many times and seemed to be a real point of pride.

Well, it wasn’t so much a bar as a nightclub. We know this because while we lay in our bed which was bouncing and vibrating to the thumping music until after 2am, we were able to work out topographically that we were located directly above the dance floor. Add to the mix an assortment of people who did their laundry all through the night (the laundry room being two doors down), and a young Australian girl who saw fit to call her parents in the hallway at 3am, and we had one sleepless night.

I will give our nameless hostel credit though: when we told our tale of woe to the manager, he was quick to fully refund our money without asking any questions. It’s our guess that he had dealt with this before…many times.

feeling sleepy in Vancouver after a rough night at the hostel

Our next day in Vancouver was a sleepy one at that. We had a few hours to wander around the harbour and Stanley Park, dozing from sight to the next. By 5:30pm, we had to be on the train, for our 24 hour journey back home.

Unlike the cozy and luxurious berth accommodations we had on the train from Toronto to Vancouver, we decided to rough it (again in training for gritty South American travel) and spend the night in our seats. We had brought some soups and other easily prepared food to tide us through our marathon ride, as well as lots of things to read and computer games to play.

Sleeping on the train was, as you can guess, restless at best. The screaming (and I mean screaming) 6 year old boy who didn’t want to go to sleep didn’t help matters much either.

Our positive attitudes waning by the end of our journey, we arrived in Edmonton two sleepless nights after leaving Victoria, and a little worse for wear. Now my immune system is angry with me and sticking me with a yucky cold/flu which reminds me that I’m not invincible.

See also: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling: Natural Preventions and Cures

Ah well – that’s just part of the adventure of travelling! Lots of lessons learned and stories to tell. “It seemed like a good idea at the time” often starts the best of adventures. If you see that phrase in future tales, you’ll know you’re in for a good one!

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