Hostels: Open-Mindedness

12 November 2020

The sense of growth, learning and newfound open-mindedness that may be felt when meeting fellow travellers in hostels may be misplaced.

If you’re travelling north up the east coast of Australia, here in the town of 1770 is one of the last beaches that has consistent swell for surfing.

Last night at the hostel we were playing a game to solve riddles. 2 teams of 6 took a long time to find the solution to this riddle:

Cindy is amongst a crowd of people. But nobody heard her cries as she is murdered. How did she die?

The rules are pretty simple. Each team may only ask yes or no questions, one at a time. 2 critical factors to solve these riddles quickly: lateral thinking and starting with broad questions. Because there are limitless solutions (Cindy and all people on Earth could have been killed by an alien’s laser beam from a neighbouring galaxy), you have to be prepared to ask anything then drill down from there. Some good starting questions are:

Bad questions come from immediately coming up with a hypothesis and testing it. Using the laser beam example:

You would expect open-minded travellers to excel at this task. The culture espouses the importance of amassing huge amounts of different life experience. This in turn should help thinking laterally. But only 1 team found out how Cindy died and it took over 20 minutes. One reason it took so long epitomises an echo-chamber of backpacking culture; one which hinders gathering life experience rather than help it. A significant portion of backpackers you meet in hostels are not open-minded at all.

First, for those unfamiliar: what is a a bush doof? It’s an electronic music party where people set up some speakers in the middle of the Autralian bush. MDMA, acid and other drugs keep doofs going well after sunrise into the next day. It’s anti-establishment and alternative. Dropping what you do to travel the world with just a backpack is takes a bit of both too, so backpackers in Australia generally like bush doofs.

For most of the time, the winning team persisted with questions related to a theory that Cindy died at a bush doof:

Travellers from all different nations, each with impressively varied and plentiful life experience relative to their age, unable to think past their immediate interests and situation to work out out how poor Cindy died.

Maybe the questions were all in jest. Maybe. But nobody was laughing.

What is going on in these hostels – in this culture? My guess is that there’s a culture adopting long-term travel in search of open-mindedness without doing the hard work. It’s imitation without understanding.

Healthy people drink water instead of cola. If you don’t understand what being healthy means, you might start drinking water but maintain an inactive lifestyle with a steak and chips diet.

Open-minded critical thinkers may end up doing long-term travel. Don’t expect that going to hostels and meeting people from different places will help your thinking.