We got off the plane in the dark, caught the SkyTrain to the city, and walked up three staircases to the American Backpackers Hostel, just as someone was being kicked out because management found his needle stash under the bed.
A former Vancouverian did actually warn me that hostel was probably junkie-land, but you know, I like to stay positive, and if that means potentially subjecting myself to the thug life if it saves me $500 per month in rent, so be it.
Unfortunately (fortunately?), an online ‘booking’ at that place is more of an indication of when they’ll have people showing up and not a reservation – it’s a first-in-first-served deal, and we weren’t the first in, so onward we travelled around a strange city in the dark with four bags, three coats and only maps.me for geographical assistance.
The thing to note here is we travelled to Vancouver from Sydney, Australia, via China. We left on a Thursday at 12:30pm, arrived in China after a 9-hour flight at 6:30pm on Thursday, left China at 9:30pm on Thursday, and somehow, after more than 20-hours of travel, we arrived in Vancouver at 6:30pm. On Thursday.
By the third time I’d lived through 6:30pm on Thursday March 16 2017, I was so tired that my brain flipped out every once in a while, which looked to me like VFX from the 90s. It was like that bit in The X-Files intro where that alien-thing warps, but instead of an alien-thing, it was the city of Vancouver.
Our quest for an affordable hostel led us down Hastings Street, which is home to a large chunk of the country’s homeless population. People were yelling and stumbling around, many were in wheelchairs or had trolley’s full of possessions, and the nightlife vibe had really shifted from tipsy and jovial, to drunk and moderately hostile. We walked in to one pub labelled ‘hotel’, realised it was actually residential, and decided to end our Hastings adventure right there.
It was probably around 9:30pm and 2-degrees Celsius by the time we were directed to Cambie Hostel by a nightclub bouncer. A girl with purple hair informed us they had rooms available, sold us some toothpaste, and gave us a key. From there, we ate burritos, drank beer, and slept horizontally for the first time in 24-hours.