I’d seen Dan wandering around the hostel a day or two before actually having a conversation with him. Not for any other reason than you can’t speak to and be friends with all 70 hostel stayers all the time. The point at which our interactions began was when I was having a separate conversation with a Kiwi girl in the Kitchen.
Dan was hanging around, and in hindsight, looking hungry. There was a half eaten plate of food waiting to be thrown away that he’d been eyeing out. Then he took his chance, picked up the plate and noshed what was left on it. ‘Did he just eat that?’ the Kiwi asked. ‘Did you just eat that?’ She redirected the question at him. With no sign of embarrassment or remorse he said, ‘I lived in Papua New Guinea for two years- I don’t care.’
A few days later and we still have the pleasure of this Aussie’s presence around the hostel. In that time he has, with great success, made use of whatever free and left over ingredients the hostel has offer. It being such a well organised hostel this is easy- free tea and coffee, a ‘free’ shelf in the fridge from people who have left, which often includes yummy stuff like cheese, milk and eggs. Sometimes even wine. There’s often even free cereals and pastas. Then there’s also the kindness of fellow travellers who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at sharing a hot meal with someone like Dan. So who is he then? Firstly he’s 18. And I would give money to anyone who could have guessed that. I’ve often been told that I’m an ‘old soul’ but Dan is the epitome of one- way more insightful and mature than most. Also, to those who value education over life experience, Dan would be ‘uneducated’ after having left school at 16. This is when he went to Papua New Guinea where he worked in a shipyard repainting container ships.
His decision to remove himself from the schooling system wasn’t because he was struggling academically, but because he preferred to work with his hands. So when an opportunity to work and live on a Pacific Island presented itself, he grabbed it with both hands. And the best part? His parents encouraged him. I’m no parent but I am someone’s child and I thus have some kind of opinion on parenting. I very much respect parents who encourage their children to pursue their dreams. Even if it means accepting the fact that they’ll be dropping out of school. The point is to have faith, encourage and inspire your kids, not force them to fit into a mould you (and society for that matter) prefer.
Also, this guy isn’t poor. That’s not the reason he cant/wont feed himself. He’s still recovering from a decision he made a few weeks ago in San Sebastian, northern Spain. In this town there are two of the world’s top ten restaurants. He was invited to one of them by a friend suddenly needing a companion. After being ‘made over’ by the hostel and its guests to the point where he looked ‘more respectable’, he experienced a once in a lifetime 12 course meal about which he could fault nothing. not even the waiter’s manicured hands. 250 euros well spent he says.