August 20, 2019
Our staff loves to travel as much as you do! Katie specializes in guest experience at Cream City Hostel and she draws on her experiences backpacking across Europe in the late 90s. She lives in Riverwest neighborhood a short journey from the hostel.
I turned 19 in 1999 and set off on an adventure to tour Europe for three months. One of the reasons I decided to take the trip was a family reunion in Denmark — the place where my mother’s grandparents emigrated from before they had children in America. I took the opportunity to go on an adventure beforehand and, with a budget of $11 per day, I set off on a life-changing trip. I stayed primarily in hostels during my trip. The first hostel I ever stayed in will always hold a special place in my heart partially because of the friend I made there.
I flew into London and got directly on a bus from Heathrow Airport out of London. London prices were not within my budget. I was completely exhausted after walking across town, along the river Thames and to the hostel I slept in for the night. This wasn’t meant to be a significant occasion, only a spot to rest before visiting Manchester and traveling north through Scotland. The room was bright and full of single beds. It was still daylight so I emptied my backpack and began to sort. There was absolutely no way that I was going to carry all of that stuff any farther! I packed up my second pair of shoes, some clothes, the books I thought I might read and everything else I deemed unnecessary. I would ship it home in the morning. (I’m an extremely efficient packer these days).
There were a few other guests in the room and I struck up a conversation with a woman in a bed near mine. We discovered we were both heading to Manchester the next day and with that introduction Hedy and I we were travel companions. That's how I found hosteling to be. I went to Europe alone, but from then on the only time I was alone was at times when I was on my way from one place to the next.
Hedy and I decided to hitchhike and we had little (me) to no (her) experience so it was comical. Yet we made it safely to our destination and stood together in awe of Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. As we walked, we talked and we learned about each other and why each of us needed this trip. Hedy was my mom’s age and had two teenage sons at home. I had struggled through my teens and, knowing I wasn’t ready for college, I needed that trip to keep me going. We were an odd match for sure, but I believed that we had something to offer each other. We said goodbye, exchanged email addresses and I headed to Scotland while she was on her way to Germany.
Around a month later, I reached out to Hedy and we both happened to be in Prague! We met up and were excited to see each other as though we were long lost friends. We walked the streets of one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, ate and drank and laughed and cried together and shared more of our stories along the way. I learned of her divorce, depression and escape from Canada to find herself. I shared my struggle with my mom, finding my way out of toxic relationships and my thoughts about finding a purpose in life with her. We each needed a path to healing and we found it in each other.
Hedy and I wrote to each other for years. She got a job in Germany and started a relationship. Her son’s visited her. Over the years, they grew up and became men. I traveled for a few more years, tried college and met the father of my children. My communications with Hedy became less frequent, but every now and again we send updates. We share trips we’ve taken and how our kids are doing.
Recently, I wrote to tell her the first hostel in Milwaukee opened, my role at the hostel and how much this is a reminder for me of her. I hope we remain friends for years and that we both nurture our love of travel and never forget the magic of living each day to its fullest. I am encouraged knowing that these kinds of chance meetings are happening in hostels all over the world everyday and before my very eyes at Cream City Hostel.