After Katelyn left, I decided I would just take it easy for the rest of my time in Marseille. I slept until 3:30 in the afternoon after staying up all night and watched some “Mad Men” when I woke up. Of course travel plans never go the way you think they will, and I ended up befriending a girl from Frankfort when she moved into the room. I *shamelessly* made her wait for me to finish my episode before heading to grab cheap burgers with her.
When we got back to the hostel, we ended up making a group of extremely international friends who would join me on one of my best days of the trip.
I’ve said before how easy it is to make friends in hostels – sit down somewhere there is English being spoken, ask where they’re from. Our table expanded into eight people in the span of half an hour, with chimes of “do you mind if I join you?” coming periodically.
“Of course! We’re a group of people who all met by asking the same thing!”
A few drinks later, we all ended up taking an early night and decided that we would meet at breakfast and that I would take them to Cassis in the morning. I didn’t feel like I had enough time there the day before and wanted to get some hiking and ocean time in.
In the morning, six of us from the night before met up for the day, managing to snag two more to join our party in the five minutes before we left. America, Germany, Spain, Austria, Poland, England and Japan all intersecting in Marseille for reasons ranging from quick holidays to grandiose Europe trips and all coming here alone – well, alone in the never-really-alone way industrious, wanderlusting solo travelers go.
We grabbed groceries before fighting our way onto the bus (we had to ask the driver to let our friend from Poland at the end of the line on the bus with us) so that we could enjoy a nice picnic and get straight to the calanque. Of course I had to play tour guide since I’d been there before, so I took them straight to the isolated rock face on the side of the calanque I had spent with Katelyn only two days before. We found a nice shady spot, fixed sandwiches and almost all jumped into the water, though not without hesitation from some who saw our shocked faces and loss of breath as we jumped in.
The sky started to get a little cloudy, so we decided it was cool enough to take a hike around the calanques and walk out to where we could look off into the sea unobstructed. We goofed around and joked like we’d known each other for ages. We talked about our homes, our travels and mostly how much of a good time we were having together. Paul, from Austria, found a big hole in the side of a cliff and jumped in, scaring the shit out of us before we realized it was filled up to only a couple feet deep. We lost it laughing. Paul would later play tour guide and host to me during my time in Vienna.
After hiking, we all decided we’d cook a big family dinner when we got back to the hostel to save money and enjoy a nice evening together. We headed to the supermarket and bought the makings for lettuce-less salad (they had one package of lettuce a week expired), nice cheese and toast, pasta with vegetables and homemade tomato sauce and four bottles of wine. Referring to our group all day as “the family,” we joked later about how we even innocently bickered about the type of pasta like family would. All in all it cost less than 7 euro each.
When we got back to the hostel, a couple of the group took showers while I started making pasta for eight people (it ended up feeding more than 10). Some of the guys cut vegetables while I made the sauce – it was a really cute team effort. Others would walk into the kitchen and tell us how good it smelled, how much fun we looked like we were having. Other solo travelers saw our ease with each other as strangers and asked to join, making our group explode into nearly 20.
“Join the family!” became the motto of the evening, and we added friends from Italy, Sweden, Australia and more to our international posse.
Eventually, we were having too much fun for the hostel to manage and we started to get yelled at by a hostel worker. While hanging out in the courtyard, an angry neighbor started throwing eggs at us from his window (no warning, of course), and the hostel worker walked out yelling “f-ing Americans” even though there were only two of us. I guess he heard English and just assumed, but the reputation of Americans in other countries is a whole other post entirely. I was mostly mad he was screaming at us for getting eggs thrown at us when the hostel had no available accommodations for us to spend what was most of our last night together.
We ended up heading out to a bar and sitting outside and talking there, and a few of us snuck into one of the closed common rooms and chatted into the late hours of the night afterward. Saying goodbye to my big international family was one of the hardest goodbyes of my trip.
There’s a tough to encapsulate feeling that comes every one of these amazing nights – nights like the pubs in Dublin and the family dinner in Marseille – a feeling of pure joy and happiness in the moment mixed with a sad dread that this moment is so isolated, so against the odds of having happened in the first place that it will never be repeated after it ends. A long goodbye after a short hello, you enjoy every second but have to accept its inevitable end. It’s these moments that make traveling hard and easy at the same time, and more than anything make me realize how lucky I am to be on this journey. Traveling is more than just about seeing the world and partying, although that’s a great side effect. It’s about being 22 and young and afraid of the future and forgetting that for a moment to see what and who else more is out there than what I’m used to. People around the world are different in so many ways, but we are all the same in how we connect to each other.