This is from a series originally posted on my original blog: Seefahrer Thayer. While I don't recommend it, you can view the original posts here. Because the content had value and useful tips I've decided to repost them here, however, they've since been heavily edited and updated.
If you asked anyone what was going on this weekend, everyone would say "why, nothing at all." When I'd proceed to tell them there are no beds left for under about £70 in both Derry-Londonderry and Belfast, their eyes bulge in astonishment as they proceed to go through the list of hostels and hotels the area that must have a bed. None of them. Not for two cities. And the ones that were £70 were likely fully booked too (and all the way across town so I'd have to pay for a taxi because it was so late)- really only leaving ones in the £150 range.
I left Londonderry hoping to find a bed at my old hostel in Belfast- nothing. I met a nice mother and daughter on the train that did everything they could to help me find a place- they loaned me their phones and tablet- but nothing was available. I was so exhausted by this point, I had been on my feet for over 10 hours, most of that time going up and down hills with a heavy backpack- I fell asleep, but occasionally heard them phoning friends and hotels for me. It was so kind of them.
Now here's where the lesson comes into play, so listen up. Some would think it's my own fault- I should have booked a room way in advance to prevent this from happening. While that may be true, I don't believe that's the take-away from this (because I don't like being wrong, and I'm the one writing this story).
Before I left Belfast yesterday morning I put on my Chris Thayer hat. I went up and asked the guys at the station about where to go, even though I had an idea of what to do, and just generally chatted them up. Really, I didn't even mention this in the last blog because it's just a general practice thing- I always trying to make friends wherever I go. The station supervisor, Don, turned out to be from Pennsylvania, so we were able to chat for a bit about that for a bit while I waited for my train.
Well, when I arrived at the other Belfast station in town at 10:00 at night, there was an old gentleman and a young guy that both spent about 30 minutes phoning places for me. I was so surprised by their dedication and kindness. All the while I'm keeping my spirits up- by being nice and friendly and joking around as much as possible.
They can't find anywhere with a spare bed. Even an expensive one. They phone central station- where I came from yesterday morning. They start talking to someone on the phone and my ears perked up. "Wait. Is that Don?" I'm really almost squealing with excitement. The man looked at me, somewhat confused. "Tell him I'm the dirty American backpacker from this morning." Sure enough, good ole Don knew exactly who I was.
He had me come over, and first offered me a chair in the station to sleep on. Then, I guess he felt a little bad and offered me the floor in his office with a heater. Finally, I got upgraded even further when another girl from Israel showed up. We shared the employee lunchroom, with couches and a TV. He spent a good amount of time looking for an emergency blanket (which I told him wasn't necessary) but could only find these heavy reflective coats (which make a great blanket by the way). He locked the two of us in the building with security and let us stay the night. Five star couch, I swear. If I could take one with me, I would (the security guard offered). It was flat and saggy and old, and would probably be terrible to sit on, but when it looked like I may be sleeping outside in the cold, there's nothing better you can ask for.
This morning I woke up when employees started coming in- who offered to buy me coffee for the inconvenience. They apologized profusely for the lackluster accommodations. I was beside myself.
So that was a really roundabout way of saying the lesson of the day is talk to everyone, be nice to everyone, and be the person you want to meet and talk to. You never know when you may be in trouble and it's best to already have a good standing with the train conductor you're begging for help from.
All I have to say is I love Belfast and it's people. And it's worth a return trip just to re-thank everyone who helped me. Unbelievable kindness. Just wow.
Headed out to Giant's Causeway, hoping for a better day today. They said I shouldn't have trouble finding a bed out there- but recommended I call ahead. I'm not sure this will necessarily change how I travel the rest of the trip... honestly I doubt it would at all, but I suppose I'll take it into consideration?