Warning: Sleep-talking traveller ahead!

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Dormitories, backpackers and bunk beds are all fun, games and a melting pot of characters, cultures and personalities until someone starts whispering loudly (or rather screaming bloody murder) in the middle of the night.

People wake up, lights get turned on and confused faces stare at one another in an attempt to make sense of the situation.

From across the dormitory someone yells from the top bunk, “What the hell?” while others stay in the perplexed daze of “huh?”

Instinctively presumptuous fingers point in the direction of the late-night-party-goers but alas; the group who bobbed their heads and clinked their glasses a few hours ago are sound asleep snoring off the oncoming headache under the covers.

I can hear the thoughts of my fellow roomies in the 16-bed space where tiny curtains act as the walls of privacy. I hear the: Who could it be? I listen to the: Who is talking so loud in the middle of the night? I try to play deaf to the: Does this person have no respect?

Ja, dormitories, backpackers and bunk beds are all fun, games and a melting pot of characters, cultures and personalities until someone starts sleep-talking in the middle of the night.

All fun and games I tell you, until that someone is you.

Oops, I did it again.

Hi. My name is Embarrassed and I talk in my sleep. Wanna be roomies?

Sleep-talking has gotten me into some pretty uncomfortable situations; situations that had me bowing my head in shame with a I-am-sorry smile.

Ever since I can remember I’ve been mumbling when the darkness sets in. Actually, if I have to be totally honest, it is more sentences and full on conversational gatherings than mumbling; night after night, sentence after sentence.

Growing up, sleep overs and school camps were quite an eventful chatter; it was all fun and games when those within ear-distance of my mid-REM conversation were friends. But let me tell you, it is a whole other thing a decade or two later when your bunk mates are complete strangers (and quiet corpse-like sleepers) and there is the possibility that you might have to face them around the backpackers’ breakfast table the next morning.

Funnily enough, explaining to your fellow travellers that you were sleep-talking gives you a much more intense stare than just saying, “I was talking on my phone”.
I’ve been the reason of many travellers’ yawns.

But that didn’t stop me from joining Couchsurfing though.

On my profile I added: I talk in my sleep but at least I don’t walk in my sleep. And, to be a good host, I’ve always prepared a clean towel for my guests, a treat and a pair of ear plugs.

One night, while Couchsurfing somewhere in Asia, on a mattress on the floor I broke out in eloquent speech; in my dreams I was on a boat and waited very impatiently for my family to join me.

It went something like this, “You better best move your butt because we need to be on the other side of the boat.”

I’ve always had a thing for alliteration.

My travel buddy however, did not. She sat up straight and asked wide-eyed in the politest yet most confused tone of voice, “What?”

With my eyes shut, I replied, “Don’t worry; I just talked in my sleep” and drifted off again.

Truth be told, about mid-sentence when the word butt made its appearance I have already woken myself up from all the talking but my mother taught me from a young age to never interrupt someone while they are speaking so I continued and finished the sentence.

I might talk in my sleep but at least I have manners.

But it was not the first time.

I tend to sleep through the mumbles, sounds and short incoherent phrases but for the full and long sentences I’ll just carry on even though, on some level of REM-consciousness, I am 100% aware of what is happening.

And while budget private rooms are usually my go-to choice when travelling, dormitories, backpackers and bunk beds have often been the only option in countries where the South African rand couldn’t even stretch to cover the cost of a pillow a night.

I’ll observe my roommates and if the situation feels right I’ll warn them about the possibility of my midnight chatter; the warning is usually met with an “okay” and a it-can’t-be-that-bad shrug that will most likely be regretted to the next morning.

But there was that one time, when my sleep-talking didn’t seem like the hostel’s biggest concern.

“I talk in my sleep,” I warned.

My fellow traveller threw her bag on the bed and said, “That’s okay. I fart in my sleep”.


Disclaimer: I wrote this article for Traveller24 where it first appeared in May 2017.

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