Strange Encounters: Galway

I booked my very first hostel over the phone. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, because I wasn’t entirely clear on the concept of a hostel. I barely knew what a visa was.

When the woman at the Kinlay House Hostel in Dublin answered in an Irish accent, I nearly fainted with excitement. A real live Irish person!

Foreigners were a rarity in Indiana. Sometimes someone from Texas or Florida rolled into town, but that was as close to exotic as it got.

O'Connell Bridge
In an effort to branch out, my first hostel friend was from...California.

After four days of tentatively reaching out to other travelers in Dublin, I got on a bus to the west coast of Ireland. I had randomly chosen Galway to be my base for the next four months of my working holiday visa.

It was an inspired choice, a walkable town with compact city center encapsulating all that I wanted out of Ireland – lively pubs, cobbled streets, vividly painted doors and shopfronts. I heaved my gigantic suitcase from the bottom of the bus and made my way across town to the Sleepzone Hostel.

Even dragging my monstrous luggage over the uneven stones didn’t dampen my spirits. I was so pleased with my new home that I gave an overly friendly ‘Hello’ to everyone I passed.

Shop Street in Galway
Galway's Shop Street. The place to be if you like to eat, drink, or shop.

Secretly, I was hoping for a ‘Top o’the mornin’ to ya,’ in reply, but 1) it was afternoon and 2) I didn’t encounter any leprechauns.

I was on a pretty residential alley, nearly at the hostel, when I noticed a man striding briskly towards me. He was short, about 5’5″, wearing a calf-length trench coat. His hair was slicked back in an Elvis-style pompadour, which looked weird even from a distance. I hoped he would step to the side of the narrow sidewalk so my luggage and I could roll past.

He did veer slightly to the right, but his open coat was flapping in the breeze, taking up extra space. I was going to get walloped by trench coat as I passed.

I smiled anyway, the ‘hello’ forming on my lips, when I saw it.

His coat wasn’t the only thing flapping in the breeze.

There was his penis, hanging out of his zipper, swinging wildly as he walked.

I gasped and averted my eyes. Exactly the kind of reaction he was looking for.

A creepy, satisfied grin spread across his face. His coat whacked me on the leg. I stumbled, nearly tipping my suitcase over.

Without looking back, I racewalked the rest of the way to the Sleepzone.

Not quite what I had in mind when it came to meeting the locals.


Galway harbour
Love this view of Galway harbour. The red house is my favorite.


Want more like this? Click over to Strange Encounters: London.


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  1. Lauren-

    Make sure you go to the Crane Pub in Galway-I think it is near Salthill. It has great Irish music: new Irish was being performed downstairs and traditional was upstairs. Fantastic experience. It is a “jam” session rather than stage performance.

    Galway is one of my favorite cities-enjoy!

    1. Hi Aunt Nancy! I don’t think I made to the Crane Pub, but I wish I had. It sounds right up my alley.
      I’m actually still in Korea, but have fond memories of my time in Galway. It will always be one of my favorite cities, too.

  2. Hi Lauren,

    I found your posts through the SWAP facebook group, thanks for the great reads, I’ve passed many of them on to friends. Just wanted to say I know ‘EXACTLY’ how you felt from the ‘real Irish person’ down to the strange encounters. When I first arrived in Galway last February (to a hostel I had booked online) I had certain expectations.. needless to say my quaint view of the hostel experience was shattered by the french threesome that returned to ‘my’ room at 3 in the morning to the bunk above my head. The front desk and common area were closed, the hallway was barely maneuvrable so I had to lay awake until dawn when I was able to sneak from ‘my’ pint sized room to the open air. Luckily I only had one other strange encounter in a hostel even as a month long resident of Kinlay house (which I speedily relocated to after my strange encounter). The staff of the first hostel weren’t exactly helpful considering I had gone to sleep with the words ‘ you have three spare beds in your room but they shouldn’t be booked out tonight as it is already 11:00 pm, have a nice stay’ in my head. (I have since returned to loving hostels) All the best in Korea, J

    1. What? A threesome? That is so much worse than a flasher. What a letdown when you thought the room was going to be yours for the night. Hope you enjoyed Galway outside of that unfortunate experience! Thanks for the comment & for sharing my blog with friends. May the rest of your hostel experiences be uphill from here!

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