I love hostels. I have used – and loved – hostels since my first backpacking trip around South America in 2008. I was traveling with two friends, and had never stayed in hostels before.
All I knew was that I would probably need to bring a combination lock, my own towel, flip flops, and an appetite for fun. I imagined it would be like going to summer camp – just add a full bar.
When I initially told my mother that I was going to be staying in hostels during our time abroad, her first response was “Nik, aren’t those, like, brothels?” After I collected myself from a solid minute of side-splitting laughter and immediate deep concern that my mother would let me voluntarily sleep in brothels on another continent, I told her that I would be fine, and immediately started reading reviews on LonelyPlanet. LonelyPlanet, guys – I’m clearly dating myself and where my travel skills began all those years ago.
Almost immediately, I was hooked on hostels: the laid back culture, overwhelming camaraderie amongst travelers, and the immediate feeling of comfort and home available from hostel life.
Surrounded by open-minded travelers, each living in the moment and thrilled to experience the newness of the culture they are surrounded by, friendships are forged almost immediately between complete strangers. Though the individual backgrounds could not be more different – ranging in formal education, nationalities, age, profession (or lack thereof), personal interests, and lifestyles – I guarantee that it the conversations in a hostel will trump any that you may have with the quiet masses in a hotel lobby. You may be in a new country, but you’ll probably be surrounded by travelers and staff from each of the corners of the earth – how great is that?!
After your initial meeting over coffee in the common area or happy hour in the hostel bar, some of these travelers will continue with life on the road, yet others return to their professional lives and closets of Manolo Blahniks. At a hostel, neither choice is considered better; this open-mindedness makes for wonderful conversations, experiences, and friendships.
Since my hostel addiction began all those years ago, I’ve rarely strayed when seeking accommodation. Thanks to hostel life, I’ve had some incredible experiences:
I visited the Temples of Angkor Wat with Mary, an American traveler who I met at 4:30 that morning while we were waiting for our respective tuk tuks to arrive at the hostel. Quick introduction and we decided to hop into the same one. Better together? Definitely!
Over drinking games at the hostel bar in Budapest, I met Michael, an awesome American recently fun-employed, and we traveled together weeks later in Morocco.
I traveled for a week with two dorm-mates from my hostel in Belgrade who were heading in the same direction. Result: I visited Istanbul with two awesome people when I probably otherwise wouldn’t have.
I’ve trekked in Laotian mountains on a whimsical invitation over dinner from Rotem, an incredible Israeli girl I met over hostel breakfast near the Thai border.
It’s easy to see why I fall more in love with hostels with each new experience. I could go on for ages about these serendipitous friendships that came about entirely because of hostels. With these newfound friends I’ve shared secrets, tubes of toothpaste, and weeks of my life, and luckily through our interconnectedness I’ve been able to keep in touch with them. You can’t beat the fresh perspectives, new experiences and friendships, and the comfort and affordability of Hostel Life.
I’ve worked in them, I’ve been sick in them, I’ve cooked meals for new friends, had meals cooked for me, found lasting friendships, found travel romances, laughed, cried and just felt like I was at home. You can not beat a hostel experience, especially when you’re backpacking or solo traveling. With the emergence of the boutique hostel movement and the fact that “party hostels” probably won’t always be my scene, I am confident that hostels will always be my top choice for accommodations.
If you haven’t given them a chance yet, check out HostelWorld.com and consider them for your next adventure!