Hit-and-miss best describes the nature of hostels. When they’re bad, they’re just plain bad. But when they’re good, you learn to never take this for granted.
I thought living in the dorms freshman year had prepared me for any and all future shared living situations, but hostels are in a league of their own. My first experience of staying in a hostel while on a backpacking last summer revealed to me the full spectrum of my emotions like I had never known.
If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you’ve probably experienced a couple of these scenarios.
- Having to pay for shower towels that covered a quarter of your body
- Getting stuck with the top bunk when the air conditioning is broken after a 90 degree day
- Sharing a semi-functional bathroom with eight other individuals—the size of which could be fully measured by my arm span
- Trying to sleep off jet lag only to hear music blasting from the downstairs bar and having your roommates stumble in at 3 a.m., trying, and failing, to whisper
- Attempting to change your clothes in a co-ed room filled with a majority of the opposite gender
- Hearing from another traveller that someone got bed bugs from the hostel you were at just days earlier
Given all the lows, however, I have come away with many more highs, as well as fond memories that will keep me coming back to hostels.
- Paying less than the price of a cheap bus ticket for a night’s accommodation
- Meeting some of the most interesting people and realizing how small the world is, such as when your German roommate in Hvar, Croatia spent a year of high school in Kenosha, Wisconsin
- Utilizing the reception areas that are basically mini travel agencies to book excursions and receive hidden student discounts
- Eating the free breakfast the hostel owner picked up fresh from the market just because
- Staying in a room straight out of your dreams situated directly above a bakery that crafts fresh nutella filled pastries every morning
- Getting insider advice to the best spots in the city for any and all activities
- Kicking back with like-minded individuals eager to learn about your life, and, of course, laugh at American politics
Overall, given the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing—save for packing earbuds. If you’re in search of budget accommodation abroad, opt for hostels. They’re truly a part of the adventure that you won’t soon forget.