Regardless of the fact that this experience was my first real trek into dolo backpacking and staying at hostels, I have stayed at enough of them to know that they’re an excellent way to immerse. Firstly, they’re labeled as hostels because they’re relatively cheap; definitely cheaper than hotels. You have the option of dorm style accommodation or a private room, sometimes with an ensuite; privates with ensuites are still going to be cheaper than any typical hotel. With dorm style, there may be several bunk beds that can sleep upwards of ten people to a room. Communal bathrooms and kitchens are the norm and can lead to extremely exciting nighttime trips to the bathroom, half asleep and/or hung over only to find that someone is already in there – heavily struggling from eating street food.
What I like most about hostels…
is that people often start their journeys alone and throughout their trip, end up meeting super dope people that they tagged along with. I find it hard to believe that this could happen at any hotel, resort or other form of accommodation. Hostel life is filled to the brim with generosity, sharing, open-mindedness, youth, games, socializing, laughs, late nights, drinking, and people from all over the world. Someone decides to make dinner for instance, and if there are leftovers, it’s not uncommon that they offer their own meals to others that might be around. That’s happened to me so often already (I’ve been at this hostel for a week), that I haven’t even made dinner yet!
Another plus is the way your social skills can recharge. Coming across so many people from all walks of earth as well as with such a wealth of life experiences, you not only learn, but your soul grows. Being around the same people constantly in the same region of the same country is redundant and you may find yourself feeling a form of stagnation, IMO. You might find some interesting perspectives on things like college life, happy hours post work, socialized healthcare, even racism.
All of your interpersonal batteries charge in a way that is not really possible in daily, routine life. The other night, most of the hostel decided to stay in and drink. Chess games ensued (Swedish-tatted-awesome-Alex had been teaching me and has been very patient, bless him), card games (finally can be part of this!), beer pong, checkers, and just a total amalgamation of activities that I normally wouldn’t be part of. If I wasn’t at this hostel with all these expert chess players, I would never have voluntarily learned the game and now I want to play at least a game a day to keep my mind fresh. #Random, but useful.
Backpackers usually tread lightly on the environment and culture that they chose to immerse in, whether for an overnight or a week stay. They want to shop locally (as hostels have a kitchen and you make your own meals), they take local lessons in language or cultural dance style, they take advantage of as much as they can and I’d be hard pressed to believe that this isn’t appreciated by the locals. Two nights this week locals have come to the hostel to simply hangout with us guests, playing drinking-card-games and the like. It’s just something you would not see happening in typical hotels unless the locals were trying to sell you something! I love it.
It’s normal to see people working in exchange for accommodation and/or food. Like my previous post on work exchanging, there are several sites that allow you to register and see all types of work exchanges in almost every single country. It’s definitely an experience; no one is saying that you have to do it for your entire trip. BUT people have, for instance, WWOOFed around continents and have spent so little out of pocket that it seems ludicrous not to at least give it a go.
Hostels are typically safe, I’d say on average most hostels do their best to cost effectively secure the premises. This includes wrap-around-property fences or walls, locking the doors to the outside at a designated time every night necessitating people to have keys if they plan to go out, private rooms have locks, bars on all windows and such like. I have never felt unsafe in a hostel; then again I am from NY metro area, so my tolerance might be a little higher than most 😉
I’d highly recommend trying out hostelling at least once in life if you never have.