“Am I too old to stay in a hostel?”
I get that question a lot. To be honest, at 26 years of age, I have asked myself that question once or twice as well. My answer is not a blunt yes or no, but rather a grey “maybe.” Check out these pro’s and con’s as well as my take on Air BnB and Couchsurfing.
Hostels are dope because:
They are cheap. If you’re going on a long trip and/or pinching pennies, hostels are one of the best options. For the super budget traveler, you can stay in a dorm room with anywhere from 3-17 other people (bring earplugs!) If you value your privacy a bit more, most hostels also offer single rooms which will obviously be slightly more expensive, yet still cheaper than a hotel.
They are social. I have never in my life sat at a hostel bar or common room and not met a new friend. This is really crucial for the solo traveler, I think, because it offers companionship without obligation. You can have a drink with someone in the early evening at the hostel, have dinner at a local restaurant that night and explore the city with them the next day. Then you get to say goodbye to them. It’s essentially a fuck and chuck with the option to stay friends.
Hostels are God awful because:
They can be filthy. I have stayed at hostels that were nicer than many hotels and I have stayed at hostels where hookers go to die. If you are in a full dorm room, there may likely be a lingering funk in the air. I once woke up in the middle of the night with the girl from the bunk above me cuddled next to me in my bed. When I asked her why she was there, she replied, “I threw up in my bed so I have to sleep in yours.”
The gap-year crowd gets old. I love young people. I have met novice travelers who have such a thirst for life. Meeting 18 year olds fresh out of school in a hostel and exploring with them helps me experience the world with their enthusiasm. Their excitement is contagious! That said, there’s also a gap year crowd that is annoying as fuck: young people who never leave the hostel bar, never engage with locals, and prioritize getting frat-boy fucked up over discovering a new part of the world.
Creeeeeeepy people. I have absolutely zero problems sharing a dorm room with ten other people, regardless of age, gender, or sexuality. HOWEVER. Some people are fucking creepy (tube socks, transition lenses, metal detector on the beach kind of creepy) and there is no way to avoid them being on the bottom bunk and trying to tickle you in the middle of the night (Shout out to creepy David from Manchester!).
I’m not a big fan of hotels, only because they are more isolated and frankly, boring. I’m not a luxury traveler, I’m an adventurer, so hostels better fit my budget and social goals. That said, I have recently hopped on the Air BnB trend and I cannot speak more highly of it! Air BnB is often less expensive than a hotel (and for two people to share one room in a house will probably be very close in price to two beds in a hostel). It allows you the same kind of home/hotel comforts, and if you have been staying in hostels for awhile, Air BnBing it allows you to take a hot shower with good water pressure, a novelty while backpacking. Also, I think it’s fucking AWESOME to be able to see how people in a region live, how their homes are designed and decorated.
Air BnB can also offer the same social benefits as hostels, but in a cleaner, less crowded capacity. On a recent trip to Norway, I stayed in a lovely private bedroom of a woman’s summer home. There were two German girls traveling together who stayed in the room across the hall. That evening, the host opened a bottle of Prosecco and we all enjoyed it while chatting on the deck overlooking the fjord. That stay allowed to me to meet new friends, exchange travel stories, and sleep in a comfortable clean room without hearing ten other people snoring.
I have never couch surfed nor do I have any desire to. Several friends have had relatively nice experiences with it, so I’m not completely knocking it. HOWEVER, Air BnB is like match.com while Couchsurfing is more like Tinder, you feel me? Many (okay, all) of the Couchsurfing stories I have heard about have ended up in hookups, and that’s not quite my style (but if it’s yours, then YOU DO YOU BOO BOO).