Hot! My Love/Hate Relationship with Hostels

I have a very intense love/hate relationship with hostels. I think that most people have this to some degree, but most tend to lean toward one side or the other. This being a travel blog, I feel that it’s an important thing for me to cover.

To switch things up, I’m going to start with the hate:

I am not amused by your shenanigans.

You see, compared to most of the 20-something set that I meet at hostels, I’m quite a fuddy-duddy. I rarely ever drink more than a single beer, I don’t usually socialize all that much with other travelers, and I’m typically in bed by 11pm at the latest. I may be all wild and crazy during the day, running down mountains and jumping out of planes, but come evening time, I turn into an 80 year old crabby grandmother. If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel before, you know that the hostel environment is not very compatible with that sort of attitude. I find myself getting annoyed by the hippy backpacker who thinks the best way to get chicks is to pluck randomly at guitar strings, the gap year kid who is enthusiastically taking advantage of the lowered drinking age, and the perky, overly-chipper girl who thinks that my sitting quietly in the corner with a book is really, actually, a secret plea to be dragged into a game of “who did the coolest thing today?”. It’s almost enough to make me avoid them altogether, but there are reasons that I tolerate not only those residents, but also the threadbare blankets, grimy showers, and 3am alarm clocks in the form of drunk tourists trying to unpack a bag that’s difficult even while sober in broad daylight.

And that brings me to the love:

Hot tubs next to mountains. Another plus of some hostels.

Despite having an antisocial streak that could span the Hudson River, I do occasionally have a social side. Whereas hotels and other solitary lodgings tend to indulge that antisocial side, hostels draw out the social side. The journalist in me is always curious about people, and the informal atmosphere of most hostels allows me to go up and start a conversation with someone without coming off as creepy. I’m also one of the most penny-pinching travelers you will ever meet, and if I can’t beg, barter, or bribe a couch to sleep on, hostels are really my next cheapest option. I’m of the opinion that some are a much better value than others (the HI hostel in Zurich is amazing for the price; the one in The Hague… not so much), but when I have to choose between sleeping on a train station bench or a hostel, the hostel wins.

All relationships have ups and downs, and my feelings about hostels are the same. Much of the time I’m rather ambivalent and view them as little more than a cheap place to catch a few Zs, sometimes I hate them with a fiery burning passion, and other times they draw out my better half. Overall, I have to say that I’m happy about the existence of hostels, even if the hippy in the corner with the guitar can’t tell Creedence Clearwater Revival from Justin Bieber.

[Photo credit: Header, others mine]


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  1. HA! kelsey this had me giggling like crazy! you’ve definitely demonstrated that you’re an astute observer of culture with this one. i can see everyone you’ve described and while you’d already painted a fantastic picture in my head, the photo of you is the icing on the cake! love this and totally get it. although, for the most part i’d say i’ve just given in to the fact that if i’m in the same room with anyone, there will be chatting and not likely very much reading happening. and as for the late night stuff, ear plugs & eye masks keep me sane! great post :)

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I think it’s one of my better pieces. And yes, part of why I’m usually the quiet one over in the corner is that I’m observing, watching everyone’s interactions, etc. I also have what is very close to a photographic memory, and when I’m paying attention to a situation, I can recall it with almost crystal clarity, down to where people were sitting and what they were wearing, even years later. It helps with posts like this, and is, like I said, the reason for me often being the quiet one in the corner. You could say I’m “recording” the moment.

      And yes, that’s one of my more common expressions.

  2. You recall for memory is astounding. I haven’t visited your site in a while, but am impressed with the look and writing.

    I am a fairly social person, but even annoying personalities are hard to ignore. And I love/hate them for the very reasons you do.

    Nice write-up!

    • Thanks! I have been told by a couple therapists that I have a form of photographic memory, which helps. I can recall situations and conversations with crystal clarity, even years later, if given the proper cues.

      I can be social sometimes, but my default setting is that of a quiet observer. When I *am* social though, good luck getting me to shut up!

  3. This post made me smile. I am almost always social, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get a little irritated with some of the hostel characters. But I have also found that some of the people I written off quickly (even dirty hippies and college gap years!) have made some of the most entertaining companions in the end. Finding a great affordable hostel with cool people feels like you’ve hit the jackpot and the bad ones typically make for stories that are funny in hindsight 😉