My Hostelmate Chiara Photo by Donna Kos

Why I Love Living in a Hostel (Plus a Few Reasons Why I Don’t)

And Why You Might Want to Consider Staying in a Hostel for Your Next Adventure

Imagine you’re planning your next adventure. You’re researching airfare, mind-blowing places to see, spectacular restaurants and sweet accommodations.

After countless hours of research your brain is scattered and swimming in information. Your eyes can barely focus.

It’s crystal clear your budget needs a miracle or you need to think outside of the box.

You go back and rehash your options knowing there’s got to be a way to cut your travel budget.

  • Cheap air.
  • Sensational things to see that are free or reasonable.
  • Awesome restaurants that fit in your budget even though the amazing Foodie Paradise places are calling you.
  • Accomodations…

Accomodations are the killer and can vaporize your travel budget faster than anything else.

I’ve stayed in Airbnb’s, fancy hotels, average motels, camp sites and in numerous hostels. There are pros and cons to all of them.

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, visualize a college dorm room but increase the amount of bunks in one room from 2 to 10.

There are lots of reasons to stay in a hostel.

I’m 58 years old and stayed in Cape Byron YHA Hostel in Byron Bay, Australia for a month.

With an insider’s view of hostel life you can decide if it’s an option you want to entertain.


Why Staying in a Hostel is Fantastic

Flowers my hostel mates bought me to celebrate a writing milestone Photo by Donna Kos

You’re at a hostel and find yourself surrounded by warm, hospitable people from all over the world.

You hear amazing stories of travels from all across the globe.

You have conversations about friends and family.

They share stories of heartbreak.

You witness love, understanding and empathy that’s extraordinary.

Oddly this environment feels comfortable and homey.

You’re amazed by the multiple languages flying through the kitchen when people are cooking. It’s an awe-inspiring swirl of international colors in full blown audio.

People ask each other, “How are you?”, or “What are you doing today?”

Their conversations ring genuine with interest, and it’s refreshing.

You know you won’t find camaraderie like this at a hotel.

Why Checking in Is Like Rolling the Dice

My dorm room at Cape Byron YHA Hostel, Byron Bay, Australia Photo by Donna Kos

When you book a room ahead of time online, it will show you the types of dorms that are available. If you pick “All Girls Dorm” that’s what you’ll get. If not, you could also be in a mixed dorm with men and women.

Walking into your dorm for the first time is like opening a Christmas present from your old, not all together, Aunt Mable. It could be re-gifted dirty socks or it could be something really spectacular.

You won’t know until you open the door.

You’re sweaty, exhausted, and you really need to brush your teeth.

Putting down your backpack sounds like Nirvana.

You make your way to your dorm room with your top sheet and key. You’re greatest hope is your luck holds out and you have fantastic bunkmates again.

Sometimes no one’s there and the door’s wide open. Sometimes people are laying all over the place. Backpacks and clothes are always scattered here and there.

You look around to see what you’re up against. Most often the amount of stuff scattered resembles a kids game I would call, “Find your Crap.” Usually there’s somewhere to walk. Sometimes it’s a challenge even when you have daylight on your side.

You’re not at the Hyatt

You spot an available, lower bunk. Awesome!

Dropping your pack, you plop on the bed and breathe a sign of relief before you go check out the rest of the hostel.

Why the Common Areas are Awesome

Common Areas At Cape Byron Hostel, Byron Bay, Australia Photo by Donna Kos

Grateful to have the menacing pack off your back, you wander around to check everything out feeling light as a feather.

Signs show most common areas open at 6:30am.

The pool opens at 8, and is right outside your door. The fence around the pool resembles a clothes line. Everything from underwear to jeans and wetsuits are hanging out to dry.

People are in hammocks, sitting by the pool and hanging out in the “Smoker’s Lounge”, the picnic table designated for smoking.

There are 8 bathrooms and 6 showers for the women and the same for the men. They’re always clean and never crowded. There are 70+ people in the hostel at the time. That’s not a bad bathroom to person ratio.

Why Cooking And Eating at a Hostel is a Cultural Experience

Diina from Estonia made this lovely meal for us to share Photo by Donna Kos

The sparkling, clean commercial sized kitchen are spectacular. There are lots of lockers and huge refrigerators. You have to name, date, and departure date a tag on the bag or it’s fair game or gets thrown out.

It isn’t uncommon to see the young Argentinian surfers all working together to make a gourmet meal for 8.

As they were prepping one of the guys offers, “Try the quacamole. It needs salt but one of our guys has high blood pressure.”

Not a comment you expect out of a 20+ year old.

The busier the hostel gets the more difficult it becomes to find space for your food.

On rare occasion a bag of food would disappear. That is crossing the line and is heavily frowned upon from all backpackers who are mostly broke as hell.

You don’t steal someone else’s food.

This warning notice was found:

Warning Sign Photo by Donna Kos

Gathering your food you go to the stainless steel counter, grabe a pan and start preparing your dinner.

You take your plate outside and sit at a table. Backpackers join you and strike up conversations. The upstairs commons area has a lovely community feel to it.

Finished eating, you do your dishes and put them away.

You head to the downstairs common room to chill out. You may put in your headphones, read your kindle or you might feel like meeting new people. No one intrudes if you’re in your own world and everyone welcomes conversation if that’s what you feel like doing.

Why Hanging Out in the Common Room is Time Well Spent

My “Office” in the Common Room where I wrote every day Photo by Tom

The Common room has lots of chairs and couches. It’s clean and peaceful. People watch movies together at night regularly.

If there are 7 people in the common room, odds are they are from 4+ different countries.

I set up my “office” in the same chair every day during that month.

The chairs and couches were so comfortable it wasn’t unusual to find people sound asleep.

The 28 pictures of people sound asleep in the common room will to wait for another post.

But, before you think it’s mean to share Yuya’s picture, please note: The most embarrassing picture is of me and nearly all my hostel mates have it on their phone. And no, you don’t get to see it!

The always peacefu Yuya sleeping Photo by Donna Kos

Why Sleeping in a Big Dorm is Easier Than it Sounds

People went out late to party and came back at all hours of the day and early morning.

Most nights I threw back some drinks with my hostelmates before the common areas shut down. Pool shuts at 9pm. Kitchen 10:30. Upstairs common area 11:00 and inside common area(movie and chilling room)3am but that is for quiet time.

After 11pm you have 2 choices.

Go to your room or go out.

They invited me all the time. I’m twice or more their age, but it didn’t matter to anybody.

“Come on Donna! Go out with us!”

“No thanks… I’ve had enough. Have fun, try not to get arrested!”

When people wandered in, phones were off, and only a whisper if you heard anything. I found the people very respectful in all the hostels I stayed in.

The respect for quiet was immense. More than you might expect and was much appreciated by all.

Why Privacy is a problem- Where can you have Sex?

Signage at the worst hostel I ever stayed in, PaTong, Thailand Photo by Donna Kos

You’re staying in a hostel. You know there’s a lack of privacy.

I’m not talking about when you take off your shirt in the room and a bunkmate opens the door.

The one complaint everyone has regardless of age…

Is the lack of privacy.

I’m talking about if you meet someone.

You’re both in the hostel.

Where can you be intimate at any level?

You meet a man. He’s quite handsome, smart and not one of the “kids”. You’d like the opportunity to snuggle up to watch a movie. That would be wonderful.

Just to be able to lay in someone’s arms…

If it had moved on to something else you might have welcomed it.

It just wasn’t an option.

Although I was never witness or within earshot I heard plenty of stories.

“Don’t go shower right now. They’re having sex in the shower.”

“I woke up to moaning and groaning in the bunk below me. COME ON people!”

“We had sex on the beach last night.”

“All I could feel was the bunk swaying and hear creaking…”

“There’s always the garage.”

You know privacy on any kind of an intimate level will require a Plan B, but that’s part of hostel life and you know that.

Why the Amazing People Make It Worth It

Some of my hostel mates at Cape Byron YHA Hostel, Byron Bay, Australia Photo by Donna Kos

In hostels, you hear stories and share more experiences then you ever imagined. No matter your age, you also share some of the exact same experiences. Maybe you tried drugs, had sex, snuck out, and drank beer underage.

Age is immaterial.

No one cares.

The amazing people you meet from all over the world are fascinating. More languages than you can count are being spoken at different tables or in the kitchen while people cooked proper meals.

Having all my clothes in a backpack for a month was a bit of a pain. Wearing flip flops while showering I don’t miss. Having some personal space is welcome.

I do miss my hostel mates. A lot.

So if your travel plans require a budget cut, consider a hostel. They’re amazing and so vibrant you’ll wonder why you never stayed in one before.

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