I’m sitting on a catamaran called Swala in the middle of the harbor of Cartagena. I came here a couple of months ago on another boat, Global HitchHiking with my good friends, on a boat called Atalanta, at 38-foot monohull. It’s been a heck of a visit in Colombia, but this boat is leaving today and we’re sailing for 5 days through the San Blas Islands and on to Panama, where my circumnavigation by crewing will be complete.
Over the past two months, I’ve taken Spanish lessons, traveled to Medellin and Bogota and stayed at my very first hostel. Yes, that’s correct, I’ve traveled around the world for the past 2 years, visiting 40 countries, and I’ve never stayed at a hostel before. I always had reservations (no pun intended) about staying at hostels. And when Airbnbs around the world are cheap, I always opted for the private room in someone’s home over what I thought was a circus at a hostel. But the past two weeks have changed my mind.
I stayed in El Centro, the old walled city of Cartegena, at a hostel called Hostel La Antiqua Capsula. This hostel was run by an American, Larry (Lorenzo) Thornberry and his wife, who I never met because she was busy setting up another hostel in Cali, Colombia. Larry was an amazing host and their hostel was maybe the best experience I’ve had staying anywhere in Colombia. For twelve dollars a night, I got a bed in a 6-bunk bedroom, but the bed was configured like a cubicle and I had complete privacy in it. Also, the air-conditioning in quite-often-hot-and-humid Cartagena was a delight!
My main concerns about staying at a hostel were two-fold.
- I was concerned about being the oldest person there. Everything I’ve heard about hostels is they are filled with young backpackers traveling the world on a budget, which is me to a T, except for the young part and the backpacker part.
- I was concerned about the security of my stuff and whether I would be able to safely store things like my passport, laptop, wallet, etc.
- I was concerned about having privacy in a shared space.
All three of my concerns were taken care of in this hostel. I didn’t feel old, even though I was the oldest host there during these two weeks. Nobody made me feel old and everybody, both the guests and staff seemed interested in talking to me and exchanging stories. Security was never an issue at this hostel. Everything felt secure and safe. I even left my guitar out in a public area and wasn’t concerned about it. Everybody looked out for everybody else. And lastly, with the bed configuration they had there, privacy was never an issue. I’ve been sharing things like bathrooms and living areas for the past 2 years as I’ve been sailing around the world on sailboats, so sharing that kind of space wasn’t an issue for me. Oh and the breakfasts here were incredible!
On the catamaran I’m on, a family of four from the Netherlands told me they have been staying at lots of hostels and they love it as they often find a hostel with a four-bed room.
This article is a call to all travelers who are looking for cheap options to travel the world to consider staying at hostels even though you may not be the ideal candidate for this. I really enjoyed my experience at Hostel La Antigua Capsula and plan to stay there again if I ever return to Cartagena.