Ever since I’ve started visiting different countries, travelled around the world or simply just wanted somewhere to stay closer to the city centre, I have chosen to stay in hostels over other forms of accommodation.
Why? Hostels are cheap, firstly. And secondly, you get to meet people, make friends, share your stories and generally exchange positive energy with like-minded people. Honestly I don’t need my accommodation to be sparkly clean and high standard, so long as it has a bed and a place to leave my backpack.
It started off well. When I took the step to travel to China, the furthest I had ever been from home at the time, hostels provided a safe place, a secure haven and a hub of activity with fellow Westerners. When I arrived in Australia a couple of years later, they provided much the same, as well as new, interesting, long-lasting relationships with people I probably wouldn’t otherwise have ever met. For this I am grateful and I know I made the right decision back then.
Hostels, in theory, should be a lot of fun. In theory everyone is on the same page, young and care-free, following their dreams across the globe as selflessly as possible, avoiding consumerist culture, spending our money on experiences over property. Everyone has a story to tell, an adventure to pursue in the face of all that is expected of them. When I was younger I would pine for the Brownies trips to cabins in the countryside, times when I could sleep in a bunk-bed room full of my friends, where we would play and tell ghost stories and make shadow animals onto torch-lit ceilings. Hostels should be like this; a place to have fun and share good company.
Except recently I have come to avoid these spaces. Each time proving to uncover the nastiness of people, unsociable selfish people, narcissistic men wandering the halls catching women for their own pleasure, reckless women finding sport in being caught, in competing for the short-lived attention of others. People appear to be grabbing all the opportunity as they can get and discarding it just as quickly, without thought for anyone else; just young people free from responsibility and therefore totally disregarding of others’ feelings and needs. Western politeness goes right out the window, along with that lacy pink underwear from last night.
I don’t know if this is reality or just my own perception cast over the truth, maybe I have just become tired of the constant lack of privacy, always fighting for the hob, getting under people’s feet, always having company whether it is welcome or not. Either way, hostels are becoming less and less enjoyable and I hope to soon be in a position where I can choose more comfortable, private spaces.
It’s such a shame because so many of my positive experiences have been linked to hostels; Mrs Potts in Cardiff where I took a break from negative influences at home and spent the night partying in the city with my best friend. The Village in Glebe and Surry Hills in Sydney, Europa in Melbourne, where I became closer to my boyfriend of the last year, Pint on Punt where I began to think less of hostels (and stand-up comedy) but could still see the beauty in people, the glowing energy from passing faces.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that hostels can be one of two things, they are what you make them. Hostels can be fun and social if you’re willing to embrace the freedom and unpredictability of travel and be outgoing and not a dickhead. Seriously, don’t be a dickhead, having a quiet conversation in the room at 7pm is not a personal offence to you, neither is it appropriate to sit in the only walkway playing your guitar like every other egotistical idiot in this place, blocking the way to the kitchen at dinner time. Given the wrong room or incompatible people, or if you’re easily irritated with people’s inconsideration for others, they can be breeding grounds for endless frustration and despair.
For me, I’ll be choosing Air Bnb’s from now on, and hopefully a more permanent home in this country soon.