Whether you are a seasoned traveler who has been navigating the globe for decades or a first-time backpacker with wide eyes and a curious spirit, there is no better place to stay while traveling than in a hostel. For those who haven’t spent a night in a hostel before, I’ll be the first to tell you… you’re missing out. But I should be clear right off the bat; not everyone loves the hostel scene. Not everyone wants to spend the night in a room full of snoring strangers, and not everyone wants to wait to use the shower. Of course there are pros and cons to everything in life, so I will give you a few reasons why I choose to stay in hostels when I backpack, and you can decide for yourself.
The People You Meet
There is nothing that makes a hostel more attractive to the vagabond backpacker than the people you meet inside. From young single nomads exploring the world for the first time to newlyweds with a passion for backpacking, you’ll find all sorts of amazing folks who will definitely keep your mind off of what you might miss back home.
The people you meet in hostels are some of the friendliest and most interesting people you will meet anywhere and many are people you will remember for the rest of your life, even if you only spend a day or a night together. One morning at breakfast in a hostel in Mexico, I found myself invited by six guys on a two-week road trip through Belize and Guatemala, and the next morning, we packed the van and headed out. Not to mention it was one of the craziest trips of my life!
Because we live in such a connected world with all kinds of communication just a few clicks away, you can, and most likely will, keep in touch with people you meet across the globe. So one day when you find yourself in their neck of the woods, or vice versa, you’ve got yourself a local friend who will show you around town and introduce you to things you’d never find in a guidebook.
The Stories You Hear
Some of the stories you hear from the people at your hostel will absolutely blow your mind. It’s a similar scene in almost every hostel across the world… a group of people sitting around a table, sharing drinks and stories like old friends. Get ready to hear some outrageous stories from some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. People of all ages and from all walks of life tell stories of remarkable places they’ve been, crazy things they’ve seen, and, often the best of all, their travel misadventures. Laughter is contagious and people drink the night away, with words of wisdom and travel tips galore. If you think you learned a lot about the world in high school or college wait until you spend some time in a hostel. You will be introduced to beautiful small towns around the world by listening to your new travel buddies, so be attentive and take it all in!
The Advice You Get
One thing you will find in every hostel you stay in is free travel advice. Who better to talk to about the next stop in your voyage than someone who has just been there? Backpackers are the most informed travelers out there, especially backpackers who stay in hostels. There is always a wealth of information if you’re willing to ask, and people are more than happy to help you plan your next stop.
The friends you make in a hostel will always know about the best place to stay, the easiest way to get there, and what to do once you’re there. And most likely, someone else will overhear the tip you’re getting and decide to join you wherever you’re going. New ideas will pop up and your trip may branch in directions you never expected, so be prepared. I discovered my absolute favorite place in Mexico, a pristine white sand beach called Tulum, based on a tip from a fellow traveler at a hostel. After that first on-a-whim trip, I returned several times, each time with new backpackers in tow, and I will most definitely head back there in the future.
So when it comes down to it, hostels are my accommodation of choice when I’m on the road because of the people. I don’t mind if the hostel isn’t the cleanest place in the world and I’m hardly concerned if the Internet connection sucks or there are few bathrooms. What I care about most are the connections you make in hostels and the lifelong friendships that are born out of only minutes of conversation. If you don’t want to share a room with strangers, splurge and rent a private room. It will likely still cost less than a hotel, and you will still have the opportunity to take advantage of all that hostel life has to offer.