Imagine with me:
You are excited about your very first trip abroad to Europe for two weeks. You have saved up for six months to afford this trip. And since you know the opportunity to travel to Europe doesn’t come very often, due to your gruesome schedule and financial responsibilities, you decided the best way to make the most out of your trip is to see at least 5 countries in those two weeks, using the Eurorail pass. You are also very nervous, but after poring thru countless websites, blogs, vlogs, and online forums, you are relieved to hear success stories of the many 20-somethings that have done this before you. In fact, they offer loads of advice on what to see and what to skip, as well as places to eat, sleep, and party!
You can barely sleep the night before your flight: you made sure all your electronics are charged and that you have packed your brand new universal adapter, you check and recheck your carry-on to make sure you have not packed liquids or gels over 3 oz, nor accidentally placed a nail clipper or razors in any of the pockets, you check-in your flight online and realize there’s one last thing left to do: print out the reservations and directions of your hostel. Speaking of which…
You ponder on all the comments you have received from well-meaning friends and family members the minute you told them you were traveling alone to Europe, as if the United States were made of milk and honey with nether a crime in sight. Their eyes widened even further when you also mentioned that you’d be staying in hostels to maximize your allotted savings for this trip. Although they themselves have never experienced staying in hostels or only stayed in posh hotels in Europe on business, they were liberal in their unwanted advice. To appease them, you registered your travel at the U.S Embassy. You roll your eyes at them now, thinking how close-minded Americans can be. You fold your warm, freshly printed hostel reservations into your passport, and satisfied with your preparations, you close your eyes for a much needed rest before your 10 hour flight to Slovakia!!!
Many of you have seen or at least heard of the movie Hostel. In fact, there are three installments for your pleasure. Always one for emboldened imagery, the picture the director paints of hostels, especially of the post-Communist Eastern European variety, has definitely left many Westerners more than a bit wary about staying in hostels of any kind.
Since the first movie came out, I’ve been told a few times that I am brave for staying in hostels. Several times, I’ve had to dispel the fear of hostels to a few of my friends. And now, I will try to dispel it on a much wider scale.
Over the last 5-6 years, I have stayed in over 100 hostels on 4 Continents. I don’t know the exact number and this is a wild guess, but I stay in approximately 2-3 hostels a trip, and I traveled at least 40 times to 34 countries. In almost all of those hostels, I have made reservations ahead of time, mostly on http://www.hostelworld.com but also a few times on http://www.hostelbookers.com. The advantage is that everywhere I have wanted to go, someone has been there before me. And therefore, I am able to read reviews and ratings on the hostel before I choose one. I always choose the top rated hostels and the priority for me is a central location. The few times where I didn’t book ahead of time, I wasn’t traveling alone, and I don’t mind an adventure in looking for accommodation whilst with company. I don’t even mind getting lost with company.
My experiences in those hostels are foggy at best because in all four continents, they are more or less the same. Just last week, I read an article on the 12 types of people you will meet in every hostel. I smiled. I laughed. I nodded. Because there was some truth to it. I’ve come to realize that, no matter the city, hostels can be comforting if only because the types of people you will meet are pretty much predictable, with few exeptions. It doesn’t take away from the excitement of meeting them, of course, because they each add their own flair. Regardless if it’s the always drunk Aussies traveling for months on end, the loud Americans perpetuating the myths, the Asians that keep to themselves and take pictures of everything in sight, the cute Israeli guys, the observant, more mature Dutch couple, or the hippie dread-locked stoned guy who’s practically a tenant, they all have interesting stories to tell to keep you entertained for days.
Alas, there were 2 particular hostel experiences that stand out in my mind because of the unique situations I was placed in. But of course there has to be a couple of those stories. One doesn’t stay at over 100 hostels on 4 continents, sharing tight living quarters with people from all over the world in every conceivable climate and not have interesting stories to tell, besides the loud snorers and the late night partiers disturbing your sleep.
I was being cheeky earlier when I alluded a “scary hostel” situation that may occur in Slovakia: the setting of the scary movie, Hostel. However, not surprisingly, both of my interesting hostel stories occur in Eastern Europe: Brno, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary.