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You are never too old for hostels or are you?

February 17, 2010

Recently I visited Auckland city for a couple of nights. It wasn’t a sightseeing excursion or a catching up with friends trip, but one that involved an interview at the US Consulate for residency. Because of this I didn’t care where I stayed, the only requirement was location. It had to be central and within walking distance to the US Consulate.

Around Auckland’s Queen Street, there are dozens of accommodations to suit any budget. After I made a booking at a renowned backpackers for a private room, I thought nothing about it until my first night there.

That night underneath a dull light I sat on a chair in an air-conditioned room that:  blasted cold air non-stop, that had a cheap bunk-bed parked against a wall, that had a small fridge too old to cool the  insides, and that had a mirror which hadn’t seen a clean in months; and nothing else.

While I sat on a second-hand motley looking office chair flicking through a teen magazine, an epiphany occurred. I am too old for hostels.

After going over the room’s lack of contents and style, I thought about the student layout of the hostel  itself — the unfriendly but super efficient staff, the abundance in friendly warning notices and cheap drink  adverts — I couldn’t pinpoint one thing or service in this particular hostel that gave value for money. The hostel was large, impersonal and resembled a factory more  than a place to stay.

Erica @Travelbliss wrote an insightful post about the effects of spending too many nights in luxury hotels: “You know you have stayed too long …when……”

So here is my version of that post but looking at it from that night in the hostel.

You know you are too old for hostels  when:

  1. You’re using anti wrinkle serum and not Clearasil
  2. You look for the tea and coffee making facilities in the room
  3. Sharing showers just irks you
  4. Hostel notices and ads on the noticeboard  insult your intelligence
  5. You cannot find a conversation that doesn’t  revolve around: the quantity of alcohol drunk, the quantity of barfing done, and the quantity of guys (girls) kissed; or the number of countries visited
  6. You have to google vocabulary: sick, dude, bad, like
  7. You take a week to recover from the all night drinking session going on in the bar above your room
  8. You ask reception for a quiet room
  9. You have expectations
  10. Sleeping on a bunk amuses you. Aren’t bunks for kids?
  11. You cook a gourmet meal while others stew up inedible concoctions
  12. Your friends laugh when you tell them where you stayed

I make a point of mixing up my accommodations wherever I travel. Sometimes I’m at a guesthouse, other times a budget hotel or backpackers, and sometimes I opt for a luxurious treat.  Last year, 2009, I  stayed  at some unique places worth mentioning here: Fathers Guesthouse in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, The Purple House in David Panama, Boquete  Hostel Panama, and El Viandante in Monteverde Costa Rica.

Apart from their quality service, all of these places had some character to them and knew how to cater to different groups of travellers.

But these are too few and far between, after constantly cringing at the dirt and rank conditions of numerous hostels I’ve stayed in, it’s time to hang up the hat — my stay at hostels has ended.

The time has come to mingle with mature travellers, and by this I don’t necessarily mean age. I don’t need to scrimp on money if I want to do a special day trip or go for a nice meal out. I don’t need to bargain hard for a small discount so I can save a few cents, or watch my belongings because I don’t trust strangers in my dormitory.

I don’t need to listen to lists of  conquests by bragging travellers who then cap off their tall tales with how much money they didn’t spend. And I don’t want to look for a clean pot or plate, or degunge the supposedly clean ones before I cook something.

These are things I can happily say farewell to.  Yes, I’m too old for hostels but you know what? That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. February 18, 2010 9:26 am

    I like your version. Funny! I also feel too old for hostels, at least most of them. I wouldn’t mind staying in one (preferably in a private room or in one of those boutique hostels) but I much more prefer hotels.

  2. February 18, 2010 10:10 am

    Thanks for making me laugh this morning. I too remember hostel days, and was just thinking of it again, wondering when my kids would be embarking on a similar journey. Then I stopped thinking about it. 😉

  3. travelforaircraft permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:36 am

    I know what you mean.

    I use them for sleeping, though, especially when I’m in the town for only a day or so.

    I use them for sleeping for the most part and don’t cook in them — just like I don’t cook in hotels — I usually forage in markets to eat healthier as well as to keep costs down.

    Occasionally I have met older peaople at hostels and find it easy to strike up conversations that are a bit more mature than with the younger folks.

    You are aslo right on point about security for ones belongings being a real concern. A few of those young travelers seem to forage off of whatever can be swiped, unfortunatley they look just like the honest ones.

  4. February 18, 2010 3:02 pm

    The fact that you felt like writing it up is reason enough.

    The need for conversations, the need for more meaning than merely a list to tick off on travels, and the need for companionship deriving from converging travel interests is as solid a reason as any.

    I liked your list, and can identify with many of the points made.

  5. February 20, 2010 12:34 am

    I think I’m getting to that point… though for me it’s not so much age as a general change in lifestyle. I think your point about conversation topics is an apt one– I get annoyed with young travellers who go abroad simply to drink cheaply in different places, but I get just as irked with other travellers who are eager to compare travels or tally countries visited just to somehow prove that they’re the more experienced traveller. Getting back to a private room after a day out is a small luxury I’m not eager to give up. -X

  6. February 22, 2010 7:43 pm

    some of the list items made me laugh! great post!

  7. February 22, 2010 9:58 pm

    Hi everyone!!! Thanks for your insights. It is good to know I’m not the only one who has experienced these types of people and hostels.

    I think adding humour to something like this reflects the truth without being overly negative. Glad you all liked it.
    Xander – thanks for spelling “irk” correctly. It was one of those words that no matter what vowel I began with, just didn’t look right. I’m off to edit this word.


  8. February 23, 2010 4:32 am

    In Europe there seem to be a new breed of hostels that are really at the boutique end of things or hostels that cross over into hotels like this one I stayed in Valencia – individually designed en suite rooms but a large kitchen/self catering area as well.

    I find that this kind of hostel is great for staying with my teenage children – they get a feeling that they are somewhere young and trendy and I get a few extra comforts and privacy. I think you just have to choose your hostel and make sure you book a private en suite rom.

  9. February 25, 2010 12:16 am

    Too funny! Last time I stayed in a hostel, I was 21 years old. Those were the days! 😉

  10. February 26, 2010 10:22 pm

    Exactly! You nailed it on the head. My wife and I, traveling together on a year-long RTW trip had a very similar Ah-Ha moment. It seems we are very much on the same page.

    Here is here take on a similar experience in Byron Bay, Australia:

    Happy Travel Ahead.

    • February 28, 2010 8:56 pm

      Ryan – great minds and travellers think alike!

  11. March 1, 2010 8:13 am

    haha – i agree. u can outgrow them i think. Initially – i was all set to ‘hostel’ it in europe – but i think in the end, loved the comfy beds, the private baths and space to urself, despite not spending too much time inside the rooms.

    and that i think may have spoilt me for future trips to come too!

  12. March 8, 2010 5:19 pm

    Father’s in Malaysia – won’t say how many years it is since I stayed there but the minute I saw the name it brought a huge smile to my face! So glad it’s still going. If all hostels were like that then I’d never upgrade.

    • March 24, 2010 12:19 pm

      Niamh – Ahhh if only that wish could be granted, then I would reconsidered staying in hostels.


  13. March 21, 2010 12:36 pm

    i stayed in hostel for four years ..and those were the golden days of my life..

  14. May 28, 2010 11:57 am

    obviously there is an age for travelling in hostels, but the age is on your own mind!!!!
    as a hostel owner i can tell you that there lots of “older people” who cant stand hostels and they are 23 years old. on the other hand we have poeple in their 60’s more backpacker than them……

    • May 28, 2010 12:34 pm

      Correct there is an age, a mental age. Some like the cheap low key syle of a hostel, and some have moved beyond it. Thanks for your comment.

  15. Dale permalink
    July 16, 2010 11:54 am

    Just returned from two weeks in Boston. Stayed at the HI on Hemenway. Not squeaky clean, but slept well, and staff was very supportive. Dishes looked clean, but could have used a dip into a disinfectant bath. Bathrooms okay. Some were private. Wearied of the often heard, “Why are so many old people here?!” Hostels are for any traveler who wishes to choose a more economic way to stay away from home. The cultural richness and diversity of a hostel makes it worth the alternative atmosphere. Did not encounter drunks or hungovers. Did room with a very young Russian girl whose job offer in Portland, ME, fell through and she was tearfully making plans to return to Russia. Our South Korean roommate (old like me) and I pitched in to get her three more nights at the hostel to give her more time to find a job and make arrangements for an apartment. It worked and she has a Boston job and apartment — no furniture or appliances, but she will have a great story to tell her grandchildren in a few decades. Also, she will have the opportunity to help out a young person when she is better off. I wouldn’t stay in the Atlanta hostel again, too grungy. But Boston would be fine, and Chicago is fabulous. In Boston took an excursion to Newport and stayed one night at the hostel there. Located in a private home which is an historic landmark. Owner took all of us on a sightseeing tour of the waterfront in the evening and I had a wonderful time. My roommate was a school librarian from Kentucky. Another guest was an Iranian working on his Ph.D. A Dutch student, as well.

    Hyatt and Hilton can’t offer me this kind of cultural enrichment.

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