Have any of y'all ever stayed at a hostel? I only have a few friends that have experienced staying at a hostel and this past winter I got to join their ranks. As a hostel virgin, the only thing I knew about the form of lodging is that it is cheap and is a necessity for backpacking. I’m sure everyone has their own preconceived notions about hostels, but I’m here to give you a beginner's perspective of a stay at a hostel. For those of you that have experience at a hostel hopefully this will serve as a nice reminder of your past endeavors.
Ever since graduating college during quarantine, I’ve promised myself I’d take my long awaited backpacking trip to another country. Fast forward 3 years and a combination of the relentless pandemic, jumping between jobs, and limited PTO have prevented me from completing my graduation dreams. I don’t know how many times I’ve planned my month-long trip to Vietnam, looking at flights, creating a budget, and Google Mapping HaLong Bay, but when it comes down to it, I just haven’t been able to commit to the trip. I’ve convinced myself that now isn’t the time since I’m just starting my career but I think that’s just been an excuse not to address the underlying anxiety of potentially traveling alone to a distant land. For better or for worse, my family or my friends have largely taken care of bookings and planning for most trips, so planning my own, especially with amenities I’ve never used in a place I’ve never been, seems daunting. However, with the pandemic easing and the weather limiting travel options, this past December, I took a baby step towards building the confidence for my Vietnam trip by staying in a New Orleans hostel for a few days.
The same, if not easier, than booking a hotel. There are a few sites that host hostel bookings (I used hostelworld.com), which honestly helps a lot for conquering choice paralysis. Hostels are definitely not as plentiful as hotels so determining the best one for your situation (ie location and amenities) is much easier. In New Orleans, I was able to book a hostel a block away from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, where I was planning on spending most of my time. Since the pictures and reviews were all positive, it was a no-brainer. And it was only $40/night, which is cheaper than most of y’alls rent.
I stayed in a room with 8 bunkbeds but they have options for other sized rooms too. They even have private rooms with one or two beds for some privacy that aren’t too much more expensive. The booking came with bedding, towels, soap and shampoo, a privacy curtain, a kitchen with a simple weekend breakfast. Since I'm a light sleeper, one of the things that I was most worried about was getting a good night's rest but luckily I was so tired from being out all day that I knocked out every night. Just make sure to fill your day with exciting activities and sleep will be the least of your concerns.
Although the food and sights in New Orleans were fun, hands down the most fun I had in the city was going out with the people I met there. I don't get a chance to meet International Folk in my everyday life so meeting a German, an Austrian, and an Israeli in one night was a pleasant surprise. Learning about life outside of the states and comparing it to our own culture Occupied us for hours. Playing the same old drinking games as always suddenly became so fresh and entertaining once I had to teach them to a group whose first language is not English. And the best part of each night was being told by people of every culture that American beer Is sponge water.
If you don’t plan on sitting by the pool your entire trip, then I’d give hostels a shot! For me, lodging is just somewhere to stay at the end of the night after you’ve exhausted yourself from everything a city has to offer. The cheap bed is the icing on top of the cool people you get to meet there. It’s really just a matter of what you’re prioritizing on a trip, and if it’s meeting people and going out, then there really is no substitute for a hostel. This experience instilled confidence in accommodations for backpacking travelers and in my own abilities to deal with new situations and environments. Next up is to tackle somewhere that doesn’t speak English and I think I’ll be able to muster up enough courage to finally take the leap to Vietnam.
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