Growing up I always imagined having that grand European adventure where my only belongings were stuffed in a backpack and I’d find lodgings in local hostels along the way. But in between those daydreams life happened and my adventure never did. Then at thirty, my opportunity for a European adventure finally arose. And for a few nights in the Netherlands, I got my hostel life experience.
Backpacking through Europe and staying at hostels felt like a rite of passage. It’s just one of those things you do when you’re young and hungry to see the world. While thirty might not be the age of a spring chick, I say to hell with that. You’re as young as you feel.
My hostel life, though, short-lived was quite the adventure. It taught me a lot about traveling and it gave me the opportunity to meet people from around the globe. Like any experience, there are pros and cons that go along with it. Here is the good, the bad, and the smelly of my hostel adventure.
Staying at hostels, you meet people from around the globe all on the same mission, to see the world. You’re able to share stories, recommendations, and be inspired by other’s adventures. All over a cold beer.
Hostels tend to be in great locations. They reside in the hot spot neighborhoods where hotel prices soar. In Amsterdam, my hostel was right beside Vondelpark. In Noordwijk, I was one block from the beach. You’re not going to find better lodging prices in great locations than at the neighborhood hostels.
There are few things as special as finding a sense of community in a foreign land. It’s amazing to see a group of people whose most common trait is a sense of adventure sitting around a breakfast table together. Even the staff joins in, as most of them are residing travelers themselves.
Staying in a hostel forces you to spend more time out exploring because there’s no quiet place to go back to. It’s the adventure that keeps on giving because it keeps you exploring.
One thing you’re bound to find at a hostel are parties and group outings. Hostels commonly throw themed parties and organize pub crawls. Spend a night going out with your fellow adventurers. Sometimes you’ll discover gems through event participation because the staff know the best places to go.
While the sleeping arrangements are never going to be five star, I was pleasantly surprised that I had a full-size bed. Granted I was sharing it with my boyfriend, but this gave us the opportunity to sleep together comfortably and avoid the twin size beds of our childhoods.
I’ve never smelt anything quite like the morning stench of a shared hostel bathroom. Hostel bathrooms are rough. They have a way of taking you back to the worst parts of a freshman dorm.
Lack of Privacy
While not having your own space does force you to stay out and explore longer, sometimes after a long day of traveling you’re exhausted and all you want is to go back to a quiet room and crash and that’s just not going to happen in a hostel.
Whether you’re traveling solo or with a significant other, part of the European appeal is the romantic fantasy. After a day of being enveloped by foreign beauty, you want to be swept off your feet and carried to bed. That fantasy dies when you’re staying in a hostel. It’s hard to be romantic in a hostel, it’s actually downright rude. BUT, I will say, not being able to act on your desires pays off in the end!
There’s a time in every person’s life when they realize they’ve outgrown the late nights and hungover mornings. I came to this realization when I stepped inside our beach hostel in Noordwijk and a tiki party was taking place. We heard the thumping from down the block and we felt it as soon as we walked through the door. After a long day of traveling from Italy back to the Netherlands, all I wanted was a quiet evening and you’re not going to get that on a Saturday night at a hostel. As soon as we checked in, we dropped our bags in the room and walked down to a beachfront bar where we were the only two patrons, it was perfect!
While I still enjoy having a few drinks, now I drink because I enjoy the taste of craft beers and it excites me to try new ones. This is the same reason I drink wine, I love the flavors. These days I drink because of the pleasure of what I’m ingesting, not to get drunk. I partook in a lot of libations on my European adventure, but not once did I get drunk. It’s just not my favorite scene anymore, but it is the scene you’ll find at most hostels.
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All in all, I’m thankful for my European hostel adventure. I engaged in some great conversations, wonderful laughter, and felt inspired by the walls around me as I imagined all the adventurers they’ve housed.
I don’t know how many years of hosteling I have left in me. I’ve grown to appreciate comfort and space, but I’m glad for the memory. And I’ll keep hosteling as long as I need to if that’s my means to adventuring. All I know is I want nothing more than to see the world and I’ll sleep anywhere to accomplish that. Until the next time . . . This is the story of my hostel life.