Hostel hopping

Flights aren’t the problem. We’ve all heard of the ten euro deals that have ascended from heaven in the form of Ryanair. Oh, no, no leg room, the people protest. But as I said, we’re students. We’re used to topping and tailing three people in a single bed. And that’s on a good night.

 What it generally comes down to, when giving up on that dream holiday, is accommodation. It takes up a good sixty percent chunk of the budget. Hotels, Airbnb’s, resorts, mobile homes… all the fantabulous holidays of our childhoods start flooding back, complete with magnificent locations. But now we appreciate the cost. It’s not like we have that same income our parents did. So what’s the alternative?

As you may have guessed from the not-so-obscure title, it is, in fact, hostels! Often turned aside, they suffer a bit of a bad rep. But, what we often don’t realise is that this is just a mind-set ingrained in us due to tossing the option away when we were growing up. Our family’s would never have opted for them, and for obvious reasons. They. Are. Full. Of. Students. Which means they now cater for us, yay!

Literally, hostels are pinpointed at us. Late teens/twenty-something’s are the target market. If you’ve been to one, I’m sure you can agree that finding a real-life adult (as in thirty or over, who work steady nine-to-five jobs and have ceased poisoning their livers) is an anomaly.

Think about student houses at home. Neighbours complain. Landlords are wary. This explains the exact reason that hostels are so cheap. It’s not that they have bed bugs or poison in their water. It’s just because they’re full of us. Which is more the reason to go!

Aside from the affordability of hostels, they have so many benefits. They tend to be central, have kitchen facilities, guides to advise you on what tourism to undertake, and the best nightlife imaginable. If you’re inter-railing across Europe, they are basically the only way to go (multiple accommodation, yikes!).

Of course, different hostels vary, but personally I’ve never had a bad experience. There’s been varying standards but nothing awful. My advice is to go in open minded. That way, if you end up with a regular old bunkbed in a dorm room with a box-sized shower, you won’t be let down. If you happen to receive a luxury room with huge safety boxes, curtains enclosing your bed, and squashy beanbags protecting you from the floor, you’ll be extra appreciative. Both are equally as functional anyway.

What always leaps out to me about hostels is the atmosphere. They house the most fascinating people. The reps alone tend to be enough to provide a few novels’ worth of stories. One I met last year had just come from the Amazon rainforest. Another grew up just twenty minutes away from me back home and had left to travel on a whim. The guests were just as interesting. I met a couple who’d been travelling together for two years that had done the exact same thing, just ditched their mundane lives and gone for it. Another group were school friends who wanted one last hoorah before splitting up to go to different universities.

Each guest had different backgrounds, different upbringings… Spending evenings in the hostel’s main living area, where we could all talk for hours about our lives, just opened up a whole new brain avenue. Sometimes being part of a country like Ireland, where we’re very cemented in our way of life, we forget that there even are others. The travel fever spread like crazy, with not one member of my group returning home without a plan to visit somewhere else as soon as possible.

Essentially a hostel is a unique environment. You get to meet diverse globe-trotters as you explore the place you’re holidaying in. It’s the best of culture with both people and inanimate objects to learn about. One of my favourite memories in the past year is cooking some pancakes with a man from Austria, who hated oil but loved to flip, and ducked every time he threw one in the air, even though he continuously caught it without fail. Something like that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Trust me, a hostel is a realistic and advisable travel-option.