To go through every hostel i have ever stayed at, would probably take me weeks to remember, but more than likely, i wouldn't remember every single one of them. There have been hundreds. But you will always remember your first... Mine was the Wake Up hostel in Sydney Australia, which i had booked for me before i set off from Ireland. I wasn't nervous at all, to stay in a hostel because it had looked so luxurious and cool, having googled it beforehand. It was the first time I had met a group of travellers to travel with, the first time i was introduced to 'Goon' (cask wine), drinking games and the first time to have a family away from home, even with people who just came and went. Its funny, but travelling sees you form strong bonds with people at a very fast rate, probably because life is happening so fast that tomorrow they will more than likely have moved on to some other hostel, and different friends. To count the amount of random nights out with people from my dorm, who i never knew that well, or never knew their name as a matter of fact, is countless. But that is the joy of hostel life.
Its not common in your home town that you would have the chance to mingle with like minded people from all corners of the globe, play drinking games and have a truly spontaneous night out on the tiles, picking up new friends along the way... But hostel life allows that.. Most nights lets face it! I have met some truly incredible people and shared some deep dark secrets with total strangers in hostels and have never looked back. I have cooked group meals, watched movies snuggled in the lounge, planned spontaneous travel trips and completely lost myself in epic conversations with global travellers. This is something that staying in lavish, luxurious hotels most definitely cannot provide.
Hostels tend to be classified as 'youth hostels' a lot, which tends to be very misleading, in most cases. I have met and befriended people of all ages in hostels around the world and lets face it, its good to have a good group dynamic going on with a mix of life experience to input. One amazing thing about hostels is that, its obviously the cheapest form of accommodation when travelling, and can sometimes be free if you make a deal to work for your board. Odd jobs can save you a bundle, especially if you are down to you're last pennies after a year of craziness in Australia.. Like me!
The myth that all hostels are dirty, are for homeless people or for drug addicts (which believe me, a lot of people have assumed) is completely false. Obviously there are shelters etc that exist around the world, but lets not define these as all hostels! One of the best hostels of stayed at was pretty cheap at $10 per night in Reggae Mansion- Kuala Lumpur, including breakfast. It was a white and chrome boutique hostel with private capsule dorm beds fitted with white fluffy pillows and duvets. The breakfast consisted of all you can eat scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, noodles, toast, juice and coffee, as if the marshmallow beds weren't enough to leave me ecstatic. This to me, shows that you can have everything and more, for your buck! And you can save your extra dollars for beers on the rooftop looking out to the Petronas Towers, listening to great beats with great people.
Believe me i have stayed at some bad hostels, for example, a random hostel i booked in Hong Kong that turned out to have bed bugs, which i discovered during the night (don't worry, i complained until i got a refund and changed rooms). There have been some other crazy experiences but lets face it, its the amazing places you will dwell on more than the bad ones. Searching reviews of hostels before you book is a good idea among advice and recommendations from fellow travellers to put your mind at ease.
Overall, hostels are a cheap way of living outside of you're comfort zone, living amongst crazy cool, maybe just crazy people (but thats all the fun of it right). Life wouldne be worth living if everything was boring so get out there and book into a hostel.. even if its just across the pond from you, you never know who you will meet or where that experience will send you next. I tend to use hostelbookers or hostelworld to book hostels but generally booking in advance is not necessary unless its a public holiday.
Here are my top 5 tips for staying at a hostel:
1- Take ear plugs (you never know who you may share a dorm with and there are a lot of snorers in this world believe me)
2- Buy groceries and label your food (it saves tonnes of money, gets you involved with others when cooking and prevents your food being binned)
3- Invest in a lock for your bag or a hostel locker for your valuables (most travellers are respectful because everyone knows what its like to have belongings stolen, but better safe than sorry)
4- Invest in flip flops/Jandals/Thongs for hygenic reasons when showering (more than likely in a hot country you will have these already but to prevent foot infections etc wear them in the shower)
5- Invest in a YHA, BBH etc member card as it will save you at least 10% in most of the chain hostels as you travel around... saving you more bucks for activities or beer =-)
Hope that has helped or at least opened up some future plans for hostel hopping. Contact me if you guys want any more info... On any topic, I would be happy to write about anything.