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Staying in hostels is definitely one of those things you don’t fully understand until you do it. You picture a busy, dirty room full of creepers and wierdos who try to steal your stuff, but then you arrive and realize that they are very different. You find that the person next to you is actually a quiet Swedish girl who reads on the balcony or a harmless Aussie just trying to party, rather than an old guy who tries to get your number (although, I mean… it could still happen).
When you stay in a hostel, you find that the people there are actually just like you: they are all just travelers looking to explore the world and enjoy themselves while on a budget. Even staying in hostels alone is an experience that can enrich your life so much! You learn what staying in a hostel is really like: it’s really not so bad, they really are safe, and there are also many other life lessons to learn from hostels that end up benefiting you elsewhere as well!
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Life Lessons You Learn When You Stay in a Hostel
1. Staying in Hostels Allows You to Learn About Other Cultures
Some Australians, an American, a Norwegian, a Moroccan, two Argentinians, a Russian and a Serbian walk into a bar… All because they met in their hostel common room, talked, made friends, and decided to go out together. There is no other situation in which this type of thing is possible! Hostels are cultural melting pots full of open minded people who are happy to meet others from other places and share their stories from their home and their travels. By talking to others staying in a hostel, you learn so many things about other cultures, how they are different from your own, and how you can all learn from each other.
2. You Learn to Share Your Space
Whether you are in a room of four people or twenty, you will always be sharing your space with other people. You learn to let go of rigid personal space borders and become more comfortable having others around you all the time, and you also become less self-conscious doing things in front of others because, well, you have to.
3. You Learn How to Respect Others’ Space
When staying in hostels, you live in very close proximity to others. Even those with usually extremely messy rooms can learn to control their belongings and give each person in the room their own (however tiny) space. You learn to be polite and not take over the room with your stuff or invade anyone else’s personal area, because personal areas in hostels are very limited.
4. Patience, Patience, Patience
Everyone has had that one person in their hostel room who was just on another page. Maybe the whole room was loud getting ready to go out when you were planning on sleeping early, or maybe someone keeps leaving their towel on your bed. But, staying in hostels really teaches you to be patient with people who think differently than you and to let things go that may bother you. Having such a big mix of people together will always lead to some shortcomings regarding understanding of each other, especially with people from so many different places, and you learn that patience is really a virtue with the whole ‘sharing of space’ deal.
- Read More: 6 of the World’s Best Hostels
5. You Snooze, You Lose
There always will be people who wake up at 730 for the free breakfast. Even if we never see these phantom people, they have already trickled in and eaten most of the day’s allotment of bread and cereal by the time we roll in at 9:55. If we’re lucky, they have left us with maybe some measly foot piece of bread and a little butter. The early bird really does get the worm, or, in this case, all the mini Nutella packets.
6. It’s Easy to Put Yourself Out There a Little When Staying in Hostels
Hostels are unique in that they’re a gathering of many like-minded people with the same goals in mind, which are to travel, explore, and have fun. Presented with this situation, you learn that it is okay to approach or talk to anyone, and they will usually be happy to talk with you. The vice versa is also true, and you learn to be friendly and outgoing when people approach you also. Whether you join a group of people hanging out on the patio, eat breakfast with a new friend, join a backpacker pub crawl, or make dinner with a roommate, there are so many ways to meet people and make friends. Making friends while traveling, especially when staying in hostels alone, gives you the confidence to do the same in any other situation as well.
7. You Can Get Along With Anyone in a Hostel
Hostels present their inhabitants with inherently social situations. When you walk into a room full of six strangers, someone will naturally say hello and ask about where you are from. This type of situation is uniquely social and encourages you to meet and get along with people of tons of different backgrounds who may be in your room with you. Even if you don’t quite get along with someone, you learn how to make it work so everyone can have a good experience staying together in the hostel.
Not to mention hostels are always in the MOST central locations – check out this view from my hostel in Dubrovnik!
8. People Can Be Genuinely Kind
You really do meet some of the nicest people while staying in hostels. You can find people in your room offering to help you plan your next flight in another language, a group inviting you to share their drinks, a worker going above and beyond their call of duty to be helpful, and many other things. So many hostel workers are such incredibly kind and hospitable people, and will help you with absolutely anything they can to ensure you have a good time. Whether helping you find what to do around the city, helping you with your bags, or letting you use the coffee even outside of breakfast time, it is heart warming how much kindness strangers and give freely at hostels.
9. You Can Give Kindness Back
If you have something to give or the ability to help someone with something, hostel culture encourages you to do it. If someone helps you with a problem one day, maybe you will help someone else with theirs the next. If someone helps you bring your bags up the stairs or work the vending machine or think of the best things to do in the city, maybe you will pass on the knowledge to someone else the next time. Many hostels really foster a traveler-helping-traveler community in which everyone takes part, encouraging you to spread the kindness as much as possible.
10. You Can Live Much More Simply and with Fewer Things Than You Thought
Who needs an expensive and extravagant breakfast when you can have some simple toast, croissants, or cereal to tide you over for the whole morning? Who needs an extensive wardrobe when you can live with just a few simple articles of clothing? When you stay in hostels, you learn that you really don’t need as much as you thought. You boil down to only the necessities, and you can stay clean from some simple soap, survive with a few necessary toiletries, and live off very few clothes- just as many fit inside the hostel locker – and be totally and surprisingly fine.
11. You’re Fine the Way You Are – Beautification is Not as Important as You Thought
Ladies, do you really want to spend hours in the shared bathroom curling your hair and doing your makeup immaculately to go out, with others coming in and out? Probably not. And when you don’t, you realize that you don’t have to. At all. You can actually go out and have fun while not looking perfect all that time, and it’s okay – you can accept yourself just the way you are.
Just gettin’ some work done in my super trendy hostel in Cape Town that doubled as a bar/restaurant/cafe!
12. Hostels Teach You that You Can Sleep Anywhere.
If you can sleep in a room full of 20 people, with some snorers, some 7am pack-up-and-leavers, some tossers and turners, and some come-in-drunk-at-3amer’s, you can sleep literally anywhere. Hostels make you expert sleepers and teach you how to catch some shut eye in any situation.
13. You Can Always Keep to Yourself if You Want To
I have been talking a lot about the social aspects of hostels, but it is important to note that it is always an option to keep to yourself. Although many people are always meeting and conversing, you can always opt to do your own thing rather than be putting yourself out there constantly. You learn in hostels that there is always a time to be social and also a time to be independent, and you can switch between the two whenever you feel comfortable. This is especially true if you stay in hostels alone – you can do your own thing or join a group whenever you would like. So much freedom!
14. The Best Experiences Come From the Situations You Least Expect
Spontaneity is a natural part of hostel life. You may find out about an event in the city while you’re there or decide at the last minute to go out with others- and learn that sometimes the best times are those that weren’t all immaculately planned out. This attitude follows you away from your travels as you continue to be more open to doing things at the last minute or taking part in activities that you usually wouldn’t.
15. Staying in Hostels Teaches You How to be Adventurous and Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
The fact that you don’t get much space at all to yourself in many hostel rooms actually has a few benefits- one of which is that you are encouraged to get out of the room, explore, and venture out rather than stay in the room all day. You pay a lot for amenities in hotels, such as room service, activities, all-inclusive options, pools, restaurants, bars, etc… All of which are aimed to encourage you to never even leave the hotel or explore the city, and spend all your money right there in the hotel! If we’re being honest here, hostels don’t have many extravagant amenities, and that is okay. Not having endless options within your accommodation leads you to – gasp – actually get out and explore the city where you are staying!
16. You Learn How to Find Things to do Wherever You Are
Going off the whole hotel idea, hostels don’t have concierges in suits sitting in the lobby who are trained to tell you the most expensive restaurants to go to or to go on their partnered tours. You learn to talk to locals or workers about the best things to do in the area, or do a little bit of research yourself. Hostels teach you to be active in your traveling experience rather than passively following what others say to do, which can come to play in any situation where you want to find something fun to do anywhere!
17. Everything is Not What it Initially Seems
Lastly, no matter what kinds of stereotypes hostels have or what pre-existing idea one may have of them, it is almost guaranteed that the experience will be different than what is expected, and likely much better. It does, of course, depend on where you stay, the size of the hostel, and what you consider when choosing one, but one thing is for sure- there is a lot to learn from staying in hostels.
I hope this has given you some insight as to what staying in a hostel is like! Hostels are safe, social, inclusive spaces for like-minded travelers to connect and stay. As long as you keep your sits about you, you will be absolutely fine! Happy traveling!